It’s been more than four months since the collegiate careers of 18 Penn State football players ended.
And for a small group of them, it’s been an especially long four months.
This weekend, nine draft-eligible former Nittany Lions will finally find out if their talents are good enough to take them to the next level.
The NFL Draft begins with the first round at 8 tonight, continues Friday night with the second and third rounds before finishing Saturday with rounds four through seven.
Penn State isn’t expected to yield any first-round picks for the first time since 2008 — defensive end Aaron Maybin was selected 11th and defensive lineman Jared Odrick was picked 28th last year.
But that doesn’t mean the Lions won’t be represented in this year’s draft.
Interior offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski is expected to be the highest pick to come from Penn State. Some project Wisniewski, a three-year starter on the Lions’ offensive line, to be selected as high as the second round. Wisniewski’s father, Leo, said about 10 teams have expressed interest in his son.
“There are a number of teams that need a center or a center/guard-type player and the teams that project him as a center first, a lot of those teams have talked to Stefen and have indicated some interest,” said Leo Wisniewski, who played from 1982-1984 for the Baltimore and then Indianapolis Colts.
Shane Hallam, an analyst from draftcountdown.com, said he thinks Wisniewski will get picked later in the second round, but could drop to the third or the fourth rounds depending on a team’s specific needs.
Ultimately, Hallam said Wisniewski’s versatility — his ability to play three different positions along the offensive line — could put him into the second round. This year’s group of centers isn’t deep, Hallam said, adding Wisniewski is probably the best player at the position in the draft.
“To me, his technique is some of the best I’ve seen from an interior lineman in a few years,” Hallam said. “He gets off the snap really well, bends his knees really well, uses his leverage. And that, along with his football IQ, are his strengths.”
Wisniewski, listed at 6-foot-3 and 313 pounds, was one of two Lions invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in late February. The other was running back Evan Royster.
Royster toyed with the idea of entering the draft last year before ultimately staying in Happy Valley. But after finishing his tenure as Penn State’s all-time leading rusher, the 6-foot, 212 pound running back isn’t even a sure thing to get drafted among this year’s strong running back class, Hallam said.
Others highlighting Penn State’s draft-eligible players include former wide receiver Brett Brackett and former defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu.
Brackett, who said he projects as more of a tight end if he makes it to the professional ranks, has been working out in University Park with Penn State’s strength and conditioning coaches since last season ended.
He said a couple of NFL teams have reached out to him, but he is not sure if he will get drafted or have to hope for an undrafted-free agent contract after the draft.
“I’m just going into it with an open mind,” Brackett said, “and keeping my fingers crossed and hoping something happens.”