April 27, 2017

Pitt Players and the NFL Draft

Filed under: Draft,Football,Players — Justin @ 4:31 am

The NFL Draft was my first dive into the world of amateur football over-analysis. While I unfortunately lack the time these days to dedicate more to the hobby, I’m still able to keep close tabs on Pitt players and what we can expect from them next week when they find their new, hopefully long-term, homes. A huge point of emphasis that any negative thing I post has nothing to do with what I think of players during their time at Pitt, but how they project to the NFL. I also want to be wrong to the benefit of players. Nothing makes me happier than Pitt players I know and love kicking ass and taking names in the NFL Larry Fitzgerald style.

I’ll start with the easiest: Nate Peterman. There are a lot of differing opinions on QBs in the draft this year and somehow Peterman is the only guy with a solid consensus: Day 2 pick with a lot of intangibles but nothing that makes you say “WOW.” NFL teams often get caught up in strong arms and great athleticism and ignore things like pocket presence, accuracy, and leadership. Peterman won’t blow you away with his athleticism or arm strength. That’s not to say he’s lacking in either area, but as stated before, there’s no wow in what he does. He’s smart, accurate, is a good leader, and has all of the physical abilities necessary to be an NFL QB. Jon Gruden recently said he’s the most NFL-ready QB in the draft and I agree.

Peterman will likely be a target of a team that isn’t severely lacking at QB, but doesn’t necessarily have it solved. The Jaguars are a pretty common fit and that’d be exciting for Nate given he’s from the area. A few other teams to keep an eye on are the Bills, Saints, Browns, Texans, and Bears. There’s a small chance Peterman could sneak into the late first round if a team covets him.

Dorian Johnson is the only other Pitt player with a high probability of going on Day 2. I hesitate to use the term lock, but I highly doubt Johnson is still available in the 4th round. The only way I see that happening is if there’s some unknown/shocking medical or character thing going on. To clarify, I’ve never heard of a character or health issue with him. As a multi-year starter with good athletic ability and long arms, Johnson could go to numerous teams as very few have two established starters at OG on long term deals. Most likely a team that needs a plug and play starter at OG will draft him in the 2nd or early 3rd round, especially teams that want an OG who can pull or run a lot of zone blocking. Johnson is in an ideal position to have a long NFL career if he stays healthy, which fortunately he has thus far.

Adam Bisnowaty has some criticism that’s dropping him below where most Pitt fans expect from what I can tell. The main criticism out there is that he doesn’t have the agility or bend to play LT in the NFL and will likely have to switch to RT or OG.  Normally guys who don’t have high end athleticism and require a position change get bumped down. This puts Biz in the 3rd-5th round range, but in the right spot he could have a shot to start as a rookie. What helps him out a lot is the nastiness he plays with. Coaches love OL that play with a bit of an edge as it shows their competitive level. Guys who show that they have the fight in them are the ones who tend to stick around.

I got some interesting info on James Conner thanks to this tweet from a few people with connections. It was obvious to me early in the year that Conner didn’t quite have that great burst he had as a sophomore. That’s to be expected as he wasn’t going to be 100% after his inspiring bout with lymphoma; Conner himself said he was at about 60% to start the season. But as time went on, he was clearly getting back to his sophomore level. Conner isn’t going to outrun DBs in the secondary, but he has showed the ability to get up to his top speed quickly, aka his burst. The best way to measure that is the 10 yard split within his 40 yard dash. Conner’s 10 yard split was 1.57 seconds at the combine. I know that doesn’t mean much if you don’t obsessively follow this stuff, but here’s a good way to look at it.

A 1.57 second 10 yard split is about the 65th percentile of NFL RBs, meaning it’s faster than 65% of them. NFL Rookie of the Year Ezekiel Elliott had a 1.58 10 yard split last year. While Elliott has better long speed, the two are equal within the first 10 yards. That bodes very well for Conner at his size and strength because if he can hit the hole hard and fast, coaches will happily deal with a RB who gets caught 20 yards down the field if he has the burst, vision, and power to get there with regularity. Add in his improved receiving ability and off-the-charts character and work ethic and I think we’ll see Conner drafted higher than a lot of analysts have him pegged at. Conner also has the vision to run behind zone blocking and isn’t a bad fit thanks to his burst. I predict Conner won’t make it out of the 4th round and will go to a team that isn’t settled on a starting RB, meaning he has a shot to get a lot of touches as a rookie. A few teams to watch out for are the Eagles, Packers, Panthers, Raiders, or even the Steelers as a future starter if they let Bell walk after 2017.

Ejuan Price is a difficult projection to the NFL because of his height. At 6’2, he’d be a mid-round pick with a chance to contribute immediately. At 5’11, his projection isn’t easy because the list of successful edge players in the NFL under 6’ isn’t a very long one. I’ve seen some suggest he should be an ILB in a 3-4 defense. In fact, when you compare his athletic measurements to the entire NFL, you see a lot of off-ball LBs. Price will go anywhere from the 4th round to undrafted. I’m a firm believer that going undrafted is better than going in the 7th round because the player has more control over where he goes. The small bonus a player gets is less than a year of NFL salary, so the ability to have more control over where you go in my opinion is better as your chance to make the roster is the same. I unfortunately have no idea where Price will go or what position he’ll be taken as.

