No matter what the circumstances are, it seems like every year that one highly touted prospect or another will take a tumble in the 1st Round of the N.F.L. Draft. Sometimes a specific player has fallen due to past “character concerns” and “off field behavior.” In some cases, a player’s reputation takes a hit because of bad postseason workouts. In other instances, a player can be considered “undraftable” by a franchise if he does not fit their specific Offensive or Defensive scheme, or even lacked what was considered to be an appropriate amount of playing experience. Plus, a potential draftee’s stock can always drop due to a past injury they sustained in High School or at the college level.
So why exactly is what I stated above relevant to today’s discussion?
Well, it’s relevant because the possibility might just exist for one of the 2013 Draft Class’ top-tier pass-rushers to fall to the pass-rush-needy Steelers who currently sit at #17 overall in Round 1.
But players like Bjoern Werner, Damontre Moore, Jarvis Jones, and Barkevious Mingo can’t fall to Pittsburgh all the way in the middle of the 1st Round, can they?
As I pointed out in a previous post, Jones’ stock on draft day could potentially go into a free-fall due to concerns over his “spinal stenosis.” The condition, which is a narrowing of the spinal column, happened when Jones sustained a neck injury when he was a Freshman back in 2009 when he was at Southern Cal. The Trojans would not let him back on the field after his injury, so Jones transferred to the University of Georgia after they cleared him medically to play back in 2010. Over the last two years, Jones has emerged as one of college football’s most incredible pass-rushers as he has logged a combined 155 Tackles, 28.0 Sacks, and an incredible 45.0 Tackles For Loss.
As far as scheme versatility goes however, Jones has enough athleticism and positional versatility to play at Outside Linebacker in a 4-3 and a 3-4 Defensive scheme. Furthermore, like Denver’s Von Miller, Jones also has the ability to pass-rush, and pass-rush effectively from all sorts of different spots on the field. So while Jarvis’ medical issue could hurt him, I still believe that the former Bulldog defender will be high on the Jets’ board. Why exactly? Well, not only do the Jets need an Outside Linebacker, but Jone is a similar player to Bruce Irvin, a pass-rusher who the franchise wanted to select in Round 1 of last year’s Draft.
If Jones falls past the Jets though, then things will get interesting. In fact, Jones could very well be “in play” for the Steelers to select at #17 overall as only the Chargers at #11 and the Saints at #15 have large needs at Outside Linebacker in front of them in Round 1.
As far as Barkevious Mingo is concerned, his draft stock could slip in large part due to issues surrounding his scheme versatility. By “scheme versatility” I mean that teams who employ Base 4-3 Defensive schemes with high selections could shy away from Mingo as a Defensive End prospect due to his current lack of bulk and weight (6’4″ 241 lbs.). Granted, Mingo definitely has the frame to add another 25-30 lbs., but it could take upwards of two years before the former Tiger pass-rusher can grow big enough to develop into an “Every-Down” 4-3 Defensive End. Thus, some teams in the Top 5 and Top 10 who are unwilling to wait and want productivity and an “Every-Down” Defensive End early, could inevitably shy away from the ridiculously athletic Louisiana State player.
I should also point out that Mingo’s productivity as a Senior was not exactly awe-inspiring for scouts either. Although the former Bayou Bengal made some highlight-reel plays and flashed athleticism all over the field, he only logged 38 Tackles, 8.5 Tackles For Loss, and 4.5 Sacks on the entire season.
On a side-note, I for one would much rather see the Steelers draft Barkevious than take a gamble on Ezekiel Ansah of B.Y.U.. Not only does Mingo have more than three years of organized football experience, he also played at bar-none the best level of collegiate football in the S.E.C.. Sure, Ansah might have scouts drooling over his height, speed, and weight ratio, but I would rather take the raw prospect with more experience and just as much upside. I should also add that of all the players I list, Mingo might not last all the way until the 17th overall selection. In spite of his minimal production last year, his athleticism at The Combine showed through when he ran a 4.58 40 Yard Dash and managed to record a Vertical Jump of 37 Inches.
At least to me, Mingo would be a perfect addition to the Steelers’ roster as he could contribute right away in pass-rushing and sub-package situations. During his developmental period, Barkevious could concurrently add bulk and fine tune the rest of his game as an Outside Linebacker to emerge as a solid compliment to LaMarr Woodley (if he loses weight) and Jason Worilds.
What could likely hurt Bjoern Werner’s stock the most on Draft Weekend is his lack of experience playing football. The former German exchange student had only played two years of flag football and one year of tackle football in his homeland before he moved to America during his Junior year of High School and then at Florida State. While he definitely is not as raw as Ziggy Ansah, scouts could inevitably question his experience. Furthermore, Werner also failed to “wow” at The Combine like Dion Jordan or Ansah. Overall, Werner posted only pedestrian numbers in the 40 Yard-Dash (4.83) and the Bench Press (25 reps of 225 lbs.).
To his credit though, Werner, who measured in at 6’3″ 266 lbs. at The Combine, was consistent and productive as a Defensive End for the Seminoles this past year, and logged 13.0 Sacks and 18.0 Tackles For Loss. Some scouts and Draft pundits (including Mike Mayock) recently have been more than willing though to ignore Werner’s productivity and have instead focused on his apparent lack of athleticism and ability to be a “dynamic pass rusher.” I understand that Werner does not possess the type of agility and quickness of a Mingo, Ansah, or a Jordan. Yet the former Seminole Defensive End has a terrific combination of speed and power for a guy his size, and possesses a great amount of discipline to play against the run as well.
