We’ve already ranked the Steelers draft needs. If you haven’t read that article, click here.
Now it’s time to talk about some of the players that the Steelers may potential select in the upcoming draft.
In our ranking of the team’s needs, I stated that I thought that offensive guard is the most important need on the team. However, I believe that the most pivotal need may be at nose tackle, so I’m going to start by talking about players that we might select there.
Let’s start with……..
Dontari Poe – Readers who read the comments on this blog know that I lived in Memphis for most of this century. I am a huge Memphis Tigers fan. I follow them very closely. So I was surprised when there was widespread demand among Steelers fans for the team to select Dontari Poe in the 1st round if he’s available. I don’t know many Memphis fans who thought that Dontari was a 1st round pick when we were watching him play.
I understand that Poe did great at the NFL Scouting Combine. However, players don’t do bench presses during NFL games. Nor do they run around cones. Nor do they do vertical jump. Nope, what they do is play football. And I’ve watched Dontari Poe play football. And never in my wildest imagination would I have believed that he’d be a top 15 NFL draft selection. In fact, I probably would have been shocked if anyone had told me that he’d be selected before the 3rd or 4th round.
In my opinion, Poe is a risk as a 1st round pick, and he’s a HUGE risk as a top 15 pick. But he certainly has potential.
Josh Chapman – Chapman reminds me of a young Casey Hampton. He’s “too short” for the position, standing only 6’1″. He comes from a dominant program. And he’s a proven run stuffer.
Chapman played nose tackle for the national champions. He was coached by Nick Saban. Nobody has to guess whether he can play in a 3-4 defense. He’s already done it.
Unfortunately, he suffered an ACL injury, and that’s caused him to drop in draft ratings. With Casey Hampton already recovering from an ACL injury, some might ask, “why would the Steelers select another nose tackle who is also recovering from and ACL injury?” But remember, he played through the injury. He only missed one game due to it.
Picking Chapman in the 3rd or 4th round will prove to be a steal.
Hebron Fangupo – The Steelers had Fangupo in Pittsburgh for a visit already, so they’re obviously considering him. Like Josh Chapman, he’s a bit short, standing only 6’1″. But I believe that leverage is a big part of winning at the line of scrimmage, and the low man usually wins. So I don’t have an issue with a player being a little short, if he’s also strong and athletic. Fangupo is very strong, and reasonably athletic.
The problem that I have with Fangupo is that he’ll be a 27 year old rookie. I want somebody who can man the position for the steelers for the next 10 years (like Casey Hampton did). With Fangupo, a team will likely only get 5-6 years out of him. Hampton is only 34, and he’s looked old for the past 3 years. So in 5 years, Fangupo will already be the age where Hampton showed noticeable aging. I’m going to assume that it will take him at least 1 year to learn Dick LeBeau’s defense. That means the Steelers would only get 4 good years out of him. That’s a problem.
Akiem Hicks – Hicks is another potential nose tackle that the Steelers brought to Pittsburgh for a visit. Hicks is large and athletic. But he will definitely be a project.
After being heavily recruited by LSU coming out of junior college, he lost his eligibility due to recruiting violations. He was forced to go north of the border and play for Regina in Canada. So he has very little playing experience, and even less against top rated talent.
He has the girth to be an effective NT, but he also has the athleticism to move outside and play 3-4 defensive end. He played both defensive end and defensive tackle in college.
Alameda Ta’amu – Ta’amu is a big-bodied samoan who is also thought of as one of the top NT’s in this year’s draft. However, the Steelers didn’t bring him in for a visit. He put up decent number at a good program. From that standpoint, he may be ahead of everyone but Josh Chapman.
Nicolas Jean-Baptiste – He’s not getting as much coverage as some of the other potential draftees at nose tackle. But he’s among the most ready of the group. Like Chapman and Ta’amu, he played in a good conference, and faced reasonable competition each week. The Big 12 will never be confused with the SEC, but it’s probably better than the Big East or the Conference USA. And it’s definitely better than playing for Regina in Canada (see Akiem Hicks).