Penn State Again a Player in NFL Draft

Is it just me or is it getting a little Drafty around here? It's been a while since Penn State fans have had the feeling, considering that in last April's NFL Draft, for the first time since 1951, not a single Nittany Lion was selected. That will change significantly this year. Fresh off an 11-1 season and Big Ten title, PSU is set to make an all-out assault on the draft, which begins Saturday in New York.

Sure, you may have to wait a while before hearing the first Nittany Lion's name called, as only defensive end Tamba Hali projects as a possible first-rounder. But from the second round on, expect a steady flow of Penn Staters to show up on the ESPN crawl.

What follows are brief thumbnails of the Nittany Lions who have the best chances of being drafted. This is a vastly scaled-down version of the NFL Draft Preview we ran in the most recent issue of Fight On State The Magazine.

If you don't have time to monitor the draft all weekend, be sure to stop by the FOS message boards every now and again. Whenever a Penn State played is picked, we will post an update on the boards.

LAVON CHISLEY, DE

BY THE NUMBERS: At Pro Day, Chisley measured in at 6-foot-5, 257 pounds. His previous reported size at PSU was 6-5, 259 pounds. His arm length (35-3/8) was by far the longest of any of the Lions measured at Pro Day. He ran a 4.71 40-yard dash, good for his size.

LOWDOWN: Chisley never realized his potential at Penn State and missed is senior season due to academic issues. In blowing his senior year he more than likely cost himself a spot in the draft. Expect someone to invite him to camp to see if his length and athletic ability can be harnessed.

TAMBA HALI, DE

BY THE NUMBERS: Measured in at 6-2, 275 at the combine but was down to 263 by Pro Day. During his PSU career, he was listed at 6-3, 262. He ran a very solid 4.63 40 at Pro Day. He has huge hands (10-7/8).

LOWDOWN: A low-risk pick because of his athletic ability, work ethic and character, look for Hali to be taken by the end of the first round. Trimming down may be an indication he would prefer to play linebacker at the next level, but it hurt his draft stock.

CHRIS HARRELL, S

BY THE NUMBERS: Measured in at 6-0, 209 at the combine and dropped one pound for Pro Day. During his PSU career, he was listed at 6-2, 212.

LOWDOWN: A relatively slow 40 at the combine (4.7) will hurt from a draft perspective. But his nose for the ball and special-teams cover skills should make him a late-round pick.

ETHAN KILMER, WR

BY THE NUMBERS: Kilmer stole the show at Penn State's Pro Day, running the 40 in 4.38, uncorking a 41-inch vertical and bench-pressing 225 pounds 19 times. Great numbers for a 6-0, 200-pound walk-on. He was listed as 6-0, 203 at Penn State.

LOWDOWN: When the PSU seniors worked out for the pro scouts, several NFL types were overheard saying “this guy was a walk-on?” while Kilmer tested. He more than likely played his way into the second day of the draft despite his relative inexperience.

CALVIN LOWRY, S

BY THE NUMBERS: Measured in at 5-11, 200 pounds at the combine and lost three pounds for Pro Day. During his PSU career, he was listed at 6-0, 200.

LOWDOWN: Lowry is a versatile athlete whose speed (4.49) is good enough to make him a middle- to late-round pick. A low-risk type from round five on because he can fill many special-teams roles and will stay out of trouble off the field.

SCOTT PAXSON, DL

BY THE NUMBERS: At Pro Day, he checked in at 6-4, 292. His last reported size at Penn State was 6-5, 292.

LOWDOWN: It is difficult to imagine anyone spending a pick on Paxson unless the legal issue he faces is completely cleared up before the draft. And unless something goes down Friday, that will not happen. Though the most serious charges against him were dropped in the alleged assault of a woman on campus, he was not completely in the clear. With his solid build and ability muscle his way into the offensive backfield, somebody will give him a long look as a free agent.

ANWAR PHILLIPS, CB

BY THE NUMBERS: Measured in at 5-11, 193 at the combine and lost three pounds for Pro Day. During his PSU career, he was listed at 6-1, 197. He ran a 4.45 40 at Pro Day.

LOWDOWN: A strong showing in the Senior Bowl, where he intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble for a touchdown (though it was credited to another player), proved Phillips is at home against top talent. He ought to be a middle-round pick. Though he didn't always take proper angles in coverage, even when burned his speed usually allowed him to recover and make the stop.

TYLER REED, OG

BY THE NUMBERS: At Pro Day, he measured in at 6-4, 315. His last reported measurements at Penn State were 6-4, 303.

LOWDOWN: May go late on the second day of the draft. Had solid physical skills at Penn State but lacked consistency. Minor off-field issues likely sent up red flags for NFL scouts, as well.

MICHAEL ROBINSON, QB

BY THE NUMBERS: Measured in at 6-1, 226 at the combine. At PSU, he was listed 6-2, 218. He ran 4.5 40 at Pro Day.

LOWDOWN: Robinson does too many things too well for some squad not to snatch him up by the middle of the draft. The needs of the team that picks him will likely determine which position he plays at the next level, and he has said he is comfortable with that. Whenever he is taken, look for his physical ability and leadership skills to make him a mainstay somewhere in the league.

MATT RICE, DE

BY THE NUMBERS: Measured in at 6-4, 271 at the combine and dropped one pound for Pro Day. He was listed at 6-4, 262 during his PSU career.

LOWDOWN: Rice comes with some minor off-the-field baggage. But the guess here is he has charmed at least a few teams in his one-on-one interviews. With a strong build and long arms (34-5/8) that are required on pass-rushers, expect him to be drafted in the mid to late rounds.

CHARLES RUSH, OG

BY THE NUMBERS: At Pro Day, he checked in at 6-2, 302. His last reported size at Penn State was 6-2, 304.

LOWDOWN: If he is drafted, it will be on the second day. The guess here is he will take the free-agent route into an NFL camp. Rush is the polar opposite of Reed, a guy without a natural aptitude for the position who turned himself into a borderline pro prospect in spite of it.

ALAN ZEMAITIS, CB

BY THE NUMBERS: Measured in at 6-1, 194 at the combine and gained two pounds for pro day. At PSU, he was listed at 6-2, 196.

LOWDOWN: Corner is a deep position in this draft. But even so, look for Zemaitis to go somewhere in the second or third round due to his long frame, decent speed and nose for the ball. He did not do himself any favors by skipping the Senior Bowl after agreeing to play in it.

OTHERS

Center E.Z. Smith and tight end Isaac Smolko could pop into the later rounds of the draft, but will more likely earn work as free agents.

Smith (6-1, 283) is undersized for the offensive line and comes with considerable off-field baggage. But his ability to long and short snap will help him make a camp.

Smolko is not quite big enough (6-4, 246) to be a power blocking tight end and not quite polished enough to join the new breed of receiving tight ends. He can also long snap, which could come in handy if he hits a camp.

Other athletes who worked out at PSU's Pro Day included center Lance Antolick, linebacker Dorian Burton, defensive back Paul Cronin, and offensive tackles Andrew Richardson and John Wilson.

Antolick has good strength — he did 27 reps of 225 on the bench at Pro Day — but lacks the quickness needed to shine at the next level. Burton did not play a down last season and at 5-11, 218 is a long shot to earn a camp invite. Cronin missed much of his senior season after being kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons, but was reinstated for the bowl game. He could find his way into a camp.

Wilson blew out a knee early in the year and still appeared to be wobbly at Pro Day. He does to appear to be physically prepared to play at the next level, as evidenced by his low bench press number (15) at Pro Day. Likewise, Richardson, who took over a starting job when Wilson was injured, managed only 14 reps on the bench.

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