On one side of the NFL Draft, cameras show the faces of emotional prospects hearing their names called by NFL teams after a lifetime of hardwork and dedication to the sport of football.
On the other side, the draft can be a long and anxiety-ridden process for many of the draft’s late-round prospects.
While Micah Parsons and Odafe Oweh didn’t have to wait long to hear their names called in the first round, the draft had Shaka Toney and a few other Penn Staters waiting for days.
There was little expectation that Nittany Lions like Shaka Toney, Michal Menet and Will Fries would hear their names called before round five. For Menet and Fries, it wasn’t known if they would hear theirs at all.
However, as the No. 141 ranked pre draft prospect by PFF, Toney landing in the range of rounds four to six seemed like a sure thing. But by round seven, it wasn’t clear whether he would even be drafted.
Three hours prior to hearing the news that the Washington Football Team would be using its final selection on the defensive end, Toney took to Twitter to display his longing to finally get drafted.
“I just need an opportunity man,” Toney wrote.
I just need an opportunity man— Shaka Toney (@SackA_Toney) May 1, 2021
In his five years with the Penn State program, capitalizing on opportunities was the name of the game for Toney, who went from redshirt freshman to All-Big Ten first team as a senior.
The talent is certainly there for Toney — who ranks eighth on Penn State’s all-time sack leaderboard — as he terrorized Big Ten defenses in two years as a starter on James Franklin’s defensive line.
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Another former Penn State defensive end officially found the next stop on his football journey.
With Toney, his drop most likely has to do with overall team fit.
As an undersized defensive end standing at 6-foot-2, there is no certainty as to whether Toney will be stationed on the line or on the edge as an outside linebacker.
Toney’s small frame draws concern that he will not be able to push past NFL offensive lineman, as he was able to do against less-polished collegiate offensive lines.
While he does run a 4.51 40-yard dash, his speed likely won’t do much to help his case if Toney can’t possess the strength to push through offensive lineman in the NFL.
With most NFL teams having moved on from running a hybrid defense, where a defensive end can drop back to outside linebacker, there were a limited number of teams where Toney’s play style would even work.
Luckily for him, the Washington Football Team knows just what to do with a player like Toney.
In 2019, Washington drafted speedy defensive end Montez Sweat in the first round.
While Sweat stands at 6-foot-6, an ideal frame for a starting edge rusher in the NFL, the speed comparisons between him and Toney are fairly similar.
Sweat clocked in with a 4.41 second 40-yard dash in 2019. Toney finished just a tenth of a second behind him.
If there is anyone who can teach Toney how to use speed to get to the quarterback, it’s Sweat.
While Sweat started immediately on Washington’s defensive line and has yet to miss a start, it may take more time for Toney to get fully adjusted to his role on the Football Team’s defense.
It should also be noted that Washington head coach Ron Rivera was a linebacker himself for the Chicago Bears under defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan.
While Rivera did run a 4-3 defense in his playing days, he has openly spoken about the trends of defensive ends in the NFL and how a hybrid 3-4 defense can be much more efficient.
For Toney, who should be able to thrive in a 3-4 defense and a 3-4 defense only, a mix of insight from both Sweat and Rivera could go a long way for the Philadelphia native.
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