Penn State's Wisniewski, Royster among area players selected in NFL draft

Posted: May 02, 2011

It was slim pickings for Penn State during the 3-day NFL draft that concluded Saturday, with only two Nittany Lions - center Stefen Wisniewski, who went to the Oakland Raiders in the second round, and running back Evan Royster to the Washington Redskins in the sixth - among the 254 players selected.

That figure does not include Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor, who was taken by the Cleveland Browns with the 21st selection in the first round. The 6-4, 337-pound Taylor was at Penn State for two seasons, but was dismissed by coach Joe Paterno for his participation in a 2007 fistfight at a fraternity.

The court-ordered reinstatement of the NFL lockout means that other Penn State draft-eligible players who were not picked - including defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu, wide receiver Brett Brackett, linebackers Bani Gbadyu and Chris Colasanti, and kicker Collin Wagner - are, for now, ineligible to sign make-good, free-agent contracts.

Another disappointed player who did not receive a welcome-aboard call from an NFL club during the draft was Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich, the Conestoga High graduate and recipient of the 2011 Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Most Courageous Athlete Award, who played last season after sitting out 2009 while being treated for Ewing's sarcoma, a virulent form of bone cancer.

"I have been told that I can't play football before," Herzlich wrote via Twitter. "We all know what happened with that. Great thing about a bad day is that you can thank God for the opportunity to wake up the next day with a smile on your face."

Royster had considered coming out for the draft after his junior year, during which he rushed for 1,169 yards and scored eight touchdowns (two on pass receptions), but returned to Happy Valley. Although he did become the first Penn State running back to string together three 1,000-yard seasons, finishing as the school's all-time leading rusher with 3,932 yards, NFL scouts noted that he lacked the top-end speed to be a featured ballcarrier.

After the draft, however, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said he expected Royster to compete with fourth-round pick Roy Helu, of Nebraska, and holdover Ryan Torain for the No. 1 running back position. That apparently signaled an end to the NFL career, at least in Washington, of Clinton Portis, a 10-year veteran who has rushed for 1,000 or more yards in six different seasons, but has been hampered in recent years by injuries.

Cleveland general manager Tom Heckert, who was with the Eagles for nine seasons, and as GM from 2006 through '09, said he did not believe there were character issues with Taylor, despite the circumstances under which he left Penn State.

"We really like Taylor," Heckert said. "He's a big man who can push the pocket."

Taylor, who transferred to Baylor in large part because former PSU assistant coach Brian Norwood had preceded him there as defensive coordinator, also said he believed he was coming into the NFL with minimal off-field baggage.

"I was young, I made a mistake and learned from it," he said. "I moved on to Baylor and made the most of my second chance."

Another local product, Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott, was selected in the seventh round by the New York Giants.

Scott, who starred at Plymouth-Whitemarsh, never came close to matching his 2008 statistics, when he rushed for 1,133 yards and scored eight touchdowns during his final two seasons with the Terrapins.

Giants GM Jerry Reese said he sees potential in the 5-11, 205 Scott.

"We took a flier on the guy because he is big and fast," Reese said. "He had a terrific sophomore season. His production fell off, but late in the draft, this is what you look for. You look for guys with some redeeming qualities."

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