Mocking the Draft: Day Three Linebackers
The draft is fast approaching, which means the draft posts will now come thick and fast. My apologies to those of you who don’t care about the draft. The Sunday music posts will resume next week. For that, I apologize to those of you who don’t like music…
Things get really interesting now. How does one separate the wheat from the chaff from the abundance of Day Three players?
Furthermore, as pundits revise their mock drafts, different players keep showing up for the Steelers in the top three rounds. I added the names of some previously unconsidered players and culled them according to my usual high standards. I will add in the survivors with their position group.
Here are the players left standing who are mocked to the Steelers in the first three rounds, and who I had not previously covered. The number preceding the name is the round they were projected in:
And here are the various suggestions for the later rounds:
- Miles Killebrew, S; Tom Hackett, PT; Keith Marshall, RB; Roger Lewis, WR (Dan Brugler, Charles Campbell)
- Jatavis Brown, S; Kevin Peterson, CB; Giorgio Newberry, DT; Joe Schmidt, ILB (draftek)
- Joshua Perry, OLB; Brandon Allen, QB; Derek Alexander, DE; DeAndre Elliot, CB (big jay71)
- Javon Hargrave, DT; Morgan Burns, CB; Jared Norris, ILB; Alex Redmond, G (nfl spinzone)
- Pharoh Cooper, WR; Cory James, LB; Tavon Young, CB; Caleb Benenoch, OL (bleacher report)
- Dak Prescott, QB; Temarrick Hemingway, TE; De’Runnya Wilson, WR; Bralon Addison, WR/RB (fansided)
- Brandon Allen, QB; Shawn Oakman, DE; Drew Kaser, P; Josh Forrest, LB (The Point of Pittsburgh)
- Bryce Williams, TE; Tyler Marz, OT (Invictus XI)
- Avery Young, OT/OG; A.J. Stamps, S; Drew Kaser, P; Cayleb Jone, WR (nfl draft geek)
- Paul Perkins, RB (Brown)
- Hunter Sharp, WR (Reuter)
These are the 123rd, 220th, 229th, and 240th guys on the draftek big board, regardless of position or team:
- Adam Gotsis, DE; Devon Johnson, RB; Storm Barr-Woods, RB/FB; Jacob Coker, QB
I’m also adding a name I haven’t seen mocked to the Steelers, but who it is impossible to ignore—Akil Blount, LB. He is the son of, yes, THAT Blount, namely Mel. But more to the point, he’s a very interesting person in his own right. I would do a full post on him except that I’m running out of days before the draft.
Here is my list of linebackers after culling for handsomeness and probability. For example, I saw an early mock draft sending Myles Jack to the Steelers, but lately he doesn’t show up on anyone’s draft later than about No. 9 overall. Joe Schmidt looked intriguing, until I found an article in which he announced in February that he would not pursue an NFL career. So we’re left with these five linebackers:
Although Ragland is usually designated as an inside linebacker, S.I.’s Doug Farrar says he can play anywhere. (Ragland is No. 20 on his big board—I’ve seen him higher on other boards.)
His biggest fan, mother Anne White, has been a big influence in his life, including his draft status. Last year when he was considering declaring early, she dug in her heels, as reported on waaytv:
“Gotta have that diploma. Walk across that stage. Everything else falls in line,” White said.
Mother knew best. Ragland stuck around and found himself a finalist for three national awards: the Butkus, Badnarik, and Nagurski.
Ragland’s four-year career is something head coach Nick Saban thinks will pay off come draft time.
“I think the Ragland family certainly understood that. But, I also think there’s a business decision involved in all of this. Just because a guy could be a second-round draft pick…If he has the potential to come back and enhance his draft status to be a first-round draft pick, which I think certainly Reggie has done that,” Saban said.
