Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fearless NFL Draft projections for Penn State

The Nittany Lions figure to have a big impact in the NFL Draft ... maybe

A gaudy 10 Penn State players, or more, possibly could be drafted next week.

Or as few as two. That's how many Nittany Lions are on the draft bubble - about a dozen, which might be the most in the nation.

As many as 14 to 16 Penn Staters could receive NFL training camp invites. Perhaps 12 or 13 conceivably could get drafted, Yet it would be surprising if more than seven actually did get picked, and most likely it will be about five or so.

But who will those "five or so" draftees be?

After Devon Still (1st/2nd round) and Jack Crawford (4th/5th round), every other PSU player has at least some draft experts (or all draft experts) thinking he will go unselected.

That includes Derek Moye, who despite some of the best Combine and Pro Day numbers for a receiver his size in the country, and three extremely productive seasons from 2009-11 in Happy Valley, seems lost in an incredibly deep WR class.

Seven Lions performed at the NFL Combine in February: Crawford, Still, Moye, D'Anton Lynn, Chaz Powell, Nate Stupar and Johnnie Troutman. Penn State's Pro Day on March 14 gave all of the seniors an opportunity in front of NFL scouts.

It's valuable stuff, what the Combine and Pro Day provide, but what happened on the playing field still is the best barometer. That barometer says Moye will get drafted, the experts be damned.

Penn State 2012 NFL Draft Projections

Player                              Round
1. DT Devon Still               1-2
2. DE Jack Crawford          4-5
3. WR Derek Moye             5-6
4. LB Nate Stupar               6-7
5. G Johnnie Troutman       6-7
6. CB Chaz Powell              6-7
7. RB/WR Stephfon Green  7-undrafted
8. S D'Anton Lynn               7-undrafted
9. FB Joe Suhey                 7-undrafted
10. S Nick Sukay                7-undrafted
11. S Drew Astorino            undrafted FA
12. DE Eric Latimore           undrafted FA
13. G Quinn Barham            undrafted FA
14. TE Andrew Szczerba     undrafted FA
15. G Chima Okoli               undrafted FA
16. G Deon'Tae Pannell       undrafted FA

PSU Player Analysis

1. Devon Still, DT, 6-5 303
The skinny: Still seemed destined to become an injury washout after two-plus debilitating years at PSU, but late in 2009 he finally got rolling, and from there his career progress chart shot up precipitously. Nonetheless, despite a very good 2010 season, he was not considered an elite pro prospect entering 2011. That quickly changed over the course of his Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year campaign. Some think he's a second rounder - Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both project him mid-second round - but he's clearly among the Top 5 DTs, and Top 5 DTs go in the first round, right?
RFBS Projection: 1st/2nd round
NFL comparison: Darnell Dockett, Gerald McCoy

2. Jack Crawford, DE, 6-5 274
The skinny: A longtime favorite of this blog, Crawford's junior year was marred by a foot injury. Though he was rock solid as a senior, he never dominated. Could become that rare player who is just as productive in the NFL as college because his size/strength/speed/explosiveness/hustle/attitude combination is just too good to ignore, despite mediocre stats and some other limitations. Yes, he sheds blocks poorly, isn't particularly agile, definitely is not a natural pass rusher and never quite blossomed. But he sets the edge fiercely and, since the England native picked up football relatively late in his life and didn't redshirt, he may have more room for improvement than the average draftee. Did well at the Combine, though he didn't excel at anything.
Projection: 4th/5th round
NFL comparison: Chris Canty, Derrick Harvey

