Penn State football's winners and losers from 2022 NFL Scouting Combine
The 2022 NFL Scouting Combine wrapped up its testing and on-field workouts Sunday night in Indianapolis and by the end, eight former Penn State football players had participated.
Many of the players took part in the entire process — including the workouts — while some were limited for one reason or another.
Let's take a look at the Penn State-adjacent winners and losers from this year's combine.
Tariq Castro-Fields: Castro-Fields didn't do many of the on-field tests Sunday night — but the one he did do couldn't have gone much better. The former Nittany Lion ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, tying him for fifth among all cornerbacks at the event. The result answered any possible questions about his long speed as a cornerback, and combined with his physical measurements, the time should help improve his stock heading into the 2022 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-1, 197-pound cornerback has ideal size for the position and doesn't have the type of physical limitations that could inhibit him from that standpoint. The former Nittany Lion will have questions to answer to continue to improve his stock — mainly potential injury concerns and his ability to track the ball downfield — but Sunday was a good start for him in the draft process.
Brandon Smith: Few players need to test at a high level at the combine, but Smith is one of them. His on-field play wasn't at a high level this season, but he isn't likely to get drafted because of the film he put together at Penn State. Instead, he's likely to be taken because of his physical tools and the upside he presents for a team at the next level. He essentially aced every physical test he took, including his 40-yard dash (4.52 seconds). Both of his jumps — the vertical (37.5 inches) and the broad (10-feet, 8-inches) — were near the top of the charts for someone his size at 6-foot-3.5, 250 pounds. Smith is a highly intriguing prospect, and could be the type of player that benefits from a switch to EDGE, where he can hightail it after the quarterback more often rather than be forced to play in space as a true linebacker.
Jahan Dotson: It was always possible that Dotson could break into the 4.3s in the 40-yard dash, but his 4.43 official time is nothing to scoff at, especially given the context of others who ran. Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave, a downfield burner with less versatility than Dotson, ran only .04 seconds fast at 4.39. That difference matters, but could help boost Dotson's stock given his ability to work in the middle of the field and in the short passing game. The former Nittany Lion excelled in drills when it was his time to show off what made him an excellent receiver, working through the gauntlet drill — which requires receivers to catch passes while running a straight line at full speed — with good pace and showing off his route-running in individual route drills. He may not go in the first round because of how good the draft class is, but Dotson did nothing to hurt his stock on the field in Indianapolis.
Jesse Luketa and Jaquan Brisker: This isn't about anything Luketa or Brisker did — in fact both performed well when they had the chance to — but more about the circumstances surrounding their weekend. Neither player was able to complete the full battery of testing due to injury, which is always the worst outcome at the combine or a pro day. Brisker injured his back in the bench press, according to NFL Network's Ian Rappoport, while Luketa pulled up with an injury while running the 40-yard dash. The latter doesn't have a ton of film at the position he's most likely to play in the NFL — defensive end — and lost the chance to do on-field drills with the position group. Brisker, meanwhile, lost the chance to prove how good of an athlete he is at safety. The 6-foot-1, 199-pound safety is heralded for how well he plays the run, but had a chance to prove he's a good enough athlete to do it all on the back end. He ran a 4.49 40-yard dash, even with the injury, but will have to wait until Penn State's pro day on March 24 to show he can turn and run with opposing tight ends and slot receivers.
Ellis Brooks: Brooks chose to forego his final season of eligibility in college and entered the 2022 NFL Draft, but unlike the rest of his teammates who made that decision, he wasn't invited to the combine. Like Luketa and Brisker, this isn't as much about anything Brooks did in a workout as it is the opportunity he missed out on. Because he wasn't invited, the linebacker didn't have a chance to show he can do more athletically than he displayed in college. Brooks struggled in pass coverage at Penn State and would've improved his stock if he had the chance to do the physical testing that comes with the combine. Instead, like his injured teammates, he'll have to wait until the pro day to show if he's at the level he needs to be to play in the NFL.