Eddie Lacy RB Alabama #42
Size/Athleticism: Elite size. Strong enough to take a pounding and can definitely be a feature back at the next level. Above average athleticism for his size, but definitely not a consistent big-play threat.
Vision: Really impressive vision for a running back of his size. Many bigger backs hit the hole like a bulldozer and just try to plow through, but Lacy knows when he can make himself small and slide through tight spots to pick extra yardage. He consistently makes the right decision in terms in where to go and when to explode through the hole.
Power: The definition of a downhill runner. Consistently lowers his shoulder into the defender and picks up the extra tough yardage. Very powerful legs that he keeps churning at all times. He consistently runs through arm tackles and frequently requires multiple defenders to bring him down.
Speed/Agility: Surprisingly quick considering his size. Has shown the footwork to make guys miss in the open field. Decent speed. He isn’t a true home run threat, but he is fast enough to bounce some runs outside and pick up chucks of yardage. Much more than just a pure bulldozer; he mixes in jukes and spins moves and attempts to avoid contact when possible.
Passing Game: Lack of elite athleticism makes him only an average receiver, but he does have the hands to catch the ball out of the backfield and can be an asset. Gives a solid effort in pass protection, but needs to refine his fundamentals. Consistently gets into position and slows down the pass-rusher, but doesn’t have the ability to sustain the block.
Intangibles: A true team player. Excelled in a reserve role early in his career and contributed on special teams.
Durability: Missed time with a toe injury in 2011. Had toe surgery following 2011 season and missed spring practice. Slowed by an ankle injury in 2012.
Comments: Lacy doesn’t quite have the athleticism to be an elite prospect, but he definitely has the skills to be an effective starting running back in the league. He’s a powerful downhill runner and would be extremely effective in a dual-back system with a smaller, change-of-pace back to share the load. My only concern with Lacy is his weight. It hasn’t been an issue in the past, but as he ages, how quickly will he put on bad weight and how hard will he work to keep it off? As soon as he loses that burst that makes him more than just a short-yardage back, his value will drop considerably.
Dion Jordan OLB Oregon #96
Size/Athleticism: Tall and skinny. Definitely needs to add some weight in order to become a more well-rounded player. Rare athleticism for his size. He’s capable of being a versatile player at the next level due to his size/athleticism combination and should be coveted by teams running a hybrid scheme.
Run Defense: Lacks the strength to consistently hold up at the point of attack. Can get driven backwards by linemen once he’s engaged. Elite straight-line speed for a linebacker. Speed allows him to make an impressive number of plays in pursuit. Second effort is impressive; always fights to the whistles and always gets back up to pursue ball carrier when knocked down. A very smart run defender who stays in his space and doesn’t over commit. Occasionally asked to spy on the quarterback (vs Stanford, for example) and does a nice job keeping his eyes in the backfield and mirroring his movements.
Pass Rush: At his best when he wins off the snap and can blow past slow-footed linemen. Does a great job using leverage to generate a surprisingly effective bull rush considering his relatively lack of size. Needs to refine his pass-rush moves. He relies too much on his speed and would benefit from learning how to use his hands more to fight past stronger offensive tackles.
Coverage: Elite coverage ability for a 3-4 linebacker. Occasionally lined up in man coverage over tight ends in the slot. Has the speed to stay with most tight ends and the height and strength to cause issues for them in jump-ball situations. Experience dropping into zone and man coverage.
Intangibles: Still developing as a defensive player. Originally committed to Oregon as a top-rated tight end recruit. Converted to defensive end in 2010.
Durability: Missed time with a shoulder injury in 2012 and had offseason surgery. Slowed by an ankle injury in 2011.
Comments: Jordan is a freak athlete for a guy his size. He looks like a basketball player lined up at linebacker. Oregon used him in a variety of roles, asking him to blitz, drop in coverage and spy on the quarterback. That type of experience makes him uniquely prepared for the NFL, and coaches that run a hybrid scheme should fall in love with the options he brings to the table. He definitely needs to bulk up, especially if he’s going to end in a 4-3, but he has the frame to add some weight without losing his quickness. He compares favorably to Shaun Phillips, who excelled both in coverage and as a pass-rusher in his prime in the Chargers 3-4 scheme.
