2017 Penn State Offensive Draft Prospects Preview

Story posted December 12, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Zach Seyko

While Penn State prepares for the biggest game of head coach James Franklin’s tenure, the annual NFL Draft is quietly approaching.

The Nittany Lions possess the NFL talent that pro teams dream of acquiring every April, but they might have to wait depending on what the eligible Penn State players decide to do. 

Nyeem Wartman-White, a middle linebacker who suffered knee injuries throughout his career, was the first Nittany Lion to declare for the 2017 Draft. Players such as junior wide receiver Chris Godwin, junior tight end Mike Gesicki, junior safety Marcus Allen and junior middle linebacker Jason Cabinda are a few others that may leave for the NFL.

With that being said, regardless of if they choose to depart or not, all draft-eligible Nittany Lion offensive prospects who played significantly and could potentially leave will be given their projected draft round, the team lucky enough to acquire them and a player who will step up in their absence.

Wide Receivers

Junior wide receiver Chris Godwin: 3rd round, New England Patriots

Player to watch for in 2017: redshirt freshman wide receiver Juwan Johnson 

Godwin was the leading receiver that he was expected to be coming out of high school a few years ago. He hauled in 50 passes for 795 yards and scored nine touchdowns. When he was targeted, redshirt sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley did not throw an interception.

The Patriots are in need of wide receiver depth with uncertainty of Danny Amendola heading into the offseason.

One player to watch for next season is redshirt freshman Juwan Johnson. Johnson stands at 6’4’’ and possess improbable athletic ability. Johnson was not effective consistently in the passing game in 2016, but he registered a blocked punt against Rutgers and climbed the ladder against Michigan State to nab a deep pass downfield. Franklin has nicknamed “Megatron Jr.” because he has shown comparisons to the former great Detroit Lion Calvin Johnson.

Junior wide receiver Saeed Blacknall: 5th round, Chicago Bears

Redshirt junior wide receiver Dae’Sean Hamilton: undrafted, signed by Houston Texans

Player to watch for in 2017: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Irvin Charles

These two wide receivers are put together because they had limited roles in the offense in 2016. Blacknall battled injuries throughout the season and missed valuable action on the field, while Hamilton saw his exposure in the offense diminish due to the absence of quarterback Christian Hackenberg. In the Big Ten Conference Championship, Blacknall played like a star torching Wisconsin’s stout defense for 155 yards and two scores.

Hamilton and McSorley struggled in 2016 to develop a connection in the offense. Hamilton turned in his worst season to date with 34 catches, 506 yards and one touchdown. As a redshirt freshman, Hamilton snagged 82 passes for 899 yards to put his regression into perspective. The Bears and Alshon Jeffrey might come to a roadblock in their contract discussion, which opens the door for low risk, high reward Blacknall. Hamilton progressed nicely in Bill O’Brien’s offense at Penn State and could find a role in the NFL with the familiarity of O’Brien’s system.

One unique talent that could replace each player and be an excellent weapon along side Johnson is Irvin Charles. During the 2016 season, Charles was trending on Twitter momentarily because Franklin described him as one of the best players he has ever recruited. 

Johnson and Charles could form one of the most unstoppable receiving duos in the Big Ten, if not in the entire nation. Like Johnson, Charles saw some playing time, but not much due to the veterans ahead in the depth chart. He put his name on the map when he had a long catch and run touchdown against Minnesota that changed the outcome of the game, and the season. Imagine if Charles and McSorley do not complete that play, which swung momentum in the Nittany Lions’ favor and began the nine-game winning streak. More 80-yard touchdowns and big plays are to come from the future stud receiver. 

Tight Ends

Junior tight end Mike Gesicki: 2nd round, New York Jets

Player to watch for in 2017: freshman tight end Danny Dalton

Gesicki capped off an amazing break out season and emerged as one of McSorley’s favorite targets. Gesicki escalated his numbers from 13 receptions and 125 yards in 2015 to 47 and 668 in 2016. The man has incredible athletic ability and has developed the soft hands needed to make noise in the NFL. In my opinion, his style of play is very similar to Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Gesicki landing in New York would give the Jets their first serious tight end threat in a long time. Gesicki could also be matched back up with Hackenberg to form a nice combination if head coach Todd Bowles and company believes he is their quarterback.

Freshman tight end Danny Dalton would not step into the starting tight end role immediately, but could see some valuable playing time in his young career as a sophomore. In his high school highlights, Dalton displays the same athleticism that Gesicki has, and possesses great body control when he goes up for contested passes. Penn State recently received a verbal commit from in state recruit Zack Kuntz for the class of 2018. A transition from Gesicki to Dalton to Kuntz could land Penn State another glorified position title: “Tight End U.”

 

Zach Seyko is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in communication arts & sciences. To contact him, email zachseyko@msn.com.