With the NFL’s Rookie Transition Program underway with individual clubs and preseason camps set to open in July, we decided to check in on Penn State’s current crop of rookies.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin was the Nittany Lions’ lone draft pick, but several Penn State products signed as undrafted free agents. Brandon Bell latched on with the Cincinnati Bengals, Malik Golden initially signed with the San Francisco 49ers, and defensive ends Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan went with the Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants, respectively.
Here we look at what these Nittany Lions have been up to since April’s draft weekend:
Chris Godwin, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Most people who watched Godwin throughout the 2016 season — especially in the Rose Bowl — felt the Buccaneers landed a steal with the No. 84 overall pick.
So far, that’s looking pretty accurate. Godwin impressed in his rookie mini-camp and OTAs, garnering plenty of praise from his teammates and coaches.
“Chris Godwin is amazing,” Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston said at a press conference after the first day of OTAs. “He’s an amazing young talent. I know he’s going to be a great player for us, and he’s going to do his job.”
That job hasn’t necessarily been defined yet. Mike Evans, one of the league’s best wideouts, and DeSean Jackson are the Buccaneers’ clear Nos. 1 and 2 — but Godwin could become Winston’s third option. The Buccaneers don’t release a depth chart until the first preseason game.
The Delaware native, who snared 16 touchdowns in his final two seasons with Penn State, was equally consistent and explosive in Happy Valley.
And his performances so far have reminded Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter of another receiver he once coached.
“He does compete for the ball,” Koetter said, via ESPN.com. “And it’s way, way, way too early to say this, but in that respect, Chris reminds me a little bit of Roddy White.”
White, whose frame is similar to Godwin, finished his 11-year career with 808 receptions, 10,863 yards and 63 touchdowns.
That’s high praise from Koetter.
Evan Schwan, defensive end, New York Giants
Schwan — often overlooked but a key part of Penn State’s 2016 defense — is getting recognized by the New York media.
In a positive light, no less.
“If contact was allowed, Evan Schwan would have several sacks between OTAs and minicamp,” Geoff Magliocchetti of Giants Insider tweeted on June 14.
Giants beat writer Patricia Traina tweeted a day earlier about the All-Big Ten third-team selection.
“Evan Schwan continues to look impressive. Very quick first step,” Traina said.
Schwan, who tied with Sickels for a team-high six sacks last season, was always quick off the ball and used his 6-foot-6 frame to his advantage.
It’ll be tough to make New York’s roster, but things are looking up for Schwan.
Garrett Sickels, defensive end, Indianapolis Colts
It’s still uncertain where Sickels fits in with Indianapolis. An effective defensive end with the Nittany Lions, the New Jersey native could play outside linebacker in the Colts’ new 3-4 scheme.
A couple weeks after the draft, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. named Sickels one of his 25 undrafted free agents to watch, largely because of his versatility and 6-foot-3 frame.
On another note, Sickels has been training with former Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli, who owns X-Factor Sports Performance outside Indianapolis.
Brandon Bell, linebacker, Cincinnati Bengals
Days after signing with Cincinnati, Bell found out what number he’ll wear with the Bengals.
No, it’s not No. 11 — instead, No. 52 will have to do.
Bell, Penn State’s second-leading tackler in 2016, joins a Bengals squad with a couple young linebackers. Along with Bell, Cincinnati signed undrafted free agent linebacker Hardy Nickerson out of Illinois and drafted Kansas State’s Jordan Willis and Auburn’s Carl Lawson.
Malik Golden, safety, free agent
Golden was waived by the 49ers a couple weeks ago. San Francisco used his roster spot to sign former New Hampshire offensive lineman Andrew Lauderdale.
Golden is still looking for a new NFL team.
The 17-game starter for Penn State tallied 75 tackles and an interception his senior season.