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Penn State in the NFL: Weekend Recap

Some of our former Lions got drafted, and some became free agents. But nearly all of them landed with an NFL team.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It was a fun weekend to be a Penn State fan. Three of our former Beaver Stadium standouts saw their names called on national television to signify that they had been selected by an NFL team, and plenty more were quickly snatched up as un-drafted free agents. It all happened very quickly, so let's check out who ended up where when all was said and done.

Donovan Smith (OT/OG)

Drafted Round 2, Pick 2 (34) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What We Said

What Bucs Nation Said

Current Tampa Bay Depth Chart

Demar Dotson Logan Mankins Patrick Omameh Kevin Pamphile
Donovan Smith*? Kadeem Edwards Ali Marpet* Matt Patchan

Jeremiah Warren

*-2015 rookie

As long as he applies himself and puts his all into it, there no reason that Donovan Smith can't be a week one starter for Tampa. If he can keep his head on straight, and work hard every single day, he should be able to become Jameis Winston's blindside protector one day. All the physical tools are there, along with all the natural talent in the world. Now he just has to show that he truly wants it. Good luck, Donovan!

Jesse James (TE)

Drafted Round 5, Pick 24 (160) by the Pittsburgh Steelers

What We Said

What Behind the Steel Curtain Said

Current Pittsburgh Depth Chart

Heath Miller
Matt Spaeth
Jesse James*

*-2015 rookie

Jesse James isn't quite ready to be thrown on an NFL field, so it's good that he was drafted by the Steelers. Not only does he have the comfort of knowing that he's very close to home, but he also has the comfort of having two established NFL starters ahead of him on the depth chart. For most players, that wouldn't be ideal. For James, though, it represents a chance to learn from one of the most consistent tight ends of the last decade (Miller), and another who has carved out a solid NFL career (Spaeth). It just so happens that two areas of expertise for those two (blocking and playing tough) are two areas that James still needs work in. This is a wonderful match for both the player and the team, and James should start to earn playing time before too long.

Adrian Amos (S/CB)

Drafted Round 5, Pick 6 (142) by the Chicago Bears

What We Said

What Windy City Gridiron Said

Current Chicago Depth Chart

Tim Jennings Antrel Rolle Brock Vereen Kyle Fuller
Demontre Hurst Ryan Mundy Adrian Amos* Alan Ball
Terrance Mitchell Al Louis-Jean

*-2015 rookie

Amos joins a Bears defense that is looking to retool and get back some of the nastiness that got them into Super Bowl XLI. They already have a fine cornerback duo in Jennings and Fuller, but the safeties could use a shot in the arm. Not to mention that they could use a reliable nickel corner as well. Enter Adrian Amos. He should play on special teams right away, and possibly earn time in the nickel defense from day one as well. With time, he will likely pick up the mantle as the new starting safety. When Adrian was at his best in college, we didn't hear his name much. He became a much safer player in his senior season, choosing to make the smart play over attempting the risky big hit. That style combined with his extreme versatility should carve out a long, prosperous NFL career for the former Maryland three star recruit. The Bears got a steal.

Mike Hull (LB)

Signed by the Miami Dolphins as an un-drafted free agent

What We Said

What The Phinsider Said (just a free agent tracker here)

Current Miami Depth Chart

Jelani Jenkins Koa Misi Chris McCain
Spencer Paysinger Jake Knott Mike Hull?*
Jordan Tripp Kelvin Sheppard

*-2015 rookie

Not listed- Dion Jordan, who was suspended for the 2015 season due to repeated failed drug tests

A look at the Dolphin's current depth chart would suggest that they're going to start Hull on the outside. However, I'd be lying if I told you I knew anything about any of Miami's backup linebackers, so Hull might be able to jump any of them quite easily. What I can say with confidence though, is that Mike will likely find his first success on special teams. As Penn State fans know, he moves like a bullet to the ballcarrier. He will make Miami's (or whoever else's) roster for that reason alone. As time goes on in the season, he'll probably start to get some looks at linebacker, which will probably lead to more playing time. Mike Hull is a gamer, who was the emotional and physical leader of one of college football's top defenses last season. That kind of player doesn't just appear every day. While Hull doesn't seem like the kind of guy who lets things get to him, expect him to show up in Miami with a bit of a chip on his shoulder as a result of going un-drafted. Like so many Penn State middle linebackers before him, he could be in line for a very special NFL career.

