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Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Make It Three-Straight Years of Five or More Draft Selections

by on April 27, 2020 2:40 PM

Penn State rounds out yet another busy NFL Draft weekend having had five players selected during the draft and six more signing free agent deals in the hours following the conclusion of the three-day long event.

Headlined by Yetur Gross-Matos and KJ Hamler both going in the early stages of the second-round, Penn State's two early departures made good on their decision to turn pro prior to the conclusion of their collegiate careers, a financial gamble for all but the most elite in any draft class.

In total 361 Nittany Lions have been selected all-time in the NFL Draft, a figure that sits seventh among Division I programs. Since 2010 Penn State has had 44 draft picks with 26 of those coming under James Franklin, and 17 of those 26 coming in the last three years, the true heart of his tenure at Penn State so far.

The 2020 Draft also marked the first time since the span of 1991-93 that Penn State has had five or more picks in the same draft. Of course many things play into the size of a schools draft class, the ever changing age demographics of a program's roster can lend itself to heavier years or lighter ones depending on early departures or talented players simply not yet eligible to enter. 

  • 2020 Draft: Five picks: Average round: Fourth
  • 2019 Draft: Six picks Average round: 4.5 
  • 2018 Draft: Six picks. Average round:  3.5
  • 2017 Draft: One pick: Third round
  • 2016 Draft: Five picks: Average round: 3.8
  • 2015 Draft: Three picks: Average round: Fourth
  • 2014 Draft: Three picks: Average round: 3.6 
  • 2013 Draft: Three picks: Average round: 4.6 
  • 2012 Draft: Four picks: Average round: 4.75 
  • 2011 Draft: Two picks: Average round: Fourth 
  • 2010 Draft: Six picks: Average round: 4.1 
  • 2009 Draft: Five picks: Average round: 3.6
  • 2008 Draft: Two picks: Average round: 3.5

All the same as Ohio State notched 10 draft choices this past weekend with three of those going in the first round. The Buckeyes have now sent 15 players to the NFL in the first round of the draft since 2016. Over that same span Penn State has sent one, albeit the emergence of Saquon Barkley was no small feat. Even so, to get Penn State's first round draft total to 15 you have to count all the way back to 1995 to hit that same figure.

Of course, first round talent is not a surefire key to victory. While the Buckeyes have undeniably had a better decade than the Nittany Lions, the past several meetings between the two teams have not been a reflection of this gulf in first round talent. At the same time, Ohio State's postseason success seems to showcase the somewhat obvious value of elite talent in bulk, a largely self-fulling prophecy given the Buckeyes' dominance on the recruiting trail.

In a way, all of this rounds out to good news for Penn State. The Nittany Lions have managed to cultivate NFL talent at a slightly higher clip and at a slightly higher average round over the past four years and that success is the byproduct of success on the field. Better recruiting, better results, more draft picks, and the cycle repeats itself again and again.

So yes, the gap is still there, but it's slowly closing. Has it closed enough? That's an annual question, one that takes about four hours to answers on some afternoon in the middle of fall.

See you then.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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