Scott Orndoff is in a tough position through no fault of his own. The TE class in this draft is loaded with talent and was called maybe the best he has ever seen by Mike Mayock. In most other drafts, Orndoff would have a good shot at going in the 5th or 6th round. With this draft class I’m not confident he’ll be drafted. Orndoff has the size and talent to play in the NFL, but his road is going to be a bit harder because he’ll probably start training camp on the outside looking in for a roster spot.

Tyrique Jarrett could end up drafted higher than Ejuan Price. Not to dismiss Jarrett’s on field production at Pitt, but it’s fair to say Price has a more impressive resume. However, the NFL isn’t all that concerned with what you did. They’re concerned about what you can do at the next level. They want traits and abilities that translate into roles. Jarrett has the size and athleticism NFL teams covet out of an interior DT to eat up space. He’ll play nose tackle or 0 tech in a 3-4 D or possibly 1 tech in a 4-3.  Jarrett has visited the Broncos and per his agent, he will hear his name on Day 3 of the NFL draft.

Shakir Soto is the last player who has a shot at hearing his name called on Saturday. Soto played DE his first few years at Pitt before switching to DT. Soto has upside as an interior pass rusher and is on the radar for several NFL teams. Like Jarrett, he has traits that translate into a role in the NFL and that makes him a viable late round pick or priority free agent. Pitt’s defense would have looked a lot different had Jarrett and Soto stayed healthy all season.

The rest of the draft eligible class that attended Pitt’s pro day, Dontez Ford, Matt Galambos, Ryan Lewis, Chris Blewitt, Bam Bradley, Terrish Webb, Reggie Mitchell, Manny Stocker, John Guy, Jaymar Parrish, and long-snapper Pat Quirin, are not likely to be drafted. Ryan Lewis has received interest as a possible free agent target from a few teams but he’s the only one I could find any attention for from NFL teams. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but the more noise out there on a player the better his chances are at getting a real opportunity.

As I stated above, I’m always happy to be wrong to the benefit of Pitt players. But, I try to balance my fandom with realistic expectations and gauging what respected analysts are saying. I’ll state my disagreements (ie with Conner being undervalued) and point out areas that I think are overlooked. I can’t wait to see where these guys end up this weekend as I’m so thankful that I was able to watch them over the past four or five years.

Speaking of the Pens… Crosby showing symptoms of Concussion?

Let’s hope it’s more PRECAUTIONARY than anything.

But the replay shows just how CHEAP it was… contrary to Mike Emrick’s view of things.

Comment by PittofDreams 05.01.17 @ 8:58 pm

Where did the comments go?

Chas, Justin… Whoever… you really got to think about getting a new Web Host.

Comment by PittofDreams 05.01.17 @ 9:06 pm

Blame it on the Russians… or the Chinese… or Whoever.

Comment by PittofDreams 05.01.17 @ 9:07 pm

Whoever is responsible for the HACKING of the Blather… Pens Caps going SEVEN!

Comment by PittofDreams 05.01.17 @ 9:09 pm

First Crosby was hacked in the head by Ovechkin causing him to lose his balance, then Niskanen finished him off. If Crosby is done, the Pens are done. Whether it was just hockey or a dirty play doesn’t matter, the results are the same.

Comment by gc 05.02.17 @ 9:04 am

gc – I’m afraid you are right, the Pens have done a tremendous job replacing players all year long, but I don’t see how you replace your best player (possibly THE best) and still win the Cup, let alone this series.

And you’re right again, per the Trib, Crosby was hacked across the FACE by Ovechkin before losing his balance, and he should be suspended. Obviously, no way the NHL suspends a player like Ovechkin, due to favoritism/corruption, just saying that’s what should happen.

Comment by 1618mt 05.02.17 @ 12:19 pm

Crosby out next Game. Obviously this is going to be a Game-by-Game announcement thing.

If he didn’t lose consciousness… which he didn’t appear to do… there is a chance he could return at some point.

Either way… going SEVEN!

Comment by PittofDreams 05.02.17 @ 7:14 pm

And just for clarification… it wasn’t either Ovechkin or Niskanen who dealt the BIG blow to Crosby.

It was the ice.

Watch closely and you’ll see Crosby’s helmet bounce off the ice as he falls following the WHACK to the back of the head by Niskanen.

Comment by PittofDreams 05.02.17 @ 7:20 pm

Isn’t there another site for the ice capades?

Comment by alcofan 05.02.17 @ 9:18 pm

Officially not a Pens or Crosby Fan?

Comment by PittofDreams 05.02.17 @ 9:49 pm

Pens have been the best team and best run organization in Pittsburgh for quite a few years now, but they may be the best kept secret, amazing how many people are still clueless about hockey. And it’s the only thing going right now.

Plus, any hoops discussion appears to get deleted…


Comment by 1618mt 05.03.17 @ 7:31 am

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