The NFL draft begins on Thursday, Penn State wideout Chris Godwin projects as an early-round selection, and a handful of other Nittany Lions could hear their names called over the weekend.
So, we had three draft experts — ESPN’s Steve Muench, OurLads’ Dan Shonka and Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo — weigh in separately on what Nittany Lion supporters should expect.
Q: Where, in terms of round and team, do you see wide receiver Chris Godwin landing?
Muench: He’s a second- or third-round guy. I think he’d be a lock to go in the second round if this class wasn’t so deep. It’ll be interesting with so many talented receivers, how many guys get pushed down because of that. But when I watch him on tape, I see a guy who’s a second-round pick. He has that size and speed combination. ... When I watch him on tape, I see a big-play guy. A guy who averaged 16.3 yards per catch over the last two years. He’s also strong after the catch. For (what) team, though, that’s interesting. I think the Ravens are a possibility. Mike Wallace has a high cap hit, Breshad Perriman has underperformed, and at No. 47, that’s not out of the question for Godwin.
Shonka: We really like him. He’s our fifth-ranked receiver, and we have him in the second round. I think it’s all ahead of him. After running well at the Combine, he’s a high-upside player, no question about it. He can work his way into a No. 1 receiver role for some teams. ... Carolina needs some speed. That might be a landing spot at No. 40.
Palazzolo: He’s in that second tier of wide receivers. It’s a wide-open class after the top three guys, so it’ll depend on if teams stretch and really force some wide receivers in the draft. He could go as high as the second. I like him in contested situations, doing a nice job with his ball skills down the field. Going to a team that likes to take chances with a Joe Flacco or Cam Newton, guys that’ll give him a chance to make plays, that’ll be the best fit.
Q: It might’ve just been an overreaction at the time, but after his Combine performance some were saying Godwin was a first-round talent. Is there any shot he gets drafted in the final picks of the first round?
Muench: You look at tiers of certain groups. I think Clemson’s Mike Williams, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis and John Ross out of Washington, those are the top three guys. The second tier would probably be the East Carolina kid Zay Jones, Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel and USC wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster. I would put Godwin in the third tier; others might put him in the second tier, and then you’re talking about a guy who could go at the end of the first round. ...Would I be surprised if Chris Godwin goes at the end of the first round? Yeah, I would be a little surprised. I think that’d be an overreaction to the Combine. But I don’t think it’s crazy. I don’t think it’s out of the question.
Shonka: You never know. Somebody might really like him and take him. The teams picking at the bottom of that first round, they’re pretty good. You never know what a Green Bay might do.
Palazzolo: My guess is no. I just think the depth of the draft is so strong on the defensive side of the ball. But if you have teams that just say, we need to draft offensive players, and you have this deep defensive draft, the second tier of offensive positions might be pushed up a bit. But as of now, I wouldn’t say that’s where his value will be.
Q: Another Nittany Lion who left early was defensive end Garrett Sickels. Some thought he should’ve stayed his final year at Penn State. Will Sickels be drafted?
Muench: I think he’ll be a Day 3 guy. It’s a fair question. You should be asking whether or not he’ll be drafted. He didn’t run as well as expected and didn’t work out as well as expected. That was disappointing. Some other concerns I have about him are shorter arms for an edge guy. I’d like to see more violence in his game. He’ll be drafted late, though. When you go back and watch the tape, he doesn’t look speed deficient or slow off the ball. Penn State did a fair amount of dropping guys back into coverage, and I do think he can play 3-4 outside linebacker. His tape is better than his workouts, but there’s enough concern that’ll drop him into that sixth or seventh round range.
Shonka: I think he’ll be drafted late, but I’m in agreement that he should’ve stayed. He had some flashes, but he needs more size to handle the run. I like his effort, and that usually keeps you in the ballpark with a lot of teams, when you hustle and work like he does. He’s on the fringe with his length. He’s a high-motor, great effort guy, relentless, a leader with strong hands. He’s 6-foot-3, 261 pounds, so he needs to get bigger and stronger. But he’ll work his way into a backup position.
Palazzolo: I think he’ll get drafted, but he’s a mid- to late-rounder. It’s a really deep edge-rusher class, which hurts. There’s a lot of guys from upside athletes to productive guys. He was productive last year, but probably a touch behind some other guys as far as athletically.
Q: Will we see any other Nittany Lion drafted, whether it’s Brandon Bell, Evan Schwan or Malik Golden?
Muench: I think it’s Schwan that has the best chance. He ran a 4.69, has good size. When you throw on the tape, I think he’s a little overshadowed by Sickels. When I watch Schwan opposite him, he’s a very similar player. The fact that he tested out better, that’s going to help him. I would not be surprised to see Schwan be drafted late.
Shonka: I don’t know if anyone will take Bell late or not. It depends on his injury situation. He’s a slight frame guy, but he could possibly be taken late. This draft is so deep with a variety of positions, it kind of bumps out some other ones. Any normal year, he would be drafted. But all it takes is one team to like you.
Palazzolo: I think all those guys are in the mix. A lot of times in the late rounds it’s about a guy being able to play special teams, or this guy can just rush the passer. Schwan had a pretty good season getting after the quarterback. It’ll come down to teams looking for guys that have a specific skill that they can contribute.