Nittany Lions Improved Their NFL Draft Stocks Through 2017 Season
With the 2017 season winding down to its last few games, it’s time to evaluate how the Nittany Lions positively impacted their draft stocks for the 2018 NFL Draft. With a roster loaded with experienced seniors, as well as a few underclassmen with the potential to end up on an NFL roster in the next year, here’s who stood out and made their names known to pro football scouts:
The senior wide receiver had his worst statistical year in 2016, catching 34 balls for a total of 506 yards, while amassing a mediocre 42.2 yards per game. This year however, with Chris Godwin in the NFL, Hamilton has made an impressive comeback. He had already eclipsed his 2016 yardage total by week 8 of this season, and he now has 39 receptions for 653 yards and 7 touchdowns. Hamilton also has three 100+ yard games and a career high 16.7 yards per reception. As Penn State’s top wideout this season, he has the chance to break his single-season yards record of 899.
Tight end Mike Gesicki was widely regarded as one of the top tight ends in the nation heading into his final year with the Nittany Lions.Thanks to his freakish athleticism and down-field ability, he’s added to his impressive body of work this season. Barring an injury, Gesicki is on track to have his career high in receptions. On the year so far, he has accumulated 419 yards on 42 catches while tacking on 5 touchdowns. It’s not rare to see Gesicki hauling in a jump ball, down field over three defenders. QB Trace McSorley has had many questionable passes bailed out by his starting tight end.
Many might think the star running back hurt his draft stock this year, especially with poor stat lines against Ohio State, Michigan State and even Rutgers recently. It’s no secret that Barkley can get himself into a pickle when trying to make a five-yard gain into a 30 yard gain, ultimately losing yards as a result. But it’s hard to blame Barkley for these consistent struggles when Penn State’s offensive line has done nothing close to an exceptional job.
Every NFL scout knows, that with all things considered, he is an electric runner. Which is why more than anything this year, Barkley’s shown his ability as a pass catcher and kick returner. This season he has 40 receptions (4th among running backs) and 524 yards receiving (2nd among running backs). Barkley also averages more than 30 yards per kick return and two touchdowns. Through the pass game and special teams he has further shown is elusiveness and open-field talent despite his lack of production in the run game.
The senior safety earned himself a reputation as one of the hardest hitting and aggressive safeties in college football last season. Plays like his fourth down stop against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship exemplify what he can do at the next level. He, along with cornerback Grant Haley, was named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the top defensive back in college football.
This season Allen has further displayed his size, athleticism, and ability to fill the box as a linebacker or drop back to a regular safety position. He is first on the team with 35 solo tackles and second in total tackles with 58. Marcus Allen’s pass defense has improved from last season, as seen in the beginning half of the this year, but still will need to continually improve after Penn State’s entire secondary was exposed against Ohio State and Michigan State.
Linebacker U standout is Penn State’s rock on defense. He has recorded 75 total tackles with 5.5 for a loss, 27 solo tackles and two sacks this season. All the leadership and NFL measurables are present with Cabinda. He is a seasoned veteran who has gone toe-to-toe with next-level studs like Ezekiel Elliot, Melvin Gordon, and Ameer Abdullah. Cabinda has the heart of an NFL linebacker and has shown over the course of his historic Nittany Lion career that he has earned himself a spot in the upcoming draft.
Like Marcus Allen, Haley was named to the Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist. The senior cornerback was also named a midseason All-American and has amassed 30 total tackles this season. He’s forced three turnovers, intercepted two passes, and recovered one fumble, while also recording a team high eight passes defended. He led Penn State’s secondary, which only allowed three passing touchdowns through the first seven games. Haley has established himself this season as much more than the “Ohio State kick blocker” and has proved that he can play with the best.