NFL Draft: ryan shazier

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PITTSBURGH -- A wrap-up of the Pittsburgh Steelers' draft. Click here for a full list of Steelers draftees.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIThe Steelers expect big things from Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt.
Best move: Taking Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt in the second round. The Steelers had no bigger need than at defensive end, and they were smart to pounce on Tuitt, who had been widely projected to go late in the first round. The 6-foot-5, 303-pounder has the ideal build for a five-technique defensive end, and he also has the pass-rushing skills to move inside when the Steelers go to their nickel package. Tuitt had 21 career sacks at Notre Dame, and the Steelers are convinced his play slipped last season because recovery from double-hernia surgery compromised his training and caused him to put on too much weight. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Tuitt is back to his 2012 playing weight when he dominated for the Fighting Irish, and they expect him to play significantly as a rookie if not start at some point in 2014.

Riskiest move: The Steelers took just one defensive back in the draft and they didn’t select cornerback Shaquille Richardson of Arizona until the fifth round. That won’t do anything to allay the anxiety of Steelers’ fans about the state of the secondary and specifically cornerback where Ike Taylor isn’t getting younger and where there isn’t much depth. Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake said he is confident free-agent signee Brice McCain and Antwon Blake, who played almost exclusively on special teams last season, can be key contributors this season. They better be since the draft didn’t deliver the reinforcements at cornerback that most thought it would.

Most surprising move: The Steelers bypassed a cornerback and wide receiver in the third round to take speedy but diminutive running back Dri Archer. This looks like a luxury pick since the Steelers had more pressing needs when they selected the 5-8, 173-pounder. Archer ran the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.26 seconds) at the NFL combine, and the Steelers plan to carve out a role for him in the offense. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has compared Archer to Darren Sproles because of his explosiveness and versatility. Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann said Archer reminds him of former Browns scatback/receiver Gerald “Ice Cube” McNeil. “He’s not small,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “He’s short.”

File it away: First-round pick Ryan Shazier will be an immediate difference-maker as a rookie -- and will make multiple Pro Bowls if he stays healthy. His speed is such that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has said he envisions playing Shazier all over the field. Lake said he will gladly take Shazier as a safety if linebackers coach Keith Butler doesn’t want him. Butler, when told that, smiled and said “I’m not in favor of doing that. Shazier can make mistakes and has make-up speed to get back into position and make plays.” Butler scoffs at the notion that the 6-1, 237-pound Shazier is undersized for an inside linebacker at this level. Butler said former Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior played between 225 and 230 pounds in the latter part of his carer, including 2010 when he made the Pro Bowl. “A lot of times young linebackers get in their head, ‘I have to weigh 250 or I have to weigh 260 [pounds] but can they move? Can they get where they need to be when they need to be there? This guy can do that.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The last time the Green Bay Packers had four picks in the first 100 selections of the NFL draft, they came away with two quality starters and two players who never made an impact.

That was 2008, when they drafted receiver Jordy Nelson (No. 36 overall), quarterback Brian Brohm (No. 56), cornerback Pat Lee (No. 60) and tight end Jermichael Finley (No. 91).

General manager Ted Thompson will take a similar haul into this year's draft. With the addition of a third-round compensatory pick, the Packers have pick Nos. 21, 53, 85 and 98 in the first three rounds.

"It's good," Thompson said during his pre-draft news conference this week. "If we could, we'd have more. More is better. It gives you better odds. It wouldn't be any different if it were this year or last year or the year before or that sort of thing."

Can Thompson do better in the top 100 than he did in 2008? Nelson and Finley became major contributors while Brohm flamed out and Lee was only a short-term backup.

On Thursday night, ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay went through the top 100, selecting players for teams as if they were in charge of the draft rooms.

For the Packers, they came away with this:
Kiper and McShay alternated picks, so it worked out that McShay made the Packers' first three selections, while Kiper picked their fourth.

Looking at the first round, the top two safeties were both off the board before the No. 21. Kiper had Louisville's Calvin Pryor at No. 14 to the Chicago Bears and Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gone two picks later to the Dallas Cowboys.

