Eleven players are set to take part in Penn State’s Pro Day on Thursday. So we decided to poll our staff writers and ask them one important question: What player has the most to prove?
Here’s what they had to say:
John McGonigal: LB Brandon Bell
Bell, who suffered a wrist injury in his final Penn State game at the Rose Bowl, was not invited to the Senior Bowl or NFL Combine and did not make the All-Big Ten first, second or third team in 2016. The New Jersey native is projected as a seventh-round selection or undrafted free agent by CBS as the 23rd-best outside linebacker. On that list, he’s sitting behind players from West Georgia, San Diego State and Jackson State. For a guy who made 88 tackles in 10 games for the Nittany Lions last season, Bell isn’t getting much love at all. Thursday’s Pro Day is his opportunity to shine. He does have upside — if he’s healthy. He’ll need to show that his wrist is just fine, run a solid 40-yard dash time, and perform well in the position drills. If he does, Bell can move up a couple rounds and be a steal in the NFL Draft. If he doesn’t, the linebacker might get lost in the shuffle.
Ryne Gery: LB Nyeem Wartman-White
Wartman-White endured an injury-plagued career at Penn State. The linebacker suffered a season-ending knee injury as a freshman in the team’s second game against Virginia and saw each of his final two seasons cut short by injury. Wartman-White tore his ACL in the season opener in 2015 against Temple and went down with a season-ending injury against the Owls in the third game of the 2016. Wartman-White was productive in 2014, ranking second on the team with 75 tackles. But to get on the NFL’s radar, Wartman-White will need to prove he’s healthy and capable of performing after all the injuries. He’s ranked the No. 32 inside linebacker out of 46 prospects at the position by CBS — only the top 14 are projected as potential draft picks.
Josh Moyer: DE Garrett Sickels
I get it, I get it. Bell and Wartman-White both make sense as picks here, but it’s pretty rare for a player who wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine to get drafted. We don’t see players pull a “Julian Edelman” very often. That’s why so much more is at stake for Sickels. Several draft analysts peg him as a late-round pick and, with an eye-opening performance at Penn State’s Pro Day, he could move up on a lot of draft boards. After all, he certainly didn’t improve his stock much at the NFL Combine: He had the fourth-slowest 40 time (4.90) among defensive ends, the second-worst vertical (28.0) and the worst broad jump (104). In short, he has a lot to prove — and he’ll be rewarded mightily if he does well. A prospect selected in the middle of the fifth round would earn about a $250,000 signing bonus. Middle of the seventh road? Try about $83,000. That’s a lot of motivation.