Before I start working on the the next addition of my seven-round mock draft, I thought I would pump out one more player profile. This time I'm highlighting a defensive line prospect since it seems that Tim (HSS) and I have covered the offensive line and secondary pretty well.
Given the age of Brett Keisel (32), Casey Hampton (33), Aaron Smith (34), Chris Hoke(34), and even Nick Eason (30) it's not at all beyond the realm of possibility that the Steelers could target a defensive lineman with the 31st and/or the 63rd picks in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft. They do have a great building block for the future in Ziggy Hood but they'll need to continue to seek out future stars to pair with him, and it's with that in mind that I give you a player profile on Temple DT/DE Muhammed Wilkerson.
40 time: 4.99secs
Bench: 27 reps
2010 stats: 70 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 blocked kick
Pros: To this point in his career Wilkerson has made his living being a one-gap penetrator. When facing an offensive tackle one on one he has enough agility and speed to reach the backfield. In the pass-rush he shows a good club and rip move. At 6'4" and 315lbs. he carries his size very well and could easily add some more bulk to his frame without sacrificing and of his speed or agility. As he stand right now though he's big enough to hold the point of attack without giving up ground. One of the biggest bonuses is that regardless of his size he doesn't seem to wear down as the game progresses and always gives maximum effort on every play.
Cons: While is size is a definite attribute he doesn't always use it to its fullest advantage. He needs to spend some time in a major strength and conditioning program as he struggles with double-teams. He also needs to play with more aggression and develop a nasty streak. Wilkerson also needs to do a better job tackling. All to often he uses his size to basically lay on a ball-carrier instead of making a sound wrap-up. Playing in the MAC conference against inferior opponents it's also questionable how good Wilkerson will be against top competition.
Draft Stock: Muhammed Wilkerson's draft stock has been climbing and climbing especially since he put on a strong showing at the NFL combine. Because of his versatility, projecting as both a 5-technique in a 3-4 or as a one-gap penetrator, he's become a hot prospect to be taken as early at the mid-1st round. On most draft boards he's rated as the 4th or 5th best 3-4 DE prospect behind Cameron Jordan and J.J. Watt, and basically neck and neck with Cameron Heyward. As a 4-3 tackle I believe he's surpassed Corey Liuget to be the 3rd best behind Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley. Depending on how the top half of the draft shakes out he could go as early as 17th or 18th to New England and San Diego respectively, or to the ravens at 26 or the Jets at 30. However it is most likely that he should be available for the Steelers at 31.
NFL Player Comparison: Pittsburgh Steelers DE Evander "Ziggy" Hood
Much like Ziggy Hood before him, Muhammed Wilkerson will need time to adjust playing in an entirely different system, with entirely different responsibilities. He spent his whole college career shooting the gap and he'll need to learn to fend off double-teams at the next level before he can become a consistent starter in the NFL.
Final Word: The age of the defensive line, coupled with the free agency of both Nick Eason and Chris Hoke, make the selection of a D-line prospect a must. With the Steelers eye always on the future they could draft Wilkerson now and allow him to follow the same path as Ziggy Hood. While it certainly wouldn't fill a more pressing need drafting him would be the best available option if the usual suspects, i.e. Pouncey, Taylor, Harris, Etc., are all gone. He's far from a finished product be has the potential to be a very valuable asset in the near future.