Outside of the Alabama Crimson Tide, you won’t find a football program that will have a more appealing draft class than what the top Penn State 2021 draft prospects will offer. In addition to having the best draft-eligible tight end and linebacker in the 2021 class, the Nittany Lions should offer at least an additional 10 draftable players. This is one of the deepest and most complete Penn State rosters we have seen in quite some time, so it will be intriguing to watch if the Nittany Lions can unseat the Ohio State Buckeyes as the class of the conference.
In the 2020 NFL Draft, Penn State was represented quite well, having five players selected; wide receiver K.J. Hamler and defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos were drafted in the second round. There is no doubt that the 2021 Penn State group will surpass that number.
Penn State has legitimate NFL talent
Before we take a dive into the top 2021 Penn State draft prospects, we must mention those players from the program that are legitimate NFL talents. This group contains the following names:
Rasheed Walker, Offensive Tackle, Redshirt Sophomore
Walker was a highly-touted prospect entering the collegiate ranks, who ultimately has the tools to develop into a first-round prospect. With that said, he needs to demonstrate more consistency during the 2020 season and is unlikely to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Shaka Toney, Edge Rusher, Senior
Toney enters the 2020 college football season with a third-round grade from scouts, but he might be able to help himself, as he won’t be in the shadow of Gross-Matos this season. He accounted for 6.5 sacks in 2019, showcasing his violent hands, ability to bend like Gumby and explosiveness. It would not surprise me in the slightest if Toney cemented himself as a second-round pick in the 2021 Draft.
Sean Clifford, Quarterback, Redshirt Junior
Clifford has been a good player for the Nittany Lions. However, his talents and tool-belt don’t scream NFL talent. When it is his time to enter the NFL Draft, he will more than likely be a late draft pick, so it would be best for him to complete his eligibility at Penn State.
Michael Menet, Offensive Guard, Senior
Menet arrived at Penn State as the top guard in the nation. While Menet offers versatility and comes with great football intelligence, he is likely to be a third-day pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Tariq Castro-Fields, Cornerback, Senior
In a deep 2021 cornerback class, Tariq Castro-Fields could fall to the third day of the 2021 Draft. He is coming off an up-and-down 2020 season, where at times he flashed brilliance, and at times looked lost. The 2020 season is big for Castro-Fields; if he can find more consistency in his game, he has a chance to really help himself.
Lamont Wade, Safety, Senior
Lamont Wade is a jack-of-all-trades type of defensive back. He offers versatility to line up at multiple positions and could make an NFL roster with his ability to contribute on special teams.
Now, let’s move on to the cream of the crop.
Top Penn State 2021 Draft prospects
Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Junior (6-foot-3, 244 pounds)
For my money, outside of Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Oregon’s Penei Sewell, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons is the best 2021 Draft prospect. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. doesn’t disagree, as he has Parsons as one of the five best prospects on his initial 2021 NFL Draft board.
Parsons is coming off of a monstrous 2019 season, where he accumulated 109 tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, five passes defended, four forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.
Parsons can do it all, possessing amazing sideline-to-sideline speed, the ability to lay the lumber, and a knack for making plays. However, it will be his ability to rush the quarterback that will cement his status as a lock to be a top-10 selection in the 2021 Draft.
As Pro Football Network’s Matt Valdovinos exclaims, “Parsons is an elite athlete with a strong frame and is the most disruptive defensive player in the nation. Expect him to be a top selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, as he’s one of the most productive players in the nation and one of the top 15 players listed on the Feldman’s Freak List.”
As is evident in the clip below, Parsons’ speed and athleticism allows him to make plays behind the line of scrimmage on a consistent basis.
Good evening, Micah Parsons.
Such a terrific blitzer. pic.twitter.com/ycIzYKRkvA
— Jared Feinberg (@JrodDraftScout) June 28, 2020
Micah Parsons is more than likely the best linebacker prospect to enter the NFL ranks in over a decade. He is a game-changer, possessing elite tools, and he could blossom into one of the league’s most feared defenders.
