The NFL Draft is finally upon us. While there are several players from Penn State who will hope to hear their names called over the course of the three-day event, there are only two who are projected to be chosen within the first two days – defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and wide receiver KJ Hamler. It is during those first three rounds that teams are praised or bashed for their selections and how well they are projected to fit on their rosters. For Gross-Matos and Hamler, the teams that choose them will be doing so with the faith that they truly do have creative ways to unleash their full potential.
With that being said, we took a stab at choosing which teams would be the very best fits for the two über-athletic and polarizing (among draft pundits, at least) prospects.
Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge Rusher
Gross-Matos is as interesting a prospect that there is in this year's draft. There's no denying his talent level, and he has the stats to back up his standing as one of the draft's top edge rushers. Yet, there is still so much more to his game that needs to be unlocked for him to truly shine at the next level, and make good on an early-round selection. For the man known as YGM to have the best chance to succeed in the NFL, he will ideally be put in a situation where he's not counted on immediately for big-time production and has veterans around him from whom he can learn to diversify his arsenal of pass-rushing techniques.
Expected Range: Late 1st/Early-to-Mid 2nd
Potential Fits: Titans, Seahawks, Giants, Vikings, Patriots
Our Top Picks: Seahawks, Vikings, Titans
The Seahawks badly need pass-rush help. Jadeveon Clowney looks like he's leaving town, and the team leader in sacks a year ago was Rasheem Green with a whopping four. Still, with Bruce Irvin, and Benson Mayowa already signed, and Everson Griffen looking likely to follow suit, there is enough depth on the edge to allow them to bring YGM up at his own pace. Irvin (along with potentially Griffen) is also an established veteran in the league with 50-plus career sacks to his name. As a former first-round pick who relied primarily on his speed rush before building up his repertoire of moves, he would be a great teacher for Gross-Matos.
The Vikings also have a need on the edge after releasing the aforementioned Griffen. Danielle Hunter would be another greater mentor for Gross-Matos, and the presence of Ifeadi Odenigbo would allow him to start off as a rotational piece. Hunter is also about to become very expensive starting in 2021, so the Vikings would greatly benefit from having the other side of its defensive line be able to be anchored by YGM on a rookie deal.
The other most popular mock draft destination for Gross-Matos, aside from Seattle, is Tennessee. The Titans shocked the NFL a year ago with their march to the AFC Championship Game. While they will once again be a very solid team in 2020, they need an upgrade at defensive end. Harold Landry is quickly becoming one of the better pass-rushing linebackers in the league, but they lose Cameron Wake (released in March), and Jeffrey Simmons wasn't as impressive as they hoped he would be as a rookie. Adding Gross-Matos could give Landry the pass-rushing partner he needs in order to help upgrade what was mostly a middle-of-the-pack defense a year ago. Plus, adding Gross-Matos would give the Titans a third Nittany Lion defensive lineman, which is neat.
KJ Hamler, Wide Receiver/Returner
Hamler's primary deficiency in the eyes of the NFL is well-known – he's small. However, as the league has slowly learned how valuable versatility and speed in space are, players like Hamler have become more and more valuable. He will almost certainly have to wait until day two to hear his name called, but he should be a very attractive target for several teams in the second round. Still, similarly to Gross-Matos, any team selecting Hamler will need to have a plan in place as to how to deploy its newest weapon.
Expected Range: Early-to-Mid 2nd/Early 3rd
Potential Fits: Bears, Buccaneers (can you imagine?), Cowboys, Eagles, Vikings, Packers
Our Top Picks: Bears, Eagles, Cowboys
The Bears don't pick until the second round, but with their decision to trade for Nick Foles, it's a clear signal that they are not interested in another sub-par offensive season. Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Jimmy Graham are all in town, but Taylor Gabriel is gone. Hamler would be a natural fit to find holes underneath and be used on gadget plays as Gabriel was. His ability to stretch the field would also open things up even more for Robinson, who often faced double-teams a year ago. Matt Nagy made waves in his first season as the Bears head coach with his innovative play-calling. Adding a player like Hamler would allow him to rediscover that creativity and make his team as dangerous as ever.
The Eagles are a natural choice, as they could look to draft at least two receivers (maybe three if they deal Alshon Jeffery) to rebuild their passing attack. Assuming they also draft an X-receiver type, Hamler would be an intriguing fit with the amount of attention that tight end Zach Ertz demands from a defense, not to mention former Nittany Lion Miles Sanders leaking out of the backfield. Hamler can be lethal in one-on-one coverage, especially when moving laterally, and with the number of options that the Eagles offense could have with a good draft, he should see a lot of single coverage. Philly would also surely find creative ways to use the speedy Hamler on gadget plays.
The Eagles aren't the only NFC East team with space for Hamler, as we also see a fit in Dallas. The Cowboys could very well be gearing up for their final season with impeding free agent Dak Prescott. That means they should do what they can to give him the firepower he needs ASAP. Hamler would be able to fill the void left by Randall Cobb in the slot, and would have arguably the best route-runner in the NFL to learn from in Amari Cooper. Hamler would also be an upgrade at kick and punt returner over Jourdan Lewis and Tony Pollard. At the very least would help to split the load in that regard. An offense with Prescott, Zeke Elliott, Cooper, Michael Gallup, Hamler, and Blake Jarwin could be scary good.