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Can Penn State’s Amani Oruwariye leap into 1st-round conversation at NFL Combine?

Franklin on Amani Oruwariye: ‘He’s got a very bright future’

Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about how proud he is of cornerback Amani Oruwariye during his press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018.
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Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about how proud he is of cornerback Amani Oruwariye during his press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018.

Amani Oruwariye is hoping to become Penn State’s first-ever first-round defensive back. But he’ll likely need a transcendent showing at the NFL Combine to end the Nittany Lions’ multi-decade drought.

Oruwariye, the 2018 first-team All-Big Ten selection with seven interceptions in the last two seasons, is scheduled to take part in on-field workouts Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The lengthy ball-hawk is the final Nittany Lion to perform; Miles Sanders, Connor McGovern and Ryan Bates participated Friday, Trace McSorley did his best to impress scouts Saturday, and Shareef Miller and Kevin Givens showed up Sunday. Now, it’s Oruwariye’s turn to exhibit the skills that convinced Pro Football Focus analyst Steve Palazzolo in October that the corner was a first-round talent.

Since then, other experts have disputed that top-tier projection.

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler and WalterFootball.com both pegged Oruwariye as a second- or third-round selection a few months ago. And after speaking with Scouts Inc. analyst Steve Muench and OurLads.com general manager Dan Shonka, that seems to be the consensus. Shonka said Oruwariye is a second-rounder with a good Combine workout, while Muench has “a hard time” seeing the corner landing in the first round.

Still, both experts like what the Penn State corner brings to the Combine. Here are Muench and Shonka’s thoughts on Oruwariye.

Strengths

Muench: “I saw him at the Senior Bowl, and he’s a bigger corner. He’s got really good size. ... It’s funny, the ball seems to find him. I don’t think he’s an elite playmaker, but he makes plays. ... At the Senior Bowl in practice, he had a pick. But the receiver fell down, and it hit him right in the chest. That’s just typical with what’s going on with this kid. Some guys are just magnets for the ball. At the end of the day, he has seven interceptions in the last two years. That’s pretty good. And 27 pass deflections? As much as I don’t think he’s an elite playmaker, he plays the ball fairly well. He’s steady with good, physical tools.”

Shonka: “I had him rated in our top 50 players. He’s a flashy guy in press and mirror (drills), reacting to the ball. ... He’s got the size. He’s got the athletic ability. Those are all pluses.”

Weaknesses

Muench: “You’d have to use him in the right way. This is tough to say because explosive route runners like Antonio Brown, I don’t know many corners who can cover that guy. But smaller, explosive route runners, that’s not going to be a great matchup for him. That’s not his game. I’d be very surprised if he played on the inside. ... If you’re thinking about your traditional slot guy, a Cole Beasley, where he’s going to get a two-way go and he’s got to make a quick decision and get out of that break quickly, that’s not his game. ... His tape’s not bad, it’s just not flashy. You don’t throw it on and say, ‘That’s a first-round corner.’”

Shonka: “I thought he had some real ups and downs at the Senior Bowl. He got injured and didn’t play in the game. But he was inconsistent. ... He was easily separated by quick cuts to the inside, beaten badly on big routes one-on-one and struggled with double moves. At times, he gave up leverage on the snap, when he’s up there on the line in press. They’d double-move at the line, and he’d be there holding the bag. He did show patience at times to ignore the first move, but then he gave up a lot of space at the line. Those are things he really needs to work on.”

Outlook

Muench: “I’m interested to see what he runs. I think that will be a big deal for him. Obviously, testing is big for all these corners. But when you’re almost 6-foot-2, 204 pounds, let’s see how he tests and how he moves. But you look at the frame, and if he runs well, he can jump a bit. ... I do think (first-round projections are inaccurate). Every year we see it, though. Someone’s going to jump up boards, and if he has a crazy workout all-around — not just the 40 time, but his ability to change directions and all of that — he could jump up. I just have a hard time seeing him going in the first round.”

Shonka: “He could go in the second round. But I will say this: He’s going to have to run really well and have an athletic workout to go in that second round. There are a lot of corners this year, and you have to do something to separate yourself from the other corners. And the way to do it is athletically. At one time, you could almost pick guys off the board based on how they ran the 40 and how they did athletically. If Amani shows out, he’ll get drafted higher.”

Whether it’s visiting Saquon Barkley’s hometown or flying out to the Fiesta Bowl, John McGonigal covers everything Penn State football. The Nittany Lions’ news cycle is never-ending, so follow along throughout the year for features, analysis, gifs of The Office and much more.

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