Harvey Levine/FOS

INSTANT ANALYSIS: Penn State Losing DE Sickels

How will the redshirt junior's decision to make an early exit to the NFL affect the Nittany Lions?

Penn State redshirt junior defensive end Garrett Sickels declared for the 2017 NFL Draft Wednesday. Our instant analysis on what it means for the Nittany Lions and Sickels.

IMPACT FOR PSU

Harvey Levine/FOS

Sickels was Penn State’s best defensive lineman in 2016 with a team-high 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. So his early departure will hurt.

But he happens to be playing at one of the positions that remained loaded for the Nittany Lions through the sanctions era. Even with Sickels and fellow starter Evan Schwan (a senior) moving on, PSU is well stocked at D-end and has more talent on the way.

Redshirt sophomore Torrence Brown (above) is considered a rising star within in the program and redshirt freshman Shareef Miller is also thought to have a significant upside. Both logged serious snaps in 2016 as position coach Sean Spencer used a heavy rotation up front.

Another redshirt freshman, Ryan Buchholz, played in 13 of 14 games and contributed 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.

Penn State also redshirted three true freshman defensive ends in 2016, the most promising of whom for 2017 is 245-pound Shane Simmons. He is extremely quick and already has a Big Ten-ready body.

Meanwhile, Shaka Toney was a pass-rushing terror on the scout team, even though at 6-foot-3 he only checked in at about 200 pounds. He’ll have to add 25 pounds or so during his first offseason on campus to be able to make an impact in 2017, though.

It is still not completely clear where 6-3, 255-pound Daniel Joseph will end up. He has the frame to grow into a D-tackle but is currently listed as a D-end. He has had some injury issues since arriving on campus so it is tough to get a solid scouting report on him. 

Of the players currently on the roster, one other possible name to throw into the D-end mix is that of Cam Brown. The 6-foot-5-plus, 215-pound true freshman was an excellent backup at linebacker and a special teams demon in 2016, even with his long frame. He recently told us he was recruited as an end and will be happy to play there if the staff feels it needs him.

Right now, however, the numbers crunch at LB probably means he’ll stay put.

Do not be at all surprised if incoming freshman Yetur Matos is given a very long look next preseason. At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, he has an extremely long frame and runs very well.

To summarize, numbers will not be a problem at defensive end, even with Sickels leaving early.

SCHOLARSHIP NUMBERS

Counting all current Nittany Lions and all players committed for the Class of 2017, we now have PSU’s total scholarship number for 2017 at 86 — or one above the NCAA maximum.

As of this writing, Sickels was the only underclassman to declare for the draft. But that 86 number figures to drop below 85 due to what is considered “normal attrition.” Things such as:

• Other players declaring for the draft. S Marcus Allen and WR Chris Godwin are said to be considering it.

• Players transferring. We won’t speculate because that would not be fair to Lions considering moving on. But PSU is once again in position where there are talented players stuck behind VERY talented players. This invariably leads to transfers (think veteran RB Akeel Lynch leaving on good terms last year).

• Players giving up the sport for other reasons (graduating and wanting to move on, injuries, academic issues, etc.). We’re not making any predictions, other than to say there are usually at least two or three of these types of things per year.

PSU currently has 18 commits for the Class of 2017. Barring the dreaded de-commit, we’re guessing that number ends up at 20 or 21 — meaning we’re GUESSING three or four more current scholarship guys move on for whatever reason.

SICKELS’ NFL PROSPECTS

Harvey Levine/FOS

We anticipate Sickels being a mid-round pick at the very best and more likely going in the later rounds.

A 6-4, 260, he has been hand-timed at just below 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash. That is good but not great for his size. If he is invited to the NFL Combine, that number figures to slow down by about one-tenth of a second because electronic timing is used (history has shown us the electronic numbers are slower than hand times).

For his career, Sickels had 20.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. Again, good numbers, but not great.

By comparison, Carl Nassib had 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks during his senior season (2015) alone — despite being extremely limited in several games due to an injury. He was taller, heavier and faster than Sickels. And yet he still did not go until early in the third round of the 2016 Draft. 

Sickels had one monster game — in a win against then No. 2 Ohio State last season — and that came after he was suspended the first half for disciplinary reasons. Nevertheless, in 30 minutes he had nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

To put that into perspective, 23 percent of his career sacks and 17 percent of his career tackles for loss came in one half of one game.

Against the other three best teams on Penn State’s schedule this year — Michigan, Wisconsin and USC — Sickels did not register a sack nor a tackle for loss.

All of that said, we’re not sure how much one more season in Happy Valley would have improved his draft stock. At 22 years old, it will be interesting to see how much stronger and faster he can become focusing solely on preparing for the draft.


