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Steelers 2016 Draft Prospect Breakdown: Baylor Defensive Tackle Andrew Billings

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It's been over three years since Steelers legendary nose tackle Casey Hampton retired. Will Pittsburgh target Baylor's Andrew Billings if he's on the board at No. 25?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

If Baylor nose tackle Andrew Billings falls to the 25th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, don't be surprised if the Pittsburgh Steelers snatch him up. The nation's top nose tackle prospect, Billings would make an immediate impact as a plug-and-play space eater in the middle of the Steelers' 3-4 base defense.

It would be surprising if Billings, the nation's top two-gap defensive lineman, was still on the board at No. 25, but stranger things have happened. After all, nobody thought Kentucky linebacker Bud Dupree would fall to the 22nd pick following his impressive performance at last year's NFL Combine.

Draft experts have Billings going anywhere from the beginning to the end of the first round. In his most recent mock draft, ESPN's Todd McShay has the Seattle Seahawks taking Billings with the 26th pick.

(Video courtesy of Harris Highlights)

Billings, a junior, was named Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2015. He led Baylor in both tackles for loss (15), and sacks (5.5). Born and raised in Waco, Texas, Billings made a name for himself in high school, both on the football field, and in the weight room, bench pressing over 500 lbs., and squatting over 800 lbs.

Billings is a freak. At 6-2, 310 lbs., he moves incredibly well, and is exceptionally light on his feet. The combination of his sheer size and strength, and his quickness, allows him to clog running lanes between the tackles, and collapse the pocket on passing plays.

Billings is widely regarded as the top nose tackle in this year's draft class, and the best two-gap defensive lineman. He plays with outstanding leverage, and uses his low center of gravity to explode through double teams. His build and playing style are reminiscent of players like Vince Wilfork and Dontari Poe.

Physical Tools

Height: 6'2"

Weight: 310 lbs.

Statistics

2013: 30 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks

2014: 38 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble

2015: 39 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Awards

  • 2015 Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year
  • 2104, 2015 All-Big 12 First Team Selection
  • 2015 Chuck Bednarik Award Semifinalist

Projection

NFL draft experts have Billings being picked anywhere from the beginning to the end of the first round. Due to the recent trend toward high-tempo, pass-first offensive schemes, it's hard project where a player like Billings will be selected.

Tale of the Tape

(Video courtesy of Draft Breakdown)

While digging through his tape, it became clear to me that Billings is more than just a run stuffer. A unique athlete, he uses his 6-2, 310 lbs. frame to overpower blockers and collapse the pocket on passing downs. Watch him walk the Oklahoma center into the backfield and sack the quarterback on this play.

(Video courtesy of Draft Breakdown)

Billings is a dominant run defender. His tremendous strength allows him to win one-on-one matchups, and penetrate into the backfield with ease. His exceptional size allows him to occupy multiple blockers, and create lanes for linebackers and safeties to flow through. These traits make him an ideal fit as a two-gap, 0-technique nose tackle in a 3-4 defensive front at the next level.

(Video courtesy of Draft Breakdown)

There aren't many 300-plus pound defensive tackles that can drop into zone coverage and chase an opposing running back 40-yards down the field. Plays like this are the reason Billings is one of the most intriguing defensive tackle prospects, and lend credence to those who believe he can be more than just a two-down run stopper at the NFL level.

In Conclusion...

The Steelers haven't had a true two-gap nose tackle since Casey Hampton retired at the end of the 2012 season. Pittsburgh ranked No. 21 against the run in 2013, but improved to No. 6 in 2014, and No. 5 in 2015. This improvement was due in large part to the emergence of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt as blue chip defensive ends.

But the team is lacking depth along the defensive line. The addition of Billings would allow the Steelers the flexibility to move McClendon, if he's re-signed, back to his more natural end position, and rotate him with Heyward and Tuitt. It would also ensure someone like Cam Thomas isn't the next man up in the event of an injury.

When it comes to freakish athletes like Billings, the question isn't whether or not the Steelers will select him, but rather, whether or not he'll be on the board when they pick. If he's available at No. 25, adding a talent like Billings should be a no-brainer for General Manager Kevin Colbert and Head Coach Mike Tomlin.