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2014 NFL Draft: Getting familiar with a few prospects after Steelers first four games

A "yes" on Jake Matthews, and an "avoid" on Allen Robinson as the college football season hits its halfway point this weekend.

Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE

As of their bye week the Pittsburgh Steelers have yet to win a game. If this trend continues, Pittsburgh will be in the running for a top 10 draft pick. With that draft position comes a whole different level of talent to choose from. Here are some of the position and players the Steelers should take a flier on as potential upgrades as well as some they should avoid.

Left Tackle

Take a Flier

Jake Matthews, LT Texas A&M University:

Measurements: 6-foot-5, 305 pounds

Jake Matthews is the son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews. Bruce was an offensive assistant on the Houston Texans from 2009 to 2010 and the Tennessee Titans offensive line coach from 2011 to now. His uncle is Clay Matthews Jr. played 19 season in the NFL as a linebacker and his cousin Clay Matthews III is the current All-Pro outside linebacker for the Packers. Adding in the fact that Jake Mathews' grandfather also played four years in the NFL as a lineman and he has the best pedigree of players entering the 2014 draft.

As a player Mathews is probably the most polished OT in the potential 2014. He takes short, quick steps in his kick-slide and is in total balance as he does so. His hands are almost always up by his chest and he reads the defenders' moves well. If he gets his hands on the inside of the defender it is game over for that pass rusher. He displays a strong, low base and maintains it through contact. As a run blocker he flashes a little bit of a nasty mentality. While he isn't known for finishing his blocks he takes pride in driving the opponent out of the hole and won't stop till after the whistle. Mathews doesn't possess elite foot quickness but has made up for it with great technique. He also need to improve his ability to break a defenders point of contact in the hand fighting aspect of the game, but this is something most OT in college need to work on.

Taylor Lewan, LT University of Michigan

Measurements: 6-foot-7, 309 pounds

When describing what he looks for in OTs, Jack Bicknell Jr. said this, "Tackles have to have some length, long arms, be able to move their feet, almost like a basketball player out there playing football." That would be describing Lewan perfectly. Lewan is from Scottsdale, Arizona and transferred to Chaparral High School (unanimously hated by all high school football programs in Arizona) where he switched from DE to OT. He eventually received a scholarship to play OT for Michigan. Fast-forwarding to the 2013 season, Lewan is now a seasoned college veteran at LT. He has the lightest feet of any potential LT in this draft. He is quick, smooth and natural in his kick-slide and stays on balance easily. Lewan has the length of an elite tackle but also bends naturally to lower his center of gravity. He is an athlete. In the run game, he isn't the strongest at the POA but flashes a mean streak never giving up on his blocks. Michigan ran a lot of the zone scheme over the last few years and Lewan should enter the league comfortable with it. Lewan still needs polish. He isn't the best at maintaining his blocks through contact in the passing game and he can get beat on inside move at times. Regardless, if I had to bet right now who the Steelers would draft if they landed in the top 10, my money would be on Lewan. He fits the zone scheme perfectly and is exactly what Pittsburgh will look for in a LT.


Cyrus Kouandjio, LT University of Alabama

Measurements: 6-foot-5, 310 pounds

Kouandjio has the physical look of an elite NFL LT. He has long arms and evenly distributed weight, he also reportedly only has 16 percent body fat, which is amazing for an offensive linemen. However, his consideration by many to be the second best or even the best LT in the 2014 draft is more a product of excitement from these measurements and Alabama hype. As a pass blocker, Kouandjio is not impressive. He plays with heavy feet in his kick-slide and his slides lack the smooth flow of an elite offensive tackle. He is also off balance because he overextends in his kick-slide. He plays with his hands at his waist only bringing them up when the defender appears to be close to making his move. This nullifies his best asset which are his long arms. He is clearly inexperienced at recognizing a defenders pass rush moves. It is a different story in the run game. He is athletic and strong and moves defenders out of lanes with ease. He is not afraid to show his dominance and finish his blocks. Kouandjio tends to put his head down when he engages, which can allow the defender to make a move but for the most part he is an impressive run blocker. I believe Cyrus Kouandjio would be making a huge mistake by entering the 2014 NFL Draft because early in the 2013 college season it is clear to me that Mathews and Lewan are by far better OTs. He should stay one more year, refine his pass blocking technique and compete for the top OT spot in the 2015 draft.

