Offensive lineman Connor McGovern left Penn State early. Now, the junior will be playing early in the NFL.
The versatile guard/center was the second Nittany Lion selected in the 2019 NFL draft, as the Dallas Cowboys picked him at No. 90 overall in the third round Friday night. (McGovern came off the board after Miles Sanders, who was taken No. 53 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles.)
McGovern provides several options for the Cowboys, as he can play anywhere inside. At Penn State, he was a center for the first two years of his career before moving over to guard this past season.
His strength likely lies at guard, however, based on both the opinion of Penn State offensive line coach Matt Limegrover and Scouts Inc. expert Steve Muench. “We do think he’s a better fit at guard than center, but he can play both positions,” Muench told the CDT last week.
At Penn State, McGovern made an immediate impact — starting nine games as a true freshman — and, if center Travis Frederick can’t go due to Guillain-Barré syndrome, he’ll likely be asked to make an instant impact there. He could also compete against Connor Williams, a second-round guard from 2018, or vie for time behind all-pro guard Zack Martin.
But the 6-foot-5, 308-pound lineman has the track record to contend. He was twice named to Pro Football Focus’ Team of the Week last season, following performances against Wisconsin and Rutgers, and he was third-team all-conference.
In three seasons at Penn State, he started 35 games. The offensive line was never exactly a strength in Happy Valley, but that wasn’t the fault of McGovern.
Plenty of scouts and analysts still saw his potential, in spite of the unit’s struggles. During a conference call a week ago, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah told the CDT he was a huge fan of the Nittany Lion — even if others weren’t convinced.
“I think he’s nasty; I think he’s a finisher,” Jeremiah said. “I think he’s very smart, plays with good awareness, and he can anchor down in pass protection. So he can play center, guard — I’m high on McGovern.”
Dallas could use some help. Although it boasts a solid offensive line, it could use insurance at center and/or another guard pushing Williams.
Regardless, McGovern will be sorely missed at Penn State, where offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne spoke highly of him late in the season.
“His ability to grow as a leader, his ability to grow football IQ-wise from the offense they were running in high school to what they’re doing now, has been tremendous,” Rahne said in December. “I love watching how versatile he is for us, playing center, playing guard, and he could even play tackle for us. So he’s done some great things.”
McGovern took a chance by declaring early for the NFL draft. But a Day 2 selection falls in line with initial expectations, and the Pennsylvania native definitely appears to have made the right choice.
The Cowboys believe they have too.