When all the dust settled Saturday night, 13 former Nittany Lions found themselves with an NFL team. Six of those players of course went in the draft itself and was headlined by Saquon Barkley going second overall to the New York Giants. But after the seven rounds concluded, seven former Nittany Lions found themselves signing with teams as undrafted free agents.
WR Saeed Blacknall LB Jason Cabinda - Oakland Raiders:
Two former Nittany Lions will be heading to Oakland as undrafted free agents and take their shot with the Oakland Raiders. Former Nittany Lion Saeed Blacknall announced that Jason Cabinda and himself were both heading out to Oaktown.
Blacknall was heavily touted coming out of high school and showed glimpses in his career at Penn State. The biggest glimpses into what Blacknall could do on the field was his tremendous performance at the 2016 Big Ten Championship bringing in six receptions for 155-yards and two touchdowns. Off the field issues, inconcsistency, and a crowded depth chart however kept Blacknall’s production low throughout his career. Blacknall has the skillset to be successful in the NFL but will he have the consistency?
Cabinda almost didn’t land at Penn State as he was a member of Syracuse’s recruiting class in 2014 before flipping to the Nittany Lions. It was a move that worked out well for both Cabinda and the Lions as Cabinda developed into one of Penn State’s best linebackers the last few years and a team leader on defense. He never put up sexy numbers but he was the consistency the Lions needed up the middle. He will have an opportunity to make an NFL roster and could end up following the molds of Nathan Stupar, Mike Hull and MIchael Mauti.
DE/DT Curtis Cothran - Minnesota Vikings:
One part of the formidable duo of Parker Cothren and himself, Cothran was the biggest impact player for the Nittany Lions but showed glimpses of potential and often found himself in opposing backfields. Best described as a project at the next level, Cothran has an ideal body for the next level at 6-foot-5 and 283-pounds that the Vikings defensive coaches will love to work with this summer.
DT Parker Cothren - Pittsburgh Steelers:
The other half of the formidable duo, Cothren was one of the lower rated players Penn State has recruited the last few years. A member of Bill O’Brien’s last recruiting class, Cothren probably wasn’t expected to be the player he was when arrived on campus in June of 2013. Cothren over his first two years would develop into a two-year starter for the Nittany Lions starting 26 of 27 games the last two seasons.
Cothren will enter the NFL ranks like he did the college ranks, not much talked about, not a ton of hype surrounding him but perhaps that’s all it takes for this Alabama native as he looks to make the Steelers roster next fall. The great news for both Cothren and Curtis Cothran however is they could always form an awesome law firm of “Cothran & Cothren” though the lack of a law degree may be a problem.
K Tyler Davis - Buffalo Bills:
Kicker Tyler Davis had a rough senior season for the Nittany Lions last year but he will still find himself in an NFL training camp this summer. Davis in 2016 for the Nittany Lions was a model of consistency an one of the best kickers in the nation making 91.7% of his kicks, going 22-for-24 on the season. This past season, his made percentage dropped almost 40 points to 52.9%, making just 9-of-17. Davis will enter camp with the Bills most likely for just competition purposes as the Bills currently have an established kicker in Steven Hauschka.
CB Grant Haley - New York Giants:
Grant Haley is heading to New York and for at least a small bit of time will get to be teammates with Saquon Barkley once again though Haley is probably hoping that lasts through this upcoming season and beyond. The corner will always be remembered for returning the game-winning touchdown against Ohio State in the Lions 24-21 upset victory in 2016. That being said, the Atlanta native turned into a shutdown corner for Penn State in 2017 and seemingly made everyone around him better by doing so.
At the next level, Haley has the chance to become a quality pro corner back whether that be with the Giants or another team remains to be seen. His ability to be versatile with plenty of experience on special teams could help him earn a spot on an NFL roster.
OT/OG Brendan Mahon - Carolina Panthers:
Brendan Mahon arrived in State College with high expectations surrounding him and while he did struggle at times he was also one of the Lions better offensive lineman over his college carer. At the next level, many believe Mahon will better project to a guard position rather than tackle will he spent most of his time with the Nittany Lions.
At 6-foot-4 an 320-pounds, Mahon has the ideal body size for an offensive lineman and has quality fundamentals which will give a fighting chance in the Panthers training camp this summer. If he can improve his pass protection, he could find himself on an 53-man roster come September though a year on a practice squad my do wonders for his development.