The conventional wisdom is that leaving college is a no-brainer decision when one is slated to be a first-round NFL draft pick.
In other words, it's hard to argue Ryan Shazier made the right choice. After leaving Ohio State following his junior season of football, Shazier was taken in tonight's first round by Pittsburgh Steelers with the 15th overall pick. There, he will play under former OSU player Dick LeBeau and for a team with a recent history of drafting Buckeyes including Mike Adams, Thad Gibson and Cam Heyward.
Shazier was one of the most decorated Ohio State linebackers in quite some time, leading the Big Ten during his junior season of 2013 with 143 tackles (including 20 vs. Indiana, becoming the first Buckeye to reach that mark since 2004) while adding 22.5 tackles for loss – second all-time at OSU in one season – and six sacks.
Shazier also forced four fumbles, broke up four passes and had six quarterback hurries while earning first-team All-Big Ten laurels and being named a first-team Associated Press All-American, a Butkus Award finalist and Bednarik and Lott award semifinalist.
Filling up the stat sheet made him a potential early pick, but the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native's freakish athleticism sealed the deal. He showed up for predraft workouts with a chiseled 237-pound frame to go with his excellent speed (he ran a 4.36 40 at OSU's Pro Day) and strength, with the thought that he could be a standout outside linebacker at the next level.
"This true junior is one of my favorite defensive players in this draft," Scout NFL draft analyst Jamie Newberg wrote in his ranking of the top draft prospects. "Shazier finished his three-year career in Columbus with 306 tackles, 44.5 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks. He posted some excellent numbers at the NFL Combine like his 42" vertical jump and 10'10" board jump. Those were the best among all the linebackers in Indy and better than most of the defensive backs. This kid is instinctive, explosive and I absolutely love the way he closes to the football. He's so fast and hits like a truck. Shazier can play in space and also in traffic. He can cover as well. Shazier looks like an ideal ‘WILL' linebacker in a 4-3 scheme."
Shazier arrived at Ohio State as a four-star prospect and the No. 81-ranked player in the nation out of Plantation High School just north of Miami. He started in a reserve role but moved into the Buckeyes' starting lineup late in his freshman season, making three starts and finishing the 2011 campaign with 57 tackles, five TFL, three sacks and two forced fumbles.
He became the team's top weakside linebacker in 2012, leading the defense on the Buckeyes' undefeated 12-0 team. That season, Shazier piled up 115 tackles, a league-best 17 TFL, five sacks, three forced fumbles and also had a pick-six that turned around the Penn State game on the way to earning first-team All-Big Ten honors.
He is Ohio State's 68th all-time first-round pick, second among schools, but its first since Cameron Heyward in 2011 and just the second in a five-year span.