A handful of former Penn State players have spent the last five months readying themselves for the next three days.
Some of them have split time between two cities, tucked away in their respective training facilities, signing with agents, arranging for sit-downs and workouts with professional franchises with the NFL Draft approaching. Now, after weeks of training, the NFL Combine and Penn State’s own pro day in the books, some former Nittany Lions will learn immediately if they’ll have a chance to further their football careers professionally.
They’ll wait by their phones as selections are made when the first round of the draft begins Thursday at 8 p.m. Rounds two and three start on Friday at 6:30 p.m. with the remaining rounds kicking off Sunday at noon.
“It’s been a process,” Allen Robinson said of the months since his final college season ended. “A lot of, you’re just kind of waiting to see different things. Sitting back, waiting, getting some phone calls. Getting visits (from scouts), getting workouts (with NFL teams) and being ready to do that at a moments notice.”
Robinson seized many Penn State receiving records and decided to try his hand at the NFL with a year of eligibility remaining. The Michigan native set single season records for receptions (97) and receiving yards (1,432) and finished second in Penn State history in receptions (177) and third in career receiving yardage (2,474).
Due to these efforts and the steps he’s taken since his college career ended, Robinson could very well be the first Penn State player off the board.
Many NFL Draft experts have Robinson pegged as an early-to-middle second round pick. Robinson, who has been on NFL scouts’ radars since he broke out in Bill O’Brien’s pro-style offense in 2012, improved his stock vastly with a strong showing at Penn State’s pro day on April 7. There, Robinson made good on his lackluster results from the NFL Combine a few weeks prior.
Robinson improved his 40-yard dash time by two tenths of a second and posted impressive numbers in the vertical and broad jumps inside Holuba Hall. He turned in a 4.45 40-yard dash — he ran a 4.6 in February — and improved his vertical jump from 39 to 42 inches and his broad jump from 10 1/2 feet to 11 feet.
In the meantime, Robinson has focused on his route-running and overall nutrition. He admitted he was a bit heavy at the Combine where he weighed in at 220 pounds but has worked to stay near 210. But Robinson doesn’t figure to be the first wideout selected and could drop into the third round depending on how the draft shakes out.
Many mock drafts have a handful of talented wideouts going off the board before Robinson. Specifically, Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M’s Mike Evans and LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. are considered Top 10 pro prospects by Scouts Inc. Meanwhile, receivers Brandin Cooks of Oregon State and Marqise Lee of USC are also considered first-round worthy players by Scouts Inc.
Robinson said shortly after his pro day workout he had “no regrets” that he decided to forgo his final season of collegiate action considering this year’s wideout class is so deep. Instead, his peers and their skills have provided Robinson with plenty of motivation.
In Indianapolis, Robinson roomed with hopeful prospects Jarvis Landry of LSU and Beckham. He shared workout space with Watkins and Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin.
“It’s a deep class,” Robinson said. “I thought we had a great group of guys and just always competing against each other and pushing each other to be the best players that we can be down at the Combine.”
Despite the talents of his peeres, Robinson has plenty going for him.
In addition to his consistent levels of dominant production over the last two seasons, he has the size and physicality required to play at the NFL level. His leaping prowess and ability to adjust and contort his body in mid air to complete catches will pique the interests of teams looking to add a sturdy possession receiver. His knowledge of pro-style offenses and his penchant to head upfield and break big plays — he made 13 catches of 35 or more yards this season with four touchdowns of 45 yards or longer — make him a viable option for an NFL team looking to improve its offense.
Offensive lineman John Urschel and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones joined Robinson at the Combine. Both of them hope to hear their names called over the next few days. Scouts are high on both of them. ESPN’s NFL prospect rating system has Jones listed as 75 out of 100 while Urschel comes in at 68 out of 100. Meanwhile, linebacker Glenn Carson is considered a borderline draft prospect by ESPN.com’s draft rankings.
Unlike Robinson, Carson didn’t get the chance to show scouts what he’s capable of at the Combine. Carson, who said at Penn State’s pro day he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder after starting four years and not getting an invite, did all he could then to impress possible future employers. Carson turned in 30 reps on the bench press and posted lofty numbers in multiple drills that would’ve put him amongst the top linebackers at the Combine.
Like his teammates including wideout Brandon Felder, safeties Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and Malcolm Willis, offensive tackles Garry Gilliam and Adam Gress and tight end Matt Lehman, Carson will wait for a call as the rounds progress, hoping his name is called.
"I would love to be a part of this draft, man,” Carson said. “It would be awesome to get drafted. I just hope I will be able to have that honor being in the draft this year."
Follow Travis Johnson on Twitter @bytravisjohnson.