Quick side note-That Dolphins offense will be fun to watch. Tannehill, L. Miller, Stills, Landry, Jennings, Parker and Cameron is quite a formidable attack.

Deion Barnes (DE/Rush OLB)

Signed by the New York Jets as an un-drafted free agent

What We Said

What Gang Green Nation Said

Current New York Depth Chart

Quinton Coples Muhammad Wilkerson
Jason Babin Leonard Williams*
Deion Barnes*? Kevin Vickerson

*-2015 rookie

Needless to say, the Jets have an absurdly stacked defensive line. The traditional pass rushing specialist for them plays the right outside linebacker role, so that's likely where Barnes will get the majority of his reps. It won't be easy for him to make an impact though, not with Coples and Babin in front of him on the depth chart. Barnes will benefit greatly from playing with those two, and with the entire front seven in general, but will need quite the breakthrough to earn playing time. New head coach Todd Bowles does like to rotate his defensive linemen in and out to keep them fresh, which could give Deion some sort of opportunity, but it will take a very impressive mini-camp and preseason first. All of that being said, the Jets have succeeded in bringing former Penn State defensive ends to life before, helping Aaron Maybin to  a six sack season in 2011. Hopefully Deion can follow in his footsteps, but sustain his career a bit longer than Maybin did.

Miles Dieffenbach (G/C)

Signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers as an un-drafted free agent

What We Said

What Behind the Steel Curtain Said..which is nothing yet

Current Pittsburgh Depth Chart

Ramon Foster Maurkice Pouncey David DeCastro
Chris Hubbard Cody Wallace Miles Dieffenbach*?

*-2015 rookie

Dieffenbach landed in a nice spot here, getting the chance to continue his playing days inside his home state of Pennsylvania. Miles will begin his Steelers career in a similar situation as Penn State teammate Jesse James, definitely further back on the depth chart, but with great teachers in front of him. He will likely get reps at both guard positions, as well as center. As I wrote in his "...So You Drafted" piece, he still offers NFL teams a different type of guard, thanks to his pass blocking skill. If he is able to survive camp and fight his way onto the depth chart, I would expect him to get a few reps this season while he continues to regain his full strength after a few injuries in his final season in Happy Valley.

Bill Belton (RB)

Signed by the New York Jets as an un-drafted free agent

Bill Belton's signing was a bit of a welcomed surprise. Belton wasn't even part of our pre-draft coverage here at Black Shoe Diaries, and we're glad to see ourselves made to look silly. Belton was a very underrated member of Penn State's team the last few years, being forced to learn how to play the running back position on the fly, and then attempt to run behind a below-average offensive line. Belton will have to earn his spot as a special teams player first, and as a running back later, but he's on a good team to try and accomplish that. The Jets received inconsistent running back play last season, and although they've added Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacey, they are far from settled at the position.

Zach Zwinak (FB/RB)

Signed by the Houston Texans as an un-drafted free agent

What We Said

Zwinak will reunite with the man who transformed him from a fullback to a 1,000 yard rusher in college. Bill O'Brien will give Zwinak a shot to make the Texans, presumably as a true fullback. Normally, I'd say that Zwinak has a tough mountain to climb here to make the roster, but having a familiarity with Bill O'Brien is an undeniable advantage for Zach. He has the size to be a versatile option at the fullback role. He has to refine his blocking a bit, but should be able to handle the role. He can run the ball. He can catch the ball. He can play on special team. Simply put, Zwinak can do the things he needs to do to survive in the NFL. Hopefully he'll be able to do them well enough in minicamp to become a Texan.

