Penn State’s Oweh Could be a solid first-round pick

One of the most intriguing NFL prospects that Penn State has ever had is on the clock.

We’re not talking about Micah Parsons, who is projected as a high pick as a game-changing linebacker.

Also predicted to go in the first round is defensive end Jayson Oweh. If you can’t recall what Oweh did to merit this kind of consideration, you’re not alone.

He didn’t register a single sack last season, when the Nittany Lions stumbled to an 0-5 start and the edges of their defense were exploited (you’ll recall Ohio State opening the game with a 62-yard run right around Oweh).

Oweh was often invisible and wasn’t even the best defensive end on the team. That was Shaka Toney, who rushed the passer better and had 20.5 career sacks to Oweh’s seven.

So why are the NFL eyeballs popping on Oweh?

He’s a physical specimen who lit up Penn State’s Pro Day with all sorts of flashy numbers in the 40-yard dash, the vertical leap and cone drill.

Edge rushers are a top priority in the NFL, behind quarterback (and this class is stocked with prospects there) and alongside other pillar positions such as left tackle and cornerback.

The NFL obviously has its testing process that it’s relied on for decades. But should that overshadow on-the-field production against high-quality competition? It’s not a track meet.

I wish the young man well. He seems to be a good kid. In fact, during my inevitable Zoom snafu during a post-game interview, he politely said, “Mr. Rudel, I can’t hear you. I think you need to unmute.”

NFL agents often fill the heads of prospects with inflated hopes. For every first-round pick, three are told they could go that high.

Whatever team takes Oweh is drafting his potential, and despite what the umpteen mock drafts say, that usually comes after the first round.

Aside from Parsons and Oweh, tight end Pat Freiermuth is expected to be selected early, likely a second-day pick (rounds two-three).

Parsons’ stock is quietly dropping due to character concerns (he is alleged to have been involved in an alleged hazing case filed in early 2020.) James Franklin and Brent Pry are planning to attend the draft, which is being held in Cleveland, in support of Parsons.

I’m particularly interested in where center Michal Menet lands as a later-round pick. Entering his eighth season as Penn State coach, Franklin has recruited just one offensive lineman who has been drafted (Connor McGovern, 2019).

The best part of the draft is the emotion of players realizing lifelong dreams and being rewarded with generational wealth. NFL fans may not like Roger Goodell, but his congratulatory hugs are not standoffish.

Let’s hope that all the players gathering in the green room awaiting their fate go sooner than later and are not stuck alone as their stock plummets. And if they are, that they are quickly sequestered out of the public eye.

Many mock drafts have the Steelers taking Alabama running back Najee Harris in the first round. From this view, with the depth of quarterbacks available, Pittsburgh needs to select Ben Roethlisberger’s successor should any of the five most coveted QBs be on the board. And especially if Justin Fields falls that far, which is doubtful.

Neil Rudel covers Penn State and can be reached at 814-946-7527 or nrudel@altoonamirror.com.


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