Two Nittany Lions — Chris Godwin and Garrett Sickels — gave up their final year of eligibility to pursue their NFL dreams, but they aren’t the only members of the 2016 unit with professional aspirations. Of all draft eligible Nittany Lions, two in particular have the most to prove ahead of April’s draft as they try and bolster their stock with the hopes of being selected.
S Malik Golden
Golden, one of Penn State’s eldest players, is an intriguing prospect. He didn’t make starting appearances until last season — starting four games in 2015 — but with the job all his in 2016, he blossomed in front of our eyes. Listed at 6-foot, 205 lbs, Golden thrived as a thumper in run support after finishing with 75 tackles, six for a loss, and one interception. He won’t blow anyone away in drills like the 40-yard dash, but he does have elite closing speed when moving down on a receiver or runner.
Golden likely isn’t high on NFL radars, but he’s an NFL-caliber defender; his body of work in 2016 proves he’s worthy of either a late round selection or a spot on a roster as an undrafted free agent. In order to climb, he needs a stellar Pro Day showing — specifically in areas like the three cone drill that test an athlete’s ability to move in short spaces. If he can show scouts his ability to move — and if he times well in the more popular speed drills — he could make his case for a selection.
LB Nyeem Wartman-White
Wartman-White’s season and Penn State career ended after suffering yet another ACL injury against Temple which prompted the fifth-year senior — who could’ve easily applied for and received a sixth year — decided it was best to chase his professional dream now rather than risk another injury. Wartman-White’s issue isn’t skill — he’s a talented run-stuffer and natural leader — but rather his lack of game film. He made sporadic appearances in 2013 as a redshirt freshman and capped off a productive year, but really showed how good he can be in his healthiest year the following season.
In 12 games, Wartman-White finished the 2014 season with 74 tackles, two and a half for a loss, and one interception, but proved he could play hash to hash as a box defender. He’ll get a chance to prove his worth to scouts at Penn State’s Pro Day, but his first order of business will be clearing the air about his injury status. He needs to show he’s rehabbed properly and is left with no adverse restrictions in his knees. If he can move well and time decently, there’s a chance he could wind up making a team’s mini-camp. Unfortunately, he’s unlikely to be selected, but if he’s healthy, he’s still got plenty of football left in him — remember, even though he’s suffered three ACL injuries, others have endured a similar fate and wound up enjoying successful NFL careers. Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis suffered three ACL injuries to the same knee, but developed into an All-Pro player.
Let us know who you’re excited to see test during Penn State’s Pro Day!