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Predicting When & Where Penn Staters Will Land In The NFL Draft

The weekend college football players long for is finally here.

This year’s NFL Draft is set to kick off at 8 p.m. Thursday in Nashville, and with that, the dreams of 254 athletes will become a reality. Penn State currently projects to have at least a handful of players from the 2018 roster hear their names called, including starting running back Miles Sanders and three-year starting offensive lineman Connor McGovern.

Countless experts have had their say on where these Nittany Lions will end up, but here are our predictions for how the draft will shake out.

Miles Sanders

The Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: No. 70 overall, Round 3

Although many believe Amani Oruwariye will be the first Penn Stater off the board, I think Miles Sanders will hear his name called first at this year’s draft.

Sanders has made major strides since declaring for the draft, thanks to great performances at the NFL Scouting Combine and Penn State’s pro day. The running back ran the fastest three-cone drill of all participating players at his position (6.89 seconds) at the Combine. His 40-yard dash time of 4.49 seconds tied for sixth among all backs. He also finished in the top 10 in the vertical jump (No. 6, 36 inches) and broad jump (No. 6, 10’4″).

Beyond the test results, Sanders has a lot going for him. He has much less wear-and-tear than other running backs in this draft class after spending just one collegiate season as a full-time starter. He also solidified his ability to be a multi-faceted back with a strong pass-catching performance at pro day.

The former five-star recruit could be just what the doctor ordered for Tampa Bay, which is definitely lacking a strong run game. Peyton Barber had an okay 2018 season with 871 rushing yards and five scores, but the Bucs could certainly use an upgrade to the NFL’s fourth-worst rushing attack in 2018.

Amani Oruwariye

The Team: Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: No. 84 overall, Round 3

If Amani Oruwariye falls to the No. 84 pick in this year’s draft, Kansas City should be all over him.

The Chiefs’ secondary struggled last season. It finished 30th in the league by allowing 309.7 passing yards per game. There’s rarely much shame in losing to the New England Patriots, but Kansas City was picked apart by Tom Brady in the 2019 AFC title game. The below-average defense led to many shootout losses for gun-slinging quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

General manager Brett Veach addressed the issue by adding safety Tyrann Mathieu in free agency after cutting Eric Berry, but it’s now time for the Chiefs to bolster the cornerback position.

Unless it makes a trade to get into the top 32 picks, Kansas City won’t make its first selection until the second round (No. 61 overall). That should take the Chiefs out of the running to land top cornerback prospects Rock Ya-Sin (Temple) and Georgia’s Deandre Baker.

Oruwariye might not step into the lineup right away, but he could become a formidable defender with proper development. At Penn State, the corner used his size (6’2″, 205 pounds), ball skills (seven interceptions in 2017 and 2018), and speed to shut down some talented receivers. He backed that up with an excellent NFL Scouting Combine, where he put up 17 reps on the bench press and caught nearly everything that came his way.

Connor McGovern

The Team: New York Jets
The Pick: No. 93 overall, Round 3

With a snazzy new set of uniforms and star running back Le’Veon Bell in the fold, the New York Jets are entering a new, exciting era. However, I expect the organization to make an understated pick in the third round by selecting a steady offensive lineman.

Protecting franchise quarterback Sam Darnold should be near the top of general manager Mike Maccagnan’s to-do list this weekend (especially after he was sacked 30 times in 2018). I think he’ll take Connor McGovern late in the third round to do just that.

McGovern might not have the upside of some recent highly-selected offensive linemen like Quenton Nelson, but what he does have is versatility. He played at guard and center during his time as a Nittany Lion. As a three-year starter, McGovern has plenty of experience and enough talent to at least compete for a starting spot in his first year.

The Jets acquired veteran Kelechi Osemele from Oakland to improve the offensive line, but McGovern could definitely help the group down the line.

Shareef Miller

The Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: No. 141 overall, Round 5

Adding talent on the edge might not be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ most pressing need after a drama-laden 2018 season, but it wouldn’t hurt to add some depth at the position. Shareef Miller would provide exactly that after he wrapped up an excellent collegiate career in Happy Valley.

Miller started alongside Yetur Gross-Matos in 2018 to form one of the Big Ten’s most formidable duos at the position. He finished the year with 7.5 sacks — second only to Gross-Matos’ eight — and 15 tackles-for-loss. 2018 was Miller’s second as a starter, so he has plenty of meaningful experience under his belt.

As it stands, Miller makes up for what he lacks in fundamental skills with good size (6’4″, 254 pounds) and athleticism (4.69-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine).

Ryan Bates

The Team: Tennessee Titans
The Pick: No. 188 overall, Round 6

Plenty of teams could stand to bolster their offensive line depth through the NFL Draft, so Bates’ landing spot is really anyone’s guess. I have a feeling he’ll end up with the Tennessee Titans during the sixth round.

Bates helped pave the way for Sanders during his breakout season. Like McGovern, Bates’ versatility and three years of meaningful starting experience will boost his draft stock.

At this point, Bates might be more of a project-type player, who will need two or three years of development to truly make an impact in the pros. If Tennessee is willing to give him that time, however, it could find a future stalwart on the line very late in the draft process.

Trace McSorley

The Team: New York Giants
The Pick: No. 245 overall, Round 7

Okay, this might not be the most realistic outcome — especially if the Giants take a quarterback with the No. 6 overall pick. But come on, how can anyone pass up the opportunity to reunite one of college football’s most dynamic duos in recent years?

What happens in college obviously doesn’t always translate to the pros, but the Giants could definitely use any amount of the magic McSorley and Saquon Barkley brought to Beaver Stadium in 2016 and 2017. As you already know, Penn State won a Big Ten championship, put up 49 points in the Rose Bowl, and destroyed countless other defenses with McSorley and Barkley in its backfield.

At 38, Eli Manning won’t be around forever, and his career will probably come to a close sooner rather than later. Why not let Manning run the show for one or two more years while McSorley, who proved his worth with a 31-9 record and countless program records in three years with Penn State, waits in the wings?

There are some concerns about McSorley that may keep him undrafted. His durability is a valid issue after the quarterback suffered a few injuries in 2018, but those complaining about his size must’ve forgotten about guys like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.

Even if it isn’t by New York, McSorley still has made a strong enough case to hear his name called at the draft. Penn State’s winningest quarterback in program history was the fastest quarterback at the NFL Scouting Combine, and his passing in Indianapolis and at pro day was crisp and accurate. Off the field, you can argue his intangibles are simply unmatched in this year’s draft class, and that just might set him apart from the other quarterbacks.


Nick Scott: I don’t think Scott has enough raw talent to be taken in the NFL Draft, but he should be one of the first undrafted players to sign a pro contract. He’s a high-character guy with plenty of experience on special teams and defense as a safety along with great athleticism. Whether he’s a special teams gunner or safety, Scott will put his head down, go to work, and do whatever he can to help whichever NFL team he signs for.

DeAndre Thompkins: Thompkins was probably a mid-to-late round projection before last season, but his stock took a hit after a year of inconsistencies. I also expect him to find a home as an undrafted free agent thanks to his impressive speed and ability to play receiver and return punts.

Koa Farmer: Farmer is another player with great athleticism but not enough raw football talent to get drafted. I expect a team to take a flyer on him as an undrafted free agent thanks to his versatility and experience.

Kevin Givens: Penn State fans realized how important Givens was to the team when he was suspended against Appalachian State. However, I don’t know if he’ll get drafted based on the number of defensive tackles above him on the draft charts. Like his other undrafted teammates, Givens should sign a pro deal as an undrafted free agent.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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