Despite a midseason slide for Penn State football over the last handful of weeks, the Nittany Lions are still 5-2 and positioned to cause some havoc in the Big 10. And the Lions have a few draft prospects that can continue to boost their draft stock with strong performances the rest of the way.
ESPN’s Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. are the two prominent names in the company, and both have released 2022 NFL Draft big boards that feature Nittany Lions.
McShay released his first Top 32 big board of the season, and two Lions made his cut — one on offense and one on defense.
First Top-32 prospects list of the season is here… have at it. https://t.co/UnfIwXfpWL
— Todd McShay (@McShay13) October 27, 2021
McShay ranked senior wide receiver Jahan Dotson at No. 12, the third-ranked wide receiver behind the Ohio State duo of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, writing how Dotson’s electric skillset makes him one of the draft’s best weapons:
“Dotson is a bit undersized, but his suddenness, speed and route craftiness make him a dangerous offensive weapon. He is lightning quick in and out of his breaks, but he always seems to be in control. His tape is smooth, and his routes are sharp. Despite a smaller catch radius, his ball skills are terrific, and he will pluck the ball on the run and/or adjust to throws with excellent body control. Dotson can challenge vertically, too, but he doesn’t have the size to win many 50-50 balls. If he does win, he has the field vision and wheels to produce after the catch. Dotson has 49 catches for 563 yards and six touchdowns this season, and he has at least five receptions in all seven games.”
Despite up and down quarterback play and a lack of run game for the Lions’ offense this season, Dotson has continued to produce. He’s racked up 49 receptions for 563 yards and six touchdowns this season and over 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns in his career.
McShay ranked junior linebacker Brandon Smith as the 25th player on his big board, the third-ranked linebacker behind Georgia’s Nakobe Dean and Utah’s Devin Lloyd. McShay lauded Smith’s NFL potential, writing:
“Smith has ideal size for his position and carries his 241-pound frame well. He shows solid take-on ability, and he can quickly disengage with his sudden and powerful upper body. In run support, he is fast and rangy, making plays in backside pursuit. But he tends to come in a little hot as a tackler at times, missing wrap-up opportunities as a result. He is very good in zone coverage, and his speed and size allow him to match up with most tight ends and running backs — but he has struggled tracking the ball when trailing the pass-catcher. In short, Smith is a work in progress, but he is consistently one of the fastest players on the field for Penn State. More experience will put him in line to make a big NFL impact. In seven games, Smith has 44 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble.”
Kiper also released his Top 25 big board, along with positional Top 10 lists, and a few more Lions were featured throughout.
My top five quarterbacks for the 2022 NFL draft:
1. Kenny Pickett, Pitt
2. Matt Corral, Ole Miss
3. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
4. Malik Willis, Liberty
5. Sam Howell, North Carolinahttps://t.co/DiuWS5IdEY
— Mel Kiper Jr. (@MelKiperESPN) October 27, 2021
Kiper ranked Dotson at No. 16, a drop from his previous eighth overall ranking and now his third-ranked wide receiver behind USC’s Drake London and Alabama’s Jameson Williams. He complimented Dotson’s explosive ability, writing:
“Dotson is an explosive wideout having a great season. He had an incredible leaping catch against Illinois over the weekend, and look how open he is on this 49-yard touchdown against Wisconsin. Plus, check out Penn State’s first offensive play against Villanova, a 52-yard strike to Dotson in which he showed acceleration at the catch. While he had a few drops in 2019 and 2020, he hasn’t dropped any of his 78 targets this season. He has 49 catches for 563 yards and six scores, though he hasn’t scored in the Nittany Lions’ back-to-back losses.”
While no other Lions were ranked inside Kiper’s Top 25, a couple of players did make his positional big boards. Senior defensive tackle PJ Mustipher checked in as Kiper’s 10th ranked defensive tackle.
Mustipher had piled up 21 tackles (16 solo) and a sack before going down with an injury against Iowa and subsequently being ruled out for the reason. He was named a semifinalist for the Lombardi Trophy based on his stellar play to begin the season.
Kiper named junior linebackers Arnold Ebiketie and Smith as the No. 3 and 4 outside linebackers in the class. Ebiketie has been a force for the Lions since transferring from Temple, racking up 41 tackles (26 solo) and 5.5 sacks this season. And Smith’s 44 tackles rank second on the team this season.
Senior safety Jaquan Brisker was ranked as Kiper’s No. 4 safety, continuing a season of excellence. With 33 tackles (22 solo), four passes defended and two interceptions, he’s been a playmaker in the Lions’ defensive secondary. AP named him as a midseason All-American.
Kiper named senior kicker Jordan Stout as his No. 3 kicker, with Stout going 20-of-21 on extra points and 11-of-15 (with a 50 yard long) on field goals this season.