NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

Penn State Football: These Position Groups Have Developed Best During James Franklin Era

The Penn State Football program has produced no shortage of NFL talent during the 10 years under the leadership of head coach James Franklin.

James Franklin, Penn State Football
Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)


Since Franklin arrived in Happy Valley, 46 Penn Staters have heard their names called during the NFL draft, 37 of those in the past six years.

While the program has been enjoying NFL Draft success rarely seen in program history, which position groups have benefited the most from Franklin’s tutelage?

Position Groups James Franklin has Developed Best at Penn State Football

Penn State Football, Mike Gesicki, NFL
New England Patriots tight end Mike Gesicki (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

Tight end

Its safe to say that Penn State has had an “Ace” up its sleeve with tight ends in the Franklin era.

Mike Gesicki started the trend of second-round tight ends with phenomenal careers in Happy Valley when he entered the program in 2014. At the time Gesicki was drafted in the second round in the 2019 NFL Draft, he left Penn State with the tight end record for catches, yards, and touchdowns.

Gesicki’s touchdown record was short-lived, however, as Pat Freiermuth took over where Gesicki left off in 2019 and caught a program tight end record 16 touchdowns before becoming a second-round pick himself in the 2021 NFL draft.

Last season, Penn State saw its latest member of the elite “Aces” position group once again get drafted in the second round in the 2023 NFL draft.

Now, Theo Johnson is entering the 2024 NFL Draft, and Tyler Warren has the opportunity in 2024, after returning to Happy Valley for one final go-round, to continue to bolster Franklin’s tight end pipeline.

Throw in five-star arrival Luke Reynolds, and it is obvious that the “Aces” aren’t going anywhere and should continue to be one of the best developed position groups for Penn State for years to come.


Defensive back

Joey Porter Jr., Penn State Football
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)


With 11 defensive backs drafted since 2015, the Penn State defensive back room has been the deepest position group developed during the James Franklin era.

Although Penn State’s streak of not having a defensive back drafted in the first round of the NFL draft continued for another year when Joey Porter Jr. slipped out of the first round to number 32 overall in the 2023 NFL draft, Penn State Football has produced plenty of underrated talent at the position.

The biggest development came from two JUCO products from Lackawana County Community College, in Ji’Ayir Brown (third-round pick in 2023) and Jaquan Brisker (second-round pick in 2022).

Cornerbacks coach Terry Smith and safeties coach Anthony Pointdexter are among the most respected coaches at their positions and it shows with the respect given to Penn State’s defensive back room across college football.


Wide receiver

Chris Godwin, Penn State Football
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)


Wide receiver development has been hot and cold at Penn State in the James Franklin era.

Penn State Football has seen some program-changing wide receivers come through the ranks but has also seen disappointment with development under two receivers coaches David Corley and Taylor Stubblefield.

However, five Penn State wide receivers have been selected since 2014, including four in the first three rounds.

Chris Godwin turned a monster Rose Bowl game in 2016 into a third-round NFL draft selection.

Meanwhile, DaeSean Hamilton left Penn State as the all-time leader in receptions and second in yards, turning his incredible career into a fourth-round selection in 2018.

Then there’s KJ Hamler, one of the most electric players Penn State has seen in the past decade. Hamler was a second-round selection in 2020.

Jahan Dotson, a signing day flip for James Franklin, became one of the best wide receivers in program history before becoming only the second offensive first-round pick from Penn State under James Franklin.

While there are other positions that have produced a ton of NFL talent, running back and linebacker specifically, I kept those off the list because of the high recruit rankings of the players being drafted in those positions.

The question now becomes, will these position groups remain the bread and butter for Penn State’s NFL draft picks, or will another position group take over for Penn State’s future draft potential?

One position group to keep an eye on is offensive line.

With Olu Fashanu headlining the 2024 NFL draft class already, and incredible young talent such as Drew Shelton emerging, Penn State may be well on its way to a run on offensive linemen in the upcoming drafts.

Drew Allar, Penn State Football
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Robert Casturo