Potential Day 1 Prospects
Potential Day 2 Prospects
Miles Sanders, RB, Jr.
Sanders has understandably flown under the radar because of Saquon Barkley’s presence in the past, but I think he will become one of the Big Ten’s breakout stars in 2018. While he doesn’t have Barkley’s upside, neither does anyone else at this time. Sanders profiles as an every-down back in the NFL. He’s been impressive as a runner and he can catch the ball as well. I think he’ll parlay a breakout season into a 2nd round draft choice this fall. While that’s a lot of projection for the first week of August, I feel confident making those claims.
Shareef Miller, Edge, Jr.
Miller was a consistent factor in 2017. He’s one of those guys that you noticed when watching Penn State even if you didn’t know a single player on the team. He has prototypical size for an edge player and I think he is likely ticketed for Day 2 in April.
Amani Oruwariye, CB, Sr.
Oruwariye has impressive size and he was really good last season (8 passes defended and 4 interceptions). I talked to the Draft Board Guru, Doug Martz, about him and convinced me that I was initially too low on Oruwariye. He’s a player I want to watch more this year. I’m skeptical of how he’ll test athletically which is why I originally had him a bit lower. He is a Day 2 prospect if he performs to the same level as 2017.
Ryan Bates, OG, Jr.
Bates is going to start at left tackle this year, but his height will push him inside to guard in the NFL. He looks like a starting left guard because of his ability in pass protection and I expect him to land on Day 2.
Juwan Johnson, WR, Jr.
Sanders is my breakout prediction for Penn State this year, but Johnson could also see a big step forward. He is 6’4 220 lbs and he will step into the spotlight this season with the departure of DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki. I think he’ll easily improve on his 54-701-1 line and I’d like to see him use his size to become more of a factor in the red-zone. Johnson definitely enters the season on the Day 2 watchlist.
John Reid, CB, Sr.
The 2018 season is going to be gigantic for Reid. He might have been a 1st round pick last year had he not injured his knee and missed the entire season. Will he be the same player upon his return and will his knee check out by NFL team doctors? Those questions mean he has a wide ranging draft outcome here in August. He’ll be a 2nd round choice if everything goes his way, but he could fall to Day 3 if not.
Potential Day 3 Prospects
Trace McSorley, QB, Sr.
I think McSorley is widely viewed as a Day 3 choice, but I’m not going to bet against him. He has taken a significant step forward each season and a repeat of his 2017 performance will demand more widespread draft consideration. McSorley is going to get invited to the Senior Bowl and he shouldn’t hesitate to accept. When he gets there, his largest hurdle will come before he even steps onto the field. He needs to measure in at 6’0 tall. If he doesn’t, it’s going to hurt his stock. He also has to hit the weight room and get himself closer to 210-215 lbs. Aside from his height, scouts will have durability concerns if he is lighter than that. If he meets those two benchmarks, then he’ll already have a draft floor of the late 3rd to 4th round. If he can impress with his arm strength, he’ll move up even further. I want to see anything higher than 53 mph at the combine. As far as what McSorley can control, he has a quick release, he’s accurate, and consistent. Depending on the Senior Bowl weigh-in and his combine performance, McSorley could land anywhere from the 1st round (unlikely) to the late rounds, with a 3rd-5th round projection being the most likely outcome.
Blake Gillikin, P, Jr.
Gillikin is one of the top punters in college football and should get drafted at some point on Day 3 in 2019 or 2020. He also serves as the team’s holder for field goals.
Nick Scott, FS-Special Teams Ace, Sr.
Scott is the perfect 7th round choice. He won’t be a starter in the NFL even though he will hold the free safety spot for the Nittany Lions in 2018. He is a very good special teams player and I believe that will allow him to achieve a pro career.
DeAndre Thompkins, WR-PR, Sr.
Thompkins is likely to go undrafted, but I think he has a good chance to make an NFL roster because of his special teams ability. He can return punts and his blazing speed makes him an interesting option as a gunner at the next level.
Jonathan Holland, TE, Jr.
Holland could interest teams in need of a blocking specialist on Day 3.
Koa Farmer, LB, Sr.
Farmer is a good college player, but he will have to show that he can be a core special teams player to make a pro roster as a reserve linebacker. He should surface in someone’s camp even though I don’t think he’ll get drafted.
Micah Parsons, LB-Edge, Fr.
Parsons is one of the top 5 highest rated players in his recruiting class. James Franklin plans to use him as an off-the-ball linebacker and his blend of size and athleticism projects him as an edge prospect as well. He’s unsurprisingly already made a positive impression in camp and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he develops into one of the top 10 players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. I think he will conjure memories of LaVar Arrington.
Justin Shorter, WR, Fr.
Shorter is going to be bigger and faster than most of the cornerbacks he matches up against throughout his Big Ten career. Like Parsons, he is one of the most highly regarded players in the current NCAA freshman class. It looks like he has earned significant playing time as a true freshman and he has legitimate #1 NFL receiver potential. He and Parsons could both find themselves within the top 10 overall selections of the 2021 NFL Draft if their Penn State careers go as projected.
Jesse Luketa, LB, Fr.
Luketa, a 4-star recruit, is also creating some buzz this summer. For now, he’s just a name to keep in the back of your head until he receives significant playing time (probably in 2019).