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Discipline of Steel
04-05-2009, 10:12 AM
http://pit.scout.com/2/848339.html

Rulon Davis (Scott Boehm/Getty Images) By Frank Tursic
SteelCityInsider.com
Posted Mar 18, 2009

In the second installment of our position-by-position Steelers Draft Series, Frank Tursic provides a needs analysis of the Steelers' defensive line and the draft's potential answers.

While the Steelers defensive line continues to play at a high level, age and injuries are becoming a cause for concern. The starters have all missed considerable playing time over the past two years, and every key defensive lineman, except Nick Eason, is on the wrong side of 30.

Pittsburgh also managed to miss drafting a prospect in 2008, not because it wanted to, but because of the way the draft unfolded. A premium pick has not been used on DL since 2003 with the selection of Alonzo Jackson in round 2. In between, day 2 selections have been made every year with nothing to show for it. No late round defensive lineman in that timeframe remains on the roster.

As a result, defensive line becomes a draft priority for 2009, second only to offensive line in terms of overall need.

Most importantly, defensive lineman must possess explosive ability, and the NFL Combine provides the perfect venue to identify that talent. Explosive ability can be defined as the aggregate of a playerís vertical jump, broad jump and bench press. More commonly referred to as KEI, defensive linemen who exceed an aggregate of 70 with an emphasis on the vertical jump can attain high levels of NFL success.

The following table examines the top rookie sack artists over the last 7 years.

Year Player Sacks KEI VJ
2008 Cliff Avril 5 72.8 36.5
2007 Gaines Adams 6 66 35
2006 Mark Anderson 12 72.6 42
2005 Shawn Merriman 10 75.1 40
2004 Jared Allen 9 56 33
2003 Terrell Suggs 12 DNP DNP
2002 Dwight Freeney 13 75 37

*Note: DNP - Did Not Participate in all events, VJ = Vertical Jump

If we exclude Jared Allen as a statistical anomaly, KEI and vertical jump performance correlates very closely with sacking the quarterback.

Since explosive ability matters when evaluating defensive line prospects, itís now a simple check to compare one draft class to another.

Comparing this yearís crop to previous draft classes using KEI as the measure yields the following:

Year Defensive End Defensive Tackle
2009 7 5
2008 2 0
2007 1 6
2006 8 10
5-year Avg. 4 5
*Note: Number of NFL combine prospects with KEI > 70.

Low 2008 combine results due to inaccuracies in measuring vertical jump.
As the table shows, 2009 is shaping up as an above average year for defensive line talent, especially at defensive end. However, six of the prospects weigh less than 270 pounds, meaning the talent really is not so deep for 34 DE.

Conversely at defensive tackle, you can find athletic prospects that fit Steelers needs, even into the later rounds.

Breaking the prospects down into further groupings, and eliminating players who donít pass the Steelers stringent character, medical, and performance filters produces the table below:

Position Player Proj. Rd Hgt/Wgt KEI VJ 10-yd SS 3-cone

Nosetackle
Ron Brace 2 6-3/330 68.3 28 1.88 4.73 8.16
Terrance Taylor 5 6-0/306 75.7 30 1.78 5.06 7.78
Roy Miller 6 6-1/301 76.6 32 1.68 4.74 8.01
Terrance Knighton 7 6-3/321 DNP 28 1.76 4.78 7.90

4-3 DT
Ziggy Hood 1 or 2 6-3/300 76 33 1.62 4.56 7.50
Alex Magee 3 or 4 6-3/298 68.1 29.5 1.72 4.55 7.52
Corey Irvin 4 6-3/301 57 24.5 1.71 4.73 7.44

3-4 DE (Standard)
Tyson Jackson 1 6-4/296 DNP 28.5 1.68 4.80 7.64
Fili Moala 2 6-4/305 63.8 30.5 1.71 DNP DNP
Dorell Scott 3 6-3/312 68.4 30.5 1.68 4.84 8.28
Sammie Lee Hill 5 6-4/329 64.1 28 1.72 4.97 7.89
Khalif Mitchell 7 6-5/318 69.1 30 1.72 4.71 7.45

3-4 DE (LeBeau)
Jarron Gilbert 2 6-5/288 73.4 35.5 1.68 4.58 7.70
Kyle Moore 3 or 4 6-5/272 61.3 30.5 1.62 4.47 7.40
Zach Potter 5 or 6 6-6/279 59.8 31 1.61 4.48 7.76
Rulon Davis 7 6-5/281 59.3 30 1.72 DNP DNP

*Note: Data compiled primarily from NFLDraftScout

NOSETACKLE

Casey Hampton is still playing at a fairly high level, and he has a capable backup in Chris Hoke. In LeBeauís scheme, heís strictly a two down player, barley seeing the field 50% of the time. It will be interesting to see what direction the organization decides to go after his contract expires after the 2009 season.

