The 2019 NFL draft may be over, but that doesn’t mean there’s no NFL future for those who weren’t picked.
Several Penn State players have signed — or are poised to sign — priority free-agent contracts with NFL teams. In the past, some fortunate Nittany Lions — such as cornerback Trevor Williams (2016) and offensive tackle Garry Gilliam (2014) — went on to become starters. Many others, however, never made it out of NFL training camp.
Will that be the case for this year’s crop of undrafted Nittany Lions? Here’s where reports have three of them headed and the situations they’ll face:
DT Kevin Givens: Signing with San Francisco 49ers
When he was expected to go: Depending on the analyst, Givens was expected to be drafted anywhere from the fifth round to the seventh round. Some pegged him as a priority free-agent, but a majority felt he was worth a Day 3 pick.
Why he wasn’t drafted: Versatility. Givens is a tweener who can’t play outside but can’t play nose tackle either. He’s a three-technique player — but can be effective in the right defense. He’ll likely never be a three-down starter, but he can play in situational passing downs.
How he fits with San Francisco: San Francisco is going to have one solid front-four with Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford — all top-25 draft picks in 2014 or later — so the only thing it really needs is depth on the interior. Well, San Francisco failed to address that need during the draft. Givens could potentially earn his way into a few subpackages on passing downs, so he’ll likely provide situational depth in San Francisco. The opportunity is limited here with such a solid defensive line, but Givens will be in position to learn a lot.
OL Ryan Bates: Signing with Philadelphia Eagles
When he was expected to go: Of five recent mock drafts that included Bates, two had him going in the fourth round, one in the fifth and two undrafted. NFL.com’s Chad Reuter was especially bullish on him, projecting him to go No. 121 overall.
Why he wasn’t drafted: There were a variety of concerns here, starting with Bates’ lack of punch in the run game and the fact he often had a high-pad level and lacked leverage.
How he fits with Philadelphia: Before the draft, Scouts Inc.’s Steve Muench told us the two most likely landing spots for Bates were the Kansas City Chiefs or Philadelphia Eagles. And the Eagles make a lot of sense. Jeff Stoutland is a solid offensive line coach, and he loves to rotate guys — and it just so happens that Bates is expected to move inside while still having the ability to kick outside to right tackle in a pinch. He could earn his way to a backup job here.
WR DeAndre Thompkins: Signing with Philadelphia Eagles
When he was expected to go: Thompkins was expected to go undrafted.
Why he wasn’t drafted: Thompkins’ speed was always a positive, but he committed too many drops and his hands were a question mark.
How he fits with Philadelphia: With Darren Sproles’ future unclear, the Eagles are in need of a punt returner — so that’s why it appears they previously met with Thompkins and why they signed him. Thompkins will struggle to see time at receiver here, simply because the Eagles have plenty of options, especially after drafting JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the second round. But Thompkins does have a shot at a roster spot because of the special-teams role.