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Penn State redshirt junior defensive end Garrett Sickels declared for the 2017 NFL Draft Wednesday. Our instant analysis on what it means for the Nittany Lions and Sickels.

IMPACT FOR PSU

\"\"Harvey Levine/FOS

Sickels was Penn State’s best defensive lineman in 2016 with a team-high 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. So his early departure will hurt.

But he happens to be playing at one of the positions that remained loaded for the Nittany Lions through the sanctions era. Even with Sickels and fellow starter Evan Schwan (a senior) moving on, PSU is well stocked at D-end and has more talent on the way.

Redshirt sophomore Torrence Brown (above) is considered a rising star within in the program and redshirt freshman Shareef Miller is also thought to have a significant upside. Both logged serious snaps in 2016 as position coach Sean Spencer used a heavy rotation up front.

Another redshirt freshman, Ryan Buchholz, played in 13 of 14 games and contributed 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.

Penn State also redshirted three true freshman defensive ends in 2016, the most promising of whom for 2017 is 245-pound Shane Simmons. He is extremely quick and already has a Big Ten-ready body.

Meanwhile, Shaka Toney was a pass-rushing terror on the scout team, even though at 6-foot-3 he only checked in at about 200 pounds. He’ll have to add 25 pounds or so during his first offseason on campus to be able to make an impact in 2017, though.

It is still not completely clear where 6-3, 255-pound Daniel Joseph will end up. He has the frame to grow into a D-tackle but is currently listed as a D-end. He has had some injury issues since arriving on campus so it is tough to get a solid scouting report on him.

Of the players currently on the roster, one other possible name to throw into the D-end mix is that of Cam Brown. The 6-foot-5-plus, 215-pound true freshman was an excellent backup at linebacker and a special teams demon in 2016, even with his long frame. He recently told us he was recruited as an end and will be happy to play there if the staff feels it needs him.

Right now, however, the numbers crunch at LB probably means he’ll stay put.

Do not be at all surprised if incoming freshman Yetur Matos is given a very long look next preseason. At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, he has an extremely long frame and runs very well.

To summarize, numbers will not be a problem at defensive end, even with Sickels leaving early.

SCHOLARSHIP NUMBERS

Counting all current Nittany Lions and all players committed for the Class of 2017, we now have PSU’s total scholarship number for 2017 at 86 — or one above the NCAA maximum.

As of this writing, Sickels was the only underclassman to declare for the draft. But that 86 number figures to drop below 85 due to what is considered “normal attrition.” Things such as:

• Other players declaring for the draft. S Marcus Allen and WR Chris Godwin are said to be considering it.

• Players transferring. We won’t speculate because that would not be fair to Lions considering moving on. But PSU is once again in position where there are talented players stuck behind VERY talented players. This invariably leads to transfers (think veteran RB Akeel Lynch leaving on good terms last year).

• Players giving up the sport for other reasons (graduating and wanting to move on, injuries, academic issues, etc.). We’re not making any predictions, other than to say there are usually at least two or three of these types of things per year.

PSU currently has 18 commits for the Class of 2017. Barring the dreaded de-commit, we’re guessing that number ends up at 20 or 21 — meaning we’re GUESSING three or four more current scholarship guys move on for whatever reason.

SICKELS’ NFL PROSPECTS

\"\"Harvey Levine/FOS

We anticipate Sickels being a mid-round pick at the very best and more likely going in the later rounds.

A 6-4, 260, he has been hand-timed at just below 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash. That is good but not great for his size. If he is invited to the NFL Combine, that number figures to slow down by about one-tenth of a second because electronic timing is used (history has shown us the electronic numbers are slower than hand times).

For his career, Sickels had 20.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. Again, good numbers, but not great.

By comparison, Carl Nassib had 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks during his senior season (2015) alone — despite being extremely limited in several games due to an injury. He was taller, heavier and faster than Sickels. And yet he still did not go until early in the third round of the 2016 Draft.

Sickels had one monster game — in a win against then No. 2 Ohio State last season — and that came after he was suspended the first half for disciplinary reasons. Nevertheless, in 30 minutes he had nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

To put that into perspective, 23 percent of his career sacks and 17 percent of his career tackles for loss came in one half of one game.

Against the other three best teams on Penn State’s schedule this year — Michigan, Wisconsin and USC — Sickels did not register a sack nor a tackle for loss.

All of that said, we’re not sure how much one more season in Happy Valley would have improved his draft stock. At 22 years old, it will be interesting to see how much stronger and faster he can become focusing solely on preparing for the draft.

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