Amani Oruwariye hadn’t gone through on-field drills yet at the NFL scouting combine. But the Penn State cornerback was feeling confident after watching six of his teammates turn in strong performances ahead of him.
“We killed the combine last year, and we’ve been killing it so far this year,” Oruwariye boasted about his alma mater to reporters in Indianapolis during his media session on Sunday. “I’m hoping I can just put the cherry on top.”
That cherry came on Monday. And it might be worth millions of dollars to him.
Oruwariye clocked a 4.47 in the 40 — faster than expected — on the final day of the combine, increasing his odds of being the first Penn State player to be selected in April’s draft.
While some early mock drafts had him as a potential first-round pick, the second round is more likely, with projections trending toward Oruwariye, running back Miles Sanders and offensive lineman Connor McGovern hearing their names called on the second day of the draft (rounds 2-3).
Four other Nittany Lions at the combine likely boosted their stock over the past week as well, with defensive end Shareef Miller likely next up on scouts’ lists ahead of fellow defensive lineman Kevin Givens, offensive lineman Ryan Bates and quarterback Trace McSorley.
They were never going to match last year’s dominant combine group headlined by Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki, but it was a successful week nonetheless.
His 40 time only tied for 12th among corners, but for Oruwariye, it was a very important benchmark.
NFL teams, particularly those that play zone-heavy coverages, love him for his frame of nearly 6-foot-2. But speed was the main concern headed into the combine.
“I have to do more work on him. Can he really run?” NFL Network analyst and former pro scout Daniel Jeremiah said on a conference call prior to the combine. “That’s my knock and concern.”
And it was a big one.
Oruwariye’s NFL.com scouting report quoted an anonymous pro personnel director of an NFC team, who said, “Our national scout is high on him because of his size and length. We don’t care as much about speed numbers as long as you can play the big receivers and make plays on the ball, but he has to hit our minimum speed numbers at the combine.”
Hitting the 4.4 range certainly qualifies, and it could land him a better draft position and a more lucrative contract.
As it is, Oruwariye has a chance to become the highest drafted cornerback in history from Penn State, a program better known for producing pro safeties. The Lions have techincally never had a corner selected in the first two rounds, with David Macklin (third round, 91st overall, 2000) and Rich Gardner (third round, 92nd overall, 2004) topping the list.
Bryan Scott (second round, 55th overall, 2003) played corner at Penn State but was drafted as a safety.
Oruwariye likely helped his cause further by tying for sixth among corners with a 6.82-second three cone drill on Monday. His 17 reps on the bench press Sunday were tied for fifth at the position.
On the line
Up front, McGovern figures to be the first of four Penn State linemen on either side of the ball to be drafted. The Lake-Lehman grad helped reinforce his stock by placing in the top 10 among offensive linemen of each drill he participated in while holding out of the 40 and the vertical jump.
His ability to plug and play across the line should help him, but teams see him lining up on the interior barring an emergency.
“He’s one of my favorite guards because he’s got real size and real power,” an anonymous NFC offensive line coach told NFL.com. “A lot of college linemen are coming in so light that it takes time to get them big and strong enough to play.”
Bates, likewise, stood out at Penn State at both guard and tackle. Shorter than McGovern, he’s also ticketed for the interior and did well in agility drills to help his chances at becoming a late draft pick along with Givens, whose main concern on the defensive line is his size.
That’s not an issue for Miller, who checks in at 6-foot-5 and turned a 4.69 40 time that landed him just inside the top 10 among edge rushers at the combine. He projects as a Day 3 pick.
“Our scouts were really hard on him but I thought the tape showed potential,” an anonymous NFC personnel director told NFL.com. “He’s a Day 3 player all day long, but there are things he can do that coaches can work with.”
Penn State’s biggest winner of the past week may have been Sanders. But the man he lined up next to in 2018, McSorley, has been the subject of plenty of discussion.
Sanders was named to NFL.com’s all-combine team at running back along with Ohio State’s Mike Weber. Sanders’ strong all-around showing was topped by his 6.89-second mark in the three cone drill, which was best among all running backs.
His situation is pretty straightforward as a projected mid-round pick. McSorley’s situation is anything but.
Multiple reports over the weekend revealed that McSorley was asked to work out at defensive back, the position most colleges recruited him to play.
He declined. He did, however, record a 4.57 time in the 40, best among all quarterbacks this year.
His skillset led to one prominent NFL coach to wonder if his career could follow the path of reigning Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, a three-year starting quarterback at Kent State drafted in the final round as a wideout 10 years ago by the New England Patriots.
“When I looked at him, my first thought was, ‘I wonder if he can be Edelman?’ ” New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton told NBC Sports’ Peter King. “I wondered if he could be a versatile kind of guy.”
McSorley, of course, would prefer to be Tom Brady rather than Edelman. His 6-foot frame may not give him that opportunity.
It’s not certain McSorley will be drafted next month. But no matter how he ends up in a camp, he said he’s going to make it as hard as possible for that team to cut him.
“Nobody’s gonna outwork me,” McSorley said. “They’re gonna have to drag me off the field.”
Lake-Lehman and Penn State alum Connor McGovern finished in the top 10 among offensive lineman in each drill he particpated in at the combine.
Penn State’s Trace McSorley was reportedly asked to work out with defensive backs by some NFL teams at the combine, but the Lions’ all-time passing leader participated only at quarterback.
Shareef Miller made his case to be drafted at the combine with a 40 time in the top 10 among edge rushers.
Amani Oruwariye has a chance to be Penn State’s highest-drafted cornerback in history. He helped his cause Monday by running a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash.