Only one Penn State player, wide receiver Chris Godwin, was selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. That could mean that the 11-3 Big Ten Champions actually sucked compared to other state schools... Or it could mean that the Nittany Lions return a lot of talent. Let’s assume the latter, and let’s take a look at Penn State’s draft prospects in 2018.
QB Trace McSorley
Projection: No. 1 Overall
People say that Trace McSorley lacks the prototypical height for an NFL quarterback. Okay, buddy. How about you measure his moxie, and then you can get back to me.
Cleveland, your quarterback search is over. Next stop — Super Bowl LIII.
RB Saquon Barkley
Projection: Top 10
Saquon Barkley will be a first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft — this isn’t my opinion, but simply a fact. He’ll be one of the most highly-touted running back prospects in some time, right up there with the likes of Leonard Fournette and Ezekiel Elliot, who both went in the Top 5. Whether Barkley gets taken that high remains to be seen, but his talent can’t be disputed. He’s really the total package at running back — thickly built at 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, sub-4.4 speed, can catch passes out of the backfield, etc. Barkley is going to make an NFL franchise very happy a year from now.
Let’s enjoy him while we can, folks.
Projection: 2nd-4th Round
Bouncing back from a rough sophomore season, Mike Gesicki put up big numbers in 2016 — 48 receptions for 679 yards and 5 touchdowns — and now finds himself squarely in the mix for the upper half of the draft. With Penn State having to replace No. 1 wideout Chris Godwin, Gesicki figures to shoulder an even heavier load in 2018, and should only build on those numbers. As long as the production is there, they don’t build tight ends up much better than the 6-foot-6, 252-pound Gesicki, who boasts a nearly 40-inch vert and should run in the upper-4.5s.
S Marcus Allen
Projection: 2nd-4th Round
After being very close to entering the draft this year, Marcus Allen decided to come back to Happy Valley for one final season. In the end it should prove to be a good move for the rising senior, as Allen could use another year of polish to shore up some of his weaknesses. If Allen can cause a few more turnovers (interceptions) in 2017, he should find himself squarely in the second round picture.
OL Brendan Mahon
Projection: 5th-7th Round
Before missing the latter end of the season with a health scare, Brendan Mahon was having himself a career year at offensive tackle, having downright dominating performances against Ohio State and Purdue. It remains to be seen where Mahon will play on the offensive line in 2017, but whether it’s tackle or guard, if he can replicate his 2016 performance (and stay healthy), Mahon should be a lock to get drafted.
LB Jason Cabinda
Projection: Late Rounds-UDFA
Let’s get one thing out there first: Jason Cabinda is a very good college linebacker. He’ll finish his career with over 300 tackles, and perhaps just as importantly, will go down as one of the greatest leaders in Penn State history. But unfortunately for Cabinda, run-stopping middle linebackers just aren’t a hot commodity in today’s NFL. Just for comparison sakes, Northwestern’s Anthony Walker Jr. went in the middle of the 5th round, so that might be the best case scenario for Cabinda.
Others: WR DaeSean Hamilton, DT Parker Cothren, CB Grant Haley, and CB Christian Campbell
All four have been very productive players at the college level, but unfortunately, there just isn’t enough there to warrant being drafted. Oddly enough, Christian Campbell might have the best chance to be drafted out of all of them. He has the size, length, and athleticism NFL teams covet.
Wildcards: WR Saeed Blacknall and DT Curtis Cothran
I grouped these two together because I honestly don’t know what to think. Both are physical specimens, and with big 2017 seasons could shoot up draft boards the way Carl Nassib did in 2016. But at this point, I don’t know how one can truly project what their draft stock is. Either way, Blacknall and Cothran could earn themselves a lot of money with big seasons in the fall.