Pat Freiermuth, Tight End, Junior (6-foot-5, 259 pounds)
When you’re dubbed as “Baby Gronk”, that is a clear indication that there is something special there. That is the case with the nation’s top tight end prospect, Pat Freiermuth. Since arriving at Penn State, Freiermuth has proven to be a touchdown machine, as his 15 career scores would indicate.
In addition to being a lethal red-zone threat, Freiermuth is a willing and capable blocker. He has prototypical size for the position, strong mitts, and presents a matchup nightmare for the opposition.
Pro Football Network’s Dalton Miller is impressed with Freiermuth, stating: “Man, this kid has got some absolute vice grips for hands. The ball disappears when it hits his hands, as he secures it out from his frame and quickly hides it from defenders looking to dislodge it. He’s able to create separation downfield on hard-breaking routes by working his stem opposite of his break to out-leverage off defenders.”
“Baby Gronk” is high praise for any tight end prospect. However, the clip below will show you why so many are specifically comparing Freiermuth to Rob Gronkowski.
Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth is a bully, probably best to just get out of his way.pic.twitter.com/q8KdQYcwNa
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) June 4, 2020
When the 2021 NFL Draft rolls around, Pat Freiermuth is a surefire first-round selection, who is likely to hear his name called between picks 10 and 20. We have seen players such as Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, George Kittle, and Mark Andrews help young quarterbacks develop. What a home run it would be for a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars to land Trevor Lawrence and Freiermuth with their 2021 first-round picks.
Jayson Oweh, Edge, Redshirt Sophomore (6-foot-5, 257 pounds)
NFL scouts are fans of players that possess elite traits, and the speedy Penn State pass-rusher Jayson Oweh certainly is a player who comes with upper-echelon tools. Don’t let his 2019 stat line confuse you; it’s impressive that he was able to secure 5.0 sacks and two forced fumbles serving in a rotational role behind the likes of Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney.
Pro Football Network’s Matt Valdovinos does a sensational job at demonstrating Oweh’s athletic profile in the following quote: “Oweh is a game-changing athlete. In an interview with Chris Hummer of 247sports, Oweh claims to run a 4.33-second 40-yard dash, 4.11-second shuttle, 36.5-inch vert, and a 127-inch broad jump. Those numbers would be elite testing for a wide receiver. They’re unimaginable for a 6-foot-5, 257-pound edge rusher.”
Oweh is EXPLOSIVE, possessing a lethal first step. There is no doubt that he must enhance his pass-rush arsenal, and he must get better at setting his edge, but his speed and flexibility make him a potential pass-rushing phenom.
They say speed kills, and Oweh has that in spades. The clip below highlights Oweh’s elite first step and game-changing speed.
#4 on the Freaks List: DE Jayson Oweh. pic.twitter.com/G5QmpimTtl
— Jared Stanger (@JaredStanger) July 26, 2020
Players like Oweh who possess elite traits go in round one of any draft class. If Oweh can get his production to mirror those traits, we could be talking about a top-10 pick.
Journey Brown, Running Back, Junior (5-foot-11, 213 pounds)
As of late, Penn State has been a hotbed at producing NFL talent when it comes to the running back position. We all know the brilliance of Saquon Barkley, who was followed by the Philadelphia Eagles 2019 second-round pick Miles Sanders. Now it’s Journey Brown’s turn to establish himself as a premium player at the position.
As I pointed out in a previous article, “Brown is blazing fast, as expected from a former track star, being clocked at an astonishing 4.29 forty-yard dash time. He also runs with power, allowing him to break tackles and create yards after contact in chunks. He needs to develop as a pass-catcher, but when he comes to carrying the rock, Brown is brilliant.”
He doesn’t stop fighting for yards. Take a glimpse at the clip below and watch Journey Brown run through the Memphis defense, breaking four tackles and putting six points on the board.
journey brown is a monster pic.twitter.com/a4lmFYmGY0
— josh houtz (@houtz) December 28, 2019
After Travis Etienne (Clemson), Najee Harris (Alabama), Chuba Hubbard (Oklahoma State), and Kenneth Gainwell (Memphis) give me Journey Brown as the best draft-eligible running back in college football. Be prepared for a statistical explosion from Brown, as he will be running behind a very strong Penn State offensive line. Do not sleep on Journey Brown as a top-75 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.