Below are notable Penn State prospects eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft. Penn State had their hearts broken during the Rose Bowl last year, giving up a 14 point lead to USC and ultimately falling 52-49 after an untimely interception gave the Trojans field position. But the Lions have plenty of reason to be optimistic entering 2017: they won the Big Ten Championship and defeated mighty Ohio State last season. An experienced offense (9 returning starters) should carry the Lions to another 10+ win season.
McSorely doesn’t have great NFL prospects at this point as a player: he was far too reliant on letting receivers win 50-50 throws last year on his way to setting Penn State single season passing records for yardage, passing touchdowns and total offense. It was still an impressive year, but now it’s time to see if McSorely’s game can evolve to be a bit more deliberate. If he can make better decisions under pressure (look no further than the final 2 minutes of the Rose Bowl), McSorely appears to have enough juice in his arm to warrant a look.
Running Back Saquon Barkley – 5110, 223 – Junior
Barkley is an absolute delight. Yes, his rushing production is given a boost on account of Penn State’s spread offense, but this is a player who illustrates all of the desired traits to be a featured back at the next level. His freakish athleticism is well documented, but Barkley makes it look so simple when he’s pressing the line of scrimmage. It’s easy to take for granted that Barkley is over 220 lbs when he’s bouncing out of the path of would be tacklers with loose hips and explosive lateral cuts.
Wide Receiver DaeSean Hamilton – 6010, 205 – Senior
Wide Receiver Saeed Blacknall – 6030, 212 – Senior
Blacknall has a great athletic/size profile and could help step in to fill the void left by the recently departed Chris Godwin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Blacknall, along with starting Linebacker Manny Bowen, were suspended for the Rose Bowl. Blacknall will need to finally put together a complete season but his Big Ten Championship performance against Wisconsin was a peek into what his physical abilities can provide (6 catches for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns).
Tight End Mike Gesicki – 6060, 252 – Senior
Gesicki is one of the most exciting vertical tight end threats in college football. He, along with Dallas Goedert of South Dakota State, bring a pretty unique skill set mismatch to the tight end position. Gesicki is not a traditional inline TE but he has great ball skills to track the football effectively and win contested catch opportunities with his size.
Offensive Lineman Brendan Mahon – 6040, 320 – Redshirt Senior
Mahon is well regarded by some of my contemporaries and has shown versatility, playing both inside and outside over the past several seasons. He’s a two year returning starter for the Lions, his experience is welcomed on a unit that hasn’t performed with consistency over the past several years.
Inside Linebacker Jason Cabinda – 6010, 232 – Senior
Cabinda is, unsurprisingly, a cerebral defender. Penn State has a strong lineage of quality linebackers with names like Jack Ham, Lavar Arrington, Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor, Cameron Wake and NaVorro Bowman all having worn the blue and white. Cabinda isn’t quite on that level as a prospect, but the expectation out of a PSU MIKE is a high football IQ defender, which Cabinda is. His movement skills are not notable when he’s tasked with moving away from the line of scrimmage, so that is something he can potentially show improvement in as a senior.
Outside Linebacker Manny Bowen – 6010, 220 – Junior
Bowen was a surprise breakout player on the Lions last year, he finished second on the team behind early 2017 entree Garrett Sickels in tackles for loss (8.5). Bowen is fast to flow and has great quick twitch skills; but his size is going to be a concern. He has plenty of time (two years of eligibility remain) to transform his game.
Free Safety Marcus Allen – 6020, 202 – Senior
Allen is a huge body with some prowess as a run filling defender. I don’t see true back end speed from Allen, I don’t anticipate he’ll be regarded as a single high option at the next level. Allen can improve his draft status this year by playing with better consistency challenging receivers and ball carriers with clean angles and a balanced base of support.
Cornerback Grant Haley – 5090, 185 – Senior