The 2018 NFL Draft has came and went so now it’s time to take a look at which Nittany Lions could see their names called in 2019. Unlike last year when there were multiple Penn State players who were locks to get drafted even a year out, that really isn’t the case with this group. By and large, the majority of the talent is still a bit unproven so there really aren’t any bonafide Day 1 or Day 2 picks...yet.
QB Trace McSorley — 6-foot-0, 198 pounds
I touched on McSorley’s draft prospects in the MMQB here, but as you could imagine, I am already preparing for his Hall of Fame ceremony in Canton.
CB Amani Oruwariye — 6-foot-1, 204 pounds
Oruwariye was Penn State’s most productive cornerback last season, picking off four passes. Add in his elite size and length, and Oruwariye should find himself solidly in the mid-round territory. We’ll see if he can become a bit more consistent in his fifth year because Oruwariye was susceptible to getting beat deep on occasion.
WR DeAndre Thompkins — 5-foot-11, 191 pounds
Thompkins doesn’t have great size, but he’ll test really, really well in athletic testing. He doesn’t have gaudy stats, but has played a lot of football at Penn State, and has flashed the ability to stretch the field. Like anyone else on this list, a big senior season will go a long way in seeing his name called next April.
DE Shareef Miller — 6-foot-5, 256 pounds
Out of all of Penn State’s potential early entrants, I believe Miller is most likely to go. He’s improved every year while in Happy Valley, seeing a bump in production from his freshman year (1.5 sacks, 5 TFLs) to his sophomore year (5.5 sacks, 11.5 TFLs). If that trend continues, it means that Miller will have an All-Big Ten type season, and someone with his athleticism and length will be highly coveted at the next level.
WR Juwan Johnson — 6-foot-4, 229 pounds
Following a breakout 54-reception sophomore season, Johnson is squarely on the radar of NFL scouts and executives.
He has incredible size for a wide receiver, and has been lauded for his work ethic and the strides he made after Chris Godwin left two years ago. With two more important cogs — DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki — now gone, Johnson will again be asked to carry a heavier load, especially in the red zone. After totaling just one touchdown (although it was a pretty notable one, maybe you remember) last year, Johnson will need to become a viable red zone target. If he does, he’s someone that has Day 2 value written all over him.
RB Miles Sanders — 5-foot-11, 211 pounds
Sanders didn’t receive a ton of carries his first two years on campus for an obvious reason, but like the guy before him, Sanders has the chance to be a high NFL draft pick. The size and speed are there, but we’ll see what he can actually do the field with 15-20 touches a game. Good news for Sanders? This should be Penn State’s best offensive line since 2013, and a unit that should pave the way for a 1,000+ rushing yards season.
CB John Reid — 5-foot-10, 189 pounds
Reid doesn’t have the prototypical cornerback size which will prevent him from going in the 1st round, but he’s a rather complete cornerback otherwise. Tremendous work ethic, high football IQ, productive player, and someone who’s going to test better athletically than people realize. As long as he has a healthy 2018 season, he’s someone that NFL scouts and executives will fall in love with.
OG Ryan Bates — 6-foot-4, 305 pounds
Bates has been a welcomed addition on Penn State’s offensive line the last two years, helping shore up the pass blocking woes that plagued the unit during the early part of James Franklin’s tenure. Despite playing left tackle here in Happy Valley, Bates will be kicked inside at the next level. He’ll need to continue to progress as a run blocker, but he’s an ideal offensive guard in today’s NFL and beyond.
DE Ryan Buchholz — 6-foot-6, 264 pounds
Buchholz doesn’t have the numbers — just 4 sacks and 6 TFLs the last two seasons — but the guy is a good athlete with tremendous size, and is just a good freaking football player. He’s a really strong run defender who does a tremendous job setting the edge, which makes the lives of the linebackers and his fellow defensive linemen easier. Buchholz has also shown the versatility to play outside and inside, and honestly, will probably be a better fit in a 3-4 scheme as a 5-tech. It’s highly doubtful he leaves after this year, but whenever Buchholz does go, he’s going to be a steal.
OC Connor McGovern — 6-foot-5, 320 pounds
I only put him here because he’s getting some mock draft love, but let’s be clear: Connor McGovern is not leaving for the 2019 NFL Draft. That’s not a knock on McGovern, just the reality that the number of strictly interior offensive linemen who leave school after just three seasons is so minuscule. McGovern’s been solid during his first two seasons in Happy Valley, and he’s someone with an NFL future, but that future won’t be until 2020.