For years, the Penn State Nittany Lions have done a very good job at turning high school players into good college players, and good college players into good draft prospects. And even though PSU is still wading its way through the castrating penalties by the good fellas over at the NCAA, and have lost some very good talent as a result (Silas Redd, Justin Brown, Khairi Fortt), the cupboard has hardly been left bare.
Who are some of the top NFL Draft prospects in Happy Valley this fall? So glad you asked!
Far and away the top prospect on offense is wide receiver Allen Robinson. The 6-foot 3, 205-pound junior had 77 receptions and more than a 1000 yards receiving en route to first team all-Big Ten honors last fall, and that was playing with Matt McGloin. Imagine what his production could be when he plays with true talent under center, like he will with Christian Hackeneberg this season. Allen could easily go as high as round two.
Sophomore LT Donovan Smith may be the most talented lineman on the roster, but he’ll probably stick around another year or two and really increase his stock, thus leaving G John Urschel as the top prospect. Urschel is a very heady, instinctive player with a ton of experience (he’s actually even helping teach classes this fall, further helping dispel the dumb jock stereotype plaguing linemen).
As usual, however, the bulk of the pro prospects playing in State College reside on the defensive side of the ball.
DT DaQuan Jones has all the skills to be a boulder-like nose for a 3-4 defense. Jones is a classic example of the little importance statistics play in scouting potential: Jones only had 22 tackles and one sack last year, and is probably going to go as high as the third round next April. Potential always trumps production.
Two outstanding linebackers will be carrying the force of ‘Linebacker U’ this fall — MLB Glenn Carson and OLB Mike Hull. Carson, as a senior, will for sure be entering the draft, and is looking more like a late-round pick (production and intangibles are great, but limited ceiling).
Hull could be the oddball. His knack for playmaking isn’t something you can teach, and that will always be held at a high value in scouting and coaching circles (even if you’re a troublemaker like Tyrann Mathieu, playmakers still find roster spots). It remains to be seen if Hull will leave early, or replace Carson next year as the alpha dog of Penn State football.
Unfortunately, most of the talent for the Lions isn’t yet eligible. Hackenberg has the makings of high first-round franchise quarterback (even though he hasn’t taken a snap), TE Adam Breneman, LT Smith, DE Deion Barnes, DE Anthony Zettel, CB Da’Quan Davis, etc. join him as those who have to first get some college experience. The list of players that will someday play on Sundays can go on and on.
The roster may be short on numbers, but it’s long on talent. While championships will be hard to come by over the next few years, NFL scouts on campus won’t be.