Under-the-Radar Diamonds in the Rough…

…and any other draft-related cliches you can think of

At this point, two days out from the draft, we pretty much know what to expect. The Steelers have primary needs along the offensive line and in the secondary, and there’s a good chance they’ll address one of them with the 31st pick.

There’s also the possibility that, because of the depth at defensive line, Pittsburgh could grab a defensive end at the bottom of the first round. Whatever, by Friday night some combination of OL, DB, and DL will likely populate the Steelers’ first three draft slots.

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Aaron Williams, Brandon Harris, Derek Sherrod, Nate Solder, Cameron Heyward — all names we’re familiar with at this point. But what about the lesser known, Day 3 possibilities, the guys we would only know about because we’re related to them? Like most draft fanatics who don’t actually watch hours of tape to form opinions, but instead rely on the insight of others to educate us (like our good buddy, Doug Farrar, for example), I’m well versed in the top 100 or so players. But after that, I got nothing.

For example, I didn’t know Manny Sanders from Manny Delgado when the Steelers drafted him in the third round last year. And I didn’t learn Antonio Brown’s name until midway through training camp. So what are some of the players to know who might interest the Steelers this weekend?

Glad I posed that rhetorical question for you…

1. Davon House, CB, New Mexico St. Most mock drafts have House going off the board by the end of the second round, so it’s not like he’s Ike Taylor, discovered (!) by Dave-Te’ Thomas. But with all the talk about the top-5 CBs, including names like Williams and Harris who might be Steelers’ favorites at 1.31, there hasn’t been any mention of House. Farrar called him “Jimmy Smith lite” on the podcast last week, and ranks him as his No. 57 prospect:

“The primary question for House, as it has been for defensive backs from smaller schools and programs for a long time, is how will he adjust to what might be a steeper learning curve when it comes to facing NFL quarterbacks and passing offenses? By his senior season, House was being avoided by every enemy quarterback and still picked off four passes in 2010. He has the versatility to play man and zone coverage, but what does the tape tell us in an isolated sense about his NFL-ready skill set?”

Anytime I hear “small school” the nightmarish visions of Ricardo Colclough subconsciously kick in. But Ike’s from a small school, too; there are happy endings involving guys who didn’t attend BCS programs.

That aside, House appears to have the physical skills the Steelers like but doesn’t have the experience or exposure to immediately step into a sub-package role. But that’s been the case with virtually every defensive back drafted in recent years (obvious, and possibly ironic exeptions: B-Mac and William Gay). Farrar does notes that “House may [struggle in the NFL] when faced with more advanced angles and routes, though it’s his ability to play zone and cover big spaces that could see him through.”

For what it’s worth, CBSSports.com’s Chad Reuter has the Steelers drafting House at 2.63.

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I saw a headline the other day that a “rogue former NFL scout called Jake Locker the next Brett Favre.” (My thoughts immediately turned to dick jokes because, well, that’s what Favre’s career has come to represent. This is what happens when you fake retire so often that people start marking their calendars in anticipation for the next one. Allegedly texting pictures of your junk to female team employees doesn’t help, either.) I didn’t think much of it at the time because the internet was built on people making outrageous claims, most of whom can’t (nor plan to) back them up.

Well, I finally got around to reading Michael Silver’s column about said rogue scout Dave Razzano and once you cut through all the crazy, the dude sounds legit. (Part of that legitimacy comes from admitting his mistakes — like calling Aaron Rodgers a “mid-round value” back in 2005 — as well as identifying talented players that everybody else missed, like undrafted free agents Wes Welker and Davone Bess.)

Which brings me to this…

2. Jurell Casey, NT, USC. Casey declared for the draft after his junior season. According to NFLDraftScout.com he’s rated as the 11th best DT and is projected to go in the third round. I’ll be honest: until today I never heard of the guy. Here’s what Razzano said about him:

“There’s a defensive tackle at USC named Jurrell Casey, and he’s the protypical nose [tackle],” Razzano said. “He’s like another Michael Carter, who we got in the fifth round in San Francisco – one of the all-time steals. I see he’s rated as the ninth-best defensive tackle. If they do a [mock] re-draft in a few years, he’ll be a top-seven pick.

… I’m telling you, it’s [like the Pittsburgh Steelers’] Casey Hampton. He has short-area quickness and enough of a motor to satisfy me. You have to realize, defensive linemen don’t all have great work ethic. That’s why they’re big. But [Jurrell Casey’s] a naturally explosive guy, and they’re hard to find.”

Casey is listed at 6-1, 300, which sounds sorta light in the pants for a Steelers nose tackle. But as Razzano told Silver, part of the problem with evaluating players is that coaches and scouts fall in love with measurables to the point that they let it affect what their eyes are telling them. “The bottom line is, you have to trust the tape,” Razzano implores.

And then he turns the conversation to a couple under-the-radar wideouts he’s big on: Hawaii’s Greg Salas and San Diego State’s Vincent Brown.

And wouldn’t you know it, Brown has paid a visit to the South Side this spring (see all the player visits here). NFLDS.com rates Sales as the No. 10 wideout, and Brown at No. 14, and projects that they will be drafted in rounds 3-5.

Of course, none of this matters if the teams in front of the Steelers don’t cooperate. But if history is any guide, there should be plenty of names to choose from at the bottom of each round. And who knows, maybe some of players mentioned above will end up in Pittsburgh. For now, feel free to add other under-the-radar names in the comments.

This entry was posted in 2011 mock draft, Draft, Offseason and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    What’s the thought on Dion Lewis in round 5 or 6? He was very productive at Pitt.

  • JJ Cooper

    Vincent Brown is my mid-round diamond in the rough…picked him on the Steel Curtain Radio mock last weekend. He seems like a perfect fit to give the Steelers another intermediate WR who can work over the middle.

  • Mike L

    Wow, where to begin? At RB you have Dion Lewis and Noel Devine. At WR I think the Steelers are interested in the big target that they don’t have outside of Sweed. I like Kris Dunham of Georgiahttp://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/players/archive/1114918 He put up great numbers while AJ Green was suspended for 4 games. His stats are not far off from Green although he cooled off after Green returned. He struggled through some injuries all season but for a 7th rd pick to FA he has good value. I like Casey because he has some pass rush ability as a 3rd round pick. I we want a NT w/o rush ability Chris Neild of WV should be available 6th-FA. At TE I like Schuylar Oordt of Northern Iowa in the 6th or 6thas a developmental TE who has pass catching ability, he could be on the practice quad this year and then compete next year. At kicker I would like to see the Steelers bring in Dan Bailey of Oklahoma State to compete. Why? He has better KO ability than anyone on the current roster, he was very accurate last year winning the Lou Groza award after going 27 of 31 on FG, 11 of 13 from 40+. He is under the radar because he did not KO the last two years but only because the teams punter was the best at KO in the country registering over 50%. http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/players/1689664
    In 2008 he did KO and averaged over 67 yds. http://www.cfbstats.com/2008/player/521/1010566/index.html
    He can also punt in a pinch.

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      Mike L,

      Thanks for the insights. Good stuff.

  • kyle

    Ha. I read that rogue scout article too. I also immediately checked into Jurrell Casey. For all the talk about defensive end I think NT is a bigger need and a much harder type of player to find.