Penn State Football: Ranking the Nittany Lions' Best NFL Prospects

Colin Tansits@@colin_tansitsContributor IOctober 18, 2012

Penn State Football: Ranking the Nittany Lions' Best NFL Prospects

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    Without any Big Ten championships or bowls to play for in the next four years, most of the players on Penn State’s roster stayed in Happy Valley to play for each other.

    Beyond this, though, many of these athletes are playing for their own futures.

    For seniors such as Michael Mauti and Matt McGloin, this is their last year to suit up and play in Happy Valley, and so far these guys are making the best of it.

    Between now and the NFL draft on April 25, neither Mauti or McGloin will be able to control whether their team will have a shot to win the Big Ten.

    What these two and other players on the Nittany Lions’ roster do have control of is their draft stock.

    For Penn State, there are numerous players that will have a shot to play in the NFL next year and in the upcoming years.

    Let’s see who they are.

10. Matt McGloin, Quarterback

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    Before you rattle off McGloin’s stats from previous seasons and bring up his inconsistency over his three years of playing, take a look at how far this quarterback has come.

    Out of West Scranton High School, McGloin had few offers and decided to walk on at Penn State. He worked his way to earning a scholarship and into the role of backup to Rob Bolden.

    Over the past two years, McGloin has thrown for 3,119 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. These aren’t exactly great numbers, not to mention the numerous dropped picks McGloin always seemed to throw.

    But Bill O’Brien's move to Penn State has turned McGloin's career around, and he has shown a massive turnaround in maturity and decision-making.

    This year McGloin is second in the Big Ten in passing with 1,499 yards and is tied for first with 12 touchdowns. What’s even more impressive though is that he has only thrown two interceptions in 221 attempts.

    To put it into perspective, in 2011 he attempted 231 passes all year.

    At only 6’1”, his size and weakness throwing the deep ball are the only things holding him back. McGloin has a chance to make a possible make a practice squad or be signed as an undrafted rookie if he continues to get better and better. 

9. Matt Stankiewitch, Center

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    Every few years Penn State always seems to have at least one dominant lineman. In past years it was Stefen Wisniewski or Levi Brown getting drafted.

    This season is Stankiewitch’s turn to show what he can do.

    As a senior leader on the offensive line, he has been instrumental in Penn State’s success this season.

    Stankiewitch is a two-year starter for the Nittany Lions, but his size is an area of concern. At only 6’3”, he would be a little undersized on the line in the NFL.

    Nonetheless, Stankiewitch is a solid blocker leading the Penn State line this season and has a chance to be picked up by a team.

8. Kyle Carter, Tight End

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    Although Carter is only a redshirt freshman, his raw talent and abilities have already been showcased halfway through this season.

    The media has made it well known that tight ends do very well in O’Brien’s offense, and Carter is no exception.

    So far this year Carter has a modest 279 yards receiving and a touchdown, but his possibilities seem endless.

    O’Brien’s offense this season has focused on mismatches and getting the best athletes the ball.

    Carter has been lining up in the backfield, split out and in the traditional tight end spot on the end of the line; obviously O’Brien thinks he’s an offensive threat.

    With at least two more years before Carter can think about being drafted, he has time to continue to develop into an offensive threat.

    Right now, though, Carter has serious potential to play at the next level.

7. Bill Belton, Running Back

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    Over the past two seasons, Belton has proved that he can do it all.

    From receiving and lining up in the Wildcat and throwing, to carrying the ball as an every down back, the sophomore seems to succeed at it all.

    Belton has good speed, but his quickness is what stands out. He can slash through the line and has become a serious home run threat.

    Catching out of the backfield isn’t much of a problem for Belton either, and his lone touchdown of the year has come on a reception.

    With his speed, quickness and vision, Belton has some of the intangibles that NFL teams will be looking for.

    Much like Carter, Belton still needs to show improvement. But Belton has a bright future ahead of him.

6. Adrian Amos, Cornerback

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    Last season as a freshman Amos played in all 13 games at cornerback, and now this season he has stepped into a starting role on Penn State’s defense.

