From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling Penn State defensive lineman P.J. Mustipher.
#97 P.J. Mustipher, DL, Penn State (Senior+) — 6036, 315 Lbs.
Shrine Bowl participant
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|P.J. Mustipher||6036, 315||9 1/4″||32 1/2″||80 1/8″|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
-Power very prominent right away on film
-Explosive, shocking punch at the point of attack to stun linemen
-Relentless motor overall; never quits on a rep
-Eye-popping later explosion off the ball to jump into gaps and defeat blocks
-Shows ability and comfort to anchor and two-gap
-Former high school wrestler that has great feel for leverage in tying up blockers
-Stacks blocks very well in traffic overall, can shed and make plays quickly
-Maintained athleticism and explosiveness after adding weight to go from penetrator to two-gaper
-Profiles as more of an early-down defender that ties up blockers
-Didn’t showcase much pass rush prowess on film the last two seasons at Penn State
-Will have to develop some pass rush chops and a real play to stay on the field in sub package situations at next level
-Tends to lean too heavily on bull rush when in pass rush situations
-Needs to learn to be patient in two-gapping role; tends to get frustrated not making plays and can freelance from role at times
-Lost gap integrity in run fits and gave up his back too often to blockers in big matchups
-All-Big Ten second-team selection in 2022 and 2021
-Played in 53 career games at Penn State, starting 28 of them. Finished career with 145 tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, one pass breakup, and two forced fumbles
-Earned Penn State’s Tim Shaw Thrive Award with Bryce Effner and the Lions Pride Outstanding Senior Player Award with Sean Clifford and Nick Tarburton
-Voted team captain two straight seasons by teammates
-Younger brother of current Chicago Bears’ starting center Sam Mustipher
-Father, Sam, played football at West Virginia University in the early 90s
-2023 East-West Shrine Bowl participant
-Former 4-star recruit that competed in the Under Armor All-American Game and Nike’s The Opening prior to attending Penn State
-Studied journalism and telecommunications at Penn State
-Volunteers his time off the field with Daily Bread Homeless Shelter in Harrisburg
Even in today’s new-age game of football where it’s more about space, speed, and athleticism, Penn State interior defensive lineman PJ Mustipher is aiming to carve out a role as a traditional two-gapping defensive tackle in the NFL.
A two-time captain at Penn State who has NFL bloodlines thanks to his older brother, Sam, who has started 46 games for the Chicago Bears at center after being an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame, Mustipher will be on the radar of a number of teams on Day 3 due to his strength, motor, and ability to hold up very well in the run game.
After originally committing to Penn State over Alabama, Mustipher transformed his body, going from a 280-pound penetrating defensive lineman into a 315-pound gap-plugging brute for the Nittany Lions, earning the admiration and respect of not only teammates, but opponents and coaches as well.
He’s a fire hydrant in the middle of the defense, one that can control the point of attack against the run, cover two gaps, then stack and shed to make the play near the line of scrimmage.
When he’s in more of a traditional nose tackle role, he’s really comfortable at two-gapping at the point of attack, winning control of the offensive lineman initially in the rep, getting a look into the backfield to find the ball carrier before then stacking and shedding to make the play.
This is how it’s done two-gapping. He didn’t lean one way or the other to give the running back a read. Instead, he stayed square, created leverage against the blocker, and then was able to find the running back, shed, and make the stop for a short gain.
When not two-gapping, Mustipher has some serious lateral explosion to his game.
Against Michigan last season, Mustipher flashed all the tools in the toolbox that he had.
Look at the initial lateral step here, beating the offensive lineman across his face, causing the blocker to whiff, giving Mustipher a clear path into the backfield to put pressure on the Michigan quarterback, ultimately resulting in a whacky interception that bounced off his helmet for a pick-6.
Mustipher finished off the initial win with a clean swim move, which he has in his arsenal.
That same lateral burst and explosion were on display in Las Vegas at the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl, where I was in attendance and got a good look at the Penn State captain.
He was one of the more dominant defenders throughout the week, winning with his power often. But, in team sessions he showed off his lateral agility with his quick get-off, winning here against UCLA’s Atonio Mafi, a guy who also had a great week in Las Vegas.
Mustipher wasn’t asked to do it often at Penn State in 2022, which had more to do with his role within the defense under Manny Diaz, but he showed the ability to win as a penetrator at times, which hopefully he’s asked to do more of in the NFL.
Mustipher isn’t the flashiest of players on the interior defensive line in the 2023 NFL Draft class. He’s just very solid and steady though, one that is likely going to have a long career in the NFL as that potential starter in a pinch and a key rotational piece, especially as that versatile interior guy that can play the 0, 1, 3, or 4i.
He’s very good at creating initial leverage at the point of attack, keeping blockers off of him when playing the run. His eyes are good at finding the football too, and he’s showing the ability to get skinny and slip around blocks along the line of scrimmage to stay clean and make plays.
Pretty impressive rep overall, especially in a phone booth here from Mustipher.
Even at his size, Mustipher is pretty darn solid in space, and it helps that his motor runs red-hot constantly.
Mustipher does a great job of reading this screen from Ohio State, breaking off the block to get behind the screeners out in front, taking it away with a teammate. As he is doing that, Ohio State QB CJ Stroud pulls the ball down and looks to scramble. That’s typically a scenario that Stroud should win, but Mustipher does a fantastic job shifting his weight and getting to Stroud for the tackle for a short gain.
He’s going to test rather well for his size, which will surely turn some heads and force people to go back to the tape, especially when it comes to short-area explosion.
That explosion and power were prominent on tape.
Penn State ended up getting lined up late against Ohio State a bunch, which allowed the Buckeyes to catch them flat-footed. Watch Mustipher here though.
Look at the power he generates from a standing start against the Ohio State left guard. That portion of his game is, well, a strength right now. He tends to rely on it too much when rushing the passer, but if he can fine-tune it, look out. That’s quite the bull rush.
He showed it off in Las Vegas, too.
Overall, Mustipher is a player I really like. If you’ve been reading or listening to me in recent weeks, he’s a player that I’m really intrigued by and think can be a solid piece at the next level. Two-gapping defensive linemen that are really only early-down pieces aren’t really en vogue right now, but there’s still a role for them, especially on teams that need to fix some issues stopping the run and lack some depth along the defensive line.
Add in the NFL bloodlines with his brother and the productive career he had a Penn State on and off the field with that program, he’s going to be a draftable player that carves out a role for a number of years in the NFL.
Right now, I think Mustipher can see the field quickly as a nose tackle in a base defense and can slide out to the 4i in sub-package football to give teams some run-stopping abilities while in sub-package. He really holds up well as a two-gapper and has great power at the point of attack, which will translate to the NFL.
Projection: Mid Day 3 (5th-6th Round)
Depot Draft Grade: 7.0 Backup/Special Teamer
Games Watched: Ohio State (2022), Michigan (2022), Auburn (2022), Purdue (2022), Northwestern (2022)