Every single NFL franchise had at least one representative at Penn State’s Pro Day on Tuesday — a good sign for Nittany Lion prospects.
But what teams have Penn State players been hearing from the most? And which clubs would offer the best situation for the likes of Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton?
Here’s a breakdown of the ideal fits for Penn State prospects, based on which Nittany Lions disclosed specific team interest.
Teams in contact: Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers
Best fit: New York Giants.
Here’s why: It can be assumed that Barkley has met with most, if not all, NFL teams at this point; he’s that kind of talent. But the running back specifically said Tuesday that he caught up with the Browns and Giants at the NFL Combine, and 49ers general manager John Lynch said in Indianapolis that he met with Barkley.
If Barkley somehow falls to the 49ers at No. 9, it’d be a young, stellar backfield with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. But he’s not going to drop that far.
Realistically, if the Giants pull the trigger on him at No. 2 overall — the Browns should go quarterback with the top pick — Barkley would drive New York back into win-now mode.
The Giants are rebuilding their offensive line, cutting bait with members of a porous unit and signing left tackle Nate Solder to the richest contract for a blocker in NFL history. They’re committed to protecting Eli Manning, who was sacked 31 times in 2017, and establishing a run game, which ranked 26th in the league last season.
Barkley’s fit with the Giants — and New York from a marketing perspective — is undeniable.
Teams in contact: “All 32 teams,” per Gesicki
Best fit: New Orleans Saints
Here’s why: The Eagles would be such a great fit for Gesicki, a southern New Jersey native. Philadelphia let Trey Burton walk in free agency and released Brent Celek, leaving the reigning Super Bowl champions with Zach Ertz as the only real option at tight end.
“I think I can fit in an offense like that,” Gesicki said Tuesday. “Zach Ertz is the best in the business, and that’s kind of how I envision myself as well.”
With the Eagles’ cap concerns, they don’t really have the flexibility to go after a tight end in free agency — but Gesicki might not be around at No. 32 for Philly to draft him. The Saints at No. 27 could use the 6-foot-5 target. Coby Fleener has been a bust in New Orleans, and NFL.com thinks the Saints’ No. 1 need is a dynamic tight end.
Imagine Drew Brees throwing to Gesicki. He could put up Ertz-like numbers as a rookie.
Teams in contact: Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers
Best fit: Indianapolis Colts
Here’s why: Andrew Luck’s No. 1 target is T.Y. Hilton, followed by tight end Jack Doyle. Outside of that, Indy needs another pass-catcher or two, especially with Donte Moncrief leaving in free agency.
Insert Hamilton, who worked the slot better than anyone in the Big Ten last season. Penn State’s all-time leading receiver tallied 53 catches, 857 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017.
The polished route-runner is projected to go in the fourth round, and the Colts have so many holes to fill — a big reason why they traded back from No. 3 to 6 overall, picking up two 2018 second-round picks and a 2019 slot, as well.
Indy would be smart to go after defense and offensive line in the early rounds and wait to snag Hamilton in the third or fourth.
Teams in contact: “All of them,” per Allen
Best fit: Pittsburgh Steelers
Here’s why: This just feels right.
Yes, the Steelers recently signed former Packers safety Morgan Burnett to a three-year deal.
But Allen has a history with Pittsburgh, visiting his late grandparents in the Steel City as a child. He knows Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert well, who was at Holuba Hall on Tuesday with former Penn State coach and current Pittsburgh defensive backs coach Tom Bradley. “He’s a really good guy,” Allen said of Colbert. “I like him a lot.”
And the Steelers would like Allen a lot, too. The Penn State safety, who’s No. 5 on the all-time tackle charts, would add depth to a position of need for Pittsburgh. He’s a hard hitter with an intensity Steeler fans can get behind.
Allen’s draft projections range from the second to fourth round, and Pittsburgh should feel comfortable pulling the trigger on him.
Teams in contact: San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals
Best fit: Arizona Cardinals
Here’s why: Campbell said he has been talking to the 49ers “a lot,” and they could use him, even after signing Richard Sherman.
But Arizona has empty spots at both safety and corner after releasing Tyrann Mathieu. Campbell has the athleticism and size to help out in multiple places.
Arizona is yet another team with a lot of needs, namely finding a franchise quarterback and getting help at wideout and on the offensive line. That could leave the Cardinals focusing on defensive backs later in the draft, and Campbell is an intriguing option in the third or fourth round.
Teams in contact: Los Angeles Rams, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, New York Giants
Best fit: New England Patriots
Here’s why: Haley and the Patriots make a lot of sense.
While Campbell has received more publicity — and Haley could end up undrafted — the 5-foot-9 cornerback brings some versatility. He can move inside and play nickel, stay outside and he offers speed to burn on special teams. Not to mention Haley’s mild-mannered personality and leadership qualities would play well in Bill Belichick’s organization.
Malcolm Butler is gone, and New England is going to target replacements in the early rounds. But Haley would be a nice option for the Pats to have as a late-round or undrafted pickup.