That didn’t take long.
A year after Michigan did not have a single player drafted in the first four rounds of the NFL draft for the first time since 1968 and Ohio State’s first-round drought continued, the one-time pro factories returned to old form Thursday night.
Former Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan was picked 11th overall by the Tennessee Titans, while former Buckeyes linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby also heard their names called. Shazier went 15th to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Roby was taken 31st by the Denver Broncos.
Lewan became the first Big Ten player selected and the highest Wolverines draftee since Jake Long was picked first overall in 2008. Shazier walked onto the stage at Radio City Music Hall as the Buckeyes’ highest pick since Malcolm Jenkins was taken 14th by the New Orleans Saints in 2009 — and their first in the first round since Cameron Heyward in 2011.
A four-year starter, Lewan surprised many when he bypassed NFL riches to return for his senior year. But the endgame was just as sweet. Lewan, who also became the first UM player drafted in the first round since defensive lineman Brandon Graham went 13th in 2010, turned in a second straight All-American season and dazzled in predraft workouts.
“The bottom line was he was the best player on the board when it was our pick,” Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said at a news conference in Nashville. "When it’s an offensive lineman — especially a left tackle — and he’s the best player on your board, that’s a pretty important thing.”
The Titans are now counting on Lewan to follow Long as Michigan’s next edge-protecting anchor in the NFL, reasoning his immense physical gifts — he was the fastest and most explosive offensive lineman at the NFL scouting combine — outweigh any warning signs.
Lewan will be arraigned May 19 on assault charges stemming from an altercation with Ohio State fans after last season’s OSU-UM game and has faced allegations that he intimidated the alleged victim in the Brendan Gibbons sexual assault case in 2009. He has repeatedly denied both accusations.
“We addressed those with Taylor,” Titans general manager Ruston Webster told reporters. “We talked about them even today and feel comfortable with where he is. Taylor’s a tough guy. I feel pretty comfortable we’re going to get a solid guy here.”
Shazier, meanwhile, meteored up draft boards.
Despite finishing his All-American junior season with a Big Ten-leading 143 tackles, the 6-foot-1, 237-pound Shazier received a second-round projection from the NFL’s draft advisory committee. But he decided they were wrong, then vowed to prove it — including with a sub-4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash at Ohio State’s pro day.
Among those impressed were the Steelers — and, perhaps more specifically, Ohio State alum Dick LeBeau. The Pittsburgh defensive coordinator was also part of the franchise’s decision to draft Hewyard 31st overall in 2011.
Late Thursday night, Heyward posted on Twitter, "Adding more bucks to the fire!!!"
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Shazier’s "biggest asset, aside from his youth, is his speed."
"This guy can flat out run," he told reporters.
Added Steelers coach Mike Tomlin: "Quite frankly, the young man’s got no holes. He’s a football lover, he’s experienced, and he’s exciting."
Shazier is the ninth Buckeyes linebacker selected in the first, following A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter in 2006, Andy Katzenmoyer in 1999, Craig Powell in 1995, Tom Cousineau in 1979, Bob Brudzinski in 1977, and Rick Middleton and Randy Gradishar in 1974.
Roby, like Lewan, raised a series of red flags off the field — including his guilty plea last month to having "physical control" of a vehicle while impaired. But analysts widely viewed the former All-American as the most athletic cornerback in the draft. He had 69 tackles, three interceptions, and 13 pass breakups as a fourth-year junior last season.
Ohio State is also expected to enjoy a strong second day of the draft. Running back Carlos Hyde and left tackle and St. John’s Jesuit graduate Jack Mewhort are projected as second or third-round picks today.