NFL teams seeking defensive lineman won't be disappointed
Potential or performance? High-risk or high-reward? A starter for today or a star of tomorrow?
The defensive line might be the most loaded position in the NFL Draft, with at least six players who could go in the first round, including several who appear to be plug-in-and-play immediately athletes.
Sharrif Floyd of Florida, Star Lotulelei of Utah and Sheldon Richardson of Missouri are expected to be picked early in one of the deepest drafts for defensive tackles in years; as many as five could go in Round 1. And it's not top-heavy, either; there will be good defensive linemen available on Day 3.
Then there's Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, the Brigham Young track star-turned-top-round pick who has only three years of football experience, yet has boundless potential, unrivaled physical skills and the kind of athleticism rarely seen at his position.
“He was off the radar, completely undrafted when the season began,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said.
What he doesn't have is much experience, and the question is whether a team that takes him in the top 5, or where he is projected to go, can wait the couple of years it might take him to pick up the experience and knowledge he needs to excel.
Such picks often are expected to play well and play now.
“You're not sure what you're going to get, but you know there is potential for this huge upside,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “I think it's the best story in the draft. A year and a half ago, he wasn't even on NFL teams' draft boards. Now we're talking about him as a top-10 selection who has played minimal snaps.
“It scares me, and it scares teams how little he has played.”
Some of the other linemen look to be scary good. Floyd couldn't be blocked at times, even against superior teams, and Lotulelei — at 320 pounds — is close to being nose tackle-sized yet is quick enough to play anywhere along the line.
Mayock likes Floyd's “ability to get off the field and disrupt the pass game ... unique for a defensive tackle. If you can get a defensive tackle that can affect the pass game, you've got something special. I love the kid.”
An on-the-rise defensive lineman is the more highly rated Bjoern Werner's teammate at Florida State, Tank Carradine, who is recovering from a torn ACL. He's a sack specialist who could outperform some of the more highly ranked linemen.
Datone Jones, a UCLA defensive end, is a Steelers-type player: Puts up stats, is motivated and is a leader. But he'll probably go in the first round, and the Steelers likely won't look at that position until a later round.
Johnathan Hankins of Ohio State and Jesse Williams of Alabama could wind up being taken later in the first round or early in the second.
Looking for a projected Day 3 linemen who could perform at a level might higher than he is drafted? How about Jordan Hill of Penn State?
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Preseason valuable for Steelers’ offensive line
- Steelers notebook: Safety Mitchell faces former team, hurts leg
- Former longtime Steelers publicist Kiely dies
- Why Steelers will — or won’t — snap out of their funk
- Steelers have plenty of new faces at wide receiver
- Rossi: Steelers will make small strides this season
- Steelers QB dismisses preseason woes, looks to opener vs. Browns
- Steelers notebook: Team cuts 15 players, including LB So’oto, RB Hall
- Steelers running back blunt about focusing on football
- For Steelers outside linebacker Jones, size is not an obstacle
- Steelers’ Polamalu downplays emotional outburst