Williams taking down Marcus Lattimore this season. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

The SEC Championship, Defensive Prospects, The 2013 NFL Draft, and Why Steelers Fans Should Watch Today


Hello again everybody.  I hope you enjoyed my first installment of Fansided’s continuing 2013 Mock Draft analysis from Thursday afternoon.  Anyway, if you read that specific post, or have simply paid attention to the Steelers’ play on the field over the last couple of seasons, I am sure that you are keenly aware of how the franchise could use some talent upgrades and youth on the Defensive side of the ball.

I know that it might be a bit early for some of you readers to even begin to think about the glorious three-day affair in late-April known as “The N.F.L. Draft,” especially considering that the Steelers are still alive in the postseason chase.  But with Pittsburgh “limping to the barn” as we enter December, I figure there is no harm in discussing Draft topics.  Although the college football regular season officially ends today, one extremely important juggernaut match is still on the agenda for 4:00 P.M. this afternoon: The S.E.C. Championship Game between Georgia and Alabama.   Because Pittsburgh is a team with numerous needs on Defense, and because this game will feature many of the 2013 Draft’s most talented Defensive prospects, Alabama vs. Georgia should be an intriguing game to watch.  So, today I thought it would be nice to give a list of which prospects to keep our eyes’ on, and discuss why they might peak Pittsburgh’s interest during the Draft process.

 

Who to Watch For & Why

(Editor’s Note: Although the Steelers have absolutely zero shot of drafting Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones and Alabama CB DeMarcus Milliner, they should be huge factors in today’s game.  They both are likely Top 10 Picks, and Jones could very well be the #1 Overall selection if a Quarterback is not taken there.  Regardless of the Steelers’ almost non-existent shots of drafting either player, go ahead and watch Jones attack the passer and Milliner try to shut down his half of the field.  You will not be disappointed.).

So which players at which positions should we be on the look out for?  To me there are three important positional groups that I will be watching all game long: Nose Tackles, Inside Linebackers, and Safeties.

 

Jenkins (6) and Ogletree (9) have been two solid Defenders for the Bulldogs this season. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Nose Tackles

Today’s game will feature arguably two of the best Interior Defensive Linemen of the 2013 Draft Class, and one underclassman who has the potential to develop into something solid as well if he declares.

Jesse Williams (6’3″ 320 lbs.) of Alabama is newer to the game of football than most players (started playing at 15, and transferred to Alabama from Arizona Western College in Yuma), as he was born in and grew up in Australia.  But the Tide’s massive Defensive Lineman has been an active force over the last two seasons (57 Tackles, 4.0 Tackles for Loss, 1.5 Sacks) and been one of their key players up front.  Williams also has some versatility to his game because he was utilized as a 5-Technique during his Junior season in 2011 as well.  Although he might be newer to football, Williams could be a solid investment for a Steelers team that needs depth at Defensive End and Nose Tackle.

Not to be outdone by their Conference foe, Georgia features not one, but two enormous space-eaters at Nose Tackle in the molds of Ted Washington/Vince Wilfork:  Senior John Jenkins (6’3” 358 lbs.) and Junior Kwame Geathers (6’5” 355 lbs.).  Although the surprisingly athletic Jenkins is the starter at the Nose, he has been spelled nicely by the underclassman Geathers.  While another season at Georgia would likely sky-rocket his Draft Stock into the 1st Round with Jenkins gone, if Geathers indeed declares, he would be a solid developmental prospect for a team like the Steelers to hedge their bets with if they are uneasy about going forward with Alameda Ta’amu as a primary backup behind Steve McLendon.  I am definitely anxious to see how both players hold up at the point of attack against Alabama’s stout Offensive Line anchored by their potential 1st Round Center, Barrett Jones.

 

Inside Linebackers

Johnson could be on the Steelers’ radars for Linebacking depth. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

In addition to their Nose Tackles, Alabama and Georgia have three potential 3-4 Inside Linebackers on their rosters who should all be Day 1 or Day 2 selections.  The two underclassmen, Alec Ogletree (6’3” 234 lbs.) of Georgia and C.J. Mosley (6’2” 232 lbs.) of Alabama, are the most highly touted of the three, and if both of them declare for April’s Draft, each could find themselves taken in the 1st Round.  After missing the first four games of the season due to a suspension (along with two of the Defensive Backs I will discuss later), Ogletree has gone on a tear and put up 88 Tackles, 2.0 Sacks, 1 Interception, and Defended 4 Passes after he started a total of 13 games during his first two seasons in Athens.  Ogletree is a physical player, and is a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the field for any pass-catcher.