Of the talent available this year, Ron Brace would most likely be gone by the time Pittsburgh selects at the end of round 2, requiring a trade-up to get him. While heís a good player, I think there is better value available later with the likes of Roy Miller and Terrance Taylor.

Both are more explosive, with better short area quickness and agility, as well as providing decent pass rushing skills. Either could be used on passing downs, if needed. Taylor will have to answer questions as to the drop in production during his senior season, but he is a legitimate NT candidate. Miller, on the other hand, will project to NT, but comes from the same mold as Hampton. Heís very much an underrated athlete who could surprise at the next level.

4-3 TACKLES

These players are viewed as better fits for 43 defenses, but could project as 34 ends. Ziggy Hood is the top-rated prospect, and may be available with Pittsburghís first round selection. However, I donít see the team pulling the trigger on a player who is not a great schematic fit, especially when some top-rated offensive lineman will be available as well. Instead, they could find better value in mid-round prospects such as Alex Magee and Corey Irvin. Both played well at the Senior Bowl, displaying a variety of pass rush moves, and are athletic for their size. Either could be targets in rounds 3 or 4.

3-4 ENDS (Standard)

These players have the size to play in any 34 scheme, with the more athletic ones representing better fits for the Steelers. Tyson Jackson would be a certain target, but will probably get drafted well before pick 32. Heís a very good player, with prototypical size, that will be over-drafted, because his on field performance didnít always measure up to his athletic ability. Instead, Fili Moala, might be the player to target as part of a trade up in round 2. Heís an intriguing player with size, athletic ability, and could project to NT having played the position at times in college. His game is not about creating stats, but making everyone else around him better. Itís not just a coincidence USC will have three linebackers selected in the early rounds of this draft. Of the remaining prospects, I like Khalif Mitchell as a late round value selection. Heís an athletic player, who transferred to ECU from North Carolina that had his season cut short by injury. Dorell Scott for all his physical talents was never much of a factor on the field, and Sammie Lee Hill is a very raw player, who will have a steep learning curve in the NFL.

3-4 ENDS (LeBeau)

34 Ends in LeBeauís scheme tend to be smaller and more agile players because of the unique requirements they must fulfill. They must be strong against the run and able to slide inside to rush the passer or drop back in coverage in passing situations.

From a baseline perspective, Steelers 34 DEs have the following physical characteristics:

Baseline
3-4 Height Weight KEI VJ 10-yard SS 3-cone
6.5 278 63.4 30 1.73 4.45 7.48

*Note: Average of Smith, Keisel, McBean, Nua

Representing this yearís crop, Jarron Gilbert is the top-rated prospect. His abilities surpass the baseline by a significant margin, and he was very disruptive during his senior season, finishing with 22 TFL and 9.5 sacks. However, while heís a first round talent athletically, and a perfect schematic fit, he played against lower levels of competition, and did not put up similar numbers during his previous college seasons. The prospect Gilbert most closely resembles is Jason Hatcher, who was a third round pick by Dallas. Since then, the playing field has changed, and a minimum 2nd round pick will be required to draft him due to the proliferation of 34 defenses.

Of the remaining prospects, the player representing the best value is Zach Potter. Heís a near clone of Brett Keisel, and is a very good athlete. Potter recorded 16 TFL, 5.5 sacks, as well as displaying the ability to bat down passes (6 passes defended) and block kicks. Pittsburgh will probably need to use a 5th rounder on him as he continues to rise up the draft boards.

