By Christopher DiMarino
With the 2012 Combine all wrapped up, the real discussions can begin. At this point, the teams have all the information they need to narrow down to the 60 or so players that they can pursue at their pro days. Don’t get me wrong, the combine doesn’t prove much, but it does generate buzz for players (good or bad) and can give scouts an idea if certain players excel physically. Depending on the position, each measureable can be construed independently to shed light on how it could impact each player’s in game performance.
For those of you who read my last article (http://www.steelersdepot.com/2012/02/steelers-2012-pre-draft-analysis/), you’re aware that I believe Nose Tackle and Offensive Guard to be the two main positions of need that will be addressed early in the draft. However, given the format of the draft, Pittsburgh might not have prospects within their grasp at those positions. So the purpose of this article is to look further into who might be around from each of those positions for their first few rounds, then dig deeper into these guys to discover if they might fit. Keep in mind, the Steelers’ organization will weigh positions of need, importance of the position and best talent available when drafting.
If you were to tell me Dontari Poe and David DeCastro would be available at the 24th spot in the draft, you can bet Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert and company will weigh the need of that position on the Steelers’ roster, the depth of that position in the draft, the ability of that player and their attitude and potential. Simply put, certain positions are considered to be more important and receive higher importance in the first round, namely: Quarterback, Offensive Tackle and Defensive End. So if we see some good talent drop into the Steelers’ lap, don’t be surprised if neither position is addressed until the next few rounds.
The good news is, there is depth at Guard in the 2nd round, and even a few options at Defensive Tackle in the 3rd. I will also address some comments I’ve received at the end of this article. First, let’s see how the Guards and Nose Tackles that figure to go in the early rounds fared at the Combine.
Firstly, I’d just like to admit the omission of Brandon Brooks because he wasn’t invited to the combine. Also, I looked into Peter Konz as commented on, but he only did the bench and put up 225lbs 18 times. He is a natural center, and though he has the tools to play guard, with limited combine information on him, he’s outside the scope of this article. I’ve included how each prospect ranked on each combine measurable as well, there was about 40-50 Offensive Lineman who participated on each given event. I’ve bolded all top 10 finishes and provided an average ranking over the 5 events.
|Name||40 yd||Rk||Bench||Rk||Vert||Rk||Broad||Rk||Cone||Rk||Avg Rk|
Two things jump out from this chart. Purely from a Combine perspective, David DeCastro is an elite talent among this group of guards and there are a lot of guys who are still very good and right behind him. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback that Guard can wait until the 2nd round because it’s not as important of a position to draft high, and because of the depth at guard in this draft. All of this now rings true and is corroborated by the combine results. However, among all this good news are 2 new issues. The Steelers have to hope these guys are still available at pick 56, and more importantly, choosing between the wealth of options. I expect the Steelers’ to attend the pro days of a good portion of these prospects to help narrow their choices.
There was a very interesting story posted in Dave’s article about DeCastro by Pat Kirwan (http://www.steelersdepot.com/2012/02/breaking-down-the-pat-kirwan-nfl-combine-explosive-rating/). I’m not concerned with the explosive stat (Dave correctly puts that to rest), however I’m happy to hear a more in depth knock on DeCastro. Now, David still has a million positives going his way, but I find hearing the constructive criticisms on players are very helpful. If the Steelers’ feel as Pat does (that he is too much of a risk for the first round), then I entirely expect that the Steelers’ will draft a Offensive Guard in the second round. I will release an additional post in the next week or so, breaking down these combine results and each player’s actual performance.
Defensive Tackle is a very different beast when it comes to the combine. In the format I’m using, it would seem all of the Defensive Tackles fared poorly. But, they are in the same group as Defensive Ends, who are typically faster and more agile. Most of the combine events favor that type of talent and that contributes to the low rankings. However, the strength of the Tackles is their bread and butter, that’s why there are so many high ranks there.
|Name||40 yd||Rk||Bench||Rk||Vert||Rk||Broad||Rk||Cone||Rk||Avg Rk|
A lot of the numbers you see above will require a more in depth analysis (in future articles) to fully understand. The main number that pops out is Poe’s 40 time. I showed the weights of these players in my last post; Poe and Alameda Ta’amu were the only really big guys (in the 340s). Poe posted a 40 speed faster than all but 2 of the early projected Defensive Tackles, and he is 40 lbs heavier than either of those guys. That is a beastly number, not to mention his first place finish in the bench press (and the fact that he put the 225lbs up 8 more times than any other DT). I was impressed by the showings of Mike Martin and Kendall Reyes as both showed speed and strength.
This strong showing by Poe may actually be bad news for Steelers fans. He was projected before the combine to land around 24th pick, but he may have just thrust himself higher. Though not too many teams employ a 3-4 defense, it is becoming more and more popular. Secondly, his speed and size could prove more than enough for him to line up and succeed in a 4-3 defense. There is second round value and Ta’amu may still be around in the 3rd, but the elite talent and fit that Poe would provide may be out of reach.
