The collegiate Pro Day circuit is in full swing. Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have been making their rounds to the premier schools to evaluate some of the top talent for this year’s NFL Draft. Recently, both Tomlin and Colbert appeared at Penn State’s Pro Day. The significance of this is that the last 10 first round draft picks by the Steelers all had both Tomlin and Colbert in attendance at their Pro Days. Here is a look at the 8 prospects that took part in Penn State’s Pro Day, which has an extra importance this year with no Combine.
Jayson Oweh – EDGE
6’5″ 257 lbs
Oweh had a monster Pro Day, putting up some insane testing numbers for an outside linebacker. He ran a blazing sub-4.4 40-yard dash and timed in at under 6.9 seconds in the 3-cone drill, which is typically a benchmark drill for edge rushers. That said, he did not have a sack this past season (though he had 5 in 2019), so his on-field production has not yet aligned with his raw athleticism. As just a redshirt sophomore, he has plenty of upside. Oweh did not start playing football until his junior year of high school, but teams have been willing to gamble early picks on highly athletic but raw prospects in the past. Sometimes, like Bud Dupree, those picks pan out and other times, like Aaron Maybin, they do not. His game needs a lot of refinement and he is not a great run defender and can struggle to diagnose plays, but his explosiveness is certainly on display when he can pin his ears back and just rush the pocket. This is not a great class of EDGE rushing prospects, and Oweh is certainly in the conversation to be the first one taken in the draft.
Projection: 1st round pick, possibly the top pass rusher taken
Lamont Wade – DB
5’9″ 190 lbs
Lamont Wade was a decorated high school prospect who continued the tradition of excellence at Clairton High School. He broke the WPIAL record for career touchdowns with 117, surpassing fellow Clairton alum Tyler Boyd. While he was a dominant running back in high school, Wade came to Penn State as the top-rated cornerback prospect in Pennsylvania. He spent his first 2 years as a slot corner then switched to safety where he started all 22 games over the last two seasons. At 5’9″ he might be a little undersized for the NFL but he plays with a fearlessness and physicality that shows up on tape. Wade is not afraid to stick his nose into any situation. His best season came as a junior when he had 67 tackles, 5 passes defended, 2 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. As a senior he recorded his only interception and also returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Wade can be an immediate contributor on special teams and is a developmental defensive back with the versatility to play either a slot corner or strong safety role.
Projection: Late Day 3 – 7th or UDFA
Micah Parsons – LB
6’3″ 246 lbs
Parsons did not play in 2020 but spent the year preparing for the draft. That hard work paid off at his pro day as he ran a blistering Ryan Shazier-esque 4.38 40-yard dash. He is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who can play all 3 downs in the NFL. There isn’t much on the field that Parsons can’t do. He can blitz, tackle, and cover as well as any linebacker in the draft. He has the pedigree to be a Top 10 player in this class. In 2019 he had over 100 tackles, 14 TFLs, 6 sacks, 5 passes defended, and 4 forced fumbles. He was a first-team All-American and the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year. Parsons is supremely athletic and is nearly a lock to be a first round pick. He could hear his name called in the Top 10 and possibly be the first defender taken in the draft.
Projection: Top 15
Michael Menet – C
6’4″ 301 lbs
Menet stepped into the starting lineup as a redshirt sophomore and locked down the position. He started all but one game at center over the last 3 seasons and was a two-time team captain. Menet is somewhat reminiscent of Doug Legursky in that he has short arms which limits his effectiveness when he has to reach outside his frame. As an interior lineman, he has a strong punch and decent hands and can hold his own in the middle of the line. He does not have great range or athleticism to pull from the inside. That said, his durability is noteworthy and Menet is likely a mid-round pick that can be a solid backup on the interior.
Projection – Early Day 3 – 4th or 5th
Pat Freiermuth – TE
6’5″ 251 lbs
If there is a tight end in this class who just straight up looks like a Pittsburgh Steeler, it’s Pat Freiermuth. He has that Heath Miller-esque combination of physicality at the point of attack, mixed with enough athleticism to get down the field and catch passes. He was a touchdown machine throughout his career, hauling in 8 TDs as a freshman and 7 as a sophomore. His junior year was cut short due to a shoulder injury after four games. He did have surgery on the shoulder so the medical testing on that will be incredibly important for his NFL outlook. Freiermuth finished his career as Penn State’s all-time Tight End leader in touchdowns and was voted the Big Ten Tight End of the Year in 2020 despite playing just four games. He displays great footwork in both blocking and receiving and is versatile enough to split out wide or play in-line.
Projection: Early 2nd round
Shaka Toney – EDGE
6’2″ 242 lbs
Toney is another Pennsylvania high school product from Imhotep Charter in Philadelphia. He was a productive pass rusher in all four of his seasons at Penn State. As a reserve his first two years, posting 4 sacks as a freshman and 5 as a sophomore (with 4 coming in the 4th quarter against Indiana). He stepped into the starting lineup as a junior and continued his progression with 6.5 sacks. As a senior he had a team-high 5 sacks and was first-team All-Big Ten. He is slightly undersized for an NFL EDGE rusher but is a solid athlete. He is at his best when speed rushing and using his explosiveness off the line. He displays a good pad level off the edge and might be best suited for a 4-3 Wide 9 defense where his burst can get him cleanly into the backfield.
Projection: Day 3 – Round 5 or 6
Will Fries – OL
6’6″ 309 lbs
Fries has been a 4-year starter at Penn State. In his 42 starts, he started at four different positions along the offensive line. Fries played every position but center, and that combination of durability and versatility should enable him to hear his name called on draft weekend. While he has played tackle, Fries is likely best suited to playing guard in the NFL. He is a little slow and is not a road-grading run-blocker. That said, he has a solid technique and good hand and footwork. He will need to add play strength at the next level, but is well-rounded as an average run blocker and pass blocker.
Projection: Day 3 – 5th or 6th round
Steven Gonzalez – OL
6’4″ 327 lbs
Technically, Gonzalez came out in last year’s class. He signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Cardinals and did not make an in-season roster. Therefore, since there was no Combine in 2020, he had the opportunity to come back and work out for scouts at Penn State’s Pro Day this year. Gonzalez is a strong lineman who lacks quickness. He is eligible to sign with a team immediately as he graduated last year.