It is no secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers will likely select a young nose tackle to groom in the draft later on this month and one player that could certainly fit the bill is Alabama nose tackle Josh Chapman. Chapman is still currently rehabbing after having surgery in mid January on his left knee to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament that he suffered in a game against the Florida Gators back in October.
Chapman was not able to participate at the NFL combine back in February, but was able to bench at the first Alabama pro day in early March where he did 29 reps of 225 pounds. Because of all of the missed workouts, the stock of Chapman has fallen as a result. But just how far has it fallen? Had Chapman not tore up his knee he would have easily been a first or second round prospect, but now it appears he is a third or fourth round pick according to many draftniks.
The biggest question is when Chapman will be back to 100%. He stated in a recent interview, “I know I can play this year. I feel like I\’ll be 100 percent healthy around June. I love to take care of my body, and Dr. Andrews said I should be right by May or June. I\’m able to leg press and put weight on it. People always say it\’s hard to come back, but I know my mindset. I\’m getting back on that grind.”
If June is indeed the date circled on the calendar then that means he will be a very limited participant in mini-camps and OTA sessions, which certainly could set back his development. Will that drop his draft stock even more as a result? Could the Steelers actually have a shot at drafting him late in the 4th round? I don\’t think you can rule that out completely as a possibility.
If indeed the Steelers were able to draft him there, it would be a huge bargain. Steve McLendon is slated to start the season at nose tackle if Casey Hampton is not ready by week one himself. Hampton, as many of you are well aware of, is currently rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn ACL himself that he suffered in the AFC Wild Card game against the Denver Broncos. There is an outside chance he could start the regular season on the PUP list, but that is far from set in stone right now.
If Chapman is medically cleared by the start of the regular season, he could serve as an emergency backup to McLendon if Hampton is sidelined for the first six weeks on PUP. While I would not suggest doing it long term, Ziggy Hood could also serve as the emergency backup nose tackle for McLendon as well. Hood does not have great two gap skills or anchor ability to play the position well, but you have to do what you have to do.
The good news with Chapman though is that he played in the 3-4 system at Alabama, so he at least knows the basics. If he has the football smarts that most scouts claim he does, he should be able to learn the nuances of the Dick LeBeau scheme fairly quick with the only problem once again being lack of reps leading up to training camp. How tough are those reps anyways? Should be football in shorts, right? Maybe he can participate more than what I think.
The best case scenario would be that Chapman is medically cleared by the start of training camp, but that would still only be a little over 6 months since his surgery. That could be pushing it despite the positive outlook Chapman has, but I am of course not a doctor. He basically is on the same time table as Hampton is at this point, so both very well could be available by week one. That would be a huge plus and neither would have to play right away if McLendon can hold the fort down the first few weeks.
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert has been down to Alabama for both pro days this spring. While he certainly was likely down there to watch Dont\’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Mark Barron perform, I am willing to bet he checked on the progress Chapman is making as well.
So can Chapman fall all the way to the 4th round and is he the pick assuming the Steelers do not draft another nose tackle in the early rounds? Based on what you know now, where does his draft stock currently sit?