Ohio State vs. Michigan Players in the NFL: How Big Ten Rivals Compare to All-Time Draft Picks

Ohio State and Michigan are two of the most storied programs in college football. The Big Ten powerhouses have one of the most wins and national championships in the history of the sport.

Along the way, many of those big contributors to the two teams went on to have football careers in the NFL. Throughout history and in recent years, few schools can match the number of talents sent to the NFL.

Many more players from Ohio State and Michigan will be joining the NFL after the 2022 season. Players like Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Michigan’s Blake Corum and Olusegun Oluwatimi, who are expected to play key roles in the latest edition of The Game, are expected to call NFL teams home when Ohio State and Michigan meet in 2023.

How have the two programs compared in NFL draft picks to this point in their respective histories? The Sports News takes a look.

MORE: A replay of the epic 2019 LSU vs. Alabama game packed with NFL talent

Most NFL drafts by school

  • State of Ohio: 480
  • Michigan: 397

Based on draft data from Pro Football Reference, the Buckeyes have 480 all-time draft picks, while Michigan has only 397. The Buckeyes rank third all-time behind Notre Dame (522) and USC (516), while the Wolverines are fifth-most, separated from the top three by Oklahoma in fourth (412).

The NFL version has only been seven rounds since 1994, but a format it follows to this day. There had been more variety before that, with eight in 1993, 12 in 1977-92, 17 from 1967-76, at the start of the Super Bowl era. The NFL draft has been around since 1936.

Given its long-standing dominance, it should come as no surprise that Ohio State has by far the most draft picks since the NFL draft shifted to seven rounds. The Buckeyes have sent 190 players to the NFL since 1994, 22 more than Alabama (168), which has the second most. The gap between first and second is almost as big as the gap between second and eighth, which is USC (147).

The Wolverines rank 11th for most NFL draft picks in the seven-round era with 130.

Jim Harbaugh and Ryan Day continued the trend of their two programs producing draft pick numbers. Since Jim Harbaugh became Michigan’s head coach in 2015, 44 players have gone to the NFL. Only Alabama (65), Ohio State (61), LSU (54), and Georgia (50) produced more. Day has sent 26 players to the NFL since becoming head coach in 2019, led only by LSU and Georgia (31 each), and tied with Alabama for third.

Most players were drafted by school in one year

  • State of Ohio: 14
  • Michigan: 11

How does a school get many all-time draft picks? It helps to send big classes to the NFL all at once. Ohio State held the seven-round record with 14 players drafted in one year (2004), tying with LSU (2020) before Georgia broke the record in 2022 with 15. In draft history, Texas (17 in 1984) has single class record. Michigan’s program record of 11 has been achieved twice: first in 1972 and then again in 2017.

Both programs are among the few schools to have had classes where they sent double-digit players in the same class to the league. There have been 35 schools that have at least one year where they sent 10 or more players to the league in the same season. Ohio State has done it eight times. Michigan has done it four times. Only USC (15) and Notre Dame (13) have had double-digit draft ratings than the Buckeyes.

In the seven-round era, only 15 schools have sent at least 10 players to the NFL at a time. Ohio State is tied with Alabama for most 10-plus classes with four. Michigan is tied for sixth with two such classes.

Day has yet to produce a draft class as large as Harbaugh’s record of 11 set in 2017. Day’s largest class since becoming the head coach of the Buckeyes is 10, which he achieved in both 2020 and 2021.

Most first-round picks by school

  • State of Ohio: 87
  • Michigan: 51

No school has produced more first round selections than Ohio State since the very first NFL draft. The Buckeyes sent 87 players to the NFL in the first round of selection. USC (84) is the only other team with more than 76. The Wolverines rank seventh in history with 51.

In the history of the seven-round draft, Ohio State still leads with 49 and second-place Alabama with 46. Michigan has the ninth-most first-round selections since 1994 with 30.

Similar to overall draft picks, the Buckeyes have accumulated the big overall draft numbers with large pools of players going into single drafts. Ohio State had five players in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft, which ranks third all-time and in the seven-round era. The most Michigan first-round picks were three, which came in 1995 and 2001.

Since Harbaugh became the Wolverines head coach, Michigan has had eight first-round picks, which ranks with Florida sixth in that span. Alabama (24), Ohio State (18), Georgia (13), LSU (11) and Clemson (10) are the only teams with more. Day has sent off six players in the first round of the draft since becoming head coach, trailing only Alabama (12), Georgia (eight) and LSU (seven).

Best NFL Players by School

But it’s not always just about sending players to the draft. It’s often about how players perform when they make it to the NFL. And here it gets a little more even.

Both Ohio State and Michigan have six players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Michigan’s Hall of Fame players include Elroy Hirsch, Tom Mack, Dan Dierdorf, Ty Law, Charles Woodson and Steve Hutchinson. Ohio State Hall of Fame players include Dante Lavelli, Jim Parker, Dick LeBeau, Paul Warfield, Cris Carter, and Orlando Pace.

Ohio State has the second most Pro Bowl appearances with 175, behind only USC’s 226. Michigan is 10th with 113.

Then there’s the Pro Football Reference’s estimated value (AV), which the site describes as “an attempt to put a single number on the season value of a player at every position in every year.” And among programs with at least 200 players drafted in the NFL, few teams have produced players to outperform. Among teams with at least 200 drafted players, Ohio State draftees averaged 19.17 AV per player (fifth), while Michigan draftees averaged 18.28 per player (10th).

The final way to look at it is which school produced the very best players. And when you look at the top, no one has produced a better player than Michigan. That would be Tom Brady, who has an AV of 184, the best of any player in NFL history. Ohio State’s best player by estimated value is currently Paul Warfield, who has a career AV of 108.

But with Brady still playing and Cameron Heyward still in the league, both still contribute to those AV totals – and each could contribute to the Hall of Fame totals.

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