In picking Mosley, McShay said he had Mosley rated as the 12th-best player on his board and called him a relentless, tough playmaker. What isn't known is how the Packers feel about Mosley from a medical standpoint. There are concerns about a knee injury, which kept him from running at the combine, and other injuries during his college career.

If the Packers don't feel comfortable with Mosley's medical history but still want a linebacker at that spot, they could go with Ohio State's Ryan Shazier. McShay had Shazier at No. 31 to the Denver Broncos.

Nix has been described as a perfect 3-4 nose tackle.

"This is a value pick, as Nix merits late first-round consideration," McShay said. "Between first-rounder C.J. Mosley and Nix, we've now drafted the No. 12 and No. 30 players on my board, respectively, at No. 21 and No. 53."

Vereen and Fiedorowicz would fill clear holes at safety and tight end, respectively. However, waiting until late in the third round to address safety seems a little late considering that might be the Packers' greatest need in this draft.

Analyzing McShay mock: Packers 

April, 24, 2014
No one knows for sure who Ted Thompson will pick with the 21st selection in next month's NFL draft. Even the Green Bay Packers general manager himself might not know yet.

But put ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay on the clock, and he's ready to make a pick right now. In his latest mock draft , McShay selected who he would pick if at the controls of all 32 teams.

Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Packers 

April, 17, 2014
The Green Bay Packers began the process of rebuilding their defense by adding free-agent pass rusher Julius Peppers and re-signing several of their own key players -- B.J. Raji, Sam Shields and Mike Neal among them -- but there's still much to do in next month's draft.

Mel Kiper's fourth 2014 NFL mock draft is out on ESPN Insider today, and his projected first-round pick for the Packers at No. 21 overall should help in that process.

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Ryan ShazierDavid Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesThe Saints could use a dynamic linebacker like Ryan Shazier to bolster their corps.
If we're ranking the New Orleans Saints' top needs in the draft based on where they could use the most immediate help, then the top three are probably center, wide receiver and cornerback.

The need at center is obvious in the wake of Brian De La Puente's departure. Meanwhile, a first-round draft pick at receiver or cornerback could step in right away in a rotational role while being developed as a future starter.

That's why cornerbacks like Jason Verrett, Kyle Fuller and Bradley Roby and receivers like Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Marqise Lee make a lot of sense as possible Saints targets.

However, when it comes to New Orleans' long-term future, the linebacker position isn't far behind.

The Saints will eventually need to replace veterans such as David Hawthorne and Parys Haralson. And in the meantime, they could really use a dynamic athlete to rotate into the mix in that spot.

After the 2013 season, I chatted with ESPN scouting analyst Matt Williamson about how much the Saints could benefit from their own version of NFC South studs like Tampa Bay's Lavonte David and Carolina's Thomas Davis -- guys who can chase down speed backs in the open field, cover running backs and tight ends in the passing game and occasionally blitz.

That's why I find myself gravitating toward Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier as a top prospect for the Saints with their 27th pick in Round 1 of the draft.

The Saints primarily run a 3-4 defense under coordinator Rob Ryan, so Shazier isn't an ideal fit on the surface. He's not really a pass-rushing outside linebacker, and he's a bit small for a traditional 3-4 inside linebacker at 6-foot-1, 237 pounds.

But as we've learned about Ryan, he's about as versatile and multiple as any defensive coordinator in the league. Give him a playmaker, and he'll find room for him (see: Kenny Vaccaro).

Shazier is certainly a playmaker. He ranked among the top three players in the country last season with 144 tackles and 23.5 tackles-for-loss, in addition to seven sacks and four forced fumbles. He was reportedly timed at a blazing 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Ohio State's pro day.

"You can make an argument he's one of the best 10 football players in this draft just on being a pure, instinctive football player," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said.

Shazier's dimensions are almost identical to those of David and Davis -- and to former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, for that matter. And the one knock on Shazier in his scouting report is the same one that always stuck to Vilma: that he has trouble shedding blockers at times.

But everything else on the scouting report is extremely tantalizing.

