Penn State might have the No. 1 pick in the 2025 NFL Draft and it’s not Drew Allar

The NFL is quarterback crazy, but it also needs pass-rushers to get after the highly-drafted passers. While Allar may stagnate in Year 2 as Penn State's starter, Abdul Carter will fly up draft boards.
Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Abdul Carter
Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Abdul Carter / Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

There are two things that James Franklin has yet to accomplish in his otherwise successful ten-year run at Penn State; making the College Football Playoff and developing a quality NFL quarterback. 

There’s a greater than zero percent chance that those two things go hand-in-hand. That’s why it was such a big deal for the Nittany Lions to sign Drew Allar, the top quarterback in the 2022 high school class. Allar’s arrival in Happy Valley was supposed to check both boxes before Franklin hand-delivered him to the NFL, a polished, pro-ready passer. 

Well, after two years on campus and one year as the starter, there are far more questions surrounding the future of the former five-star. The way he performed in 2023 didn't remind any NFL evaluators of other first-round talents and other than a 12-team CFP expansion, Penn State isn’t any closer to the top of the college football landscape. 

Even after another underwhelming year with losses to Ohio State and Michigan, Penn State had eight players selected in the 2024 NFL draft, matching the most of the James Franklin era. Plus, Olu Fashanu and Chop Robinson were his fifth and sixth first-round picks. 

At No. 11 overall, Fashanu was the highest selection for a Penn State player since Saquon Barkley who went No. 2 overall in 2018 coming off a Big Ten title. The Nittany Lions need that level of elite talent to win the conference and make the playoff. This year, it’s unlikely to be Allar, but the No. 1 pick in the 2025 NFL Draft might still be on the roster. 

Recently, sportsbooks began to release odds for the first overall selection in next year’s draft, slotting Shedeur Sanders as the prohibitive favorite. The reality is, Sanders is far from a sure thing, and with Coach Prime as his primary advisor will intentionally limit the number of landing spots for himself in the league. That opens the door for several darkhorse candidates, including Allar, and Abdul Carter. 

While the odds naturally favor the quarterback, Carter’s move to defensive end should unleash his immense athletic potential and give NFL scouts visions of Micah Parsons. Parsons is in a select group of the best defensive players in the league, regularly mentioned alongside Myles Garrett, T.J. Watt, and before he retired, Aaron Donald. 

Carter profiles as a dominant pass-rusher after posting a pass-rush win rate of 24.8% across his 112 pass-rush snaps. That ranked him third in college football, behind Ben Bell at Texas State and Laiatu Latu, who despite previously medically retiring from football due to a neck injury before transferring to UCLA, was the 15th overall pick to the Indianapolis Colts last week. 

On true pass sets, Carter only rushed 42.5% of the time but won 30% of those reps, the 23rd-best rate in the nation. NFL teams won’t just fall in love with his ability to “pin his ears back” and get after the quarterback, but also the versatility he presents with his background as an off-ball linebacker and quality coverage player. 

Since Courtney Brown went No. 1 overall in 2000 (Penn State’s second first-overall selection), 18 of the last 23 first-overall picks have been quarterbacks. That could likely be the case again in 2025, with either Sanders, Georgia’s Carson Beck, or even Texas’s Quinn Ewers, but a year out, it looks like a crop of QBs that NFL teams could become disenchanted by. If teams sour on the class or feel set at the most important position, after six teams selected quarterbacks in 2024, then Carter should be on the short-list of non-QB candidates for the No. 1 overall selection. 

In program history, Penn State has had six players selected with a top 3 pick in the NFL draft. Ki-Jana Carter (1995) and Brown (2000) were the only first-overall selections, and three of those six players were running backs, Carter, Barkley, and Curt Warner. The other was like Abdul Carter, a Penn State linebacker, the reason that Carter and Parsons both wore No. 11 during their time in Happy Valley, LaVar Arrington.

Much of the responsibility for turning Carter into a dominant force on the edge will fall to Tom Allen, Penn State’s new defensive coordinator, but regardless of Carter’s production, his 6-foot-3 250-pound frame oozes talent. After 11 teams passed on Parsons in 2018, the league won’t want to miss on the next member of St1x C1ty.

Where every Penn State player if heading after NFL draft. Where every Penn State player if heading after NFL draft. dark. Next