For the football-obsessed, it’s time to focus on the NFL draft.
Penn State has five players invited to the draft combine Feb. 23-March 2 in Indianapolis.
A look at their prospects:
DE Yetur Gross-Matos: Didn’t have as big a 2019 season as expected, although he did have 9.5 sacks, 40 tackles and 15 tackles for loss. Played end and at times inside, even directly over the ball. His combination of size (6-4, 264) and quickness give Gross-Matos a shot at eventually becoming an elite edge rusher. Those dudes make a lot of money.
Projection: First round. Gross-Matos is the No. 3 or 4 edge rusher in this draft, behind Ohio State’s Chase Young, probably K’Lavan Chaisson of LSU and roughly even with Iowa’s A. J. Epenesa.
WR K J Hamler: Leaving college after two full seasons plus a redshirt year. Missed senior year of high school with ACL tear.
Had 56 catches in 2019 for 904 yards and eight touchdowns. As a return specialist, some Penn State opponents went to lengths to keep the ball away from him that were almost comical.
Hamler is a good route runner, has exceptional speed and quickness, and is superb at making defenders miss in open space after the catch. Think DeSean Jackson.
His weaknesses all relate to his size (5-9, 176). He is not the kind of receiver who will reliably outmuscle or outmaneuver defensive backs, win “50/50,’’ balls or make tough catches in space.
Projection: Hamler ranks in the top 10 of the best wide receiver draft class in memory. Late second to early third round.
Going up: 1. DT Robert Windsor. Not just the game of his life. It’s hard to imagine an inter…
Robert Windsor: Marginal recruit from Wisconsin turned into a solid college player. It’s hard to imagine an interior DL having a better game than Windsor did in Penn State’s rock-fight of a 17-12 win at Iowa last season. Actually had better stats as a junior in 2018, including 7.5 sacks, 11 TFLs and two forced fumbles.
He’ll probably have to get a bit bigger and stronger to play inside in the NFL.
Projection: 4th or 5th round.
LB Cam Brown: In Brown’s second college game, as a true freshman, he had 10 tackles at Michigan in 2016. He seemed to progress steadily in the program and emerge as a leader over four years. Very rangy and can pass-cover, but not particularly explosive or powerful, and still undersized (6-5, 232) despite gaining 30 pounds over four years.
Projection: Brown ranks around 8th-to-12th among LBs in this draft class. He could land in the sixth round.
John Reid: Made the ESPN all-freshman team in 2015, and led Penn State in snaps taken in 2016, when he was also third in the Big Ten in punt-return average. Then he missed the entire 2017 season with a knee injury, and has since been an outside coverage specialist.
His size - 5-10, 180 - could be a problem. Otherwise he’s a fine athlete who does all the CB things well, if not brilliantly. Reid is also a cerebral film-study fanatic easy to imagine coaching some day.
Projection: Everybody needs CBs. Expect Reid to go in the 6th or 7th round.