Pro Day Recap: Evaluating the Performances of Penn State’s Top NFL Draft Prospects
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Thirty-one NFL teams’ coaches and scouts were in attendance at Holuba Hall on Tuesday to evaluate a number of NFL draft hopefuls from Penn State during the football team’s pro day.
A number of these players, namely defensive ends Jayson Oweh and Shaka Toney, linebacker Micah Parsons, and tight end Pat Freiermuth, are hoping for a high landing spot in this year’s NFL draft come late April, and to say the numbers some of these players put up are eye-popping would be selling it short.
CommRadio’s four football insiders—Andrew Field, Zach Donaldson, Andrew Destin and DJ Bauer—guide you through the most important results of Penn State’s pro day and give their expert analysis as to how the top products impacted their draft stock.
Oweh Shines with Killer Performance
Jayson Oweh has been preparing for this day for a long time. A player who always tested well—and was rivaling fellow pro day participant and teammate Micah Parsons for the fastest 40-yard dash time—can now say he is the winner.
Oweh ran an official time of 4.36 seconds. That was the fastest time of the day, and it would have been the best time at the 2019 NFL combine for an edge rusher, beating Montez Sweat’s 4.41. Oweh beat Parsons time by three-hundredths of a second.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who was in attendance at Holuba Hall, gave his thoughts on Oweh’s performance.
“How can you not be impressed with that?” Tomlin said in reference to Oweh’s 40 time.
Oweh has only played football for a few years, but that is not a concern according to Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry.
“His QBH is off the charts,” Pry said. “He’s a very raw football player, and the development is going to come. The biggest thing for [Oweh] last season was his work ethic.”
To put Oweh’s pro day into perspective, former Penn State defensive end and current Carolina Panther Yetur Gross-Matos had a 34-inch vertical, 20 bench press reps, and a broad jump of 10 feet. Oweh, who is the same height as Gross-Matos at 6 feet 5 inches, posted a 39.5-inch vertical, 21 bench press reps, and a broad jump of 11 feet 2 inches.
Oweh also posted an official time of 6.83 seconds running the three-cone drill, beating the average of 7.16 for defensive ends at the 2019 combine. —Andrew Field
Parsons Puts On a Show, Draft Projection Should Remain High
All eyes were on Micah Parsons today during his long awaited pro day.
Penn State’s highly acclaimed linebacker decided to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns as well as the fact that he was already projected to be a top-five pick in this year’s upcoming NFL draft. His performance today surely helped to solidify that notion.
Parsons measured in at 6 feet 3 inches and 246 pounds with 31-inch arms and enormous 11-inch hands.
Aside from his ideal measurables, Parsons flashed his incredible athleticism and abilities all afternoon; from his blazing fast 4.39-second 40-yard dash to his 34-inch vertical jump, he turned heads, to say the least.
Parsons also pumped out 19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and complemented his vertical with a broad jump of 10 feet 6 inches. In short, Parsons did not disappoint.
If there was a point in the day where one could say that he did, it was during the cone drills—the three-cone, specifically. Parsons stumbled out of the gate, literally and figuratively, and didn’t have a very good showing. However, after all of his teammates had finished, he stepped up to the starting line once again and posted a respectable 6.89.
All in all, Parsons didn’t settle. He wanted to continue to compete to better his evaluation and increase his stock—if it can even go any higher. That speaks to the intangibles that Parsons possesses and the kind of player and competitor that he is.
A few other things that Parsons wasn’t able to put directly on display today include his incredible field vision, instincts and versatility. He put up great numbers, no doubt, but the tape tells the whole tale.
“He’s only scratched the surface,” Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry said. “He’s got good work ethic and great instincts. He’s gotten better and better with every rep, and I don’t think that’s going to change.”
NFL offensive coordinators are going to have their hands full in due time. A player like Parsons is one you have to gameplan around every single time. —Zach Donaldson
Toney Nearly Matches Parsons, Oweh Blow for Blow
While he didn’t and won’t draw the same attention that Parsons and Oweh will, defensive end Shaka Toney had quite the pro day himself.
