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 offense. Note that we are not referring to prospects only for the 2017 NFL Draft, but rather we are projecting out for all future drafts.
3. OG Ryan Bates
We have yet to see Bates play in a game. But if you talk to enough people in the Penn State program, they peg the redshirt freshman as the team’s next outstanding offensive lineman. The staff contemplated playing Bates as a true freshman, but not doing so allowed him to focus on getting bigger. He now packs more than 300 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame, and it is kind of stunning to compare a photo from the spring of 2015 (above left, shortly before Bates enrolled) to one from the spring of 2016 (above right).
Bates took over the starting left guard position in spring ball and — while he figures to endure some growing pains this fall — has the look of a four-year starter at the interior line positions (he was recruited as a center). Those types of player at Penn State usually move on to solid NFL careers.
2. WR Chris Godwin
He is not the biggest receiver on the PSU roster. He is not the fastest. Heck, he is not even the most experienced. But Godwin is the best all-around pass catcher on the team and one of the best in the Big Ten. The junior’s versatility will be appealing to NFL scouts when it comes time to enter the league. He averaged 16 yards per catch last season, but he was much more than a deep threat. Godwin can do plenty of damage running after the catch and is comfortable going over the middle. Godwin even had three tackles and a fumble recovery as a sophomore.
His stats to date are very reminiscent of a young Bobby Engram, and we could see him being a similar type of receiver in the NFL. Consider that after one season as a starter, Godwin is already tied for 14th on Penn State’s career receptions list (94). Take current teammate DaeSean Hamilton out of the mix, and the men ahead of Godwin on that list have averaged 4.6 years in the NFL.
1. RB Saquon Barkley
What’s not to like here? Barkley is the fastest guy on the team (4.39 40) and one of the strongest. He has excellent size at 5-11, 220. And in 2015 he somehow managed to rush for a PSU freshman record 1,076 yards despite: 1. Playing behind a very suspect offensive line; 2. Only starting six games.
We know he has at least two more seasons to go in Happy Valley, but right now Barkley’s 5.9 yards per carry are tied for third among the top 10 rushers in school history. The rest of the top three are Ki-Jana Carter (an amazing 7.2), Larry Johnson (6.4) and Lydell Mitchell (5.9). That’s some serious company. Barring injury, there doesn’t seem to be much question about when Barkley will be drafted in terms of round (first) or year (2018, after being at PSU for the requisite three years required to enter the draft).
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