Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Day Two of Prospect Visits

With less than a month until the NFL Draft, teams have begun to host players at their facilities for pre-draft visits. Teams use these pre-draft visits on players that are recovering from injury to monitor the player's recovery, players with character concerns or players that teams are unsure of how to rank on their draft boards, either because of lack of playing time or the system in which they played during college (such as a 4-3 DE that is potentially adjusting to a 3-4 OLB). Over the last four years, only one of the Steelers first round picks (Maurkice Pouncey) was brought in for a pre-draft visit. However, quite a few of their later round picks were brought in for visits. To give a sense of the caliber of the prospects, I included rankings from four of my favorite draft sites: Draft BreakdownOptimum ScoutingScarDraft, and Mocking The Draft.

Jarvis Jones
OLB - Georgia
6'2" 245 lbs

Draft Breakdown Rank: #3 OLB, #17 overall
Optimum Scouting Rank: #3 OLB
ScarDraft Rank: #2 3-4 OLB, #13 overall
Mocking The Draft Rank: #3 OLB, #9 overall

When you look at the attributes the Steelers like in a player, Jones has all of them. Team Captain? Check. Played for a winning team? Check.  Played in a major conference? Check. The SEC is what it is. Highly productive college career? Check. Jones led the nation in sacks (14.5) and tackles for loss (26.5) last season, following up a 13.5-sack season in 2011. The Steelers are likely bringing in Jones to have their doctors conduct an in-house evaluation of Jones' spinal stenosis, which has received mixed reviews since Jones declared for the draft. He left USC after his freshman season because of the neck injury but had two highly productive years at Georgia after the diagnosis. Some reports out of the combine were negative and indicated that teams might not be willing to take the risk on Jones because of his injury concerns, which is why it is important for the Steelers to get an in-house evaluation of his condition.

Khaseem Greene
OLB - Rutgers
6'1" 241 lbs

Draft Breakdown Rank: #2 OLB, #42 overall
Optimum Scouting Rank: #1 OLB
ScarDraft Rank: #5 4-3 OLB, #63 overall
Mocking The Draft Rank: #4 OLB, #32 overall

Greene played in a 4-3 scheme at Rutgers, and the jury is still out on where he will fit best in the NFL. If he is drafted by a 4-3 team, he could be an elite weakside linebacker. From the Steelers perspective, they know Greene has the athletic skill to jump off the screen, but need to determine if he can transition to a 3-4 defense, either at inside or outside linebacker. Greene had a highly productive senior season at Rutgers, producing double-digit tackles in 8 of 13 games, including a 22-tackle effort against Army. Greene's best game arguably came against Syracuse where he had 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception. 

Jamie Collins
OLB - Southern Mississippi
6'3" 250 lbs

Draft Breakdown Rank: #6 OLB, #91 overall
Optimum Scouting Rank: #8 OLB
ScarDraft Rank: #5 3-4 OLB, #38 overall
Mocking The Draft Rank: #5 OLB, #33 overall

Despite Southern Miss posting an 0-12 season, Jamie Collins provided a highlight reel of a season. The senior linebacker finished the season with 10 sacks, recording at least one sack in 7 games. He also displayed an ability to get to the ballcarrier and bring him down, recording double-digit tackles in three games and at least 7 tackles in 8 games. Collins will probably be a second or third round pick, and is an athletic freak, finishing atop the linebacking field in five different events at the NFL Combine last month.

Phillip Thomas
S - Fresno State
6'0" 208 lbs

Draft Breakdown Rank: #9 S, #84 overall
Optimum Scouting Rank: #5 S
ScarDraft Rank: #7 S, #95 overall
Mocking The Draft Rank: #174 overall

Thomas is a player that looks to have through-the-roof potential, but at times can look lost on the football field. From the videos I have seen, it looks like he often runs at half speed or gives up on plays. When he does turn on the jets, he is lightning-quick, but he has not yet learned to harness his speed and can run himself out of plays and over-pursue the ball. Thomas is certainly a decent mid-round option at safety, particularly if he can harness his speed and add some strength.

Jonathan Meeks
S - Clemson
6'0" 209 lbs

Draft Breakdown Rank: unranked
Optimum Scouting Rank: unranked
ScarDraft Rank: #27 S, #317 overall
Mocking The Draft Rank: unranked

Meeks isn't a highly-rated prospect but is the type of player the Steelers generally look at in the later rounds of the draft. Meeks did not work out of the Scouting Combine, and the Steelers obviously wanted to take another look at him after his workout at Clemson's Pro Day. Meeks made a name for himself in late October, being named the National Defensive Player of the Week after recording two interceptions, including one that he returned 74 yards for a touchdown, to help Clemson beat Virginia Tech.

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