Fourteen Penn State Lettermen Join NFL Teams Following 2023 Draft Weekend
With the 2023 NFL Draft in the rear view mirror, 14 Nittany Lions have officially found their professional homes. Nine Penn State football players were drafted, while five more entered the league as undrafted free agents.
Although both cornerback Joey Porter Jr. and transfer quarterback Will Levis were heavily expected to be selected in the first round, both former Penn State players were left waiting by the end of Thursday night.
Neither player’s Day Two wait lasted very long, as Porter was the first player off the board. Drafted with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ No. 32 overall pick, Porter became the highest-drafted defensive back in Penn State history. Porter’s father famously played eight seasons with the Steelers, including the team’s Super Bowl-winning campaign in 2005.
Immediately following the selection of Porter, the Tennessee Titans traded up for the No. 33 overall pick. Levis’ name was called, ending the former Nittany Lion’s unexpected slide. The Titans’ starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is entering the final year of his contract at age 35.
The second round proved to be a busy one for the Nittany Lions. With consecutive picks toward the end of the second round, tight end Brenton Strange and center Juice Scruggs were drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans, respectively.
Strange was picked with the Jaguars’ No. 61 overall selection. Alongside budding star Trevor Lawrence, Strange will likely be expected to make an immediate mark as a receiving threat.
The Texans took Scruggs with their No. 62 pick, ending the Nittany Lion’s draft experience earlier than most pundits predicted. Scruggs’ selection marked the sixth year that Penn Staters have been drafted back to back. In the offensive trenches, Scruggs will protect fellow rookie CJ Stroud, who was taken at No. 2.
Safety Ji’Ayir Brown was the final Nittany Lion drafted on Day Two, landing with the San Francisco 49ers. Brown was the Niners’ first pick of the 2023 draft, despite coming off the board in the third round at pick No. 87. The Niners traded up in order to take Brown.
After no Penn Staters were drafted in the fourth round, one of the most high-profile Nittany Lions eligible for the draft was taken. The Green Bay Packers selected quarterback Sean Clifford at pick No. 149. Clifford is now set to enter a quarterback room that is led by Jordan Love, a veteran entering his fourth year with only 83 career passing attempts.
With the pick immediately following Clifford, the Buffalo Bills took former Penn State receiver Justin Shorter, who ended up transferring to Florida. In the sixth round, wide receiver Parker Washington was selected by the Jaguars with the No. 165 pick, joining Strange as the second Nittany Lion off to Jacksonville during this year’s draft weekend. Rounding out Penn State’s representation, transfer tight end Zack Kuntz was taken by the New York Jets at pick No. 220 in the seventh round.
Following the draft, five more Nittany Lions entered the NFL ranks via undrafted free agent contracts. Special teams stud Jonathan Sutherland signed with the Seattle Seahawks. Former Penn State receiver and Miami (Ohio) transfer Mac Hippenhammer reportedly accepted an invite to the Cincinnati Bengals’ rookie minicamp.
Receiver Mitchell Tinsley signed with the Washington Commanders, joining Jahan Dotson, who was selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Long snapper Chris Stoll followed in Sutherland’s footsteps and signed with the Seahawks, who currently have no other long snapping option on the roster. Finally, defensive lineman PJ Mustipher signed with the Denver Broncos.
Three draft-eligible Penn Staters remained without an undrafted free agent contract as of Sunday night –– kicker Jake Pinegar, punter Barney Amor, and defensive end Nick Tarburton.
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