How Penn State Players Fared at the 2014 NFL Combine
The NFL draft is still months away but the preparation begins quickly after the conclusion of each season. It all started this past week in Indianapolis with hundreds of college football players gathering at Lucas Oil Stadium to impress various coaches, scouts and front office representatives.
Many top prospects choose not to participate because they think that they can only hurt their stock by working out. Others have much to prove and will utilize the combine and their individual pro days as they jockey for position in May’s draft.
With the league’s forty-eighth Super Bowl less than a month past, 32 teams are already searching for the future of their organizations. This year’s list of participants included 355 prospects and among them were three former Nittany Lions.
40-yd dash: 4.60
Vertical: 39 in.
Broad jump: 127 in.
There are few players in college football who have showcased their abilities on the field in the past two seasons more so than Allen Robinson. The 6-3 / 210 lb. junior quickly established himself as the favorite target for Matt McGloin in 2012 as well as true freshman signal-caller Christian Hackenberg last fall.
Robinson had a knack for late game heroics for the Nittany Lions. The first-team All-American delivered numerous key plays, though none more memorable than a 36-yard reception in the final moments of the fourth quarter against 18th-ranked Michigan to help send the game to overtime in a game that featured four extra periods.
Robinson registered three or more catches in every game in 2013 and averaged 14.8 yards per reception. He was easily Penn State’s leading receiver, accounting for over 46 percent of the team’s total receiving yardage. The All-American amassed 177 receptions for 2,479 receiving yards and totaled 17 touchdowns throughout his Nittany Lion career. All but three of his receptions came in the last two seasons.
Projected by most to be taken anywhere from mid-first to early second round, Robinson still had something to prove at the combine. In most drafts, Robinson would probably be the first or second receiver taken. This year’s draft features a talented group of early round receivers and Robinson is projected to go behind many of them. His lack of elite speed will likely drop him a few spots on draft day, but his ball skills and instincts are superior to most other receivers in the draft. Robinson also has experience playing within a pro-style offense under Bill O’Brien.
Robinson will use his frame to win most jump ball battles and can also be dangerous in the screen game. Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock draft projects Robinson to be taken with the final pick of the first round by the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
40-yd dash: 5.35
Bench: 25 reps
Vertical jump: 27.5 in.
Broad jump: 101 in.
Penn State didn’t quite have the defense in 2013 that fans are used to seeing in Happy Valley. The team surrendered 381.3 yards per game and allowed an unimpressive 5.3 yards per play over the season. One bright spot for the unit was defensive tackle Da’Quan Jones.
Jones was a member of the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top interior lineman. The senior was a leader and top producer for a group that lost two starters from the previous year’s defensive front.
In 2012, Jones accumulated 22 tackles alongside current Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman, Jordan Hill. The departure of Hill to the NFL spurred an increase in Jones’ statistical production. In 2013, Jones recorded 56 tackles, including 11.5 for loss and three sacks; solid numbers for an interior lineman.
Jones lost nearly 25 pounds in the offseason and displayed improved quickness as a result. He can overpower blockers with his strength and uses a wide base. Coaches and scouts at the combine will be looking for good technique and Jones can greatly improve his stock with his sound fundamentals and improved instincts.
Jones’ 40-time ranks in the bottom half of defensive lineman participants at the combine, though it will likely not hold nearly as much significance as it would for a skill player. His big frame and improved stamina since 2012 will likely improve his stock, though his lack of acceleration could also play a factor.
Ranked as a top ten defensive lineman on many draft boards, Jones will likely fall somewhere in the second or third round of the draft.
40-yd dash: 5.31
Bench: 30 reps
Vertical: 29 in.
Broad jump: 102 in.
John Urschel may very well be the smartest player in the draft. The William V. Campbell Trophy winner received his undergraduate degree in 2012, earned a master’s degree in math in 2013 and is currently working towards a master’s in math education. He has maintained a 4.0 GPA and plans to earn a Ph.D following his football career. Urschel won’t have to solve any math equations on the football field, but intelligence carries great significance.
Urschel is also solid on the field. The co-captain has started every game for the Nittany Lions over the last two seasons. The senior has twice been named to the first team All-Big Ten team and was a 2013 AP third-team All-American.
The combine is more important for Urschel than for a lot of other players. Urschel displays great quickness and can effectively get to the second level which can make him a solid interior lineman.
The scholar athlete was also Penn State’s 2013 recipient of the Big Ten’s sportsmanship award. Impressive numbers can go a long way, but coaches and scouts also take a hard look at the leadership and off-the-field aspects.
Jason Shawley is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)