3. Derek Moye, WR, 6-4 209
The skinny: Moye's productive career was diminished his senior year by poor quarterback play and a mid-season, freak, off-field foot injury. Could this be why he is underestimated by the experts? It is a very deep WR class, but Moye's No. 45 positional ranking by NFLDraftScout.com and low evaluations by others are absurd. Yet almost all prognosticators don't see him getting drafted. Moye is a better athlete and more polished and talented receiver than that, and the NFL will figure it out and he will be drafted. (Or, we'll eat these words!) At the Combine he ran a 4.52 40, which was better than every receiver who measured 6-4 or taller except Miami's Tommy Streeter, and better than every receiver 209 pounds or heavier except Ohio State's Devier Posey (who was infinitesimally heavier and faster than Moye, though also two inches shorter) and Notre Dame's Michael Floyd (6-3, 220, 4.47 and a surefire 1st round pick). And Moye lowered his 40 time by1/10th on Pro Day. On the down side, his hands measured smaller than average and he dropped some passes at PSU. But he caught a whole lot more, many of them tough or meaningful grabs. Plus, he's got a competitive instinct for the game, as demonstrated by his superb "defensive" plays following turnovers in games against Alabama and Michigan State his junior year. If he can find a way to contribute on special teams it's very hard to see him not carving out an NFL career.
Projection: 5th/6th round
NFL comparison: Riley Cooper

4. Nate Stupar, LB, 6-2 241
The skinny: Stupar was poised to be the tough-luck 2011 PSU player of the year when Michael Mauti was moved to Stupar's OLB position just before the start of the season and Stupar - despite playing well the previous season - was moved to the bench. But instead he was perhaps the feel-good story of the year. Stupar played well as a reserve for a few games, and after Mauti was injured Stupar excelled the rest of the season. Stupar is talented off the field as well: he tweets prolifically, was recently engaged (doing the honor on the Beaver Stadium turf), and was a standout student at PSU. Validated his Combine invite with strong results in many tests, and some of his tests were even better on Pro Day. Only injuries or lack of desire can keep him off an NFL roster the next few years 
Projection: 6th/7th round
NFL comparison: Tim Shaw, Josh Hull

5. Johnnie Troutman, G, 6-4 325
The skinny: In some ways Troutman is similar to Crawford. Has prototype size for his position and the NFL will like most of his measurables with the glaring exception of speed, which he doesn't have even for a guard, and he was rock solid his senior year but never dominated - just like Crawford. However, weight issues and and some other problems kept him off the field for parts of his career. His age is a small negative factor, as Troutman is 24 years old. He participated in the Senior Bowl along with Still, Crawford and Lynn. Ran a very slow 40 time (5.67) at the Combine but crushed the bench press (31 reps at 225 pounds).
Projection: 6th/7th round
NFL comparison: Any stout, big, rugged, slow NFL journeyman guard

6. Chaz Powell, CB/KR, 6-0 203
The skinny: It's hard to say if Powell's versatility is a curse or blessing as he tries to make an NFL roster. His ability in kick returns and kick coverage could help him stick in the NFL and buy time to polish his coverage skills, but his frequent position switching at PSU likely inhibited his development a smidgen. Powell's 4.53 40 at the Combine didn't turn any heads, but it was fast enough to make him a draftable CB prospect. Also is a possibility as a safety, slot receiver and perhaps even third-down back. Powell seems capable of playing almost anywhere due to his size/skills, but possibly not capable of being an NFL starter anywhere. With more time in the secondary - he didn't start playing there until 2010 - Powell could emerge in a few years.
Projection: 6th/7th round
NFL comparison: Corey Webster, Tom Zbikowski

7. Stephfon Green, RB, 5-9 185
The skinny: Green's 8-part career arc: (1) lightly regarded recruit; (2) scout team superstar; (3) ultra-productve big-play backup RB; (4) mid-career production decline; (5) booted off team prior to final season for unknown reasons; (6) restored to team after senior classmates beg Joe Paterno right before start of season; (7) plays virtually nil the first half of senior season; (8) excellent role player second half of senior season, scores five TDs, becomes team leader. Green has the ability to be a third-down back and versatile special teams regular in the NFL if he's healthy and committed. Not invited to the Combine but as expected showed some NFL-worthy athleticism at Pro Day.
Projection: 7th/undrafted
NFL comparisons: Javon Ringer, Jacquizz Rodgers

