Penn State's Top 3 NFL Prospects: Defense

Our completely unscientific breakdown of the Nittany Lion defenders we rate as the top three NFL prospects. See if you agree. If not, join the discussion.

Penn State’s preseason camp may not be scheduled to start until the first week of August. But for die-hard Nittany Lion fans, it is never too early to start breaking things down in preparation for the season.

So in the coming weeks we’ll be offering a variety of unique takes on James Franklin’s squad. Be sure to get in on the conversation on our premium forum.

In this segment, we talk about Penn State’s top three NFL prospects on defense. Note that we are not referring to prospects only for the 2017 NFL Draft, but rather we are projecting out for all future drafts.

Penn State's Top NFL Prospects: Defense

3. DE Torrence Brown

Harvey Levine/FOS

Brown is a former high school basketball standout who is just now coming into his own on the gridiron. Take a close look at the stats from last season — when Brown was a redshirt freshman — and you’ll see signs of an athletic sack machine in the making. Despite being a backup, he logged 5.5 tackles for loss. The only Lions with more than that were Carl Nassib, Austin Johnson, Brandon Bell and Anthony Zettel.

Framed another way, Brown had 11 total tackles last season, and half of them were in the backfield. Expect Brown to play a much more prominent role in the defense this season and then really take off in 2017 and beyond.

2. DB John Reid

Harvey Levine/FOS

We know he does not fit the new prototype of long NFL DBs. But at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, the sophomore is not exactly small, either. And he has a knack for making things happen. As a true freshman playing mainly in a reserve role last season, Reid tied for the team lead in interceptions (two, which included a team-high 44 return yards), ranked third with five pass break-ups, caused one fumble and returned a fumble 19 yards. He is also versatile enough to play either corner position and to move inside in nickel situations.

His quick grasp of the defense resulted in the staff being comfortable enough to start him in the 2015 season-opener vs. Temple when Grant Haley was sidelined by an injury. Reid is taking over a starting job this fall and expect him to get better and better.

1. LB Jason Cabinda

Harvey Levine/FOS

When starting MLB Nyeem Wartman-White was injured in the 2015 opener at Temple, Cabinda approached the coaching staff and asked to be moved from Will to Mike. 

The sophomore went on to pace the team in tackles (100), including 5.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. More importantly, he emerged as the vocal leader of the veteran unit. 

There were some learning pains, to be sure, but the second-year player was effective enough at Mike that it is difficult to imagine a healthy Wartman-White reclaiming the role in preseason camp (expect him to shift to Will). 

At 6-1, 245, Cabinda has clocked a very respectable 4.7 40, meaning he has the size and speed to get things done inside. And remember, he was only a sophomore last fall. 

With two seasons remaining, we’re betting Cabinda becomes a great one at Penn State — and eventually the next “Linebacker U” product to thrive in the NFL. 

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