Penn State was missing eight NFL prospects for the Outback Bowl, six of whom opted out and two others who did not play for undisclosed reasons.
Now that they're on combine and 2022 NFL Draft watch, let's take a first look at what Penn State's draft might look like. NFL Draft Bible has scouted hundreds of 2022 prospects, including most of Penn State's contingent.
Let's dive in.
Receiver Jahan Dotson
His story: Dotson returned for what became a record-breaking senior season, becoming the second Penn State receiver to catch 90 passes. Dotson finished with 91 receptions for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns before opting out of the Outback Bowl.
Scouting report: NFL Draft Bible ranks Dotson as the No. 19 overall prospect and the No. 4 receiver. Though some teams might hold Dotson's size (5-11, 180 pounds) against him, he'll compensate with elite ball skills and an ability to run away from defenders.
"As a pass-catcher, he makes himself bigger than he is with a wider catch radius than expected, as well as being natural with his hands," NFL Draft Bible writes. "He may lack the true long speed and physicality to play as a vertical receiver on the outside. His best role will be as a slot receiver who can shift and move around to keep the defense on their toes."
Projected round: 1st
Offensive tackle Rasheed Walker
His story: Walker on Monday became the latest player to declare for the NFL Draft, choosing to bypass his final season of eligibility. He did not play in the season's final three games, including the Outback Bowl. Walker had started 32 games at left tackle prior to that and twice was named third-team All-Big Ten.
Before the season, Penn State offensive line coach Phil Trautwein said Walker was "growing up" with regard to his practice and off-field training habits. "His goal is to be a very high draft pick," Trautwein said. "To do that, you can't just go through the motions."
Scouting report: As the ninth-ranked tackle (and No. 103 prospect overall), Walker earned plenty of praise from NFL Draft Bible. The analysts love his length and athleticism, noting how they prevent pass-rushers from getting around him. But Walker has to become a more consistent tackle.
"Walker has all the talent in the world to end up as a franchise left tackle in the NFL," according to NFL Draft Bible. "He has displayed really good film as a redshirt freshman and redshirt sophomore. He has excellent size and long arms. His footwork is so natural in pass protection, and all of his natural traits show a player who can be elite in that area. His run blocking is fantastic as well. At his best in the run game, Walker can easily put defenders in the dirt or create holes for ball carriers to run through. He just isn’t consistent enough at this point.
Projected round: 3rd-4th
Safety Jaquan Brisker
His story: Brisker made seven All-America teams, was named first-team All-Big Ten and was voted Penn State's defensive MVP. For good reason. Brisker was exceptional in coverage, became one of the Big Ten's top safeties in run support and made 5.5 tackles for loss. Brisker also opted out of the bowl game.
Scouting report: He's the No. 51 player overall, according to NFL Draft Bible, a playmaking safety with exceptional size whom teams will covet.
"He has played in the box at strong safety, free safety and as a slot defender in his career," NFL Draft Bible writes. "Overall, he is a solid athlete with a good platform to develop, but there are a lot of kinks left to iron out in his game. He is fairly smooth in coverage with good mobility, has solid functional strength and good eyes. Seems to have a very good understanding and the ability to communicate pre-snap. He needs to fix his technique, both in coverage and in run defense to make him a better finisher on reps."
Projected round: 2nd.
Linebacker Brandon Smith
His story: Smith leaves Penn State after three seasons in which he twice was named All-Big Ten (third team in 2021). Smith played multiple linebacker positions and developed a reputation as a fierce hitter but struggled with open-field tackling.
Scouting report: NFL Draft Bible thinks highly of Smith based on his size (6-3, 240 pounds) and athleticism. He ranks as the 54th overall prospect and the No. 4 linebacker.
"The Penn State linebacker closes downhill at a very high speed and is a big hitter when the opportunity presents itself," NFL Draft Bible writes. "He also has flashed when taking on blockers thanks to his length, leverage and strength. Additionally, Smith has impressive potential in coverage."
