Andrew Clay [WTAJ Sports Director] Who is the team’s top pro?
Thomas Frank Carr [On3, Blue White Illustrated] I think there’s there’s three that are at the top of the draft board for Penn State, and I think you know all of their names, either Jahan Dotson, the receiver, on Ebiketie, the defensive end, or the guy that I think might be the best pro of all of them would be safety Jaquan Brisker.
Now I I’m a bit out on an island in that with a couple of different takes I have on Brisker. But those three guys I think are locks to be very good pros at the next level.
AC: Do you think Brisker is the first one off the board or someone else?
TFC: So that’s the part is that I don’t think he will be, but just from my film evaluation, you know, I’ll tell you what I told him after Penn State Pro Day, he’s the best defensive back I’ve seen play at Penn State, hands down. And I say that knowing Adrian Amos has had a great career in the NFL, I think Brisker has the the physical tools. He showed that at the pro day. He ran a 4.49 at the Combine with kind of an injured tight back and then he came back and ran in the low 4.4s at Penn State Pro Day. That’s better than a lot of corners that go to the NFL. His testing metrics are great and I I just I love his film, his vision, his anticipation, his film study all comes through and I think he’s a diverse player that can use those skills in a multiple sort of situation where he can play in the slot, he can play deep, he can affect the ball at all three levels of the defense. So I think that he’s got all of those skills.
AC: To me, Jesse Luketa is the hardest player to kind of pin down in this class on and really know what he’s going to be in the NFL. What do you see in him and how do you think he’s going to be used in the NFL?
TFC: So he’s a defensive end and I think he made that pretty clear so far in the offseason. I would contend that Rasheed Walker might be as confusing as as Jesse Luketa, and that’s crazy considering how much footage we have him playing football, but I I totally understand what you’re saying with Luketa transferring to defense end for his final season and really not being a factor as a pass rusher. I love the way he uses his hands as a run stopper. He was one of PFF top run stoppers when it comes to tackles for loss and plays behind the line of scrimmage and you could see that on film he was almost impossible to block sometimes, but that ability to shed blocks didn’t really translate as a pass rusher. I believe he only had one or two sacks last season and outside of Arnold Ebiketie, who had 54 pressures nobody else had over 13 on the team, so that was a huge problem for Penn State. That’s gonna be something they addressed this spring with some of the transfers, but for Luketa he’s got to show that he can play a little bit bigger, be a little bit of more of a classic defensive end, and running a 4.89 at the combine, and then not retesting at Penn State, I found that surprising and and that’s the biggest thing is if he had had that big athletic testing profile day at Penn State Pro Day some of these might have been answered, but right now you’re struggling to find the upside if you’re a GM or a scout.
AC: You mentioned there are three people on the top of your draft list from Penn State. Are those the three that go in the first two days or do you see anyone else slipping into those early rounds?
TFC: Well, I think Brandon Smith has clearly established himself as a second round pick or at the latest and early day 3. Now this is entirely what you see. You know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and Brandon Smith he can be very frustrating at times on film, but it’s about bigger, faster, stronger in the NFL. Truthfully, I don’t know that the NFL knows what they want from linebackers at this moment because the RPO game and the play-action game and read option have all infiltrated into the NFL and that all of that attacks linebackers, so, the traditional thumper in the middle, the big guy, that guy is kind of gone. So the NFL, I think, is reassessing what they need at that position and what they need is speed.
Brandon Smith running a 4.5 at the Combine. His testing metrics at Penn State as far as his agility, his burst all of those things checked the boxes. He is a freak physical athlete. The problem is when you turn on the tape, there’s a lack of some instincts, he doesn’t play with the physicality that he presents when he tackles players. and I would be concerned with him in one on one coverage with certain running backs and tight ends because he’s got to improve in a man coverage system, which he was not exposed to a lot of Penn State, so there are some concerns in his profile, but the upside is too tantalizing for the NFL, and that’s really what they know. I think at this point is we want upside. We want guys that can run and we’ll figure out the rest later.
AC: I read a comparison the other day between Tyler Lockett and Jahan Dotson. Do you buy that comp?
TFC: I look at more DeVonte Smith from last season I see what people are saying with Lockett. Locket was more compact and was even a little bit bigger than than Jahan is. Jahan is still even at what he is now. I think 5-10.5, 178 lbs. He’s still on the smaller side. He wins with speed and he wins with precision and that’s why I get the Lockett comparison.
I always viewed Lockett more as a deep threat and I think Jahan is a complete receiver given the opportunity to play in space with speed and that’s what I think he’s going to be at the next level. I think he’s got enough skills that he can play on the perimeter and in the slot. But he’s gonna have to have some protection from jams and more physical players at the next level. He’s going to be productive. I have no doubt that he’s going to be a great receiver.
