Mocking the Draft: Round Three—Linebacker U

The Round Three picks mocked to the Steelers fell into three distinct groups—offense, safeties, and linebackers. I covered the first two groups last week, and today we dive into the Middle Four, as I’ve never seen it called but seems logical to me.

If you missed the earlier two articles you can find links at the bottom of the page. But to bring you up to speed, I began with a fairly hefty list of guys, because unlike Round 1 there was not a single repeat player in the various mocks I looked at. I then culled the list using my own criteria:

  • Charone Peake, WR (Kadar)
  • Scooby Wright, ILB (draftsite.com)
  • Kamalei Correa, OLB (PFF)
  • Sean Davis, FS (Invictus XI)
  • Deion Jones, OLB (Brown)
  • Vadal Alexander, OG/OT (Reuter)
  • Jordan Jenkins, OLB (Schmeltzer)
  • Jeremy Cash, S (SteelersWire)

I added Su’a Cravens to the list because he was showing up in so many mocks in the second round, and I was glad I did. A very impressive young man! But now let’s look at two of OLBs:

CorreaKamalei Correa, OLB

Correa is one of the players I was seeing as a possible first round pick for the Steelers a few weeks ago, and it shows you how deep this class is defensively and how quickly a player’s fortunes ebb and flow that he is now being mocked as a third-round pick by Pro Football Focus. (Of course, they seem to march to their own drummer over there…)

As a football fan you’ve got to love a guy billed as “Boise State’s Sack Artist.” (NFLcom’s Daniel Jeremiah called him “a poor man’s Clay Matthews,” which doesn’t sound quite as cool but is probably more helpful.) If you’re me you’ve gotta love a guy who looks this good at a post-game press conference, pre-shower.

There are other attractive things about Correa as well. Unlike Baron Batch, his blog isn’t one of them. He started a blog in the fall of 2014 and put up two posts. Then the blog, like so many good intentions, fell prey to indifference or lack of time or any of the number of things which stop all of us from doing stuff we think would be a good idea.

One of the things he has done which has led to a lot of speculation has been declaring a year early for the draft. Some commentators are firmly convinced he is making a mistake. Others felt his draft stock took a big uptick with a good combine and pro day. He himself said the decision wasn’t a simple one:

“Of course it’s not easy to leave a good program like this,” Correa said. “They’ve done a lot for me, I thank Boise State. It was not easy for me. I did a lot of praying, talking with my family and my teammates. It wasn’t easy at all.”

When asked about a Todd McShay mock draft putting him into the first round:

“I think it would be a dream come true,” Correa said of being a first round pick. “It would be an awesome experience, but as of now, it’s all talk. You don’t really know until draft day and you get the call, but I’m hoping somebody takes a shot on me because they won’t regret it.

“I mean I’m doing everything in my power, I’m doing what I can. Now it’s up to these teams to take what they want from it and I’m just waiting for someone to take a shot on me.”

Despite being a deep defensive class it is fairly short on pass rushers, so this may result in Correa being taken a lot sooner than near the end of the third round. Here’s how NFL.com rated him:

5.84 rating.

Correa will likely transition into a full-time 3­-4 outside linebacker as a pro. While he doesn’t have as much play strength as expected and is still raw as a pass rusher, NFL teams will be attracted by his quick-twitch athleticism and moldable traits as a pass rusher. The tape says Day 3 of the draft, but the upside could get him called earlier. He might require patience as there is still work to be done for Correa.


JenkinsJordan Jenkins, OLB

It has to give a guy a leg up in the competition if we already know he looks good in black and gold, right? This is from high school, BTW, when he was 6’3, 246 lbs. [He was still 6’3″ at the Combine, but weighed in at 259.] But what has he done for his draft stock lately?

In an article from a year ago it was said:

Reports from winter workouts have already been that Jordan Jenkins is stepping up as a senior and leading these Bulldogs, not just at outside linebacker or on defense. He is developing that type of presence for the entire team. And while that doesn’t sound out of character at all for a high-character guy Jenkins, it shouldn’t be overlooked, because Georgia’s defense really hasn’t had that kind of vocal, lightning-rod, clear leader since Jarvis Jones left early for the NFL. Most of that has come from the offensive side of the football, and while you will have an experienced offensive line and Malcolm Mitchell back at receiver, quarterback, tailback, tight end and other roles look to be filled by relatively young players in 2015. If there is one guy you’d point to as a team-wide leader, it just might be Jenkins.

