Pittsburgh Steelers' 2014 Scouting Combine Stock Report
The NFL Scouting Combine is in the books. More than 300 NFL prospects and all 32 NFL franchises got together for the Underwear Olympics. It was an opportunity for teams to put prospects under the microscope and really dig into their games.
But how much do all the drills and medical checks impact a player’s draft position? It’s impossible to say for sure. However, you can see significant shifts in popular opinion based on how a player performs.
Which potential Pittsburgh Steelers’ prospects improved their draft stock? Whose draft status took a hit? Read on and find out.
Note: All combine numbers are courtesy of NFL.com.
Stock Up: Mike Evans, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
Going into the combine, wide receiver was viewed as a top need for the Steelers. The kind of wide receiver the Steelers were targeting was also pretty clear.
As Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, the mandate came down that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needs a big target. This limits the pool of potential wideouts somewhat, but don't take that to mean the cupboards are bare. Quite the contrary.
Other than small-school phenom John Brown from Pittsburg State University, no wide receiver did more for himself than Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. Whereas Brown used a blazing 40-yard dash to earn draftable status, Evans did the same to plant himself firmly into the top half of the first round.
Evans checked in at the combine at an impressive 6'4" and 231 pounds. These numbers weren't all that shocking. His game is based on his long, athletic body.
What did impress was that he ran a 4.53 40-yard dash and looked very fluid doing it. Often times, bigger players essentially pound their way through the run, but he was smooth.
This level of fluidity carried over into the position drills. He plucked the ball out of the air well in the gauntlet, showing active hands.
Lazy hands are a real negative for young wideouts. You can't let that football get into your body while making the catch. Evans was effortless in his routes and went out and got the football.
At this point, it is hard to think he isn't a top target of the Steelers. The problem is he might have worked out well enough to enter the top 10 and be gone before the Steelers have the opportunity to select him.
Stock Down: Allen Robinson, Wide Receiver, Penn State
One of the other big wide receivers the Steelers could have been breaking down at the combine was Penn State's Allen Robinson. However, he disappointed on all fronts.
First, he checked in at less than 6'3", which was a surprise. Then he could only muster a 4.6 official 40-yard dash.
In agility drills, he looked to be coasting and not putting forth the effort you would expect from a fringe Day 1 prospect. Even in position drills, he wasn't able to redeem himself.
Robinson ran very average routes and didn't show dynamic hands. Even when the throw wasn't perfect, he didn't work hard enough to warrant a first-round pick.
At this point, with so many additional wide receivers playing so well, don't be shocked if his draft stock takes a significant tumble. It's buyer beware for any wideout in this talented group who can't keep up.
Robinson had a chance to put himself into the upper tier of wide receivers, but he didn't make it happen.
Stock Up: Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan
Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan came into the combine with the goal of stopping his draft stock tumble. He entered the year as one of the top prospects in the draft and among the top two at offensive tackle.
As the season wore on, his stock took a hit publicly. His film was still very good, but with the emergence of Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Lewan's stock was sliding, and there was nothing he could do about it.
However, Lewan more than redeemed himself at the combine. He burned up the 40 with a 4.87 official time at 307 pounds. That time puts into perspective just how athletic Lewan is. It also gives one a glimpse of the level of fitness that he is committed to.
There might not be enough time for Lewan to supplant Robinson or Texas A&M Jake Matthews, but his combine performance could keep him in the top half of the first round.
If the Steelers are interested in Lewan, they had better hope some other players at other positions vault ahead of him, so that he drops to No. 15.
Stock Down: Cyrus Kouandjio, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
It is always unfortunate when players have to contend with injuries. A big part of the scouting combine centers on medical checks, and for Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, the news was all bad.
At this point, his draft stock is completely up in the air. For every team that takes him off their board, there could be two that don't worry about his knee and maintain a first-round grade for him.
The best-case scenario for him is that a team near the bottom of the first round decides to roll the dice on his surgically repaired knee, and he is able to keep playing at a high level. However, if teams can't reconcile the potential effects of the injury, he could slide into Day 3 quickly.
