Penn State football program enjoys its best NFL Draft showing since 2010

(Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)
  • Penn State had six players picked in the 2018 NFL Draft.
  • That is the Nittany Lions' best draft showing since 2010, when six players were also selected.
  • Running back Saquon Barkley was the Lions' top pick, going No. 2 overall to the New York Giants.

At the NFL Scouting Combine in February, former Penn State safety Troy Apke suggested a secondary nickname for the program: “DBU” as well as “LBU.”

Penn State wide receiver Daesean Hamilton participates in a drill at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Penn State’s 2017 team tied a school record with three defensive backs selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, with Apke making the most surprising run up the draft boards. After his athletic show at the combine, Apke surged into the fourth round, where the Washington Redskins made him the 109th pick overall on Saturday.

Safety Marcus Allen (fifth round to Pittsburgh) and cornerback Christian Campbell (sixth round to Arizona) were also drafted from the Lions’ secondary, marking the position group’s best draft year since 2006. That year Ethan Kilmer was drafted as a safety, though he played wide receiver and special teams for Penn State.

In all, NFL teams took six Penn State players this year, including No.2 overall pick Saquon Barkley by the New York Giants. Tight end Mike Gesicki went in Friday’s second round to Miami, and Denver drafted receiver DaeSean Hamilton in the fourth round on Saturday.

The draft was Penn State’s best since 2010, when six players also were selected.

In addition, the following PSU players have reportedly signed free-agent deals: defensive tackle Curtis Cothran, Minnesota Vikings; kicker Tyler Davis, Buffalo Bills; defensive tackle Parker Cothren, Pittsburgh Steelers; offensive guard Brendan Mahon, Carolina Panthers; cornerback Grant Haley, New York Giants; and linebacker Jason Cabinda and wideout Saeed Blacknall, Oakland Raiders. 

Mike Gesicki: Gesicki, who broke the Penn State record for receptions by a tight end last season, was the 42nd pick overall. After a difficult sophomore year in which he caught just 13 passes, Gesicki blossomed into one of the Big Ten’s top tight ends his last two seasons.

He was a two-time all-Big Ten selection, making the first team in 2017 after catching 57 passes for 563 yards. Of his 57 receptions, 37 went for first downs or touchdowns.

“Mike took the adversity he had early in his career and used it as fuel to become one of the top tight ends in Penn State history,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “He is an athletic freak and showed that with his performance at the NFL combine. Even at the next level, he will pose a matchup problem with his ability to high-point the ball and outleap his defenders.”

Chris Grier, the Dolphins general manager, said Gesicki needs to improve as a blocker, which he expects the tight end to do.

“When people tell him he can’t do anything, he wants to keep pushing and prove you wrong,” Grier said. “That comes out when you talk to the kid and when you watch him at practice and watch his practice film when he does stuff. We’re very excited for his future.”

DaeSean Hamilton: John Elway, Denver’s general manager, called Hamilton a “solid and versatile” receiver who will fit the team’s offense. Hamilton became the first Penn State receiver with 200 career catches and drew universal scouting praise for his precise route-running.

“I’ve been working on being faster in everything I do,” Hamilton said. “Making all my routes look the same, no wasted movements, because the speed of the game is a lot faster than what you see in college.”

Marcus Allen: Allen goes to a unique situation in Pittsburgh, where he will be coached by former Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. Now the Steelers’ defensive backs coach, Bradley spent 32 years at Penn State.

Allen will be the first Penn State player Bradley has coached since leaving the program.

“He’s really a big-time tackler,” Bradley said. “He will strike you. That’s probably the best part of his game, how physical he is.”