To give our readers something to follow draft wise during the college football season, aside from just enjoying the games, I’m going to profile a few players at each position of need for the Steelers to target during the 2012 NFL Draft. Hopefully by throwing some of these names out there this summer rather than next spring, we'll have a chance to keep closer tabs on some of the 2012 Draft prospects while they're actually competing during the season rather than just doing workouts in shorts.
So let's get started with an overview of the nose tackle position.
During the last two drafts the Steelers have done an excellent job of securing our defensive ends of the future by drafting Evander "Ziggy" Hood and the recently acquired Cameron Heyward. Even though Heyward has yet to put on the Steelers uniform let alone take the field in Yellow and Black I have the utmost confidence that he’ll turn out to be a fine player. It’s nice to have that kind of security but there’s still an issue at nose tackle. Casey Hampton has been a stalwart at the position since he was taken in the first round of the 2001 NFL draft, but he will turn 35 years old at the start of the 2012 season. He’ll also be in the final year of his contract.
With the proliferation of the 3-4 defense in the NFL it has put a premium on the nose tackle position, hence it’s becoming harder and harder to acquire a quality prospect who can play it. In any given draft there are typically only a small handful of prospects that even have the size to adequately play nose tackle, not to mention the skill. Take for instance this past draft where as there was only one player, Baylor’s Phil Taylor, was considered a sure-fire nose tackle prospect. The rest of the prospects all came with question marks and were considered second-tier players.
If their play holds up, and of course if all of them declare, the 2012 draft should be loaded with nose tackle prospects. Two sets of them even play on the same teams so it should be easy to follow them.
Josh Chapman (Sr.)
Kerry Murphy (Jr.)
Analysis: Both Chapman and Murphy will be battling one another to anchor a Bama defense that is absolutely loaded with talent. They could easily have as many as seven players go in the first two-rounds of the 2012 NFL draft. Of the two Murphy is probably the more talented, but it’s recently come out the he hasn’t been practicing because of knee issues and head coach Nick Saban has stated that it may be a long-term issue. We will have to wait until the season begins to see whether Murphy will be hampered by injury.
John Jenkins (Jr.)
Kwame Geathers (RS So.)
Analysis: The combination of Geathers and Jenkins has to be one of the largest defensive tackle combos in college history. Their play this season should be reminiscent of the Williams’ wall in Minnesota considering the Dawgs will play some with a 4-3 alignment, even though they are in the second year of their conversion to a 3-4, so that they can get both of these behemoths onto the field at the same time. Geathers career so far has been in flux as he's bounced around along the offensive and defensive lines in his career at UGA but manhandled the opposition in Georgia’s spring game due to a regimented strength and conditioning program that bulked him up from 325lbs. Jenkins was the big-get for the Bulldogs this year from the JUCO ranks and is expected to make a serious push to start week one. It’s rumored that despite tipping the scales at 360lbs. he has less than 10 percent body fat, can run the forty in 4.9secs, and can bench press 500lbs. While at Gulf Coast community college he was also used as a fullback on short yardage situations and was pretty much unstoppable.
Alameda Ta'amu (Sr.)
Analysis: Ta’amu is currently the highest rated nose tackle on most people’s draft boards for 2012. He gets excellent push and always commands double-teams. He’s currently thought of as a fringe first rounder but if he can work on being more consistent he could easily secure a pick in the 20’s, and possibly higher. I liken him to a slightly more athletic version of Casey Hampton.
There you have it for starters. We'll revisit these positions at some point during the 2011 NCAAFB season, adding to and revising the 'watch lists' as necessary.