2012 NFL Draft: Nose Tackles on Pittsburgh Steelers' Day 2 Board

Mike BatistaContributor IApril 27, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Nose Tackles on Pittsburgh Steelers' Day 2 Board

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    Put a big, fat check mark next to "guard" on the list of Steelers' needs in the 2012 NFL draft.

    Now it's time to move on to nose tackle tonight. Inside linebacker can wait. What good is an inside linebacker if the nose tackle can't occupy blockers?

    In my final Steelers' mock draft, I had them taking California inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks in the second round, but that was about 48 hours ago. That's an eternity during draft week.

    I can see the Steelers taking a nose tackle tonight in the second round.

    Casey Hampton has been the engine at the front and center of the Steelers' defense for the past decade. Before that engine completely breaks down, the Steelers need to groom a successor. Hampton will be 35 next season and is coming off ACL surgery. He might not be available for Week 1.

    Steve McLendon is a stopgap at nose tackle and Ziggy Hood isn't dominant enough to play the position.

    Hopefully Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will be on the phone tonight with his new nose tackle.

    Not all of the following players are true nose tackles, but they're all 300-something-pounders who have filled that role at one time or another.

Alameda Ta'amu, Washington

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    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 348 pounds

    In my Steelers mock draft, I said it would be a reach in the second round if the Steelers drafted Ta'amu. But I thought to get him in the third round, they'd have to trade up.

    Since then, Ta'amu has slipped from 85th to 88th on CBSSports.com's overall rankings. Since the Steelers pick 86th, maybe they don't even have to trade up in the third round to get him.

    They shouldn't take that chance, however. Since David DeCastro was such a coup at No. 24 in the first round, the Steelers can afford a reach and take Ta'amu with the 56th pick in the second round.

    Pure nose tackles are hard to find, and Ta'amu is the best one remaining in the draft.

    In an interview today on WFAN Pittsburgh, Stanford offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren said DeCastro schooled Ta'amu when Stanford played Washington. That won't be a problem if they're on the same team, will it?

    If the Steelers took Kendricks in the second round and traded up in the third round tonight to get Ta'amu, they'd likely have to give up two picks later in the draft.

    It would behoove the Steelers to keep all 10 of their picks in this draft. This is an aging team, especially on defense. With all those picks, they have a chance to take players who can form the heart and soul of their defense in two or three years, including their inside linebacker of the future in a later round.

Brandon Thompson, Clemson

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    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 314 pounds

    Thompson is ranked No. 56 by CBSSports.com. That's right on the nose (get it?) for the Steelers, who have the No. 56 pick.

    Thompson doesn't have the heft of Dontari Poe, Ta'amu or even Hampton, who's at least 325 pounds. He might be too versatile. NFL.com and Pro Football Weekly both say he can play multiple positions on the defensive line. Pro Football Weekly says he might be better suited as a 4-3 defensive tackle.

    That might make Thompson a jack of all trades, master of none on the defensive line. The Steelers need someone who can scream "nose tackle" in a 3-4 defensive front.

    However, the Steelers might have to go with value here. If it's between Thompson and Ta'amu, they should probably go with Thompson, but pick a bigger nose tackle later in the draft. Maybe Ta'amu in the third round.

    This might be a case where the Steelers, not really wanting Thompson, could trade out of the second round. They could have two picks in both the third and fourth rounds, and still have a chance at Ta'amu early in the third round.

Devon Still, Penn State

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    Height: 6'5"

    Weight: 303 pounds

    Still slipped out of the first round because of concerns he might be a one-year wonder. He didn't emerge until his senior season, when he was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

    Still is not a pure nose tackle. There's a lot of height spreading out those 303 pounds.

    He enters the nose tackle discussion, though, because of this from NFL.com.

    He excels as a run defender by using his strength to occupy a blocker while he reads the play and reacts, which is ideal for a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense.

    However, an NFL evaluator, via Pro Football Weekly, says this about Still.

    (Penn State's) Devon Still is a pretender. He is a project to me. He plays high. He gets knocked around. He has some initial quickness, but he's not a tough, explosive finisher. Someone is going to get their feelings hurt drafting him in the first round. I don’t know how you play with guys who get hammered inside. I know we can't.

    No team did take Still in the first round. If he falls to the Steelers at No. 56, he might be a good value. Then again, Limas Sweed seemed like a good value when he fell to the Steelers late in the second round of the 2008 draft.

    Still wouldn't be as much of a bust as Sweed, and the Steelers could use depth at defensive end. But they need a nose tackle more.

    If it's between Ta'amu and Still in the second round, the Steelers should take Ta'amu.

Jerel Worthy, Michigan State

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    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 308 pounds

    NFL.com says Worthy can play nose tackle "if necessary."

    That means Worthy could add depth along the defensive line, but he's not a week-in, week-out nose tackle. He's the highest-rated defensive tackle still on the board, according to CBSSports.com.

    I would put Thompson ahead of him, though, because of his versatility. If Thompson is gone and Worthy somehow falls to the Steelers in the second round, they probably can't help but take him.

    However, they better hope Ta'amu is still there for them in the third round.

Mike Martin, Michigan

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    Height: 6'1"

    Weight: 306 pounds

    Martin is too small to play nose tackle for the Steelers. He's on this list only because he played there in 2009 and 2010 at Michigan.

    An NFL evaluator, via Pro Football Weekly, says he was playing out of position.

    Pro Football Weekly also says Martin "gets moved by double teams." That's not good.

    The Steelers should keep Martin on their board, but not pick him before the third round. Defensive end Ziggy Hood hasn't been terrible at defensive end, but he hasn't exactly set the world on fire, either. Picking Martin could provide some competition there, but would do nothing to address the Steelers' need at nose tackle.

Josh Chapman, Alabama

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    Height: 6'1"

    Weight: 316 pounds

    Chapman is a true nose tackle. The problem is he had ACL surgery Jan. 17, 10 days before Hampton had his ACL surgery.

    However, Chapman is 12 years younger, so his recovery might be a little quicker.

    Chapman played through his injury for most of the 2011 season, so his toughness is unquestioned. But there are concerns about his conditioning, according to NFL.com.

    Chapman should not be a second-round consideration for the Steelers. If they really don't want to reach for Ta'amu and miss out on him waiting for him at No. 86, Chapman would be a good choice there.

Hebron Fangupo, Brigham Young

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    Height: 6'1"

    Weight: 323 pounds

    Fangupo is a pure nose tackle. There are no worries that he might be a better fit at another position, but the Steelers should not draft him tonight. He's a fourth-round value at best.

    For starters, Fangupo will be 27 when the season begins. Also, his technique needs a lot of work, according to CBSSports.com, and he's had a history of injuries.

    If the Steelers don't get their nose tackle and Fangupo is the only player on this list available when the Steelers pick tonight at No. 86, they should pick a linebacker, another offensive lineman or maybe a safety. They should wait for the fourth round on Fangupo. He's a third-day guy.

     

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