Perhaps it doesn’t help Jenkins with Steelers fans to be compared to Jarvis Jones, who remains an enigma at best and will have one more year to convince the Steelers to keep him. A recent DraftWire profile notes:

In terms of football character, passion, motor, and leadership, you won’t find many better than Jenkins. The Georgia defender brings it every single snap, playing relentlessly through a groin injury this past fall. The Bulldogs loss to Alabama wasn’t his best game tape, but Jenkins’ passion and heart even in the fourth quarter of a 38-10 blowout in the pouring rain was admirable to watch. He may never be an elite pass rusher or an annual 12-sack performer, but Jenkins is going to start for a long time and play at a high level in all facets of the game.

There’s more to his character than “football character.” An ESPN article from 2012 made that clear:

Jordan Jenkins could have graduated from high school early and enrolled at Georgia in January, but he still has unfinished business to complete.

The outside linebacker prospect — rated as the nation’s No. 67 overall prospect in the ESPNU 150 — has grade-schoolers to read to and after-school traffic to direct.

Jenkins (Hamilton, Ga./Harris County) is a contender for a Page One Award — a competition the local newspaper, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, conducts each year to honor the area’s best and brightest high school seniors for their scholarship, leadership, service and character — and, competitor that he is, Jenkins wants to win.

“Here this kid is, he probably could have graduated early and enrolled at Georgia in the spring, and he’s staying here to try to win a competition based on academics. Isn’t that interesting?” Harris County coach Tommy Parks said. “He may tell people, ‘Well, I want to run track and throw the discus and the shot,’ and that’s probably true, too, but I think one of the main focuses is that he’s nominated for an academic award, and he’s going to try to win it.”

Luckily, Jenkins enjoys the community service obligations he is fulfilling as part of the competition.

“It’s fifth- and sixth-graders, and I go down there to a little class and help out around there,” Jenkins said of his work at nearby Creekside Intermediate School. “My eighth-grade teacher teaches there, so I read to them sometimes, and I’ll help them to work out some stuff. It’s a nice experience. I really love it.”

As his coach noted:

This isn’t the stereotypical prospect whose academic career took a backseat to his athletic achievements… Jenkins plans to study in Georgia’s fledgling engineering program and possibly focus on computer technology as a student, just in case the NFL doesn’t come calling after his college career.

“Part of what makes Jordan the person that he actually is is the fact that he challenges himself with every obstacle that’s thrown in front of him, whether it be writing a paper or doing a senior project or winning a Page One award or playing defensive end or outside linebacker,” Parks said. “He always seems to step up to the challenge to be the best he could possibly be.”

So I wondered, did he get that engineering degree? Well, no. Here’s what happened instead, according to an interview with Jenkins on Dawg Nation:

Jenkins briefly considered turning pro after [the 2014] season. But between a mediocre draft grade and the fact that he needs just 15 hours to graduate with a degree from the Terry College of Business, Jenkins decided to come back for one more year to pursue a team championship and refine his football skills.

“I really want to get my upper body to catch up with where my lower body is (in strength) and fine tune my footwork and the use of my hands with less/no wasted movements,” Jenkins said.

Here’s some information from the NFL Scouting Report:

Grade: 5.76

Very aware of what is happening around him. Has a high football IQ and has understanding of down, distance and tendencies. Physical at the point of attack and sets a strong edge. Has desired thickness and play strength to hold up against NFL edge blockers and freakishly long arms and big hands for his size. Won’t sit on blocks and uses powerful hands to shed and get into the action. Has played standing and with a hand in the dirt and can handle himself in zone coverage. Team captain. Brings a pro-­ready play demeanor to the field each Saturday.

In other words, neither of these prospects are the second coming of James Harrison. But neither was he, for that matter, for about five years after he went undrafted in 2002. The Steelers can’t wait five years for a third-round prospect to pan out. But I don’t get the sense they would have to with either of these guys. And after all, we still have James Harrison, maybe he can teach some old dog tricks to one of these youngsters.*

To be continued. To see my coverage of Round One, click here and here and here.

For Round Two, click here and here and here.

For Round Three, click here and here.

*That is, unless he retires in a fit of rage over the newly-published season schedule…

 

 

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