Jarvis Jones LB Georgia #29
Size/Athleticism: Prototypical build for a 3-4 outside linebacker. A good athlete for his size. Impressive quickness of the snap. Has enough athleticism to drop into coverage and hold his own in certain matchups.
Run Defense: Lacks the strength to hold up at the point of attack, and probably can’t play end in a 4-3 for this reason. Bigger offensive linemen can easily neutralize him when they run directly at Jones. D.J. Fluker and Alabama made this work particularly well in 2012. Does a nice job diagnosing the play. Doesn’t pin his ears back on every play, even when he’s blitzing off the edge he keeps his eye on the play and is quick to react to a draw or screen. Has the speed to run down the ball carrier and typically takes correct angles in pursuit.
Pass Rush: Undoubtedly the strong suit of his game. Excels as a speed rusher off the edge. Frequently lines up wide and will simply beat the tackle with his pure speed. When matched up against D.J. Fluker of Alabama, there were a few plays where he timed the snap up perfectly and flew past Fluker. Once he’s stood up, he gives a solid second effort. He keeps his eyes on the backfield and is quick enough to slip between linemen on a second effort. Bull rush is very limited. When he isn’t able to disengage from a block, he gets stopped dead in his tracks and sometimes gets taken to the ground.
Coverage: Almost no experience dropping into coverage. Does not appear to have the speed or fluid athleticism to excel in man coverage.
Intangibles: Intelligent player who was well liked by teammates and coaches at Georgia.
Durability: Suffered what was believed to be a career-ending neck injury while at USC. Georgia’s training staff gave him the OK to play, however, which prompted him to transfer after one year at USC. Jones was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which has caused other players such as Marcus McNeill and Chris Samuels to retire prematurely.
Comments: Ignoring the health issue, Jones is an obvious first-round pick. His ability as a speed-rusher off the edge makes him an intriguing prospect for 3-4 teams. However, Jones may be limited to playing the 3-4. He lacks the strength to play end in a 4-3, and may lack the athleticism to really excel at strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 due to his limitations in coverage. If I were grading specifically for a team running a 4-3 defense, I would probably give Jones a 2nd- or 3rd-round grade. In a 3-4 scheme, he should be able to make an immediate splash as a pass-rusher, but may take some time to develop his all-around game while he gets stronger against the run. As for his health, teams will simply need to make a decision as to whether or not he’s worth the risk. He could be removed from some draft boards, but someone will likely roll the dice in the first round.
1. Wide Receiver
It’s starting to look like the Pittsburgh Steelers will let Mike Wallace sign elsewhere, opening up a hole in their receiving corps. Ben Roethlisberger has asked for a tall receiver in the past and instead was given Wallace (6’0″), Antonio Brown (5’10”) and Emmanuel Sanders (5’11”). This is a deep class of receivers, making it the perfect time for the Steelers to finally grant Big Ben his wish.
2. Outside Linebacker
James Harrison turns 35 in May is only a shell of his former self. The Steelers may chose to save some money and cut him loose this offseason. Jason Worilds will be first in line for his starting job, but some depth is needed.
3. Offensive Line
The Steelers continue to surround Ben Roethlisberg with one of the league’s worst offensive line. As he enters his 10th year in the league, protecting him becomes even more important. Max Starks and Ramon Foster are unrestricted free agent who may be let go. The Steelers may do some reshuffling of the line, so it’s tough to say which positions need to be filled, but they definitely need to address the situation.
1. Wide Receiver
The St. Louis Rams need to upgrade the supporting cast around Sam Bradford. Even if Danny Amendola is re-signed, the Rams need to find Bradford a legitimate No. 1 receiver. After a hot start, Amendola came back down to earth and ended his season with a thud. In the final three weeks, Amendola caught just 12 of 25 passes thrown his direction.
2. Offensive Line
Rodger Saffold is a quality start, but may be better suited to shift to the right side of the line. The Rams could also use an upgrade over free agent left guard Robert Turner. Right tackle Barry Richardson is also an unrestricted free agent.
3. Strong-side linebacker
Veteran Rocky McIntosh is a free agent and likely won’t be back. The Rams lack depth at linebacker and don’t have anyone capable of stepping up to fill his shoes. This could be a position addressed on day two of the draft.