In summary, setting a preliminary draft value board would look something like this:

Round Player(s)
1 Tyson Jackson
2 Fili Maola (w/ Trade-up)
Jarron Gilbert (w/ Trade-up)
3 Alex Magee
4 Corey Irvin
5 Zach Potter
Terrance Taylor
6 Roy Miller
7 Khalif Mitchell

These are good analyses: After reading this, I like Fili and Zach Potter. I still also like 'What in the name of Sam Hill is agoin on here', even though this writer pupus him for being raw.

RuthlessBurgher
04-05-2009, 07:59 PM
There were a lot of :wft :?: moments, when reading this article, though.

Saying Alonzo Jackson was the last premium pick used on a d-lineman. :wft :?: Even though AJax sucked as a 3-4 OLB, he was drafted to be a 3-4 OLB, not a d-lineman. Sure, he was a DE in college, but if that was the criteria, LaMarr Woodley would be the last premium pick used on a d-lineman.

Saying Sammie Lee Hill is a standard 3-4 DE. :wft :?: Dude is a nose tackle. A tall nose tackle, sure...but a nose tackle nonetheless.

Using an average of Smith, Keisel, McBean, Nua to come up with a baseline for Steeler DE's. :wft :?: Ever hear of Kirschke and Eason, guys who have actually played 3-4 DE for the Steelers this past season instead of a couple of failed experiments that are long gone?

SteelerOfDeVille
04-06-2009, 12:26 AM
There were a lot of :wft :?: moments, when reading this article, though.

Saying Alonzo Jackson was the last premium pick used on a d-lineman. :wft :?: Even though AJax sucked as a 3-4 OLB, he was drafted to be a 3-4 OLB, not a d-lineman. Sure, he was a DE in college, but if that was the criteria, LaMarr Woodley would be the last premium pick used on a d-lineman.

Saying Sammie Lee Hill is a standard 3-4 DE. :wft :?: Dude is a nose tackle. A tall nose tackle, sure...but a nose tackle nonetheless.

Using an average of Smith, Keisel, McBean, Nua to come up with a baseline for Steeler DE's. :wft :?: Ever hear of Kirschke and Eason, guys who have actually played 3-4 DE for the Steelers this past season instead of a couple of failed experiments that are long gone?
claiming AJax as a lineman is like claiming Woodley was a lineman (he also played DE in college), also a round 2 selection...

In any event, I was bit of a fan of Rulon Davis - quizzed SFL about him on the other board, being in Cali... said he didn't like him - i liked his raw numbers, (except for his age) and thought he'd be a good 3-4 DE.

Fili would be a prime selection - wouldn't be a bad trade up selection...

steelblood
04-06-2009, 04:25 PM
The steelers don't have undersized 3-4 DEs. That is simply a crappy analysis. Keisel and Smith both fit the bill for standard 3-4 DEs. So do Kirschke, Eason, and Roye. If this is the foundation of his analysis, we must discount everything he attempts to build upon it. Moron.

steelblood
04-06-2009, 04:28 PM
[quote="RuthlessBurgher"]
Saying Sammie Lee Hill is a standard 3-4 DE. :wft :?: Dude is a nose tackle. A tall nose tackle, sure...but a nose tackle nonetheless.

[/quote

I've heard his projected to 3-4 DE by other "experts." I think it is valid. I believe he played 4-3 DE one of the last two seasons.

Discipline of Steel
04-06-2009, 06:56 PM
Fili, Fili, Fili :tt1

RuthlessBurgher
04-06-2009, 07:06 PM
Fili, Fili, Fili :tt1

You sound like an Eagles fan. :nono

Steel Life
04-06-2009, 10:51 PM
Most of the analysis is spot on but to say that our DE's are on the small side is whacked. Kimo was a much naturally lager man than Keisel & Aaron is as large or larger than most DT's...that's the whole point of our DE's - they have to be stout at the POA & hold the line.

That being said, here the guys for the later rounds to keep an eye on...
- Will Johnson (Mich) - 6'-4", 281
- Khalif Mitchell (ECU) - 6'-5", 318
- Chris Baker (Hampton) - 6'-2", 326
- Roy Miller (Texas) - 6'-1", 310
- Terrance Taylor (Mich) - 6'-0", 306

Oviedo
04-07-2009, 09:32 AM
Most of the analysis is spot on but to say that our DE's are on the small side is whacked. Kimo was a much naturally lager man than Keisel & Aaron is as large or larger than most DT's...that's the whole point of our DE's - they have to be stout at the POA & hold the line.

