Last updated: April 26. 2013 12:14AM - 2844 Views
By - dlevarse@civitasmedia.com - (570) 991-6396

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Many of them had already graduated or left campus after the fall semester. But this weekend, Penn State’s memorable senior class will officially begin to part ways today as the NFL Draft continues on.

Linebacker Gerald Hodges has the best shot of being selected today during Day 2, which consists of the second and third rounds. Saturday — Rounds 4-7 — could see linebacker Michael Mauti, defensive tackle Jordan Hill and center Matt Stankiewitch hear their names called.

Those are the four players who received invitations to the NFL scouting combine over the winter and received grades that were posted by the league.

Gerald Hodges, OLB

NFL scout grade: 72.4

Projection: Eventual starter (2nd-3rd round)

The NFL is undeniably a passing league, and that fact could boost Hodges’ stock dramatically.

A guy that came to campus as a safety before moving up to linebacker still has the instincts and mobility that made him an impressive prospect as a defensive back.

Penn State’s lack of depth in the secondary was the main reason that the Lions didn’t run a nickel package last season. But Hodges’ presence as an every-down player helped make up for it.

“It’s different in college football than it is in pro football,” O’Brien said. “You have to have nickel and dime in the pros, because it’s a passing league. Gerald Hodges was our space linebacker, and in the Big Ten he was as good as a lot of nickel DBs. I thnk we were OK there.”

Michael Mauti, ILB

NFL scout grade: 71.8

Projection: Eventual starter (2nd-3rd round)

That projection from the NFL is based on Mauti’s talent and, unfortunately for him, does not take into account his three ACL surgeries. That alarming number will almost certainly push him into the third day and the later rounds of the draft.

But give Mauti full credit for his tireless rehab. Despite suffering this latest injury in late November, Mauti has been able to do many drills and activities just five months later.

Working in Mauti’s favor is the outstanding reputation he cultivated in the past year as the face of the Lions during their lowest moments. His leadership and work ethic make him an appealing choice for a team that can afford to bring him along slowly.

Jordan Hill, DT

NFL scout grade: 64.6

Projection: Draftable player (4th-7th round)

Were he a few inches taller, Hill would likely be in high demand during the draft’s early rounds. Instead, the Lions co-captain looks to slot in somewhere on Saturday.

Though the concern is that he could be pushed around by massive offensive linemen, Hill has worked to use his 6-foot-1 frame to his advantage in getting leverage on bigger opponents and getting under their pads to drive them back.

This was on full display in his final Penn State game against Wisconsin, where he thrashed a Badgers front that is known best for its bulk.

Matt Stankiewitch, C

NFL scout grade: 52.2

Projection: Draftable player (4th-7th round)

Good, consistent centers are tough to find. Stankiewitch was one of Penn State’s most reliable players the past two seasons — intelligent, a good leader to anchor the line and solid in all game situations.

He doesn’t have the measurables that would earn him a high spot in the draft, but he looks to be a safe investment later on for any team looking for a center.

The seniors depart

Of course, a combine invite isn’t a necessity to being drafted.

At the top of the list of remaining seniors, cornerback Stephon Morris turned some heads at Penn State’s pro day this winter and may have worked his way onto the draft radar.

Morris and teammates Matt McGloin, Michael Zordich, Sean Stanley, Mike Farrell and Pete Massaro will all look to sign on with a team as free agents for training camp if they go undrafted.

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