Predicting When & Where Nittany Lions Will Land In The 2022 NFL Draft
After a wild free agency period, the 2022 NFL Draft is finally here.
The draft will kick off at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, from Las Vegas on ESPN, ABC, and the NFL Network. Jahan Dotson, Arnold Ebiketie, and Jaquan Brisker headline the class of Nittany Lions who’ll make the jump to the pros.
With all the mock drafts out there prior to the draft, we decided to take a crack at our own predictions. Here’s a look at where Penn Staters will end up this weekend.
The Team: Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: No. 29 overall, Round 1
This year’s wide receiver class is quite possibly one of the best we’ve seen in recent years, and with many teams in need of receivers, Jahan Dotson could very well hear his name called Thursday night.
Last month, the Chiefs traded All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, and in that trade, they acquired the No. 29 overall pick. With that pick, they could try to replace Hill by drafting Dotson late in the first round. If Kansas City does draft Dotson, it’ll be the first time it drafts a wide receiver in the first round since 2013.
Dotson established himself as one of the greatest wideouts in program history during his time in Happy Valley. In the four years he played for the Nittany Lions, Dotson totaled 183 catches for 2,757 yards and 25 touchdowns. Dotson also set the school record for the most single-game receiving yards (242 yards) this past season against Maryland.
While Dotson does come into the league as one of the more undersized receivers, he makes up for it with his impressive speed and strength. If the Chiefs use this pick on Dotson, he will join Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce in one of the best offenses in the NFL.
The Team: Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: No. 41 overall, Round 2
Although he only spent one season with Penn State, Arnold Ebiketie undoubtedly made the most of it. Ebiketie was perhaps the best defensive player the Nittany Lions had this past season.
Many teams see Ebiketie as a first-round talent, and that has a chance to come to fruition if a team feels he’s their guy. However, the safe prediction would be Ebiketie going No. 41 overall to the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks hold three picks in the first two rounds of this year’s draft, and while they need to fill many holes on the team, grabbing Ebiketie early in the second round could be a steal.
Ebiketie spent the first three years of his college career at Temple before transferring to Penn State. In his one and only season as a Nittany Lion, Ebiketie totaled 62 tackles and a team-high 9.5 sacks.
While he may need a bit more time and coaching before he becomes an impactful NFL player, taking a risk on Ebiketie could result in a huge payoff for Seattle. If not taken at No. 41 overall, Ebiketie will surely hear his name called before day two of the draft ends.
The Team: Indianapolis Colts
The Pick: No. 42 overall, Round 2
Nittany Lions taken with back-to-back picks sounds pretty good to us. The Indianapolis Colts don’t have their first pick until the second round, and what better way to use it than on one of the best playmakers in the draft? Colts are in need of secondary help, and Brisker could be the missing piece they need.
Brisker, like Ebiketie, is another one of the potential under-the-radar first-round picks if a team thinks Brisker is the guy. Realistically, Brisker going No. 42 overall seems like a reasonable spot, though.
The Pittsburgh native is coming off the best college season of his career. Brisker recorded 63 tackles and two interceptions during the 2021 season and was the heart and soul of the Nittany Lions’ defense. Throughout the season, Brisker showed what kind of a player he was by battling injuries nearly every week and still being the best player on the field.
Besides his versatility, Brisker’s leadership skills are some of the best in the country. Whoever drafts Brisker will be getting someone who, no matter his role, will lead the group of players he’s surrounded by.
The Team: Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: No. 100 overall, Round 3
The Baltimore Ravens have built up one of the better young linebacker cores in the league with Patrick Queen and former Penn State star Odafe Oweh. Adding Brandon Smith could potentially take the group to the next level.
The 6’4″, 250-pounder will enter the NFL as a work-in-progress type player with high potential. With the right coaching in Baltimore, Smith can turn into a star at the next level. Smith will most likely not be a starter come week one of this upcoming season, but the more experience he gets, the better he can be.
This past season, Smith jumped into a big role and was one of the best linebackers for Penn State with 81 tackles, two sacks, and five pass deflections. During the combine, Smith recorded an impressive 4.52 40-yard dash and did very well during the on-field workouts.
Smith does have flaws that’ll most likely cause him to fall to the third round or worse. However, his athleticism and versatility will help Smith, and he could very well have his name called before the end of day two.