That being said, here the guys for the later rounds to keep an eye on...
- Will Johnson (Mich) - 6'-4", 281
- Khalif Mitchell (ECU) - 6'-5", 318
- Chris Baker (Hampton) - 6'-2", 326
- Roy Miller (Texas) - 6'-1", 310
- Terrance Taylor (Mich) - 6'-0", 306

Add Zach Potter (Nebraska) - 6'-7", 280

grotonsteel
04-07-2009, 12:03 PM
Most of the analysis is spot on but to say that our DE's are on the small side is whacked. Kimo was a much naturally lager man than Keisel & Aaron is as large or larger than most DT's...that's the whole point of our DE's - they have to be stout at the POA & hold the line.

That being said, here the guys for the later rounds to keep an eye on...
- Will Johnson (Mich) - 6'-4", 281
- Khalif Mitchell (ECU) - 6'-5", 318
- Chris Baker (Hampton) - 6'-2", 326
- Roy Miller (Texas) - 6'-1", 310
- Terrance Taylor (Mich) - 6'-0", 306

Add Zach Potter (Nebraska) - 6'-7", 280


Zach Potter could be a great pick for Steelers in 6th Rd.

Oviedo
04-07-2009, 01:55 PM
Most of the analysis is spot on but to say that our DE's are on the small side is whacked. Kimo was a much naturally lager man than Keisel & Aaron is as large or larger than most DT's...that's the whole point of our DE's - they have to be stout at the POA & hold the line.

That being said, here the guys for the later rounds to keep an eye on...
- Will Johnson (Mich) - 6'-4", 281
- Khalif Mitchell (ECU) - 6'-5", 318
- Chris Baker (Hampton) - 6'-2", 326
- Roy Miller (Texas) - 6'-1", 310
- Terrance Taylor (Mich) - 6'-0", 306

Add Zach Potter (Nebraska) - 6'-7", 280


Zach Potter could be a great pick for Steelers in 6th Rd.

Totally agree. Everything I have read indicates he is a Kiesel clone. Good athlete and has the height to get his hands up to block passes which Kiesel is the best on our team at doing.

TallyStiller
04-13-2009, 07:22 PM
I love the analysis in these... prospectuses? prospecti? Keep posting! When do we get one for the O Line?

pfelix73
04-13-2009, 11:00 PM
Ron Brace would still be a good choice at 32. IMO.

Big snack ain't gettin any younger or smaller...... pass the Twinkies.

:tt1

fordfixer
04-13-2009, 11:05 PM
Fili, Fili, Fili :tt1

You sound like an Eagles fan. :nono
:lol: :lol: :lol:

AkronSteel
04-13-2009, 11:12 PM
If the Steelers end up with Taylor, Miller, or Brace at DT and Gilbert, Mitchell, or Potter at DE, I will be very happy. I can't wait till the draft to see how this FO is looking at things going forward. I want 2 DL's, 2 or 3 OL's, a WR, and a CB.....that will make for a good building block going forward especially if Colbert and Tomlin turn in another quality crop. April 25 can't get here soon enough!

TallyStiller
04-14-2009, 04:41 PM
Fat, 2 down DT's are becoming less valuable because so many teams throw it so much these days. If we go D Line high, I sincerely hope it's an athletic DE. I'd be willing to spend 1/32 on Jarron Gilbert - Osi Umenyiora was projected as a 5th rounder, and the Giants took him mid 2, with outstanding result. We saw what our D looked like without Smitty at the end of '07, and it wasn't pleasant. We saw what a Fat Casey - less D might look like as we cruised to a 15 - 1 record and a #1 overall defensive ranking with Chris Hoke playing the vast majority of snaps at NT. Quick and disruptive over fat and slow worked just fine... and I for one will throw a fit if we take Ron Brace or any fat toilet clogger on day 1.

Discipline of Steel
04-14-2009, 09:59 PM
I love the analysis in these... prospectuses? prospecti? Keep posting! When do we get one for the O Line?

The only other one so far has been WR and it was kind of lame. I am keeping my eye out because I like these also! OL analysis will be gold.