With the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine in the rearview mirror, NFL draft experts from across the Internet are cranking out their latest mock drafts. If two nationally renowned sportswriters are to be believed, then the biggest reach of the first round in this April's draft may be at defensive tackle.
In no way am I questioning the competence, knowledge or ability of Peter Schrager of FOX Sports and Russ Lande of the Sporting News, as these esteemed gentlemen have been covering the National Football League for years and are among the best in the business at what they do.
However, in each of their latest mock drafts, Lande and Schrager have Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still ranked within the top 12 picks. Although Still is the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, the ranking seems puzzlingly high given Still's so-so workout at the recent combine according to ESPN's Todd McShay:
Still did not run the three-cone or short shuttle, but his 26 reps on the bench were up to par. However, Still looked a bit stiff and struggled to bend, and his inconsistent tape earns him a second-round grade.
Lande is a fair bit higher on Still than McShay, however, and the Sporting News draft expert currently projects that the 6'5", 305-pound Still will be chosen 12th overall by the Seattle Seahawks:
With defensive linemen Raheem Brock and Red Bryant scheduled to be free agents, the Seahawks grab Still, who has the talent to start as a rookie and could fill Bryant's role if they lose him.
It's also worth noting that Lande has Still being chosen ahead of North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, who many pundits project as a top 10 pick and who could fill a huge need at defensive end for the Seahawks.
Lande projects Mississippi defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who enjoyed an outstanding combine and who Bleacher Report NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller projects as a better pro prospect, falling from the first round altogether.
Schrager's outlook for Cox is a bit better than Lande's, as the FOX Sports scribe predicts that the Bulldogs beefeater will go 28th overall to the Green Bay Packers, but he's even higher on Still, projecting that the Nittany Lions standout will crack the top 10 by joining the Carolina Panthers:
Draftniks are divided on Still. He had an inconsistent and underwhelming first few years at Penn State, then busted onto the scene and dominated the Big Ten, earning conference player of the year honors last season.
Addressing critics at the combine, Still told reporters, “I think hands down I'm the best defensive tackle. I want it more. I was able to take over a lot of games." The Panthers gave up 130 yards per game on the ground last season and will undoubtedly be looking to beef up the interior of their defensive line.
Is Devon Still Worthy of a Top 15 Pick?
I'm not criticizing Still, who was a beast in the Big Ten in racking up 55 tackles, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 2011, but I'm far from convinced that he warrants a top 15 pick.
I may well turn out to be wrong and Lande and/or Schrager may be right, but as things stand today, I feel those gentlemen are reaching quite a bit. If NFL teams choose to do the same in April, they could find themselves looking back on a high choice spent on Devon Still with pangs of regret.