"I love Shazier," Kiper said when I asked him if Shazier could fit in the Saints' defensive scheme. "It's just where is the best scheme fit? [He is] a guy that I think is a 4-3 outside linebacker but can play inside in the right scheme in a 3-4. And he could possibly, as you say, be that run-around chase athletic guy who can do so much with that 4.39 speed and that incredible athleticism."

That includes dropping back in pass coverage, Kiper affirmed.

"Yeah, Shazier's a tremendous athlete who can do everything you want," he said. "The only thing he lacks is the kind of size you look for as a 3-4 inside linebacker. And he might not be an elite pass-rusher, but he can certainly close and chase and pursue and do all the things you want. Heck of a football player."

Alabama's C.J. Mosley is another tantalizing athlete at the inside linebacker position. But Kiper said he doesn't expect him to fall far enough for the Saints to have a shot at him.

Kiper also mentioned Auburn pass-rusher Dee Ford as the kind of athlete who could fit the Saints as an outside linebacker. Kiper has paired Ford with the Saints in each of his past two mock drafts. Although Ford (6-2, 252) played defensive end in college, he projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker. And he has some experience dropping back in coverage, though it's not his specialty.

Kiper also mentioned Georgia Tech's Jeremiah Attaochu as a pass-rushing outside linebacker -- though he is generally considered more of a second-round prospect. Attaochu has 22 sacks in the past two seasons and probably fits best as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Bengals

March, 13, 2014
To this point, signs have mostly pointed to the Cincinnati Bengals drafting a cornerback in the first-round of this year's NFL draft.

ESPN draft insider Mel Kiper Jr. ignored them in his latest mock draft Insider that was unveiled earlier Thursday. Instead of taking a cornerback like he suggested in his first two mocks, Kiper now has the Bengals taking outside linebacker Ryan Shazier.

An Ohio State product, Shazier would certainly be welcomed by Bengals fans in southwest Ohio. Fellow Buckeyes Mike Nugent and Dane Sanzenbacher (currently a tendered restricted free agent) are already on the roster.

One of the many underclassmen in this year's draft, Shazier left Ohio State after his junior season. While helping lead his program to the Big Ten championship game, he had 133 tackles and 6.0 sacks in his final year. As a "Will" linebacker, he fits one of the Bengals' many needs. Vontaze Burfict currently starts at the "Will" position and figures to do so for a long time, but an injury at the position on the depth chart put Cincinnati in a bind when it came to numbers for its nickel defense.

Emmanuel Lamur's season-ending injury in the preseason forced the Bengals to get creative with their rotations on pass-specific downs. They even flirted at one point with moving safety Taylor Mays into the nickel linebacker spot to give the position a bigger, athletic body in order to help cover tight ends, running backs and extra receivers.

Shazier's coverage ability, particularly his physical style of play in coverage, has been noted as a strength. His speed and range are also positives. ESPN's draft team currently ranks him the third-best outside linebacker on the boards.

While the cornerback need still exists, if Shazier is still around at pick No. 24, he wouldn't be a bad selection for the Bengals.

Kiper's Mock 3.0: Saints

March, 13, 2014
Free agency hasn't helped much when it comes to narrowing down the New Orleans Saints' draft-day targets. It's probably a safe bet now that they won't draft a safety in Round 1, since they're set with last year's first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro and blockbuster free-agent signing Jairus Byrd. But a number of positions could still be in play at No. 27 for a New Orleans team that always likes to select the highest-rated player on its board, regardless of position.

The Saints will still likely address one or two of their most pressing needs in free agency so they can think more long-term with their draft picks.

For now, though, I still see cornerback as the Saints' biggest need overall, so TCU's Jason Verrett and Ohio State's Bradley Roby could make a lot of sense. And the Saints definitely need some new, young dynamic playmakers on offense after parting ways with running back Darren Sproles and receiver Lance Moore. So speedy receivers such as LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks could be very attractive.

But the Saints won't reach for those spots if they have a higher grade on someone such as Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Auburn pass-rusher Dee Ford or Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses (especially if they don't re-sign veteran free agent Zach Strief).

Check out ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's Mock Draft 3.0 Insider to see where he thinks the Saints might go with that No. 27 pick.