Projecting Penn State's 2022 NFL Draft Prospects

By Matthew Filipovits on May 3, 2021 at 9:27 am
Sep 27, 2019; College Park, MD, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions offensive lineman Rasheed Walker (53) lines up against the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
© Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State saw six players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, three from both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. James Franklin and Co. have built Penn State's roster with NFL talent and that should continue as we look ahead in the 2022 Draft.

Rasheed Walker (RS-Jr.), Offensive Tackle

Walker would have heard his name called had he declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, but opting to run it back, he's put himself in a position to be one of the first offensive linemen off the board. Entering his third season as a starter, he's only gotten better with each passing game, and Phil Trautwein has a track record of getting his guys off the board early. A big 2021 campaign will cement his status as an early pick.

Projected: First Round

Jahan Dotson (Sr.), Wide Receiver

Jahan Dotson isn't the best athlete, but he does everything well. He has great hands, runs good routes, and can make people miss in space. He doesn't have the top-end speed receivers usually have to have to go early in the draft, but the lack of holes in his game elsewhere will make him an attractive prospect.

Projected: Third Round

JaqUan Brisker (Sr.), Safety

Jaquan Brisker only has one season of tape as a starter, and it was a very mixed bag. PFF had him as a first-team All-American, while the Big Ten coaches and media gave him third-team and honorable mention honors respective. He's got great ball skills and is more than willing to help stuff the run, but he needs to be more consistent. If he's able to find sustained success under Anthony Poindexter, his floor is the third round but I wouldn't be surprised to see him play his way into an earlier selection.

Projected: Third Round

PJ Mustipher (Sr.), Defensive Tackle

Mustipher has been around forever, but last season was his first as a starter. At 6'4/326 he's got the type of size you can't teach and is surprisingly light on his feet. He's never going to light up the box score but his ability to take on double teams and free up space for edge rushers is a trait any team would love to have. I'd love to project him going higher, but this past weekend's draft signaled the league just doesn't value space eaters like they used to (five defensive tackles in the first 100 picks, none in the first round).

Projected: Fourth Round

Brandon Smith (Jr.), Linebacker

Brandon Smith is still figuring things out at linebacker but he made major strides in his second season on campus. He might be the best athlete on Penn State's defense, and his size and speed let him play sideline to sideline. He's got the skillset the modern NFL loves which should allow him to be selected in an early round of the draft with a strong 2021 campaign. While I don't expect it, if he opts to come back for his senior season, it's easy to see a scenario where he's the top linebacker off the board in 2023.

Projected: 2nd Round

Tariq Castro-Fields (Sr.), Cornerback

TCF's injury problems have derailed what began as a promising career. His electing to take advantage of the free year of eligibility allows him to show he's still the high-level talent many think he can be. He's shown phenomenal ball skills and is long enough to recover if he ever stumbles in coverage. His health issues will knock him, there's just no denying that, but if he's able to churn out a full 12-game season and just play his game, some team will take a chance on him.

Projected: Fourth Round

Derrick Tangelo (RS-SR.), Defensive Tackle

Tangelo played a lot of football at Duke, so scouts have a large sample size to go off of here. He's a bit smaller than Mustipher, but their skillsets will compliment each other and should help each of their draft stocks. He plays with a lot of swagger and knows how to get beyond the line of scrimmage. He's a sure-fire NFL pick right now and another strong season against a higher level of competition will move him up draft boards.

Projected: Fourth Round

Other Names to Know

Arnold Ebiketie (RS-SR.), Defensive End - Ebiketie was dominant last season for the Temple Owls, but there isn't much tape outside of that one year. He'll need to put together one more impressive season for the scouts to really start taking notice.

John Lovett (RS-SR.), Running Back - Lovett is a known commodity in the college football world from his days at Baylor. Penn State's running back job is up for grabs, and while no one back will dominate the snaps, Lovett can help his stock with productive snaps and a solid season helping out in the passing game.

Sean Clifford (RS-SR.), Quarterback - Sean Clifford needs to take a big step forward to hear his name called in 2022, but Mike Yurcich knows how to get quarterbacks drafted. His 2019 tape is solid which should help his chances but there is definitely work to do.

Jesse Luketa (SR.), Linebacker - Luketa struggled at outside linebacker last season but he's more than capable of being a solid middle linebacker. Add in all he's done on special teams and you have a guy with a shot to make an NFL roster.

Ellis Brooks (RS-SR.), Linebacker - Brooks is a pure middle linebacker and while he has his issues, he may be the most reliable tackler on Penn State's defense. He led the Nittany Lions in tackles in his first season as a starter and now that the staff knows what works and what doesn't, should find himself in better positions throughout 2021.

Joey Porter Jr. (RS-SO.), Cornerback - JPJ is draft-eligible and if he has another season as good as his 2020 was, will certainly have a decision to make about his future. He's tall, athletic, has great ball skills, and has the family background to be a successful pro.