UNIVERSITY PARK (WTAJ) — Penn State wasn’t expected to have a top-heavy draft class this season, but for the first time since 2007, four Nittany Lions came off the board in the first three rounds.
While Joey Porter’s unexpected, but perhaps a blessing in disguise, slid to day two and denied the Nittany Lions a first-round pick, a strong day two in Kansas City made this a historic group.
Joey Porter Jr. (no. 32 to Pittsburgh) Brenton Strange (no. 61 to Jacksonville) and Juice Scruggs (no. 62 to Houston) all came off the board in Friday’s second round. Penn State’s second-highest player, Ji’Ayir Bown came off the board in the third round, when the 49ers took him with the 87th overall pick.
The four picks in the first three rounds were the most since 2007 when Levi Brown (no. 5 to Arizona) Paul Posluszny (no. 34 to Buffalo) Jay Alford (no. 81 to New York) and Tony Hunt (no. 90 to Philadelphia) were all drafted. For a class that was viewed as a “meat and potatoes” kind of group, it was surprisingly top-heavy.
Joey Porter Jr. | Pittsburgh Steelers | 2nd (no. 32)
The Steelers landed a gift, getting Porter Jr. in the second. Graded as a first-round pick, he slid back into Pittsburgh’s lap. A homecoming for Porter whose dad was a longtime Steeler himself.
“Last night, I was I was mad,” Porter said Friday after being selected. “I had an edge on me and this is this is the perfect way to end my day right here,” Porter Jr. said. “I just forgot all about last night. And sure, I’m ready and I got a chip on my shoulder. I’m trying to prove myself.”
Pro Football Focus graded the pick as “elite.” Citing Porter’s first round grade as a steal at no. 32.
Brenton Strange | Jacksonville Jaguars | 2nd (no. 61)
Few people had Brenton Strange as Penn State’s second pick. NFL Draft Buzz graded him as the team’s fourth-best prospect and many projected Strange to go between the third and seventh rounds. For this, PFF graded the pick as “below average” but Strange was likely a product of the draft’s flow. Strange was the sixth tight end off the board already at pick no. 61.
Juice Scruggs | Houston Texas | 2nd (no. 62)
There were two primary surprises from Penn State’s class, the first being Juice Scruggs. The third center off the board, Scrugg’s rise in stock reached a climax in the second round when the Texans made the call. While PFF graded it as a “below average” selection, Scruggs said he was told by his agent that he should prepare to be called in the third round, a sign that teams like Scruggs better than analysts.
“I was just anxious all day,” Scruggs said Friday. “I didn’t really know until I got that phone call. I saw Houston pop up on my home and my heart started racing. And I answered the call and it was the Houston Texans. I’m just lost for words right now. It’s kind of like a speechless moment.”
Ji’Ayir Brown | San Francisco 49ers | 3rd (no. 87)
Without a first or second-round pick, the 49ers grabbed Ji’Ayir Brown in the third. A well-rounded versatile player, Tig is the latest in a string of Penn State defensive backs to head to the NFL. PFF grades the selection as “good” though it was right in line with a number of mock drafts that not only slated Brown in the third round but even sent him to the 49ers.
Sean Clifford | Green Bay Packers | 5th (no. 149)
The biggest surprise of the Nittany Lions was Sean Clifford. Not only was a fifth-round selection surprising, many were uncertain if Penn State’s sixth-year senior would be drafted at all. PFF grades the selection as “below average” and is critical of Clifford’s skills as a passer. But his intangibles long propped up Clifford’s stock and played a big role in his drafting.
“I’ve watched a lot of NFL ball and always seen Green Bay and everything that they do,” he said Saturday. “So just being a being a part of such a great franchise, being able to contribute and and and continue my dreams.”
Parker Washington | Jacksonville Jaguars | 6th (no. 185)
The final Nittany Lion off the board, Parker Washington fell into the sixth round. A good pickup for the Jaguars who landed Penn State’s third-highest-graded player. PFF grades the selection as “very good.” Washington’s late-season injury and inability to work out at pro day or the NFL Combine clearly hurt his stock. Washington was one of the best-contested pass catchers in college and has long flashed the physicals to be an elite receiver.
Free Agent Signings
P.J. Mustipher (DL) Denver Broncos
Chris Stoll (LS) Seattle Seahawks
Jonathan Sutherland (S) Seattle Seahawks
Mitchell Tinsley (WR) Washington Commanders