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Notable Penn State football transfer portal losses selected in NFL Draft

Some key departures from Happy Valley had their names called in the NFL Draft this weekend.



Penn State Football, transfer portal, NFL Draft
Dec 19, 2020; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Will Levis (7) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft has concluded. James Franklin and his staff have earned the reputation as one of the top developers of NFL talent in college football. Penn State football joins Georgia, Ohio State, and Alabama as the only four programs with at least five NFL draft picks in the last six NFL Drafts. This year, six Nittany Lions heard their names called on draft weekend. However, in today’s age of the transfer portal, the number of former Penn State football players selected in the NFL Draft climbs even higher. Here are some of the most notable Penn State transfer portal losses selected in a crazy 2023 NFL Draft. 

Former Penn State quarterback becomes biggest storyline of NFL Draft

The NFL Draft’s biggest storyline was the fall of former Penn State quarterback Will Levis. Levis, a three-star QB from Middletown, CT, committed to a crowded quarterback room filled with Trace McSorley, Tommy Stevens, and Sean Clifford in 2018. Clifford beat out Stevens for the starting job in 2019, leaving Levis as the backup. 

In 2020, Clifford struggled and faced injuries, creating a larger role for Levis. There was much debate about who should be the starting quarterback during Penn State’s tumultuous 2020 season. Ultimately, Clifford beat out Levis for the job, and Levis decided to take his talents to Kentucky.

Levis went 17-7 in his two seasons at Kentucky and led the Wildcats to heights the program has never seen before. During NFL Draft evaluations, Levis’s size and natural ability drew comparisons to Josh Allen. Last week, as rumors swirled that he would be drafted number one overall, most pundits expected Levis to be a high first-round pick. But surprisingly, Levis dropped a selection below Joey Porter Jr. and was drafted in the 2nd round (33rd overall) by the Tennessee Titans.

The media attention given to Levis’s fall was nothing short of brutal. The former Penn State quarterback was compared to Aaron Rodgers on ESPN’s coverage of the NFL Draft. Many brought up that Levis lost Penn State’s quarterback competition to Clifford. When Clifford was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, people touted him as “the quarterback that famously held off Will Levis.” 

Whether or not the Penn State fan base cares, Levis is a Nittany Lion. Levis graduated from Penn State in three years. Levis’s girlfriend (who also got a lot of media attention) is a Penn Stater. Penn State fans should root for Levis in the NFL.

Top prospect from 2018 Penn State football recruiting class becomes mid-round selection

Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class might be its best ever. There were three five stars in class, including 2021’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Micah Parsons. One of these five stars was Justin Shorter, a 6-5 226-pound receiver from NJ who was expected to be a huge part of Penn State’s offenses. But Shorter never panned out at Penn State, recording only 166 yards from scrimmage on 16 players over two years in Happy Valley.

After the 2019 season, Shorter hit the transfer portal and headed to Florida. As a Gator, Shorter had 1,395 all-purpose yards and 8 touchdowns over three seasons. His size and speed combination made Shorter an excellent vertical threat in Gainesville. On Saturday, the Buffalo Bills selected Shorter in the 5th round to provide depth in a crowded receiver room that emphasizes the deep ball. 

Massive Tight End from Happy Valley’s footprint gets drafted late

Another piece of Penn State’s historic 2018 recruiting class was tight end Zack Kuntz. A 6-7 258-pound tight end from Camp Hill, PA, Kuntz was ranked as the fourth-best tight end in the 2018 cycle. Kuntz was believed to be the next in line of great tight ends at Penn State, following in the footsteps of Mike Gesicki and Pat Freiermuth. 

This plan did not come to fruition, as Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson rose to the top of a crowded tight end room. Kuntz decided to enter the transfer portal and join Ricky Rahne, his former offensive coordinator and current Old Dominion head coach. 

In 2021, Kuntz was second among tight ends nationwide with 73 receptions, and second on his team with 692 receiving yards. The massive tight end had five touchdowns as well. It looked like 2022 would be an even bigger year for the Camp Hill prospect, but Kuntz played in just five games before suffering a season-ending injury. 

Coming back from injury, the physical specimen Kuntz thrived at the NFL Combine. Kuntz ran an impressive 4.55-second 40-yard dash, had a 40-inch vertical, and added a 10-foot 8-inch broad jump. Since he tested so well, the New York Jets saw the potential a big target like Kuntz could have in its organization and selected the tight end in the 7th round. Kuntz joins a tight-end room that includes Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah, Jeremy Ruckert, and Kenny Yeboah. Time will tell if Kuntz becomes utilized by the Jets as part of their offense.

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