The hands the body control, but it’s the areas of contested catch and breaking tackles, Lockett was a little bit better at those things so that’s why I look at DeVonte Smith as a guy who is a very slim, narrow, speed receiver. But in the NFL That works now again with the the changes that they’ve made, and in terms of what defensive backs are allowed to do and not do as far as contact in the route.
AC: Which player do you think in this class is the most NFL ready and can make an impact as a rookie?
TFC: Well, I think any of those three guys at the top of the draft. It’s easier for receivers to make an impact because there’s more positions on the field, so Dotson would be a guy I’d look to, especially given how he’s got a lot of the skills that take some time for raw but talented players to develop, because he’s such a great route runner.
Arnold Ebiketie, to me, is the guy we haven’t talked about yet but has the best tools of any Penn State pass rusher coming out in the last five years or so, as far as his technical ability. His ability to use his hands, shed blocks bend and get to the quarterback. And I understand he’s 250 lbs, and he isn’t as big or as physical or as violent as some of these guys that are going to go in the first round, but his skills translates to the NFL in a big way.
If you remember Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, those sort of Indianapolis Colts teams, I think he’d be very good in in that sort of situation that values pass rushers and getting to the quarterback, and that’s not to say he’s a bad run defender, but his skill is very much in pass rush, and that is a high value commodity in the NFL, so he’s going to be a guy that I think is going to have an impact pretty early.
AC: On the other side of that coin is there a player. You think would have benefited more by coming back.
TFC: Well, we talked about Rasheed Walker already and I just I don’t know what to make of Rashid because since his senior season in high school, it’s been clear that he has NFL talent. He has the feet, he has the physical ability, and we saw a little bit in 2020 when Penn State got their sea legs back underneath them that he can play with violence. He can open up holes. He can be a really good run blocker as a tackle, but he never put it all together and there’s just some really bad mental mistakes on film.
I’ve pointed it out to some of the people over at the blue White Illustrated message board. Some of my articles I do in my film breakdown there are the mental lapses to me are the biggest problem. He’s a guy that I’ve never thought lacked effort, it just seems like focus and and attention to detail have always been his problem, and if that light comes on, he can absolutely make it in the NFL. You just like to see the light come on a little bit more in college if you’re going to be an NFL scout, or an NFL GM that you’re taking a risk in drafting a guy because there’s a lot of Rashid Walkers that have those skills and the light never comes on at the next level. He was a guy that we were talking about a first day or two draft pick over the last couple years. That’s what he was building to.
AC: Where does he go now? Does he? Does he make it iIn those first two days?
TFC: Uh, you know I’m going to hedge my bets and say the fifth round. Just because I, I think the the value is there as far as his skill.
I don’t know that he is an NFL left tackle, but I think he’s a starting offensive lineman in the NFL and those are rare and to find those guys and to have somebody who has his power and his ability to just blow one side of the line of scrimmage completely open. You can’t ignore that, but the question is, are you going to get it consistently? Or are you going to get your quarterback? Hurt because he, you know, misses a block in a key situation. On first or third down, so say fourth, fifth round, and that’s just me throwing darts in the wind because somebody might might love him.
AC: Where do you think this draft class will rank among Penn State’s recent draft classes.
TFC: It’s hard to beat Micah Parsons and Odafe Oweh. It’s hard to beat that up. You know that that’s a tough one for me. I don’t have all of those guys and all of those draft classes really kind of locked into my head. I kind of see individual players in that, but last season obviously is a big one for for Penn State, with those two very talented players coming out.
Maybe the 2016 class, if I looked at classes in general with Barkley and Godwin and Mike Geskicki. I know they all came out in different years, but they were all part of that kind of same core. It would beat that group. I don’t think you will, but this is definitely a strong class for Penn State.
One guy that I want to mention, because I always want to get a stump speech out for the guys that are really good at football, Ellis Brooks has gone pretty overlooked in this in this draft process. I spoke to him, just a quick story, I spoke to him after pro day and I was asking you about something I saw on film and he’s like, yeah, I adapted my game because I broke my thumb and I couldn’t play traditionally.
So this is a guy who is, you know, 6-1, maybe 230 pounds, ran a 4.77, and that’s really the problem, he has good, short-area quickness, he gets the ball with vision and intelligence, but doesn’t have the athleticism.
But if I were in the seventh round and I had some sort of say in the draft room, I’d be pounding the table to get Ellis Brooks because he just knows how to play football.