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Penn State defender called ‘most underrated player in the nation’

The Nittany Lions have several stars on defense, but this Penn State defender has the potential to be “the most underrated player in the nation,” according to one NFL GM.

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Penn State defender, Penn State Football, most underrated player in the nation
Oct 22, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions line backer Curtis Jacobs (23) pressures Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim (24) during the third quarter at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Minnesota 45-17. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

One thing that Penn State football will not lack in 2023 is playmakers on defense. From Chop Robinson to Abdul Carter to Kalen King, standout players fill nearly every level of the field. But with a star-studded Nittany Lion defense comes the potential for some players to slip between the cracks. One such Penn State defender, linebacker Curtis Jacobs, was recently called potentially the “most underrated player in the nation” by an NFL general manager in the early 2024 Draft scouting process.

Curtis Jacobs called ‘most underrated player in the nation’

Last week, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller published a piece on the top 10 under-the-radar prospects for next year’s NFL Draft. Miller surveyed over a dozen NFL scouts and front-office executives from across the league to compile his list of sleeper picks. While Miller notes that the Penn State defense has several potential top-50 picks, Curtis Jacobs is the player who “stands out in a big way.”

The headline-grabbing evaluation in the article comes from an unnamed AFC general manager. Miller writes that after viewing the best 2024 prospects, this GM said Jacobs may be “the most underrated player in the nation.” “[Olu Fashanu] gets all the praise there, and he’s great, but Jacobs might be a top-five player in the class when it’s all said and done,” Miller cites of the GM directly.

A scout in the AFC provided a deeper breakdown of what makes Jacobs a standout. “That dude is exactly what the linebacker position is becoming,” the evaluation from the AFC scout reads. “He can absolutely fly, and he has produced on three downs. … Watching him play in space, I don’t think you’d ever have to take him off the field.”

Primed for a big year, Jacobs has had a quiet offseason for Penn State football

Some Penn State football fans might scratch their heads at the notion of Curtis Jacobs being “underrated.” After appearing in eight games as a true freshman during the shortened 2020 COVID season, Jacobs burst onto the scene with 61 tackles in 2021. The Penn State defender followed up this season with an All-Big Ten honorable mention performance in 2022. Jacobs was third on the team with 52 tackles last year and also recorded 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and a pick-six against Michigan.

Indeed, when Jacobs announced his decision to come back to Penn State for 2023, it was viewed as one of the most significant retentions for Manny Diaz and the Nittany Lion defense. But this offseason, the NFL Draft buzz generated by Chop Robinson and Kalen King has outshined that of Jacobs. Most national college football media have spent the spring discussing Penn State’s sophomore linebacker standout, Abdul Carter. Even among the most hardcore Penn State football junkies, focus in the linebacker room recently has gone to emerging true freshman Tony Rojas. Relatively speaking, Curtis Jacobs has had a quiet offseason.

But for the Penn State defense to reach its full potential this year, Jacobs must play a critical role. Not only will Manny Diaz depend on Jacob’s playmaking ability, but Penn State will need his experience on a unit that lost several key leaders from 2022. If Curtis Jacobs continues his natural upward trajectory, then he – and Penn State football – could be in store for a special season in 2023.



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Matt is a Co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

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