He got that degree, too, in three and a half years, as detailed on seniorclassaward.com:
Reggie Ragland returned to college for his senior year to complete his degree in consumer affairs. Looking to fulfill a promise he made to his mother that he would earn a degree while at the University of Alabama, Ragland is scheduled to graduate in three and a half years.
A member of the Alabama football team’s leadership council, Ragland sets an example for underclassmen regarding how a student-athlete should carry himself at the university on and off the field.
The senior linebacker has dedicated himself to volunteering in the community, contributing numerous service hours each year that he has been in Tuscaloosa. Across his first three years at the Capstone, Ragland put together an impressive list of volunteering opportunities and has gone above and beyond what is asked of Alabama football student-athletes. In all, he has totaled 50-plus hours of community service across double-digit volunteer opportunities that include visits to hospitals, schools and churches. He has put in more than 15 hours of service at the Tuscaloosa Temporary Emergency Services center, while also spending time with local veterans at the VA hospital.
Andy Benoit’s report on Ragland for MMQB started out in a curious fashion:
Most of us have been jealous of Reggie Ragland at some point in our lives. Or, more accurately, jealous of Ragland’s ilk. He’s an alpha without trying to be. He has the blend of politeness and firmness of one not easily intimidated. You can tell his BS detector is acute. And he’s an athlete. A big-time athlete. He started receiving letters of recruitment in sixth grade—for basketball.
Of course, his best sport turned out to be football, and in 2012 Ragland, a native of Madison, Alabama (a Huntsville suburb) enrolled at the University of Alabama. He sat as a freshman behind C.J. Mosley. As a sophomore, he started and was a Butkus Award Finalist. Last year as a senior he led the national champion Tide in tackles and was unanimously voted first-team All-America.
NFL.com’s scouting report:
They rank him at 6.51, and said:
Thumping inside linebacker with throwback size and tonesetting mentality. Ragland is a confident and capable early starter in league who has the temperament to become one of the premier run-stopping inside linebackers in the pro game. Ragland has some coverage and speed limitations, but his instincts and overall awareness should be able to mask those issues.
Possibly the coolest-looking customer in this year’s class (that is, my BLA class.) Perry was mocked to the Steelers as a fourth round pick.
From all appearances, he’s another good guy. He graduated last December with a degree in Family Resource Management. but there’s a lot more to this scholar-athlete than scholarship, as this article in the Columbus Dispatch details:
There was something different about Joshua Perry almost from the start, something that told his father he might be special some day.
…He was “competitive from the start,” his father said, with Joshua’s inspiration coming from trying to keep up with his older brother, Wes.
“Anything Wes did, Joshua wanted to do better,” Jim Perry said, and he wasn’t referring just to sports. “Wes was a very smart, studious kind of kid. He learned to read early, so of course Joshua wanted to read better than Wes, and do it even earlier.”
Competitive is good, and athletic, which he clearly is, is also good. But it gets better:
He is one of the more engaging young men to come along in the Ohio State football program.
“I model myself after Josh, him being the big brother to me,” fellow linebacker Darron Lee said. “He does the right thing at every given moment. He’s a guy you never really have to worry about. And he works his tail off, day in, day out.”
“Some people are just built a specific way, and that’s how God made me,” Joshua said. “There is that term ‘pleaser,’ but I like to do the right thing, because the people around me, I care a lot about them — specifically my mom and dad, and my two brothers, and also my friends, my teammates and my coaches. It’s a big deal for me to do right by them.”
“I watched the way my parents operate, and I think they are the most amazing people ever,” Joshua said. “My dad is my biggest role model, and just watching the way he did things — he’s always respectful to everybody, he’s kind, he can find a way to strike up a conversation with anybody.
Where do I sign up? I’m loving this guy already. But there’s more:
This year, Joshua went on a goodwill mission to Costa Rica in the spring, helped represent his teammates at the ESPY awards show in Los Angeles in July and made the trip to the Kickoff Luncheon. His speech there ranged from athletes’ responsibilities as role models to the admiration he has for his younger brother, Jahred, who is on the Autism spectrum.
