The Highs and Lows of Penn State's 2024 NFL Draft (2024)

Penn State produced another prolific weekend at the 2024 NFL Draft, with eight Nittany Lions getting selected during the three-day event in Detroit. Four players went on Day 3, while several others turned to the free-agent market for opportunities. It was a fascinating draft for Penn State with some unique insight into the 2023 roster. Let's take a look.

First, a recap of Penn State's eight draft picks:

Offensive tackle Olu Fashanu: Round 1 (11 overall), New York Jets

Defensive end Chop Robinson: Round 1 (21 overall), Miami Dolphins

Offensive tackle Caedan Wallace: Round 3 (68 overall), New England Patriots

Defensive end Adisa Isaac: Round 3, (93 overall), Baltimore Ravens

Tight end Theo Johnson: Round 4 (107 overall), New York Giants

Center Hunter Nourzad: Round 5 (159 overall), Kansas City Chiefs

Cornerback Daequan Hardy: Round 6 (219 overall), Buffalo Bills

Cornerback Kalen King: Round 7 (255 overall), Green Bay Packers

A few stats about Penn State's draft class

  • The eight selections matched a program high during head coach James Franklin's tenure
  • This marked Penn State's seventh straight year with five ore more picks
  • Three programs have had at least one player drafted in the first three rounds for 19 consecutive seasons: Penn State, USC and LSU
  • Penn State's historical draft count stands at 389, ranking seventh among FBS programs. Penn State has 42 first-round picks.

Penn State's year of the offensive linemen

Was Penn State's 2023 offensive line the best since 1995? It's a fair question to ask. Three linemen were selected in the 2024 NFL Draft, led by consensus All-American Olu Fashanu to the New York Jets at No. 11 overall. Caedan Wallace delivered a surge season at right tackle to become a third-round pick, and center Hunter Nourzad went fromCornell to Penn State to Kansas City in Round 5.

The last time Penn State produced three drafted linemen was 1996. That year, four members of Penn State's front were drafted, led by first-rounders Jeff Hartings and Andre Johnson. They formed Penn State's best offensive line of the Big Ten era with tackle Keith Conlin (6th round), guard Marco Rivera (6th round) and center Bucky Greeley (a free-agent signee of the Carolina Panthers). That group fronted the prolific Penn State offense of 1994 that produced the program's last unbeaten season.

If guard Sal Wormley gets drafted next season, that would be four starters from Penn State's 2023 line. Just like that 1994-95 lines. Heck, Fashanu was the first tackle drafted in the James Franklin era. Last year's offensive line might have been undervalued.

The rise of Daequan Hardy

While starting cornerbacks Kalen King and Johnny Dixon did not play in the Peach Bowl in December, Hardy made his second career start and led the team in total snaps (84). Before the game, Hardy said he wanted to play to demonstrate his worth for any potential scouts watching. That, along with his punt-return skills and his 4.38 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, got Hardy noticed by Buffalo Bills.

Meanwhile, starting cornerbacks Kalen King (seventh round) and Johnny Dixon (undrafted) never gained much draft traction. In fact, 10 cornerbacks were taken in the fifth round alone.

What about Kalen King?

The cornerback gave a raw interview to the Green Bay Packers media Saturday after being selected in the seventh round at No. 257 overall. More here from the call, but this was particularly revealing.

The experience I got the past three days, it was nothing but a humbling experience for me, and I’m going to use it as fuel to the fire," King said. "There's been a lot of doubters in my ear, there’s been a lot of doubters [about] me the last couple months. I know what I’m capable of and I’m ready to show the world."

What about Curtis Jacobs?

The linebacker made nine tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks last season, surprisingly went undrafted. Jacobs was a three-year starter who made more than 100 tackles the past two seasons. However, 15 linebackers were drafted without Jacobs hearing his name called. The Athletic's Dane Brugler rated Jacobs as the No. 10 linebacker in the draft, projecting him as a fifth-round pick. And he was the draft's 108th-rated player according to ESPN.

So what went wrong? Brugler pointed to Jacobs' "lack of physicality" as a concern. That Jacobs did not register a pass breakup last season might have caused teams to question his coverage skills. However, Jacobs might get a soft landing in free agency. He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

SIGNED: Curtis Jacobs

Happy Valley → Title Town #WeAre x @CurtisUpNext23 x @Chiefs pic.twitter.com/PLIuDE8pDD

— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) April 27, 2024

What about Johnny Dixon?

The starting cornerback sustained a hip injury before the NFL Draft Combine and did not work out there or at Penn State's Pro Day. That was a setback. Dixon said in March that he did not need surgery and expected to be "fully recovered" by the draft. However, the injury might have made teams reluctant.

"I've been through worse," Dixon said. "It's just realizing that my journey isn't over, my story isn't over. And I know that I'm going to make it through and still be everything I want to be."

In the free-agent market

In addition to Jacobs, several other Nittany Lions got NFL opportunities. Safety Keaton Ellis signed with the Tennessee Titans, and running back Trey Potts got a mini-camp invite from Kansas City.

More Penn State Draft News

James Franklin attended two draft parties on opening night

What the New York Giants are getting in Theo Johnson

Adisa Isaac gets his opportunity with the Baltimore Ravens

AllPennState is the place for Penn State news, opinion and perspective on the SI.com network. Publisher Mark Wogenrich has covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching staffs, three Big Ten titles and a catalog of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @MarkWogenrich.

The Highs and Lows of Penn State's 2024 NFL Draft (2024)

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