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Developing Trend: In 2018-19, Penn State is No. 5 for NFL Draft Picks

by on April 28, 2019 4:00 PM

With its second consecutive NFL Draft class of six players, Penn State ranks No. 5 among all college programs for overall picks in 2018-19.

And with a dozen selections overall, Penn State ranks second in the Big Ten Conference to Ohio State (with 16) in NFL picks over the past two seasons.

Alabama leads the way with 22 players selected in the last two NFL Drafts, which go seven rounds with 32 NFL teams selecting, plus compensatory choices (32 in both 2018 and ’19).

With its 16 picks over the past two drafts, Ohio State is second, followed by Georgia and Washington — with 13 each — followed by Penn State and Oklahoma, tied at 12.

Alabama had 10 players selected in the 2019 draft, and 12 in 2018 — No. 1 in college football both years. Ohio State had nine players selected in the 2019 draft, and seven in 2018 — second in the nation both drafts (tying with LSU and N.C. State in 2018).

The 2018-19 draft combo was Penn State’s best two-year showing in the NFL Draft since 1995-96, when the Nittany Lions had 15 players selected overall (five in 1995, 10 in 1996). Penn State had a combined 11 players drafted in both 2006-07 and 2009-10.


Over the past three years, Penn State was 31-9 overall and 21-6 in the Big Ten, but it is the only college program in the Top 6 for 2018-2019 combined draft selections to not make the College Football Playoff over that time frame.

In that time period, Penn State has beaten NFL-talent-laden squads Washington (35-28 in the Fiesta Bowl) and Ohio State (24-21 in 2016, with a pair of one-point losses to the Buckeyes in 2017-18).

Successfully sending players to the NFL involves two major steps: recruiting top high school talent and then developing it into professional-caliber athletes.

Last fall, Penn State head coach James Franklin bristled a bit when it was suggested that he excels at the former, but he is not the best at the latter. (Hey, No. 5 ain’t that bad at the latter.) 

“It’s interesting — all the way back to my time at Vanderbilt and when I first came to Penn State — kind of the story was that we were good recruiters,” Franklin said at the time. “And to be honest with you, I think that’s a little bit of a slight, and kind of bothers me sometimes.”

His program’s biggest strength, Franklin said, is making its players better.

“I actually think that’s the thing we do the best. We develop our players,” he added. “And now when you combine the development with also starting to recruit at a little higher level, I think we have a really good recipe for success and building and moving forward.”

In the 2019 NFL Draft, Penn Staters selected were: Miles Sanders, Eagles, second round; Connor McGovern, Cowboys, third; Shareef Miller, Eagles, fourth; Amani Oruwariye, Lions, fifth; Trace McSorley, Ravens, sixth; and Nick Scott, Rams, seventh.

In the 2018 NFL Draft, Nittany Lions selected were: Saquon Barkley, Giants, first round and second pick overall; Mike Gesicki, Dolphins, second; Troy Apke, Washington, fourth; DaeSean Hamilton, Broncos, fourth; Marcus Allen, Steelers, fifth; and Christian Campbell, Cardinals, sixth.


Over the past three years the Big Ten elite trio of Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin (four NFL Draft picks in 2019, five in 2018, nine overall) have had 37 players drafted. The rest of the 11 conference members have had 36 — combined.

The Big Ten breakdown for the past two NFL Drafts (numbers are for 2018, 2019 and overall):

Ohio State (7-9—16), Penn State (6-6—12),Wisconsin (5-4—9), Iowa (3-4—7), Michigan (2-5—7), Maryland (2-4—6), Rutgers (2-2—4), Indiana (2-1—3), Michigan State (1-2—3), Northwestern (1-1—2), Illinois (0-1—1), Minnesota (0-1—1), Nebraska (1-0—1) and Purdue (1-0—1).

Nationally, here’s the Top 14 programs for NFL Draft picks over the past two years (numbers are for 2018, 2019 and overall):

Alabama (12-10—22), Ohio State (7-9—16), Georgia (6-7—13), Washington (5-8—13), Penn State (6-6—12), Oklahoma (4-8—12), LSU (7-4—11), N.C. State (7-4—11), Miami, Fla. (6-5—11), Florida (5-5—10), Auburn (4-6—10), Notre Dame (4-6—10), Ole Miss (4-6—10) and Texas A&M (3-7—10). 

Both national champion Clemson and Mississippi State, coached by former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, have had nine players selected in the NFL Draft over the past two years combined — with Clemson garnering three first-round picks, all defensive lineman, in the 2019 draft.


Historically, Penn State’s combined 12 draft selections in 2018-19 ranks tied fifth all-time at PSU for most Nittany Lions drafted in seven rounds over a two-year period.

That dates back to 1967, when the NFL and AFL had a shared draft in advance of their merger. The NFL Draft was as many as 17 rounds back in 1975, but it was later pared to 12 rounds through 1992. The 1993 draft was eight rounds, and the current seven rounds were instituted in 1994. Thus, for comparison’s sake, we’re only to going to count the first seven rounds of NFL Drafts prior to 1994.

The 1995-96 NFL Draft classes comprised the largest pair in Penn State history, with five Nittany Lions drafted in 1995 and 10 picked in 1996. The 1995 draft class included first-round selections Ki-Jana Carter (No. 1 overall), Kerry Collins (No. 5) and Kyle Brady (No. 9), while the 1996 draft class included first rounders Jeff Hartings and Andre Johnson, both offensive linemen.

The 1982-83 NFL Draft classes had a combined 14 Nittany Lions drafted in the first seven rounds. The 1982 draft class had eight players picked in the first seven rounds, led by first-rounders Mike Munchak and Sean Farrell, both offensive linemen. The 1983 draft class had six selections in the first seven rounds, led by first-round draft picks Curt Warner (No. 3 overall) and Todd Blackledge (No. 7).

The 1979-80 NFL Draft classes had 13 combined selections in the first seven rounds, as did the 1981-82 NFL Draft classes. The 1974-75 NFL Draft classes had 12 — seven in 1974, including first-rounders Ed O’Neil and Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti, and five in 1975.

Since 1967, the largest number of Nittany Lions selected in one draft came in 1987, when a total of 13 Penn Staters were picked in rounds 1 through 11. Shane Conlan and D.J. Dozier, who led Penn State to the 1986 national championship, were both first-round selections in 1987, with Conlan going eighth and Dozier 17th.

The biggest two-year NFL haul of Penn State players came in 1982-83, when a total of 19 Nittany Lions were drafted in rounds 1 through 10. The Nittany Lions were 31-5 in 1980-82, with a national title in 1982.

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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