There also are the dozens of trips Joshua has made to local hospitals to try to bring cheer to patients, especially children; to schools, where he has spoken and read to students and answered questions; and to local charity functions, where he has lent a hand.
“That’s typical Josh,” coach Urban Meyer said. “He’s going to try to make a difference with people.”
This week, he was named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which is sponsored by the American Football Coaches Association. Only 11 players from NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision schools are selected each season, for making a “positive impact on others and their communities,” according to the press release…
He learned what was important the old-fashioned way.
“He asked a lot of questions,” Jim Perry said, laughing. “Then he would play it back to you to make sure ‘Do I have this right dad?’ … I’d hear him talking to his brothers about things later, and he wasn’t just repeating what my wife or I had told him. He understood it.”
Interestingly, Jim Perry said he has seen such curiosity pay off the most for his son on the football field…
“When Joshua was in high school, I used to think he was going to play football as a means to an end, that he’s going to get his degree, and then he’s going to do great things in whatever he chooses. But now I see this guy who has the desire to be a great football player as well as a great citizen.”
What more is there to say? Sold! But let’s see what NFL.com’s scouting report has to say:
Noted leader on the field and in the locker room. Winner who is willing to do the dirty work. Big and physical and has the strength and grit to handle himself at point of attack. Productive tackler with good finishing rate. Wrap up tackler who throws his chest into it. Allowed just one broken tackle over last two years. Has old-school thumper’s mentality in the box. Well-conditioned and continues to bring his lunch pail into the fourth quarter. Plays with good instincts anticipating screen passes and getting jumps on wide rushing plays.
Cory James, LB
Alright, I’ll confess. James may or may not have made the cut, had it not been for the photo which heads the article. This is at his Pro Day at Colorado State, and he is working with one of the more prominent alumni of the program, none other than our own Joey Porter.
Here’s how it went down:
Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins attracted the most attention from the scouts and coaches representing 29 NFL teams, but it was James who had the day’s best performance.
Two scouts timed James in 4.57 seconds for the 40-yard dash. He drew gasps when he leaped 10 feet, 7 inches in the standing broad jump. Each performance would have placed him among the top three linebackers in Indianapolis at the NFL scouting combine, which he wasn’t invited to attend, primarily because of his size.
At 6-foot-1, 229 pounds, James is considered undersized as an outside linebacker for the NFL and probably will be a third-day selection, if he is drafted, despite having been an exceptional pass rusher at CSU.
Porter talked about James afterwards:
“It’s in the eye of the beholder,” said Porter, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ outside linebackers coach. “I think he really helped himself by coming out and doing what he was supposed to do. He’s great as a person, and if he works hard, he has a real good chance to play in this league.”
Porter coached James when he was a CSU defensive assistant during the 2013 season. James flourished under Porter, setting career highs in sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (12). James had 24 sacks in his career.
“This isn’t just business. It’s personal,” Porter said. “It’s more than football with me and Cory. I know who he is as a man.”
And who am I to argue with Joey Porter?
He was mocked to the Steelers in Round Six. His NFL.com scouting report rates him at 5.0, and says:
James moved to middle linebacker this season, but that isn’t where he will be cast by NFL teams. James posted 15.5 sacks combined in 2013 and 2014 and has the flexibility and quickness that makes him an interesting edge rushing candidate. James isn’t consistent enough to warrant time on an NFL field yet, but his athleticism and potential to get after the passer gives him a puncher’s chance.
Forrest has completed a degree in Community and Leadership Development, and began work on a Communications emphasis as well. While at the University of Kentucky he was active in the community, as one would hope, given his major.
While at Kentucky he moved from wide receiver to linebacker and led the team in tackles for his two final seasons. He also intercepted two passes each year, including an 81-yard pick-six in 2015. I suppose that WR training paid off.