Draft Position analysis:
If you remember, I was predicting that the Steelers would trade their 1st round pick to move up for DeCastro. He did not have an incredible Combine, but did well enough to cement a selection in the first round or early second. If anything, this may help if the Steelers’ indeed planned on drafting him as he has a slightly higher chance of falling to pick 24. However, I still believe that chance is on the slim side.
Poe was widely considered a late 1st early 2nd pick. His monster Combine will push him up to a mid 1st round pick in my opinion. Big nose tackles with his athletic skills are hard to come by and few and far between in the NFL. Do not be surprised if he is taken long before pick 24.
One change I will make from my original entry is that I firmly believe Pittsburgh will no longer trade up. The success of other later round players at the combine succeeded in swaying my opinion. They are a team that rarely pursues high profile free agents, or is too active in the trading market. I was merely speculating that if a player they really wanted dropped within reach, they would change up their approach and possibly sacrifice the next few years for an immediate fix now. My logic in assuming this initially tends along the frame of the 2010 season. With the open cap, I still figured the Steelers would remain true to their approach. They’ve had so much success with the formula of drafting smart and developing, I never thought that they would spend like they did. And now they are dealing the “hell” that they’ve created.
So if neither DeCastro or Poe are available come pick 24, I firmly believe the Steelers’ will choose the most athletic person available. This will setup an urgent need to spend likely the 2nd and 3rd round picks on OG and NT, but there are choices. I’ve said since my last post that Ta’amu would make a good Steeler. Is he as good as Poe? Probably not, but he does still have enough size and strength to develop into a fitting NT. That frees up the 2nd round pick for Guard, and though there are a few more options, I still think that they will choose Zeitler. I can see Glenn dropping, but not all the way to pick 56. Zeitler however has had a good college career and impressed at the Combine.
Responding to Comments:
Unfortunately, my “business class” internet blockers don’t allow me respond to comments too often so I’ll try to address some here.
- Joe D, I agree with John B. Not only am I intrigued by Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen, but a Nose Tackle helping the blitz can be their best friend. I believe that is the major difference between Poe and Ta’amu, is Poe can be a 3 down guy who can collapse the interior of the pocket. I’ve seen QB’s step up to avoid Woodley and Harrison far too many times. Also, I think that CB is the HARDEST position to go from college to pro. It requires immense trust between you and your coach, and there is a lot of elite talent at WR in the NFL many of these guys didn’t see on a week to week basis. Even if someone as talented as Dre Kirkpatrick drops to 24, I don’t think he would have the immediate impact the Steelers want from a 1st rounder.
- Intropy and Emac2, I think Peter Konz is a great football player, but an unlikely fit for the Steelers. As banged up as Maurkice Pouncey has been in his young career, I expect Doug Legursky to be back and provide emergency backup. However, a guy who can flex from Guard to Tackle like Glenn, could be more valuable with all the line shuffling the Steelers have had to deal with.
- Grw1960 and Bleebo77 I agree that it is wishful thinking that Zeitler will be available for our 2nd pick and Ta’amu for the third. At this stage of the projection game I think those are decent assumptions but common sense begs me to consider that they will get scooped up much earlier. We’ll have to wait for the pro days.
- BillinDC brings up a lot of good points. I am actually going to focus one of my next articles on the Nose Tackle and see if a lighter guy can move inside and who might need DTs. I think Poe’s Combine showing has made him a viable 4-3 tackle as well, so there might be more competition then we think. The Jets could look for a young protégé to put behind Pouha especially with his contract being up. However, I think it will be lot to ask some of the smaller DT’s to become a 3-4 NT and start for the #1 defense. Well have to see what develops.
- I agree with NoIrog that we seriously need depth on the O line. With a deep draft at Guard (I know this would be unpopular) but if the Steelers get Poe or Ta’amu, I wouldn’t mind seeing 2 top round guards. Or even a physically gifted tackle that may be projected a bit lower that can be groomed to challenge someone at the next level.
- I have to disagree with ed52. This is probably because I’m a defensive guy, but Dick Lebeau’s defense can be more fragile than we think. With all the pieces lined up, it can be a #1 D. But with a huge gap at NT, teams will begin to attack the middle more with their run game. That will either draw the Inside Linebackers inward or the Safties up. With Lawerence Timmons usually the guy to run man coverage on TEs and the athleticism of the TEs in this league, something as small as a subpar NT can drop a #1 D to a #10 D or worse. Also, with the Defense firing on all cylinders, it becomes a field position game, and the Steelers must consider clock management and running the ball. Ask any offensive lineman in the league, and they’ll tell you they’d rather run block then pass. So a good defense can cover up for a poorly performing Offensive Line. And if you need an example of missing a good NT, (I’m sorry to bring this up because it’s still fresh) but look at the playoff loss to Denver. No Kiesel and no Hampton really set off the flow of the defense and gave Denver a little window that they took advantage of.
Thanks again for all the comments.