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Projecting Penn State's 2022 NFL Draft

Perhaps 10 Nittany Lions could be drafted this weekend, including several in the first round.

Penn State is positioned for its most successful NFL Draft of the James Franklin era and likely its best since 1996, when 10 Nittany Lions were drafted. The program could match that total during the 2022 NFL Draft, whose three-day run begins Thursday in Las Vegas.

As many as 10 former Lions could be selected, with potential first-rounders in Jahan Dotson, Arnold Ebiketie and Jaquan Brisker. Penn State could have multiple first-round picks in consecutive drafts for the first time since 1995-96, when the program produced five first-rounders.

What's the projected Penn State draft order this weekend? Here's a look, with scouting reports from NFL Draft Bible.

Receiver Jahan Dotson

His story: Dotson compiled 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. He made strong tours of the pre-draft venues, saying at Penn State Pro Day said, "I truly believe I'm the best receiver in the draft."

Scouting report: NFL Draft Bible ranks Dotson as the No. 40 overall prospect and the No. 1 inside 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.

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 last season. In turn, Ebiketie proved that he could play against the best competition and become an NFL prospect. Ebiketie called his time at Penn State the "perfect seasoning" for his career.

Scouting report: NFL Draft Bible ranks Ebiketie No. 2 on its list of 3-4 linebackers, a position that likely best suits his skills: explosiveness on the edge and his ability to convert "speed to power." He is the 60th-ranked player overall.

Arnold Ebiketie NFL Scouting Combine

Former Penn State defensive end is a potential first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

"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."

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. is all-in on Ebiketie, calling him a "deserving" first-round pick.

Projected round: 2nd.

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, who opted out of the Outback Bowl, tweaked his back at the NFL Scouting Combine but returned to hit his targets at Pro Day.

Scouting report: He's the No. 5 safety (and No. 82 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 left 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. He is among Penn State's most unique draft prospects, a supremely gifted athlete who remains a "work in progress" at linebacker, according to NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.

Scouting report: NFL Draft Bible thinks highly of Smith based on his size (6-3, 240 pounds) and athleticism. He ranks as the 104th overall prospect and the No. 3 SAM 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 needs to develop at the position.

"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.

Brandon Smith NFL Combine

Former Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith soared at the NFL Scouting Combine.

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. 12 outside cornerback, according to NFL Draft Bible, Castro-Fields could be a day-two pick.

"It is going to be hard for teams to pass on Castro-Fields measurables [6-1, 196]," NFL Draft Bible writes. "He may be on the older side, but there is still a lot of upside there. Similar to a lot of Penn State players, he is an elite athlete. Pair that with his length and overall size, and there is a chance that his best football is ahead of him in the NFL."

Projected round: 4th.

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Linebacker/end Jesse Luketa

His story: Luketa declared for the draft after playing a strong game in the Outback Bowl and earning continued praise from James Franklin. Luketa played both linebacker and defensive end last season, and Franklin thinks his better position in the NFL is the latter. Luketa thought he removed doubt about his athleticism at Pro Day, where he also had a long conversation with Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

Scouting report: NFL Draft Bible considers Luketa more of a linebacker, ranking him 8th on its list of inside backers. Yet the site notes that Luketa's 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.

Offensive tackle Rasheed Walker

His story: Walker is an uncertainty in Penn State's draft class. Once considered among the top tackles in the draft, Walker labored through the 2021 season, missing the last three games because of injury. Prior to that, Walker started 32 games at left tackle and twice was named third-team All-Big Ten. As a result, Jeremiah called Walker a "true wild-card guy."

"If you want to like him, you can find tape that you will really like of him," Jeremiah said. "If you want to be bummed out about him, you can find tape to be bummed out about him. And the crazy thing is, it's all in the same tape."

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 11th-ranked tackle (and No. 112 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: 4th.

Rasheed Walker Penn State

Former Penn State tackle Rasheed Walker missed the last three games of the 2021 season because of an injury.

Linebacker Ellis Brooks

His story: Brooks might be Penn State's most underrated prospects, a two-year starter who made money last season after moving to inside linebacker. He led Penn State in tackles for the second consecutive season (100) but made fewer mistakes.

Scouting report: The No. 6 WILL linebacker, Brooks projects as a potential 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: 6th.

Punter Jordan Stout

His story: After the Blue-White Game, Franklin said that Stout would be this year's highest-drafted specialist. A three-tool player for the Lions last season, Stout was named the program's 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.

Having proven his kicking bona fides, and even running a 4.65 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, Stout had one skill left to prove at Pro Day. So all he did was hold for kicks that day.

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.

Defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo

His story: The Duke transfer started 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 ranks Tangelo No. 20 at defensive tackle, listing him as a preferred free agent.

Projected round: 7th.

Free agents to watch: Offensive lineman Eric Wilson, special-teams player Drew Hartlaub, running back John Lovett.

For much more on the draft, visit NFL Draft Bible.

Read more

'I truly believe I'm the best receiver in the draft,' Jahan Dotson says.

Is Drew Hartlaub the fastest player in the NFL Draft?

Lineman Eric Wilson's road from Harvard to Penn State to the NFL.

AllPennState is the place for Penn State news, opinion and perspective on the SI.com network. Publisher Mark Wogenrich has covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching staffs, three Big Ten titles and a catalog of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @MarkWogenrich. And consider subscribing (button's on the home page) for more great content across the SI.com network.