Ross Travis (TE?)

Signed by the Houston Texans as an un-drafted free agent

What We Said

The former Penn State basketball player is attempting to become the newest Jimmy Graham/Antonio Gates. The good news for Travis? The most transferrable basketball skill to the football field has historically been rebounding. Ross was never a consistent scorer for Pat Chambers, but he was always a fantastic rebounder and defender. Those skills and natural abilities should give Travis what he needs to stand out in Texans camp. He surely won't be a revelation that takes the league by storm (yet), but there's not reason that he can't make enough of an impact to sneak his way onto the roster. From there, we all know how much O'Brien loves to utilize the tight ends, and how much he loves to use ALL of his tight ends. Travis comes to O'Brien surely under the recommendation of his friend, Chambers. Hopefully he will be able to make good on Chamber vowing for him.

CJ Olaniyan (DE)

Signed by the Seattle Seahawks as an un-drafted free agent

The former Penn State defensive end will attempt to make it three years in a row that a former Penn Stater has made his way onto the Seahawks roster. Seattle's roster is stuffed full of defensive linemen, so it will be no easy task for CJ to stick with the back-to-back NFC champions. Working in his favor though, is that he is decent against the run. The Seahawks like to rotate linemen frequently to keep everyone fresh all game. They also like to have linemen with different strengths. Olaniyan could represent an option to put on the field during rushing downs, knowing that he can provide run support as well as a competent pass rush. If all else fails, there has rarely been a player released from the Hawks in the last three years that hasn't been snapped up immediately. Whatever time CJ spends with Seattle and their defense is time well spent.

Sam Ficken (K)

Signed by the Kansas City Chiefs as an un-drafted free agent (free to sign with other teams before mini-camp)

What We Said

Ficken will be assured a chance in the NFL after signing his deal with the Chiefs. At the very least, he will be given the chance to kick in front of one of the NFL's loudest fan bases. It will be familiar territory for Sam after kicking in some of the hostile environments of the Big Ten, as well as a raucous Beaver Stadium. Ficken will look to fight for a starting kicker job, and should be able to make a name for himself during the preseason at the very least. Sam is just starting off in what should be a long and successful NFL career. Not bad for the guy who missed four field goals and and extra point against Virginia.

Matt Lehman (TE)

Signed by the Houston Texans as an un-drafted free agent

The man who turned Lehman's college career around will now attempt to do the same in the NFL. Lehman was probably destined to be nothing more than a simple blocking tight end for Penn State until tight end guru Bill O'Brien entered into the fold. It wasn't as if he suddenly became college football's biggest revelation and took the Big Ten by storm, but Lehman turned into a very reliable pass catcher (who should have one more touchdown to his name). He has good size and will fit in with the rest of the Texans physically. The only question is whether or not he will play his way onto the roster in rookie mini-camp.

Rob Bolden (QB/WR?)

Signed by the Detroit Lions as an un-drafted free agent

Penn State's former freshman phenom will get a chance to play his way into the NFL with his hometown Detroit Lions. It will take quite an effort on his part in the rookie mini-camp to earn an extended chance to make the team, but it's a great story nonetheless. After transferring from Penn State to LSU to Eastern Michigan, it's great to see someone give the former four star recruit a chance. Maybe the velocity with which he throws the ball will translate well to the NFL, and maybe they can get him to use his athleticism a bit more than any of his college teams did. As long as he can get the mental side of things settled down, he still has all the talent in the world.

Brad Bars (DE)

Tryouts with the New York Giants and Tennessee Titans

According to his own twitter, Brad Bars will have tryouts with a few different NFL teams. Call it a hunch, but Brad just kind of seems like a New York Giant already.