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Nate Orchard looks forward to a defensive shift

The talented defensive end from Utah looks forward to how he will project as an outside linebacker at the NFL level.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

With 18.5 sacks in his final season at Utah, Nate Orchard enters the 2015 draft process projected to be selected in the second round, despite being arguably the most productive pass rushing prospect in the draft.  Unfortunately, this means Orchard's pay rate will suffer when judged against the likes of Randy Gregory or Shane Ray, fellow pass rushers who are unlikely to fall out of the top 10.

Fortunately, the Steelers may find themselves in position to draft Orchard, the NCAA's runner up in total sacks last season.  Although he played defensive end at Utah, Orchard's six-foot-three 256 pound frame will likely project him as an outside linebacker at the next level, a distinction that's just fine with Pittsburgh.  The Steelers typically seek collegiate defensive ends who they feel can switch positions at the next level, an order usually requiring prospects to demonstrate their abilities to drop into coverage.

Orchard doesn't see a potential position change as a problem, considering he was asked to "drop into coverage a lot" at Utah, according to Scott Brown of ESPN. By Orchard's own estimation he dropped back into coverage "10 or 15 times a game", and although scouts have pointed to Orchard's erratic footwork in coverage, he still managed to defend three passes last season.  Lamarr Woodley, a Pro Bowl player with the Steelers, was also knocked for his footwork in pass coverage, so Orchard could do worse than earning comparisons to a player who ended his Steelers career with five interceptions and a Super Bowl ring.

Orchard will be an interesting prospect to observe in the months leading up to the draft, as his level of production in college certainly points towards a talented player, and multiple mock drafts have penciled the former All-American in as the the Steelers' second round pick.  With lack of depth at outside linebacker becoming a glaring issue, the Steelers will be among the teams interested in Nate Orchard.