How Penn State players drafted on Day 3 will fit with their new NFL teams

Penn State had two players taken on the third day of the 2023 NFL Draft after having four selected on the second day Friday night.

In a surprise, QB Sean Clifford was the first Nittany Lion taken Saturday — by the Green Bay Packers — followed by WR Parker Washington, who went to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Let’s take a look at how the Nittany Lions will fare with their new NFL teams.

QB Sean Clifford to the Green Bay Packers

Uh, wow. I did not think Clifford was going to be drafted and I definitely didn’t think he was going in the top 150. There are myriad things to address here, so let’s start with the player and what he brings to the table. Clifford is a four-year starter who was one of Penn State’s best leaders in his time as a Nittany Lion. For all of the ups and downs of his career, effort and love for what he did was never in question. He left the program as its all-time leading passer because of his longevity and that’s notable.

As a passer, there are questions he’ll have to answer. Clifford struggled with accuracy, often missing targets in the intermediate areas of the field with overthrows and struggling at times with his ball placement on deep passes. He doesn’t have elite arm strength but he has enough to be an NFL quarterback and that will likely never be a question in his career. The former Nittany Lion struggled under pressure and often ran himself into sacks once he started to feel pressure that wasn’t always there.

Clifford is a great athlete for the position, showing the physicality and speed to be a legitimate threat in the running game. He’s tough, often taking big hits and getting right back up, and playing through plenty of injuries. Those positives are likely why the Packers made the call to pick him up. His leadership, athleticism and toughness make him a potential backup in the NFL. It seems unlikely that he’ll ever start for a long stretch, but taking him in the fifth round indicates a plan to have Clifford back up new starting quarterback Jordan Love. His athleticism should allow him to replicate some of what the starter does if he ever has to play in a pinch. Clifford is a few months older than Love, and could be able to back him up for a long time if things work out in his favor in Green Bay.

WR Parker Washington to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Washington enters an interesting situation with Jacksonville. He’ll join teammate Brenton Strange there as they begin their careers and both should benefit from the landing spot. Washington is undersized at about 5-foot-10, but is stocky at 204 pounds. He’s a slot receiver in the NFL because of his size and enters a situation where Christian Kirk has that spot locked up. However, there’s reason to believe he could find success with the Jaguars.

There are few offensive playcallers in the NFL that are more creative than Jacksonville head coach Doug Pederson. He’s excellent at getting the ball in the hands of his best athletes and allowing them to create in the open field. There’s a player on Jacksonville’s roster that he can emulate in Jamal Agnew, who Pederson has schemed up touches for. Agnew has been used in motion on jet sweeps, as a returner and in the backfield. Washington can do all of those things and could be a higher upside replacement for Agnew, given his added ability to play as a true wide receiver.

Washington has an excellent catch radius for someone his size, using his leaping ability and strong hands to make catches in contested situations. He’ll not only benefit from having Pederson, but also star quarterback Trevor Lawrence. While the draft investment — a sixth round pick — doesn’t point to a great opportunity for Washington to make the roster, he’ll have a chance to find a role in Jacksonville and could benefit from that in the long run.