8. D'Anton Lynn, S/CB, 6-0 206
The skinny: The Combine was harsh for Lynn, even if he was slowed by injury: he ran a 4.77 40 which means he lost certainly won't get a shot at his college position, cornerback, in the NFL, and he'll even be considered slow for a safety. His Pro Day results were better but not by much. Lynn was exceedingly quiet for someone who started so many games during his PSU career, but it was quiet mostly in a good way - he rarely got beat and didn't miss many tackles. That said, Lynn rarely made splash plays. PSU has had few cornerbacks play in the NFL for various reasons - most speculate it's in part because they rarely played aggressive man-to-man coverage in Tom Bradley's soft schemes -  but Lynn and Powell have a chance to buck the trend. Lynn reportedly did well in man-to-man coverage at Senior Bowl practices.
Projection: 7th/undrafted
NFL comparison: Joe Lefeged

9. Joe Suhey, FB, 6-0 225
The skinny: Like most fringe NFL players, Suhey will have to become a special teams dynamo to make an NFL roster. That, and find a team that can utilize his unique skill set. Suhey is a excellent receiver and underrated runner. But he is not a devastating blocker - his blocking skills are more subtle - and he's undersized for an NFL fullback. Could possibly get a look as a third-down back with his pass-block/blitz pickup ability and surprising receiving skills. The Suhey name will at least ensure he gets a shot in someone's camp, but he'll stick only if he finds the right situation.
Projection: 7th/undrafted
NFL comparison: Brian Leonard

10. Nick Sukay, S, 6-0 205
The skinny: Though it was an upper-body injury (torn pectoral muscle) in 2010 that wiped out the final seven games of his junior season, Sukay didn't seem to run as well this season, and his Pro Day 40 times were in the 4.7 range, insufficient for an NFL safety. Nonetheless, he is a good athlete with a good size/strength/explosiveness combination, an experienced safety, a gamer, has a good nose for the ball and decent knack for turnovers. Doesn't wrap well sometimes, a rarity for Penn State players, and occasionally was caught out of position for big plays. If he can get back to full health and gain a tick of game speed, he can make an NFL roster.
Projection: 7th/undrafted
NFL comparison: Kurt Coleman

11. Drew Astorino, S, 5-10 195
The skinny: Astorino's size/speed/strength/explosiveness measurables are below NFL standards, but his instincts and productivity should get him a look in someone's training camp. He has long been an underdog, so he won't be dismayed easily.
Projection: undrafted free agent
NFL comparison: Jim Leonhard

12. Eric Latimore, DE, 6-5 275
The skinny: Latimore has excellent size for an NFL DE and he's always hustling, but his production never measured up. He runs well but can get pushed or duped out of position sometimes and isn't a particularly good tackler. Didn't secure a starting spot for more than a few games at any point in his career. Nonetheless, early in 2011 ESPN.com had him rated as a likely draft pick. Age working against him too as he just turned 25.
Projection: undrafted free agent

13. Quinn Barham, G, 6-3 300
The skinny: Perhaps the second-best prospect of the senior offensive lineman, behind Troutman and ahead of Chima Okoli and Deon'Tae Pannell. Played left tackle at PSU but is projecting as a guard in his NFL quest. Should get invited to training camp somewhere, but at this point seems a longshot to make a roster. 
Projection: undrafted free agent

14. Andrew Szczerba, TE, 6-5 260
The skinny: Had a disappointing senior season, which was sad because after enduring an injury riddled career Szczerba finally was relatively healthy. Never found his confidence or rhythm, missing some catchable balls and making a few turnovers and penalties. That said, Szczerba has prototype NFL size and isn't a bad athlete. He's too slow to ever be a significant NFL pass-catching threat except perhaps on rare goal-line opportunities, but it's conceivable he could find a spot somewhere as a No. 3 TE, a blocking and goal-line specialist and special teams contributer, a la former PSU TE John Gilmore. 
Projection: undrafted free agent

15. Chima Okoli, G/T 6-3 310
The skinny: Good guy and good player who, like Quinn Barham, doesn't quite project athletically to the next level. Team leader who would really need to grind for a few years to have chance to make it in the league.
Projection: undrafted free agent

16. Deon'Tae Pannell, G/T 6-5 310
The skinny: With his size and experience he will at least garner a look from scouts, but his strength and balance are below NFL standards at this juncture.
Projection: undrafted free agent

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