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Often overlooked, Penn State DE Toney improves NFL draft stock at Senior Bowl

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Shaka Toney

Defensive end Shaka Toney was Penn State’s best defensive player this past season, earning first-team all-Big Ten honors, and now he has helped his NFL draft stock even more with a strong showing during Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Ala.

The following tweet from Pro Football Focus shows just how impressive Toney was at the Senior Bowl.

Toney often found himself in the shadow of fellow PSU defensive end Jayson Oweh, as the following draft profile from Pro Football Network points out. Oweh is widely projected to be a first-round draft pick this year. Toney may not be thought of quite as highly to go in the first round, but he could find himself being picked as high as the second round.

Shaka Toney often gets written off as the more experienced, less athletic counterpart to Jayson Oweh. That assumption does a disservice to Toney, who has immense athletic talent as well. That talent was apparent as early as high school when Toney logged a 4.62 40-yard dash and a 32.5-inch vertical at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds.

Toney’s production only reinforced his potential. In his senior year of high school, Toney accumulated 21.0 sacks and 11 pass deflections, using his athleticism to separate himself from his opponents. Despite his early success, the Philadelphia native was labeled as a mere three-star prospect. He was the 89th-ranked edge rusher, and he also fell outside the Top 20 in his state.

Toney’s offers came primarily from the ACC, as teams such as Pittsburgh, North Carolina, and Duke vied for his services. However, the Penn State Nittany Lions soon became involved in the process, and Toney jumped at the chance to play college football in-state, with a program widely revered for its development of NFL talent.

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Here’s another excellent draft profile from The Draft Network.

Shaka Toney projects as a rotational designated pass rusher at the NFL level. Toney has very good quickness and release off the snap of the football and pairs it with a try-hard attitude and motor in order to guarantee he’ll find himself in second and third effort situations as a defender. Toney has enjoyed a fruitful career at Penn State and the program’s disappointing 2020 campaign wasn’t even enough to slow his production—he entered the year as the “other” pass rusher opposite Jayson Oweh, just as he entered 2019 as the “other” pass rusher opposite Yetur Gross-Matos. But, like in 2019, Toney has outperformed his fellow rusher and provided more consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks in 2020. Toney’s challenge as an NFL prospect is a common one. If you’re able to stack some additional weight onto his frame, you may feel more comfortable with his every-down forecast. But if you do so, does it come at the expense of his dynamic quickness off the line of scrimmage and his flexibility to win around the edge? These are questions that his future NFL team will have to answer before deciding when to prioritize him in the NFL draft process. One thing is for certain either way: This dude can rush the passer. 

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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