Defensive End

Take a Flier

Taylor Hart, DE Oregon University

Measurements: 6-foot-6 287 pounds

Taylor Hart isn't going to be a first-round draft pick. He likely won't be a second round pick either. I see him going in the top of the 3rd round, but the Steelers are going to need depth at the DE position after this year. Hart stands out on film to me as a guy who would be a good rotational five technique DE. He has long arms and uses them well, he has enough strength to hold against the double team, and he has some athleticism as a pass rusher. He needs to work on keeping his pad level lower on a consistent basis.


Stephen Tuitt, DE University of Notre Dame

Measurements; 6-foot-5 310 pounds

Tuitt has NFL talent there isn't any doubt about that. Prior to the start of the season he was considered a player that was worth of a top 20 selection. I didn't see it. Tuitt appears out of place in Notre Dame's defense which uses primarily a three man front. From his size, one would think that he would be a perfect fit for the five technique in the Steelers 3-4 defense. However, Tuitt struggles to hold the point of attack. He plays with a narrow base and too often doesn't use his long arms to his advantage. He does have some pass rush ability, but is clearly better shooting gaps to the inside. In my opinion, Tuitt is a second round talent and a better fit as a three technique in the 4-3 defense.

Wide Receiver

Take a Flier

Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M

Measurements: 6-foot-5 225 pounds.

Evans is a match up nightmare. At 6-foot-5, he is too big and too strong for most corners. He high points the ball nicely, using his strong hands and great body control to come down with the ball. He is a favorite target of Johnny Manziel in the redzone. Evans also has average long speed and deceptive quickness which he uses to set up his routes. Having a scrambling QB, Evans understands how to get open when the play breaks down. Evans runs very good routes and set up defenders for failure. He comes back to the football nicely and uses his size and quickness to break tackles in the open field. What Evans did against Alabama was borderline criminal, having seven receptions for 279 yards and a TD. On the season he has 28 receptions for 691 yards and 2 TDs. He has had over a 25 yard play in every game this year. What gets him my nod though is his ability to block on the edge. He easily over powers most college CBs, he keeps his back turned to the hole and hands inside. When you watch some of Manziel's scrambles to the outside it is usually Evans who is sealing the edge for him. It is looking more and more like the Steelers will not keep Sanders after this year. If they end up out of the top-ten and get a pick in the teens I would be all for Evans. Did I mention he was only a red-shirt sophomore and is only 20 years-old?


Allen Robinson, WR Penn State

Measurments: 6-foot-3 205 pounds

The more I watch film of Robinson, the more I do not like him as a wide receiver. He has natural size at around 6-foot-3 and he has an acceleration that is above average for a WR of that size. Robinson has been productive and is very willing to make the catch over the middle to take a hit. He has some major areas of concern. Robinson doesn't use his size to his advantage and rarely tries to high point the football. He is a body catcher and while that isn't always a bad thing it limits his catch radius. He will also lose concentration on the ball in flight focusing more on getting yards after the catch. This leads to drops of some easy passes.

Robinson also shows very little route diversity on tape. His most showcased route is the WR screen. He runs the screen well, looking for blocker and accelerating smoothly. On his other routes he is less refined and doesn't optimize his chances to get the football. His breaks are choppy and he rounds his cuts. His lack of bulk makes him, at best, an average blocker for his position and he certainty can improve in this area. In short, Robinson is a 6-foot-3 receiver who play like a much smaller receiver. This can be both a positive and negative critique, as he displays quickness that is well above average for a receiver of his size, but also struggles to go up and get a high throw. Robinson has talent but this draft is loaded with taller wide receivers who do a much better job of getting open even when they are covered.

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