The Philadelphia native turned in a 4.51-second 40-yard dash, which was the fourth fastest of the day and just a few ticks behind safety Lamont Wade’s time. Additionally, the 23-year-old chipped in 24 bench press repetitions—more than both Parsons and Oweh, trailing only offensive linemen Steven Gonzalez and Michal Menet.
Though Toney said it’s hard to keep up with players like Parsons and Oweh, he certainly held his own in comparison to a pair of likely future first-round draft picks. Regardless, Toney said he was happy for his former teammates.
“You can’t compete with freaks of nature,” Toney said. “It makes me proud to see those numbers.”
However, Toney had perhaps the most surprising result of the day with his 39-inch vertical jump, which was just a half inch behind Oweh’s. Whatever the task, Toney excelled, and he was pleased with his individual performance.
“I thought I did good, some stuff I wanted to get better at,” Toney said. “I’ve really just got to keep going. Can’t look back now that the day’s over.”
Following his workout, Toney mentioned that he contracted the coronavirus earlier in the year and lost between 20 and 25 pounds. For Penn State’s pro day, he wanted to weigh in between 240 and 245. The 6-foot-2-inch Toney hit his goal, weighing in at 242 pounds, and his increased strength was on full display.
Depending on which outlet you review, Toney is projected to go as high as the fourth round or go undrafted altogether.
When asked about whether the defensive end and potential outside linebacker at the next level’s performance on Thursday boosted his draft stock, Toney brushed off any pre-draft concerns, noting his focus on staying “grateful” and “hungry.”
“Most mock drafts are wrong,” Toney said. “Some people are right, [but] most people are wrong. At the end of the day, it’s about making one team fall in love with you.” —Andrew Destin
Limited Action at Pro Day for Freiermuth
Plenty of Nittany Lions showed up and showed out on pro day in hopes of improving their draft stock, but one Penn State product was relatively quiet: Pat Freiermuth.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 251-pound tight end is still recovering from a season-ending shoulder injury that caused him to miss the final five games of Penn State’s 2021 season. According to Freiermuth himself, he’s two or three weeks away from being fully cleared for contact.
As a result, Freiermuth’s pro day was fairly limited. The junior did not participate in any of the running tests or weight room activities, only appearing for a few minutes in an individual route-running workout. With no official NFL combine this year—all workouts and measurements are to be held at school’s individual pro days—there’s no telling yet whether or not Freiermuth will complete his 40-yard dash, bench press and other exercises at a later date.
That said, Freiermuth looked comfortable in his individual workout, running good, crisp routes with ease and hauling in passes with his strong hands and perfect tight end frame.
“I think I did all I needed to do to show that the shoulder is not affecting me,” Freiermuth told Big Ten Network. “I’m very durable, and I take my body seriously. My body is my tool, and I take great pride in it. I’m getting that physicality back, and I feel great going into the draft.”
Freiermuth went on to mention how he feels well-rounded in all three phases of the tight end game—pass protection, run blocking and catching the ball—crediting former Penn State tight ends coach Tyler Bowen for assisting with his development.
The question remains as to whether or not Freiermuth’s lack of pro day data will have an impact on his draft status. The answer? Probably not. Unlike Oweh, who is an extremely raw product with tons of untapped potential, Freiermuth is a “you know what you’re getting” kind of talent.
His numbers and accolades already speak volumes; he’s Penn State’s all-time touchdown reception leader among tight ends with 16, he’s recorded at least one reception in each of his last 29 games, and he’s the owner of the title for 2020’s Big Ten Tight End of the Year.
NFL scouts have plenty of tape to work with, and they should recognize that his ideal frame, pass-catching prowess and underrated blocking ability make him worthy of a first- or second-round selection (a la Mike Gesicki in 2018), with or without the pro day measurables on file. —DJ Bauer
DJ Bauer is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Destin is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Andrew Field is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zach Donaldson is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
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Andrew Field is a senior from Haverford, Pennsylvania, which is actually right outside of Philly in the land of “Delco.” He is a huge Philly sports fan, as he has a passion and excitement for all four Philly teams and also all Penn State sports. He writes articles for the sports and arts & entertainment departments. He is the co-manager of the ad/sales team and has a weekly talk show called Broad Street Bros. He hopes to one day work in the sports industry or become a writer.
Junior / Broadcast Journalism