Penn State is holding its annual Pro Day for NFL scouts Thursday.
Here are the 13 former Nittany Lions who will be participating.
Kudos to FOS photographer Harvey Levine for having action shots of all the players.
DT Tarow Barney
NOTES: The junior college transfer was a two-year mainstay on the PSU defensive line. He was primarily a space eater, finishing his career with 16 tackles. Barney is very strong, so expect him to excel on the bench press.
CURRENT DRAFT PROJECTION: His best hope is for a free-agent tryout.
TE Kyle Carter
NOTES: After an outstanding redshirt freshman season, Carter’s production dropped each year from that point. That was in part due to injury, in part due to drops and in part due to a change in the PSU offense in 2014. Carter should run well (we expect a 40 in the 4.8-second range. But he’s going to have to impress scouts by catching everything thrown his way.
CURRENT DRAFT PROJECTION: Carter once looked like a sure-fire pro. But now he’s going to have to fight for a free-agent look.
DL Jon Gingrich
NOTES: A former PSU heavyweight wrestler, Gingrich is taking a stab at playing pro football. He was a standout fullback and linebacker at nearby Bald Eagle Area High (where he was a senior in 2009-10), so he does have a football background. He now is in the 6-2, 285-pound range, so he projects as more of a defensive lineman.
CURRENT DRAFT PROJECTION: Stranger things have happened, as former PSU hoops player Ross Travis made Kansas City’s practice squad last season. But Travis is a pure athlete and stands 6-foot-7. Wrestling a free-agent tryout from an NFL team would be a huge upset victory for Gingrich.
NOTES: Hackenberg tested very well at the NFL Combine — to the point where he can probably let those numbers stand — but was inconsistent with his throws. So throwing with accuracy is going to be the key this week. Hackenberg will reportedly be throwing to Carter, former PSU wideout Derek Moye and East Stroudsburg 2015 Division II All-American Jon Schnaars.
CURRENT DRAFT PROJECTION: Predictions are all over the place. But we’re guessing someone who has the time to develop a strong-armed QB will nab him in the second or third round. The scenario of Hackenberg reconnecting with former PSU coach Bill O’Brien in Houston took a hit when the Texans signed free agent veteran Brock Osweiler to a big deal.
NOTES: Johnson did not run well at the Combine and his bench number (25 reps) was lower than we expected. So he would be smart to do everything at Pro Day. This is such a deep, talented class of defensive tackles that Johnson should take every opportunity to bolster his stock.
CURRENT DRAFT PROJECTION: Whatever his testing numbers, tape does not lie. Johnson is a big, strong interior tackle who will go in the second or third round.
RB Brandon Johnson
NOTES: The walk-on finished his PSU career with four carries for 23 yards as a deep reserve. But he played in all but one game last season on special teams. The well-built 6-2, 228-pounder is no doubt attempting to draw attention as a special teams’ headhunter. He will test well. Johnson logged a 4.06 pro shuttle at PSU, which is excellent for his size. He also had a 10.06 broad jump.
CURRENT DRAFT PROJECTION: We applaud Johnson for taking a shot at living out his dream. But this is a real uphill climb.
DB Ryan Keiser
NOTES: A crazy injury (a broken rib that perforated his bowel) ended Keiser’s senior season in 2014. It also landed him in intensive care at the Hershey Medical Center. After more than a year to recover, he is taking his shot at the NFL. Keiser was a heady starting safety and versatile special teams contributor (even holding on placements) at PSU.
CURRENT DRAFT PROJECTION: Keiser has spent the last several years proving people wrong. And we fully expect O’Brien and current coach James Franklin to go to bat to help him land a free-agent tryout somewhere.
DB Jordan Lucas
NOTES: Lucas missed the last three games of his senior season after undergoing right shoulder surgery. He had to skip the Senior Bowl and then did not workout at the Combine (even though he previously told reporters he would do everything except bench). That would appear to set up Pro Day as a make-or-break proposition for the multiple-year starter who played corner and safety for the Lions.
CURRENT DRAFT PROJECTION: At this moment, we can’t imagine anyone drafting Lucas. There are just too many questions. But … if he can show some of his athleticism and talent at Pro Day, he could move up and be a later-round high-risk, high-reward guy. Prior to the injury, we would have pegged him as a solid mid-round pick.
NOTES: Penn State’s Mr. Versatility up front the last couple of years, Mangiro has started games at center, guard and tackle. So he is clearly a team-first guy. At Pro Day, the 6-3, 320-pounder is going to have to prove he is athletic enough to take his game to the next level.
CURRENT DRAFT PROJECTION: As versatile as he was at PSU, we just don’t see Mangiro having the athleticism to play tackle in the NFL. That will hurt his value, as roster limits force the best pro backups to be able to play inside or outside. He’ll get a free-agent look from someone, though.
DE Carl Nassib
NOTES: Nassib ran well at the Combine (4.84 40), but as someone who is being painted as a developmental D-lineman, trying to improve his numbers at Pro Day would seem like a good idea. He’ll definitely want to improve on his bench (21 reps), because a lack of strength is a consistent knock. All of that said, the 6-7, 277-pounder has tremendous raw materials.
CURRENT DRAFT PROJECTION: As valuable as rush ends are, we’ll be surprised if Nassib lasts past the third round. In fact, we could see someone taking a chance on him in the second.
FB Dom Salomone
NOTES: Uh, OK then. Salomone appeared in only two games last season (and did not register any stats). And he is a fullback, a position largely extinct in the NFL. So what gives here? The well-respected Salomone is a workout warrior who holds the program’s “Strength Index” record for fullbacks and tight ends. He has benched 430 pounds and squatted 515. So why not take a chance to show off his strength to the scouts, and maybe catch someone’s eye?
CURRENT DRAFT PROJECTION: Much like Brandon Johnson, it is cool to see someone like Salomone taking a shot at achieving a dream. And as is the case with Johnson, this is a real uphill climb.
NOTES: The converted receiver struggled early in his tenure as a cornerback but got better and better the last couple of years. He has good size (6-foot, 200) and was solid in coverage last season. But he’s never been much of a playmaker, with only five interceptions in three seasons as a mainstay at corner. He only had 84 tackles in his career as a DB, too (Lucas had 179 during the same three-season span).
CURRENT DRAFT PROJECTION: He will test well at Pro Day, especially in the pro shuttle (where he posted a program-record 4.0 at Penn State). Unfortunately, we don’t see how — in a Pro Day setting — he can prove to scouts that he has improved as a playmaker and run-support guy. We think you’re looking at a possible late-round pick who is more likely to be a free agent.
NOTES: Zettel has been hit with the dreaded “tweener” tag, meaning he is too small to be a D-tackle and not athletic enough to be a DE/OLB. So even though he tested very well at the Combine, including running a 4.81 40 and 4.39 pro shuttle, we think he should try to improve on those numbers at Pro Day to further show that he deserves a shot as a rush end.
CURRENT DRAFT PROJECTION: Zettel’s best bet is to be drafted by a 4-3 defense where he can play a classic end position. In our view, he is not big enough to play end in a 3-4 nor quick enough (in terms of dropping into coverage) to play OLB in that set. Since only about half of the NFL teams run the 4-3, that really narrows the field of organizations that will be willing to draft him. We expect one of them to give him a shot in the later rounds.