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As A-Rob and Godwin get paid, we ask: Who’s the best WR in Penn State history?

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Allen Robinson

Tuesday was a big day for a pair of former Penn State wide receivers, as Allen Robinson (Bears) and Chris Godwin (Buccaneers) were both franchise tagged by their clubs.

Both players will get huge paydays for the 2021 season. Robinson will receive $18 million, while Godwin will get $16.4 million. Those will be the highest NFL salaries that any Penn State wide receivers have ever pulled down.

I posed the question below Tuesday in a Twitter poll, trying to find out who fans consider the best Penn State wide receiver of all time. I didn’t necessarily make it clear that the criteria was to include time in both college and the NFL, but that’s really what I am looking to find out.

As you can see, I believe that Robinson is the answer, so much that I was willing to take him against the entire field of PSU wideouts over the years.

Obviously — and I knew this going in — Bobby Engram received a lot of support in the comments on my Twitter poll. Engram had a terrific career at Penn State from 1991-95 (he was suspended for the 1992 season) and was a three-time AP All-American (1993-95).

Engram was a second-round draft pick in 1996 (No. 52 overall) and then went on to play 13 years in the NFL. There is no doubt he had a fantastic career.

Engram’s NFL numbers: 176 games, 650 catches, 7,751 yards and 35 TDs. He never led the league in any categories and had just one season with 1,000 yards receiving (1,147 in 2007). He did catch 94 passes that season and had 88 in 1999.

Engram’s college numbers at Penn State: 167 catches, 3,026 yards, 31 touchdowns. He caught 48 passes in 1993, 52 in 1994 and 63 in 1995.

I’m not going to say anything remotely critical of Bobby Engram.

I just happen to believe that Robinson is the better receiver and, when all is said and done, will end up having far better numbers in the NFL than Engram. That along with his seasons with 97 and 77 catches in college seal the deal for me.

Yes, the game is different now than when Engram played, as teams throw a lot more. Still, Robinson’s production has been terrific.

Robinson’s college numbers at Penn State: A school-record 97 catches for 1,432 yards and six TDs in 2013, and 77 catches for 1,018 yards and 11 TDs in 2012. He had only three catches as a freshman in 2011, so he pretty much came out of nowhere to become a superstar. He finished with 177 catches for 2,479 yards and 17 TDs at PSU.

Remember, Robinson was playing with Matt McGloin in 2012 and Christian Hackenberg in 2013. McGloin was outstanding in 2012, but Robinson made Hackenberg look waaaaay better than he actually was by catching those 97 passes in 2013.

Engram, on the other hand, caught passes from future longtime NFL quarterback Kerry Collins for two seasons, and Wally Richardson in his final year at PSU.

Robinson’s NFL numbers: 88 games, 457 catches for 5,999 yards and 39 TDs. He led the league in TD catches (14) in 2015. He has had three 1,000-yard seasons and caught a career-high 102 passes last year for the Bears. He had 98 catches the year before.

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Robinson will play at least another 6-8 years in the NFL, barring injury. He’s in his prime right now, and with how much everyone throws the ball these days, he should catch another 600-800 passes, which would give him more than 1,000 in his career. He already has more TDs (39) than Engram had (35), and Robinson’s number will increase substantially in the coming years.

Also, Robinson hasn’t exactly played with great quarterbacks in the NFL, beginning his career with the Jaguars before joining the Bears in 2018. Just like in college, when he played with the inaccurate and underachieving Hackenberg, and continuing in the NFL with the likes of Blake Bortles and Mitchell Trubisky, Robinson hasn’t had the good fortune of having a strong QB.

OK, so there you have the comparison between Robinson and Engram. Godwin is one of the better wide receivers in the NFL right now, and while he hasn’t quite achieved what Robinson has, he’s on pace to have an excellent career.

Are there any other wide receivers you’d throw out for discussion? O.J. McDuffie, perhaps? He caught 692 passes for 5,074 yards and 29 TDs in his NFL career, 125 passes for 1,988 yards and 16 TDs in college. Those are good numbers, but not in the class of Engram or where Robinson will end up.

Again, this comparison is for college and professional achievements, so it eliminates most of the top wideouts in PSU history who only put up good numbers in college but not the NFL.

Here’s some Twitter reaction on the discussion:

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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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