He’s projecting as a seventh-round or undrafted player. Nfl.com’s scouting report grades him pretty well (5.28) for a late-round guy, and says:
Tall, long-limbed and athletic. Was used all over the field by Kentucky staff. Has 202 tackles during his two-year stint as starter. Has plus chase speed. Lateral quickness is a strength. Length and closing burst gives him extended range to make tackles. Has quick direction change to put himself in position for difficult open field finishes. Uses hand and foot quickness to sidestep and brush away blockers targeting him on second level. Frequently used as blitzer and gap shooter. Able to “get skinny” and sneak through crevices and into the backfield.
Okay, so he’s Mel Blount’s son. What has he done for anyone lately?
A great deal, as it turns out. He’s quite an impressive young man who isn’t interesting in using his famous father’s name to, well, make a name for himself. He wants who he is and what he can do on the field to speak for him.
But this doesn’t mean he doesn’t learn from his father, as he noted on an interview on Draft Diamonds:
Q. Who is your role model, and why?
A: My father, first because he is a God fearing, Christian man, and has accomplished everything in life that I want to accomplish, play football at the highest level and build a charity for young males to better themselves.
It isn’t just talk, either, as this article from the Tallahassee Democrat writes:
A handful of [Florida A & M] Rattlers [— including two coaches — traveled to the new Kearney Center on Municipal Way to deliver clothes the organization could give to Goodwill in exchange for clothing vouchers.
Those vouchers will allow men and women the shelter takes in to shop for outfits, said co-director of services at the center Monique Ellsworth. In all, the Rattlers were able to fill two storage bins with donated clothes. The shelter should get 20 to 30 vouchers for those clothes.
The clothing drive was organized by senior linebacker Akil Blount, who is also president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, an organization of FAMU athletes that has been around since 2011. “God had laid this on my heart to bring this to the leadership committee,” Blount said. “We talked about it and spread the message throughout the team. The team responded well to it. I feel God has blessed us and placed us on a platform as athletes. We have to use that platform to positively impact the community.”
Blount said he plans to continue the team’s charity efforts into the season. Eventually he’s planning on taking Rattlers from all sports into different elementary schools to work with kids, and he’s already organizing a Trunk or Treat — where kids can trick or treat from the safety of a parking lot.
“Hopefully we can be an inspiration to other people,” Blount said. “With everything that’s going on with things like violence and police brutality, just so much negative stuff, we’re just trying to be examples of some good things happening in the community.”
He’s a good Twitter user, posting inspirational messages:
Always keep your head up, because if it’s down you won’t be able to see the blessings that have been placed in your life.
— Akil Blount (@PrimeTime47_24) March 24, 2016
Here’s some other interesting responses from his interview:
Q: If I were a GM and gave you a second to sell yourself, what would you say?
A: I am a passionate football player who loves the game, works hard, has pride in doing the right thing, and positively affects teammates, most importantly a play maker.
Q: Who was your favorite player and/or NFL team growing up?
A: Dad playing for the Steelers definitely the Home Team was the favorite team.
Q: With your first NFL paycheck what would you buy?
A: Honestly I wouldn’t buy anything. I would pay my tithes and save it. God willing, If [I] received numerous I promised myself I would give money to my church that I grew up in as they raise money to renovate the church.
It’s hard to say where he will be drafted. As Dale Lolley wrote a few days ago:
Blount was considered a late-round or free agent NFL prospect early in the draft process, but his pro day opened some eyes to his athleticism. He ran the 40-yard dash in the 4.6-second range, recorded 30 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and also worked out at both linebacker and defensive backs drills.
I would give you his NFL.com scouting report, except that NFL.com didn’t bother with him. Hopefully this will make them look rather foolish in a few years.
Will the Steelers call his name because of, well, his name? I wouldn’t think so. But if Blount is still on the board I could definitely see them grabbing him sometime during Day Three. And I think Steeler Nation would be just fine with that!