I understand that there are some who might believe that Werner is a “4-3 Defensive End-Only” at the professional level. Granted, Bjoern was a down-Lineman during his entire collegiate career, and was definitely guy who was not asked to play very much in pass coverage. Yet for those of you Steeler fans who do not believe he can help the team, let me say this: There is a certain $61.5 Million Dollar Man on the Steelers roster who actually weighed in at the same amount as Werner at his own Pro Day in 2007 (266 lbs.), and possessed a similar frame and positional skill-set coming out of college.
Remember, Woodley was a down-Lineman at the University of Michigan, and could have been considered “too big” to become an Outside Linebacker at his frame. I even remember thinking the Steelers would move to a 4-3 Defense when they used their first two selections on a 4-3 Outside Linebacker like Lawrence Timmons, and a Defensive End like Woodley.
Anyways, while the Steelers have usually developed college Defensive Ends who are 245 lbs. and under into Outside Linebackers (Joey Porter and Clark Haggans), they have also found success with bigger players (250 lbs.+) like Woodley and Jason Gildon, and are now attempting to do the same with Jason Worilds and Adrian Robinson. Whether or not Pittsburgh’s brass believe that Werner has the ability to play in space against the pass, or can make the transition to a stand-up player is solely up to them. But if the pass-rushing German is there for Colbert & Co. to take, do not be shocked if he is their 1st Round selection.
Once thought to be a Top 10 lock, Damontre Moore could be in danger of falling into the middle of the 1st Round. Moore’s recent stock drop is a bit of a surprise considering how well Moore replaced Von Miller at Texas A&M over the last two years. Overall, Damontre recorded 21.0 Sacks and 39.0 Tackles For Loss for the Aggies during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and was arguably the S.E.C.’s best pass-rusher this past season not named Jarvis Jones.
Unfortunately, Moore’s Combine performance left much to be desired, and it along with many other things could cause him to free-fall in the 1st Round. Overall, the former Aggie ran a slow 40 (4.95), and posted a paltry 12 reps during his bench press session. Damontre blamed his poor showing on a bad hamstring, especially when it came to his 40 time, so it will be interesting to see what transpires between now and Moore’s Pro Day before the Draft. Much like Mingo, Moore could also fall if 4-3 teams in need of Defensive Ends do not consider a player with his “Tweener” frame, 6’4″ 250 lbs., to be a good fit at the position, especially if questions about his overall strength to be a down-Lineman persist past his underwhelming Combine.
Damonte’s stock could also fall victim to specific character concerns centered around past off-field issues. During the Summer of 2011, Moore was arrested for marijuana possession when he was in College Station. In addition to his arrest, the pass-rusher apparently did not draw rave reviews from scouts as one said in Pro Football Weekly’s “2013 Draft Guide” that the Junior pass-rusher is “a mess off the field” (via Akron Beacon Journal).
While Moore showed contrition for his actions (also in the article), it might not be enough for him to regain his Top 10 status unless he absolutely blows people away at his Pro Day workout and in his interviews. Future Pro Day performance aside, I will definitely be interested to see what Pittsburgh’s strategy is regarding Moore if he falls to them. 6’4″ 250 lb. Defensive Ends who illustrated an effective combination of speed, strength, and relentlessness during their collegiate career as a pass-rusher are not always available for pass-rusher-needy teams picking 17th overall in Round 1 of a Draft. The Steelers have taken chances on players with “character-issues” before (Mike Adams, Alameda Ta’amu, and Chris Rainey most recently), so Moore could be a possibility at #17 overall if a B.P.A. scenario occurs.
First of all, let me state again that I do not believe that all of these players will be sitting there for the Steelers to select with the 17th overall pick. In fact, that would be downright ludicrous, and I would question the sense of some specific franchises picking in front of Pittsburgh with pass-rushing needs. Yet each of these players face issues surrounding scheme-versatility, past injuries, and inexperience which could plummet them down draft boards around the League.
What could also cause some of these players I mentioned to fall is the idea that Pass-Rusher-needy teams in front of Pittsburgh are going to become more and more enamored with the overall potential and raw athleticism of guys like Dion Jordan of Oregon and Ezekiel Ansah of B.Y.U.. Jordan has drawn just comparisons to Aldon Smith of the 49ers, and regardless of the former Cougar’s lack of experience, I am positive that some team in the Top 12 will be enamored with Ansah and what he could turn into at the pro level.
And don’t forget readers, teams in the Top 10-15 are always liable to reach for Quarterbacks, especially with the Rookie wage-scale in place. Thus, signal-callers like Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, and Matt Barkley could all be taken in the first half of the 1st Round if teams like Kansas City, Jacksonville, Arizona, Buffalo, or even the New York Jets decide to roll the dice on one of them, or another team trades up to acquire one.
Regardless of what transpires over the next two months though, the Steelers might be able to stand pat at #17 and find themselves in a prime spot to select a talented pass-rusher who falls to them. While I can guarantee that not all four players I discussed above will be available to Pittsburgh in the middle of Round 1, one or possibly two could be. If those events inevitably happen, the pass-rush-needy Steelers will definitely have themselves an interesting choice to make at #17 overall, as well as some interesting risks to ponder.
Readers: Do you believe that any of these prospects I listed above will fall to the Steelers? If you answered “yes,” should Pittsburgh’s brass select them if they are able to do so? Which Round 1 pass-rusher would you most like to see Colbert & Co. take?
Heights & Weights Courtesy of: NFL.com Scouting Combine Page