The notion of an offensive lineman with bad knees shouldn't come as a shock. However, making that initial investment in him early in the round represents a considerable risk.
If the Steelers are confident with his knee, they could take a wait-and-see approach. They could let him slide a little—maybe to the second or third round—and then snatch him up at a bargain.
Stock Up: Anthony Barr, Linebacker, UCLA
The combine was supposed to be a big day for UCLA hybrid defensive end Anthony Barr. He and Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack have been in a bit of a stalemate as to which will be the second pass-rusher off the board after South Carolina Jadeveon Clowney.
Barr came in strong at 6'5" and 255 pounds. When you add in his 4.66 40-yard dash, the picture of just which pass-rusher is clearer. In fact, overall Barr's measurables were on par with the top overall prospects in the draft.
He also looked smooth in position drills. As a player who is still learning the position, he's going to be a little rough around the edges. However, as a project, he has the physical tools that defensive coaches will love to work with.
Does all this mean that he is going to usurp Mack? Probably not. A lot like Lewan, Barr probably isn't going to jump over his main adversary, but he can make a lot of headway toward the top of the round.
Depending on what happens with linebackers Jason Worilds and LaMarr Woodley, Barr might be on the Steelers' first-round radar. He showed himself to be more than just a straight-line athlete at the combine, which means he is learning his new position quickly.
Stock Down: Dee Ford, Defensive End, Auburn
Big talk is part of football. Trash talking and taking shots at one another are all part of the process. However, talking trash and failing to back it up is a schoolyard faux pas of the highest order.
And that is what happened with Auburn defensive end Dee Ford. He had been gaining draft momentum since the end of the college football season. The gifted pass-rusher was opening eyes on film with his impressive burst and closing speed.
I'm better (than Clowney). Let's put it like this. People like to talk about size all the time. Size is pretty much overrated in my eyes. You can look at guys like Robert Mathis, Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller. These are 6-2 guys and under. People are just looking at the fact that he's a physical specimen. Honestly if you watch the film, he plays like a blind dog in a meat market, basically.
This on its own is fine. Go out and run your mouth and then come to the combine and back it up.
Ford didn't realize there were two parts to this equation.
That's bad because not only didn't he back up what he said, but Clowney destroyed the combine in Ford's absence. Ford had a chance to make some headway on Monday but fell flat instead.
Ford is a fascinating prospect for the Steelers at outside linebacker, but taking him at No. 15 could be a reach.
Stock Up: Eric Ebron, Tight End, North Carolina
Following the theme of "Get Roethlisberger a big weapon," North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron opened some eyes. He put all his physical gifts on display at the combine. His measurables (6'4" and 250 pounds), 10-inch hands and 4.6 40-yard dash set him apart from the other tight ends at the combine.
It's clear from watching him play that he is a confident young man. And as pointed out by SI.com's Chris Burke, he believes he is a special player: "I’m very fast and very different. I play the tight end role like no one else. I just do different things than other tight ends do. If you watch film, you’ll probably say the same thing."
However, his work in the receiving drills is what will send teams back to his film and launch him into the top half of the first round. At this point, he could seriously be considered a top-10 pick. This is a huge jump for a young man who was a Day 2 prospect at the start of the season.
If the Steelers miss out on Evans or simply view the tight end as a better value, Ebron could make sense at No. 15.
Stock Down: Jace Amaro, Tight End, Texas Tech
By contrast, the other top tight end at the combine came up a little short. No, not really short. Texas Tech Jace Amaro is a full 6'5" and 265 pounds. However, when he was put next to Ebron, his game and many of his measurables paled in comparison.
His hands were only 9 inches and his official 40-yard dash time was noticeably slower than Ebron's at 4.74 seconds.
Moving to drills, Amaro did a good job. And by good, I mean not as good as Ebron. After coming up a little light in the triangle numbers, he had a chance to redeem himself in the pass-catching drills.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and Amaro will have to rally at his pro day and in individual workouts to cling to hopes of being selected in the first round.
The team that drafts him should get a nice player, but from the Steelers' perspective, if they do want him, they would be able to trade down and stockpile additional picks.
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