However, the scouting report continues that Smith is a "work-in-progress."
"Perhaps his most notable shortcoming, Smith struggles at the tackle point. He rarely breaks down as he approaches the ball carrier. Further, he fails to wrap up and does not have stellar grip strength."
Projected round: 3rd
Defensive end Arnold Ebiketie
His story: Both Penn State and Ebiketie benefitted from his decision to transfer from Temple. Ebiketie led the Big Ten in tackles for loss and gave the Lions a desperately needed pass rush. In turn, Ebiketie proved that he could play against the best competition and become an NFL prospect.
Scouting report: NFL Draft Bible ranks Ebiketie as the No. 75 overall prospect, highlighting his explosiveness on the edge and his ability to convert "speed to power."
"Arnold Ebiketie is a potential 3-4 outside linebacker who can rush from the outside track with bend and speed and cover the flat with speed and intelligence," NFL Draft Bible writes. "He can win as an edge setter and use his elite ability to track down runners."
Projected round: 3rd.
Linebacker Jesse Luketa
His story: Luketa declared for the draft after playing a strong game in the Outback Bowl and earning the continued praise of head coach James Franklin. Luketa played both linebacker and defensive end this season, and Franklin thinks his better position is the latter.
Scouting report: NFL Draft Bible ranks Luketa as the No. 14 player at inside linebacker, noting that his versatility will be "coveted come draft day."
"The Penn State defender has the range to handle outside runs or chase down ball carriers from the back side," the site writes. "He is a sure tackler at the point of contact with a wide radius thanks to his length and burst. He also has the traits to beat blockers in the box with flexibility and speed or a bench press move. Further, Luketa has the tools to thrive in coverage."
Projected round: 4th-5th
Linebacker Ellis Brooks
His story: Another Outback Bowl opt-out, Brooks nevertheless made money this season with his strong play inside. He led Penn State in tackles for the second consecutive season (100) but made fewer mistakes.
Scouting report: The No. 26 linebacker overall, Brooks projects as a professional starter, according to NFL Draft Bible, but is "far from a perfect product."
"Versatile three-down linebackers can be valuable pieces of an NFL roster," NFL Draft Bible writes. "Ellis Brooks has experience covering tight ends, running backs and slot receivers in man coverage; similarly, his burst and loose hips allow him to handle zone coverage at all three levels of the defense."
Projected round: 5th
Cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields
His story: A three-year starter, though he was injured for much of 2020, Castro-Fields was fairly consistent in coverage last season. He allowed just one touchdown in 366 coverage snaps, according to Sports Info Solutions, and was flagged for pass interference just twice.
Scouting report: As the No. 17 cornerback in the draft class, Castro-Fields has some climbing to make a move into day two.
Projected round: 6th
Defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo
His story: The Duke transfer started all 12 games for Penn State, delivering a professional presence on the interior. Though he didn't make a lot of tackles (29), the 6-2, 308-pound Tangelo ate a lot of space and kept linemen off Penn State's linebackers. The Lions could have used his presence against Arkansas in the Outback Bowl.
Scouting report: NFL Draft Bible does not yet have a report on Tangelo.
Projected round: 7th
Punter Jordan Stout
His story: Stout declared for the draft Jan. 4, ending a three-year stay at Penn State in which he became one of the most successful punters in school history. Stout was named the Lions' first Big Ten punter of the year after setting school records for single-season average (46.55) and career average (44.81). He averaged 50 yards or better in five games, and 25 of his 62 punts went 50 yards or longer.
Scouting report: NFL Draft Bible ranks Stout as the No. 2 punter in the 2022 class, making him a draftable prospect. Though he's unlikely to kick field goals in the NFL, his versatility is a selling point. Stout was a touchback expert on kickoffs from the college distance.
Projected round: 7th
For much more on the draft, visit NFL Draft Bible.