Mosley has also been quite the productive Linebacker since his Freshman season in 2010, and has already recorded 92 Tackles, 4.0 Sacks, and 2  Interceptions on the season.  I believe the Steelers will take a long look at Mosley this offseason (and the next if he stays in school), because he has proved to be quite proficient in pass coverage during his career with the Tide.  Mosley has recorded 5 career Interceptions, scored 3 Touchdowns off of them, and is Alabama’s Linebacker when they play in the Nickel Defense.

Nico Johnson of the Tide on the other hand is a bit more of a “thumper” compared to Ogletree and Mosley, and is built more in the “Strongside” mold (6’2” 245 lbs.) of a Dont’a Hightower or Rolando McClain.  Although he might not possess the ability to hold his own in pass-coverage like a Mosley or even an Ogletree, Johnson has the talent and size to mix it up in the run-game with the best in college football (46 Tackles this season).  As I have alluded to many times previously, the Steelers could use some depth at the “Buck” “Strongside” position, and a well-Coached player like Johnson could prove to be a solid backup if not adequate starter at the professional level with some development.

 

Safeties

Alabama has been a factory for sending Defensive players to the N.F.L. as of late, and has Robert Lester currently manning their Strong Safety position.  Lester has been a 3-year starter for the Tide and anchored the back-end of their Secondary this year.  Over his career, Lester has been quite a ball-hawk and recorded 14 Interceptions, 4 of which came this season.  Although he might not be as light on his feet as a Matt Elam of Florida, Lester is still a  big bodied Safety (6’2″ 212 lbs.) that can help in the run game, and most of all has a nose for the football.

Both of the Bulldogs’ (Free and Strong) starting Safeties will be draft eligible after the season, and both have the potential to be Day 2 picks (2nd to 3rd Round).  Although he might have some off-field concerns, including an “I didn’t know there was pot in the brownie” incident, Bacarri Rambo was a Turnover machine during his first three seasons at Georgia (3 FF’s, 1 FR, 13 INT’s), and has recorded 3 INT’s in only 8 games this year.  Like Clark, Rambo is also physical player in the run game, and put his physicality on display last weekend.

Georgia’s Strong Safety, Shawn Williams, is also a very talented player, and also could be on Pittsburgh’s radar.  Williams has been a two-year starter for the Bulldogs and put up 72 Tackles, 5.0 Tackles for Loss, Forced 1 Fumble, Recovered 2, and Intercepted 4 passes during his first season as a starter.  So far this season, Williams has put up a team-high 78 Tackles, 1.0 Sack, and recorded 4 Passes Defended.  Like Rambo, Williams is a tough and physical player, and even stepped up to play some Linebacker during the 2011 season.

Although he might line up at Cornerback for the Bulldogs,  Georgia does feature one player on their roster who might fit the “mid-Round, developmental, system Defensive Back” mold that the Steelers have constantly tried to add over the years: Sanders Commings.  Tall (6’1”) and physically imposing (216 lbs.), Commings has been a bit of a Swiss-Army-Knife in the Secondary for the Bulldogs during his 4-year career, and has seen substantial time at both Free Safety and Cornerback.  A two and half year starter with Georgia, the Senior has recorded 7 Interceptions, and has shown a knack for support in the run-game (95 Tackles over the last two years).  Although he is a bit overshadowed by his Defensive Back mates, Rambo and Williams, and did have his own run-in with the law like Rambo, Commings could be a mid-Round option who Pittsburgh could take a look at and try to develop as a backup Cornerback or Free Safety.

 

Final Thoughts

I for one will be excited to watch today’s game, because some of these players might be donning the Black & Gold if the organization deems them worthy to bring in via the 2013 Draft.  And hey, even if the Steelers do not decide to bring in any members of the Tide’s and Bulldogs’ Defense’s through the 2013 Draft (i.e. the character issues might be a turnoff for some), the game itself should prove to be a hard-hitting and physical affair, and something worth watching this afternoon/evening.

 

Readers:  Are you excited to watch the game?  Are there any players on each side I mentioned that you want the Steelers to Draft?  Should the 2013 Draft be all about Defense for Pittsburgh?  Are there other Defensive prospects on other teams you might like?  Why?  Anything goes in the “Comments” section.

 

 

Figures, Stats, and Player Profiles Courtesy of: CBSSports.com, ESPN.com, and Alabama & Georgia Official Team Sites

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