The Team: Cleveland Browns
The Pick: No. 118 overall, Round 4
Cleveland has been building its offensive line over the past few seasons, and taking a guy like Rasheed Walker could help bolster that line for the better. With new quarterback Deshaun Watson coming in, the Browns need to keep him safe. Spending a fourth-round pick on Walker would provide the team with insurance in case there’s an injury to a starter
Walker comes into the draft as a versatile prospect who can play either tackle or guard in the NFL. At Penn State, Walker started 32 games at tackle over his three-year career. This past season, Walker dealt with an injury for the majority of the season, which caused him to miss the final three games of the year.
Bringing elite size and power to the NFL, Walker could be an under-the-radar selection for teams in the middle rounds. If selected by the Browns, Walker would be a backup that could earn a starting job down the line.
The Team: San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: No. 187 overall, Round 6
The 49ers need offensive line help and cornerbacks, and since they don’t have their first pick until pick No. 61 overall, getting a guy like Tariq Castro-Fields in the sixth round could be a great get. Covering guys like DK Metcalf, Cooper Kupp, and Deandre Hopkins isn’t easy, so grabbing a perimeter cornerback like Castro-Fields would be wise.
At 6’1″, 197 pounds, Castro-Fields was a three-year starter for the Nittany Lions and recorded 139 tackles, 25 passes defended, and three interceptions during his five-year Penn State career. At the combine, Castro-Fields opted not to do any on-field workouts, but he did run a 4.38-second 40-yard dash.
Castro-Fields is one of the stronger and taller corners in this year’s class, although his lack of instincts and awareness has caused him to be a late-round draft prospect. San Francisco would be adding Castro-Fields to an already-weak cornerback room, but his high upside could make him a starter at some point during his rookie season.
The Team: Los Angeles Chargers
The Pick: No. 195 overall, Round 6
The Chargers have already added one Penn State defensive tackle this offseason in Austin Johnson, and spending a late-round pick on Derrick Tangelo could help boost that already elite defensive line. While the line doesn’t really have any needs, having depth with a guy like Tangelo is a nice thing to have.
After spending the first four years of college playing at Duke, Tangelo spent his extra year of eligibility at Penn State. Tangelo was forced into a big role after PJ Mustipher went down with an injury early on in the season. This past season, Tangelo totaled 29 tackles and two sacks in 11 games for the Nittany Lions.
Tangelo’s strengths include great leverage and a strong initial punch. By drafting him in the later rounds, the Chargers will get a solid backup and rotational player for their defensive line.
The Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: No. 198 overall, Round 6
The Jacksonville Jaguars will make the first pick in the draft for the second consecutive year and need to fill a lot of holes. One of those holes is depth at linebacker, and drafting Jesse Luketa could help with that.
An impressive Senior Bowl performance back in February should help him be at least a late-round draft pick. With 61 tackles and 0.5 sacks over 12 games this past year, Luketa was a key part of the success of the Nittany Lions’ defense.
Luketa is a fiery, every-down linebacker who plays each play like it’s his last. While he isn’t the fastest of players, he makes up for it in his ability to lead and make big plays. The Jaguars would be getting a great talent in Luketa and possibly someone who could turn into an every-down player in the NFL.
The Team: Los Angeles Rams
The Pick: No. 212 overall, Round 6
Coming off a Super Bowl win, the Rams made the tough decision to release All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker. Needing a punter, what better one to draft than Ray Guy Award finalist Jordan Stout to help fill that hole?
Stout was the kicker and punter this past season for Penn State and will presumably fully commit to being a punter at the next level. Stout undoubtedly has one of the best legs in this class.
During the 2021 season, Stout punted 67 times and averaged 46 yards per punt. Replacing a guy like Hekker won’t be an easy task, but Stout has very good upside and can turn into one of the best punters in the league.
The Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: No. 241 overall, Round 7
Grabbing more depth is always a good thing, and that’s what Pittsburgh Steelers would be doing by drafting Ellis Brooks in the seventh round. While linebacker isn’t a need for the Steelers, adding Brooks as depth could be a smart move.
Brooks was a tackling machine for Penn State this past season, recording a team-high 100 tackles. The 2021 season was no doubt the best of his career, and his leadership helped form one of the best linebacker rooms in the country.
Brooks could be a solid rotation player for the Steelers thanks to his quickness and coverage skills. While he does lack strength, Brooks makes up for it with his instant trigger against the run.
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About the Author
“That broken ear is a permanent reminder of the dark side of Penn State University, the lives lost, and a warning. A warning that the deaths will continue unless massive change is enacted.”
In a statement sent to Onward State, Julia Cipparulo claimed to have vandalized several Penn State campus landmarks, including the Lion Shrine, on May 8.
Nittany Lions old and new have received new jersey numbers ahead of the 2022 season.