The NFL Draft gets underway Thursday night in New York City with the first round. The second and third rounds will be held Friday and the draft will wrap up on Saturday with rounds four through seven. How many Penn State players will get to hear their name called, and when might they get that opportunity to have their name chosen by an NFL franchise?
To get a sense of where some Penn State prospects fit in with this year's NFL Draft I invited Eric Galko, Director of Scouting for Optimum Scouting to answer a few draft-related questions. Optimum Scouting is one of the best NFL Draft outlets out there and they have partnered with The Sporting News to provide their experty analysis with a larger audience this year. Optimum Scouting also has a full NFL Draft guide available for an affordable price and it is a great resource if you are looking for some NFL Draft material.
Q: It does not seem as though Penn State has a huge haul of NFL talent for the draft but fans are keeping a close eye on some defensive players. Where do you predict Jordan Hill, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges will end up going?
A: I’d guess Hodges is the first of the group to get drafted, likely in the 4th round range. Mauti likely falls because of his injury history, but a team picking late in the 5th may feel he’s “worth the risk”, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s the best linebacker in this class if he can recover from his injuries and stay healthy.
Hill’s ability to play on the inside and away from his body should intrigue 4-3 and 3-4 teams, and the 6th round area sounds about right for him.
Q. Gerald Hodges contemplated entering the NFL Draft last year but decided to come back for his senior season. Do you believe that ended up being a positive move for him in terms of draft stock and positioning, or should he have come out last season?
A: It’s always easy to say “he should have come out”, but another year in college doesn’t make any prospect worse nor truly hurt their NFL value, outside of potential injuries. Hodges isn’t the prospect Navarro Bowman was out of college, who went in the 3rd round.
Q: Matt McGloin flourished under Bill O'Brien last season but does not seem to have much traction with NFL scouts. Is there a chance somebody might take a late pick to add McGloin to their roster and see what they can do with him, or is he more likely destined for an undrafted free agent contract?
A: I think he’ll get a shot after the draft to stick with a team, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He’ll get the chance to pick his team, potentially finding one that doesn’t have a great practice squad quarterback.
If he can land on a practice squad next year, he’ll get a full season to prove he’s more than just a “former walk-on” and that he can last in the NFL.
Q: Michael Mauti is a fan favorite at Penn State, and for good reason. His leadership on and off the field was admirable and he backed it up with his play on the field. But this is a guy coming off a serious knee injury and he has had one on both sides. At the combine he participated in just the bench press, which he performed very well in. Heading in to the draft, what is the scout's take on his NFL future, and how serious is that injury history?
A: The injury history is long and worrisome for NFL teams. It likely keeps him out of the Top 3 rounds automatically, and it wouldn’t be surprising if some teams took him off their board altogether. However, his leadership, natural strength on the interior, and under-rated ability to get outside the tackle box and back in coverage is what could make him an instant NFL starter if he’s able to stay healthy.
Q: Some of the other names Penn State fans are keeping tabs on will include Michael Zordich and Matt Stankiewitch. What is the take on those prospects and where do you think they could end up going in the draft?
A: It’d be surprising to see either one get drafted, with Stankiewitch having an outside shot. It’s always hard to peg centers, as team’s value football IQ the most at that position. If he interviewed well, a team could see value in him. Keep in mind that only 6-7 centers are drafted each year.
Q:. Looking ahead to next year, who are some of the players on the 2013 Penn State roster that will have the most scouts interested for the 2014 NFL Draft?
A: While it’s still quite early, soon to be junior Allen Robinson is like the best of the bunch. Ideal size and big play ability, I’ll be eager to see how the receiver develops. After that, guard John Urschel caught my eye at guard, and he may work his way into a Top 4 round grade. Still early, but those are two that have piqued my interest thus far.