With the Pittsburgh Steelers Heading into their Bye Week, a Look Ahead to the 2012 NFL Draft


Hey all. It's been some time since I last posted. It's been interesting acclimating to college life and learning this thing they call "hockey." It's like a religion up here. It's the first time I've seen football take a backseat to another sport. In any case, like the Steelers, I've got some downtime for the first time in a while so I figured I'd post something on here regarding the draft. It's too early for me to do a mock draft but I figure I'll give you all a look at some of the most likely candidates for 2012's 32nd overall pick #seewhatIdidthere.

More after the Jump

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Most Likely #1 on Colbert's Board:

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Alameda "Meda" Ta'amu, NT, Washington, 6'3" 330 lbs Junior:

A lot has already been said about Ta'amu being the best nosetackle in this upcoming draft class, and as of right now I see no evidence that can dispute that claim. There always seems to be that late riser who puts on a show at the Senior Bowl/Combine/Pro Day (i.e. Dan Williams) but I don't think anyone can match Ta'amu right now. This poses a potential problem in the likelihood of the Steelers being able to pick him come April, as nosetackles are a commodity in today's NFL. I don't think anyone needs reminding of how old Casey Hampton and Chris Hoke are getting so securing Ta'amu would do a lot to put our more defensive-minded fans at ease with regards to the future. It wouldn't bother me in the slightest if the Steelers, assuming that we'll be picking from the 24-32 range, were to make a move up somewhere between 15-18 in efforts to secure what could be a staple in our defense for years to come.

The only reservations I have at the moment have to do with the fact that when Ta'amu has faced elite college competition he tends to struggle. This isn't the case every time it happens, but he really struggled against Stanford's line this year, getting beaten by elite guard David DeCastro (see below) in the limited reps he saw against him (per Walterfootball). This is a positive in the sense that it increases the likelihood he could be available later in the first round, but a negative in the sense of course that he had bad days and that always brings up questions on just how good you really are as a prospect. Still, I think as of right now, no one shows the potential that Ta'amu does, and he could very well be the best NT prospect for a couple years.


My Favorite Prospect:

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David DeCastro, OG, Stanford, 6'5" 312 lbs, Senior:

As the heading says David Decastro is my favorite player in this year's draft. Of course this does not bode well for his chances of becoming a Steeler. I'm 0-5 since actively following the draft with regards to my favorite players-Revis in '07, Johnathan Stewart in '08, Alex Mack in '09, Earl Thomas in 2010, and Ras-I Dowling in 2011-but maybe this is the year I get it right.

DeCastro looks like the second coming of Alan Faneca. He's said to be one of the best overall guard prospects in a long time, as he has dominated in Stanford's pro-style offense. It is said he has no major weaknesses, and is dominant in run and more than respectable in pass-blocking. I expect him to go somewhere in the range of 15-22, which may sound to some too high a price for a guard, but looking at how explosive and yet at times maddeningly inconsistent the offense has been this year, I'd say we're one good lineman away from being among the deadliest in the league.

Seeing Pouncey and DeCastro in the middle for the next ten years or so would probably coincide with a couple more Lombardis in the front office. I'm sure Sean Kugler must be drooling over the thought of adding such a promising prospect if he's had a chance to see this kid on tape yet. Here's hoping the front office gives Kugs another gem this year.

 

Keep your Eyes On:


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Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin, 6'4" 312 lbs Senior:

Would make a fine consolation prize if we were to miss out on DeCastro, and is most likely going to be available in the later end of the first round. Like DeCastro, Zeitler is a prodigious run-blocker, but is probably a step below DeCastro in pass-protection. Still I'd like to think he could start Week 1, 2012 and create a formidable tandem with Pouncey for a long, long time. I actually spoke to Jim Wexell on twitter when he posted about Zeitler being a player to watch for Steelers fans. The following conversation ensued:

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(Picture via my own photobucket account).