    When he played for Calvert Hall College High School, Amos was the 2010 Baltimore City Defensive Player of the Year as a safety.

    With a depleted secondary due to graduation and transfers from the NCAA sanctions, Amos was forced to move back to corner over the summer.

    Amos doesn’t have the lightning speed to keep up with the elite receivers in college football, but he makes up for it with aggressiveness.

    So far this season he has 24 tackles and a half sack.

    If Amos is able to move back to safety and continue his aggressive play, his future is bright.

    Amos can be a middle-round draft pick if he continues to work to get better.

5. Stephon Morris, Cornerback

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    This year Morris is Penn State’s most experienced defensive back.

    The senior played in at least 12 games each of the past three seasons, and he brings a sense of leadership to the young secondary.

    O’Brien’s staff picked Morris at the end of spring drills as the Jim O'Hora Award winner, which is presented to the most improved defensive player on the team.

    Morris continues to get better each game, and much like Amos, he isn’t afraid of contact.

    This year the cornerback has 28 tackles, two pass deflections and broke up two passes.

    Although Morris isn’t a top-tier corner in this graduating class, his nose for tackling should earn him a spot on a team next spring.

4. Allen Robinson, Wide Receiver

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    Robinson has broken out in a big way this season.

    When Penn State needed a No. 1 receiver, he answered the call with 524 yards receiving and seven touchdowns in the first six games of the season.

    Standing at 6’3” Robinson is a big target for McGloin, and he has shown his athleticism all year.

    Robinson is only a sophomore though and he still has time to fine tune his game, but right now Robinson has the highest ceiling of all the underclassmen on Penn State’s roster.

    He fits the prototype of an NFL receiver and with O’Brien bringing that experience from New England, you have to think Robinson will continue to make big strides.

    With top quarterback recruit Christian Hackenberg committed to Penn State, Robinson will continue to be heavily targeted and emerge as one of the top pass catchers in the nation.

    Proper coaching and continued improvement can lead to Robinson being a first- or second-round selection.

3. Jordan Hill, Defensive Tackle

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    When Devon Still won the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Award last season, Hill laid back in the shadows quietly.

    This year Hill has shown exactly why Still had so much success: Hill seems to be always taking on double-team blocks and making his teammates look good.

    Now in his senior season, it's Hill’s turn to look like a top defensive lineman, and he hasn’t disappointed.

    Unlike the 6’5” Still, Hill is only 6’1” and plays a little more finesse than the power Still.

    This year Hill has racked up 28 tackles and one and a half sacks, but he also has an interception, forced fumble and recovered a fumble.

    Hill is a solid player and a leader on the Penn State defensive line.

    Look to see him taken in the late rounds of the draft in April.

2. Gerald Hodges, Linebacker

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    After electing to stay for his senior season, Hodges was considered to be Penn State’s top draft prospect, and with good reason too.

    Last season Hodges showcased his size, speed and athleticism by finishing the season with two forced fumbles, four-and-a-half sacks and a team-high 106 tackles.

    This year through six games Hodges hasn’t disappointed by any means. He is right on track to finish with triple-digit tackles again this year, with 50 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.

    Currently Hodges is ranked as the No. 5 outside linebacker in this draft class.

    Barring any serious injuries, Hodges could be a late first- or early second-round pick.

1.Michael Mauti, Linebacker

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    Mauti hasn’t had the easiest four years at Penn State.

    Injuries, both season-ending and nagging, have been a major part of the linebacker’s career in Happy Valley.

    Two torn ACLs (one in the right knee, the other in the left) and a major scandal later, Mauti has transformed into one of the nation’s top linebackers.

    Mauti a tremendous leader and showed his ability to hold his team together during one of the darkest times at Penn State.

    Beyond the off-the-field issues though, on the field Mauti simply knows how to lead his team.

    Along with the leadership abilities, this guy can straight up ball.

    With 57 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, four pass deflections and two breakups this season, Mauti has emerged as top talent on the defensive side of the ball.

    He is ranked as the No. 4 four linebacker in this year’s draft.

    The only thing that could be holding Mauti back from a middle first-round selection is his history of injuries.