Every week from now until the N.F.L. Draft in late-April, Fansided.com’s writers will be coming out with new and updated versions of their own 2013 N.F.L. Mock Drafts. During this period, I will be writing up weekly break-downs and providing analysis of every projected Pittsburgh selection in the installments (last week’s is here). Each team-themed Fansided site will be participating in this activity, and I must say that this project has the potential to be a fun and interesting experience for all of you Draft-loving readers. But enough of me babbling, let’s get to my analysis of who Fansided’s Josh Sanchez believes will be taken by the Steelers (pick #16 of 32 in the 1st Round) in his latest Mock Draft:
Jonathan Jenkins, Nose Tackle, University of Georgia
The Steelers are aging all along their defense, so that leads you to believe that is the direction the organization will go with their pick. In last year’s draft, the Steelers used a fourth-round pick on nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu and that didn’t go to well. A few months into his NFL career, Ta’amu was cut after some serious legal issues. That leaves a big question at depth behind Casey Hampton. Jenkins can provide the team a young, talented nose tackle that will hold up blockers at the line of scrimmage.
Do not get me wrong, I like Jonathan Jenkins as a prospect. When one talks about a classic “0-Technique” Nose Tackle to fit a 3-4 scheme like a Ted Washington or a Casey Hampton, a guy like Jenkins comes to mind. Jenkins is an absolute “space-eater” in every sense of the phrase (6’3″ 358 lbs.) and performed extremely well (13 Games, 13 Starts, 50 Tackles, 2.0 TFL’s, 1.0 Sack, 1 FR) during his Senior season at Georgia. And while it would be nice to see the Steelers select a stout player like the Bulldogs’s Nose Tackle, I have to not only disagree with Sanchez’s overall analysis of the Steelers’ current situation at Nose Tackle, but question the overall idea of Pittsburgh going in that direction in Round 1 of the Draft. Why you may ask? Well that is because Sanchez overlooked one important player at the position, and that is Steve McLendon.
Defensive Line Coach John Mitchell seems to be a fan of McLendon, and once Hampton leaves town, the 4th year man out of Troy should finally be given the chance to assume the starting Nose Tackle role. McLendon has slowly seen an increased amount of playing time since he entered the League as a UDFA in 2009, and is all but ready to be the heir-apparent to “Snack” once he finishes his illustrious career.
In addition to his ability to clog the middle, McLendon also has a good deal of pass-rushing ability for a Nose Tackle, and could prove to be a valuable player in pass-rushing packages down the road. On any other non-Dick LeBeau coached Defense, McLendon would be receiving more snaps and playing time. Unfortunately on a unit where veteran status sometimes reigns supreme overall actual talent and effectiveness, Steve has been forced to ride the pine behind Hampton and Chris Hoke over the last two seasons. But on the plus side, I am sure that the years learning from Mitchell on the sidelines and other veterans have served him well, and McLendon will be up to the task of taking on a more rigorous role next year.
In addition to overlooking McLendon, Sanchez also might be off a bit on the status of Alameda Ta’amu. Although Sanchez was correct in reporting that Ta’amu was cut by Pittsburgh earlier in the year after some automobile shenanigans, he failed to mention that the former Washington Husky was resigned back to Pittsburgh’s Practice Squad after the Rookie cleared the waiver wire.
Ta’amu is actually still on the Practice Squad as we speak, and I am all but positive that he will be given a second chance when next season rolls around. Think about it readers, if the Steelers wanted to get rid of their Rookie 4th Round selection, they would not have re-signed him after he had cleared waivers, they would have just given up of him. The franchise traded up for Ta’amu in the 4th Round for a reason, and I would have a hard time believing that he would not be given another shot next year. If Ta’amu fails to make an impact next season or crack the 53-man roster, I could understand him being cut, as I am sure he has a “short leash” with the Front Office. Yet to label him as a failure and on his way out after one season with a franchise that does not place a large amount of weight on Rookie contributions on the Defensive side of the ball is a bit farfetched.
While Jenkins would be a nice selection at #16, I would have a hard time believing that the Steelers would ignore other prospects at other larger positions of need like Inside and Outside Linebacker, Free and Strong Safety, or Cornerback.
Thus, if players like Johnthan Banks (CB Mississippi State), Alec Ogletree (ILB Georgia), C.J. Mosley (ILB Alabama), Dion Jordan (DE/OLB Oregon), Matt Elam (SS Florida), Eric Reid (FS Louisiana State), or Xavier Rhodes (CB Florida State) are still on the board, or if a Sam Montgomery (DE/OLB Louisiana State) type of talent falls to them in the #15-#18 range, I cannot see G.M. Kevin Colbert and the rest of the franchise passing up on those guys at such positions of need.
If Pittsburgh did not have any adequate depth or long-term solutions in place at the Nose Tackle position behind “Snack,” I could understand if the team considered a player like Jenkins or Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins in Round 1. But with McLendon and Ta’amu in place and other positions on the Defensive side of the ball in more dire need of immediate upgrades, I truly find it hard to believe that the Steelers will think about taking a Nose Tackle early this April.
Readers: Do you think Jenkins would make a good pick in Round 1? Do the Steelers need an upgrade at Nose Tackle in 2013? What other positions do you believe that the franchise should go after early in April?