But there's an interesting take for you, Wex clearly is a fan of Zeitler, and not so much DeCastro. Ultimately I my feeling is that DeCastro is slightly ahead of Zeitler mainly in the pass-protection factor, but take that with a grain of salt, as I'm basing my conclusion off of other's reports, while Wex is using his own observations. Either way both kids are outstanding prospects.


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Barret Jones, OT, Alabama, 6'5" 311 lbs Junior:

A big powerful left tackle who could go relatively high in the first round depending on who (including himself) declares. The 2012 class of tackles will be measured on how many underclassmen declare as there are several studs within that demographic. Jones is one of them but he'd most likely require a trade up to acquire. He reportedly excels in run blocking and has the ability to hold his own in pass protection. He's one of the highest risers right now, mainly due to his seamless transition from guard to tackle. He also reportedly performed phenomenally against arguably the top defense in the country in the epic LSU Alabama matchup a couple weeks back. His versatility and skill set are exactly what our front office look for in Offensive linemen so don't be surprised to see them pull the trigger if he's on the board.


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Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina, 6'1" 195 lbs, Junior:

A corner with rare size, Gilmore is continuously touted for his massive potential but has yet to make it happen. While being a playmaker for South Carolina for the past few years, he still gives up too many big plays from time-to-time, but has the ability of a #1 corner at the next level. He possesses good ball skills to register interceptions, plays the run well, hits exceptionally hard, and has the ability to be a good returner/gunner on special teams. He's also known as a phenomenal locker room guy and a smart, character kind of player with strong intangibles. His stock has been mapped all over the board with some pundits saying 1st round, some saying 2nd, and some even saying top of the 3rd round, but it seems to me a player with his talent should be at least an early second rounder, most likely a late first.


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Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska, 5'10" 205 lbs Senior:

Another one of my favorites, Alfonzo Dennard has somewhat recovered after missing the first few games of the collegiate season due to injury. A very good coverage corner with a skill set that includes but is not limited to a propensity to throw himself into a running play when called upon to do so. If chosen to summarize his style in one word, "physical" would win. Check out this write up on him at nepatsdraft.com for a good outline of his repertoire.  What could possibly end up hurting Dennard is the accursed 5'9" weigh-in ala Brandon Harris last year, in which the talented yet small corner fell all the way to the bottom of the second round. Alfonzo is listed at 5'10" but colleges tend to inflate their players' measurables, but what could help offset this (aside from his superior skill set compared to Harris') is his bulky frame. There's little doubt he'll tip the scales at 200+ pounds or at the least high 190's come February, but what will be crucial to see is if he can run at a respectable speed at that weight. Anything slower than a 4.46 will probably drop him into the late first/early second. This is a very talented corner class so he may get lost in the mix of Dre Kirkpatrick's, Janoris Jenkins, and Morris Claibornes, but I'd place him at the 15-20 range at this stage, so it would almost certianly require some wheeling and dealing to see him in Black and Gold.


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Kelechi Osemele, OT/OG, Iowa State, 6'5" 350 lbs Senior:

Kind of another Mike Iupati, Osemele is a left tackle for Iowa State who'd move inside to guard at the NFL level. From what I have read, like Iupati he shows the tools to be a load in blocking for running backs, and has the athleticism to be a good pass blocker but hasn't put it all together yet. He projects as a late first, early second round pick as of right now.

 

So there you have it folks. I'll try and do a couple more of these once I get to the holiday break (mid December-late January aka right around the time the Steelers will be well up the staircase to #7), and maybe some individual profiles like I did last year.

Thanks for reading.

************

Sites Used:

Walterfootball
MockingtheDraft
nepatsdraft.com
ESPN
Kevin Colbert Picture via www.post-gazette.com
Meda Ta'amu Picture via seattletimes.nwsource.com
David DeCastro Picture via nflsfuture.com
All NCAA logos courtesy of walterfootball.com

 

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