More First-Round Frustration?

Delving in to why Penn State's dry spell of opening-round NFL draftees is now pushing four years.

The 2014 NFL Draft begins tonight, with the first round being telecast live from New York at 8 p.m. For Penn State, there is a good chance this year's draft will see the program match the dubious opening-round drought that hit in the mid-1970s.

No Nittany Lions have been taken in the first round of the last three drafts, dating back to defensive lineman Jared Odrick's selection in round one of the 2010 event.

With receiver Allen Robinson considered a fringe opening-round prospect this year (most experts predict he'll go in the second round), the run of first-round futility could well stretch to four years.

Since Joe Paterno became head coach at Penn State in 1966, there has been only one previous streak where the Lions have been shut out of the first round in four straight years (1975-78).

And since tight end Ted Kwalick went in the first round of the 1969 draft, there have only been two stretches where PSU had been shut out of the opening round in more than two straight years -- the aforementioned spell in the '70s and the current three-year drought.

So what is going on?

The initial reaction is to blame the recent lack of first-rounders on the fallout of the Sandusky scandal, which included NCAA sanctions that allowed players to transfer without penalty and included significant scholarship reductions. However, none of the athletes who transferred have been (or are projected to be) taken in the first round.

Further, the members of the first recruiting class that signed with Penn State after the scandal broke -- the 2012 group -- must be out of high school for at least three years before they can become draft eligible. None of them are there yet.

It is more reasonable to suggest that a string of what turned out to be poor recruiting classes that began long before the scandal hit led to the current first-round drought. In fact, those classes have resulted in poor showings in the draft in general.

Since 2011, only offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski ('11) and defensive tackle Devon Still ('12) have gone in the second round. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill ('13) was State's only third-round pick in the last three drafts. The other six players who have been selected in the last three drafts have all gone in the fourth round or later.

To recap, in the last three drafts, PSU has had a total of three players taken in the first three rounds. By comparison, the Lions had six players selected in the first two rounds in 2003, and five in the first three rounds in 1996 and 1982.

The poor recruiting began in 2007, with a class that was ranked 19th nationally. That group produced only three draftees -- Wisniewski, Still and linebacker Nate Stupar (seventh round, '12).

From there, it stayed pretty ugly. The Class of 2008 was ranked No. 41 nationally and had only 14 members. Defensive end Jack Crawford (fifth round, '12) and linebacker Michael Mauti (seventh round, '13) ended up being the only draftees.

The 2009 class was ranked 11th nationally but imploded. Of the 27 members, 14 either gave up their eligibility early, transferred or were booted from the program. So far, Hill, linebacker Gerald Hodges (fourth round, '13) and receiver Justin Brown (sixth round, '13) have been drafted.

Note that Brown, who left for Oklahoma in 2012, is the only player who transferred from the program post-scandal who has been drafted to date.

Other players from that class who could be drafted this year include offensive lineman John Urschel and linebacker Glenn Carson, as well as kicker Anthony Fera (who transferred to Texas). None of them are expected to go before the middle of the draft, though, and Carson will more than likely be an undrafted free agent.

The 2010 class was ranked ninth nationally. This is where the scandal and its aftermath started to have a real impact -- though it has not been felt in the draft yet. The class included 20 members, and only six of them have a chance to complete their PSU eligibility.

Nobody from the 2010 class has been drafted yet.

Defensive lineman DaQuan Jones never redshirted and is now projected as a mid-round pick in this year's draft.

Running back Silas Redd, who transferred to USC following the scandal, completed his eligibility with the Trojans (he never redshirted at PSU) and is projected as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent.

Linebacker Khairi Fortt, who transferred to Cal and for some reason gave up his final year of eligibility, is projected as a late-round pick.

As for the man who has a chance to break the first-round drought, the good news for Penn State fans moving forward is that he was not a member of any of the previously mentioned underperforming recruiting classes.

Robinson, the PSU record-setter and two-time Big Ten Receiver of the Year, signed with the Nittany Lions in 2011.


PENN STATE NFL DRAFT FIRST-ROUND DROUGHTS


1964, '65, '66, '67, '68 (5 years)
1971 (1 year)
1973 (1 year)
1975, '76, '77, '78 (4 years)
1985, '86 (2 years)
1988, '89 (2 years)
1991, '92 (2 years)
1994 (1 year)
1997 (1 year)
1999 (1 year)
2001, '02 (2 years)
2004, '05 (2 years)
2008 (1 year)
2011, '12, '13 (3 years)

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