A big week for potential NFL Draft prospects is upon us, as college football’s most prestigious all-star game is taking place in Mobile, Alabama.
Senior Bowl week provides a stage for college football’s finest upperclassmen to practice/play in front of NFL coaching staff, scouts and executives. Invites are hard to acquire if you’re a player, as only the cream of the crop find themselves in Mobile at this time of year.
“Our main objective is to provide the 32 NFL member clubs with the best rosters possible and this collection of players truly represents the best that college football, at all levels, had to offer this year” said Jim Nagy, Senior Bowl Executive Director.
The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves with the 20th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, carrying a lot of pressure to nail this year’s draft after failing to make the playoffs. Many expect Steelers GM Kevin Colbert to draft a defensive player with the team’s first round pick, and in a defensive-heavy draft, Pittsburgh has a lot of options when they go on the clock in late April.
The Steelers also have six other picks in the upcoming draft, selecting a player in every round except the fifth, which is thanks to a trade with the Oakland Raiders that saw the arrival of receiver Ryan Switzer.
So who will the Steelers opt to select? Much like every other team, the answer may very well rest on the rosters of the 2019 Senior Bowl. Scouts and other executives will find themselves spending the week in southern Alabama evaluating the upcoming senior class.
Notable players the Steelers should watch out for during the Senior Bowl:
Rock Ya-Sin, DB, Temple
Rock Ya-Sin has slowly but surely seen his draft stock rise over the last few months. With a 6-2, 190 pound frame at the corner position, Ya-Sin provides a big body corner that is physical with receivers, but can also run with receivers more times than not on deep routes. Ya-Sin is a developmental pick as of now, projecting him into the mid-rounds of the draft. Yet he is starting to gain national attention, even making it to Bleacher Report’s Stick to Football Senior Bowl watch-list. With his size and physicality, Ya-Sin could develop properly into a solid outside corner and fill what has been a glaring need for the Steelers.
Donald Parham, TE, Stetson
With Jesse James set to become a free agent in 2019, the Steelers may look to the draft in fear of James potentially wanting to go somewhere else and retain a starting role. How do you replace a 6-7 tight end? With a 6-8 player at the same position. Admittedly so, it’s a weak tight end class at the Senior Bowl. However, Parham’s height and red-zone abilities provide him with a blueprint to become a solid rotational tight end, much like James’ role with the Steelers. I would like to see Parham add more weight to his frame and for him to prove he can block guys at the next level. Parham could be tempting for Pittsburgh in the later rounds, should they not retain James.
Jakobi Meyers, WR, North Carolina State
The Steelers have a well-versed history of developing receivers through the draft, and with Antonio Brown potentially on the move, the Steelers may need to look to the draft to add depth to the position. Look no further then Jakobi Meyers, North Carolina State’s secret weapon that will not be so secret after the Senior Bowl. Standing at 6-2 and 203 pounds on his frame, there doesn’t appear to be any strong weaknesses in Meyers game. Meyers’ strengths include the ability to adjust/contort his body to grab a stray ball, extremely strong hands and a will to get yards after catch. Meyers’ draft stock is still unknown, but a strong Senior Bowl would boost him up to about the third round range and would be a nice addition to an already young, talented Steelers receiving corps.
Germaine Pratt, ILB, North Carolina State
We’ll stay with the Wolfpack and highlight one of the hottest names coming into Mobile: Germaine Pratt. Pratt presents himself as one of the toughest inside linebackers in the draft, and his sideline to sideline speed is exceptionally strong for a guy his size (6-3, 240 pounds). Pratt often times finds himself filling running lanes with hard hits, proving himself as a brick wall when ball-carriers attempt to take him on. Pratt plays with a genuine attitude on the football field, something that’s been missing since the unfortunate departure of Shazier. Although not much has been made of Pratt’s pass coverage abilities, it’s likely he would be a key rotational linebacker in his rookie year in a Steelers uniform, should Pittsburgh opt to take him anywhere between rounds two through five.
NFL Releases Further Details of Altered Draft Process
After cancelling the in-person NFL Scouting Combine last week due to COVID-19 concerns, the league released further details of the significantly altered draft process in a memo to clubs Friday.
Teams are prohibited from timing, testing, interviewing or examining draft prospects at any location other than all-star games or the respective player’s pro day.
Clubs are also banned from hosting draft prospects for facilities visits, dinners, film sessions and private workouts. Violations of these rules would be subject to punishment in line with the NFL’s anti-tampering policy.
Further muddying the process, clubs will only be allowed to have a maximum of three individuals attend pro days. However, all times and measurements are said to be made available league-wide.
Lastly, the league also released further details and restrictions on the pre-draft interview process. While in-person interviews and visits will be prohibited, they can be conducted virtually or via telephone.
Clubs can schedule up to five video conferences or phone calls with a prospect, with each conversation limited to one hour. Virtual psychological tests will not count against the five interview limit.
Teams can begin conducting interviews with draft eligible underclassmen on Monday, Jan. 25.
Interviews with seniors can begin on Monday, Feb. 1.
NFL Cancels In-Person 2021 Scouting Combine in Indianapolis; Pro Days On
After weeks of rumors and speculation, the NFL has made it official, announcing in a memo to clubs Monday they are significant alterations to the 2021 Scouting Combine.
Annually held in Indianapolis, the league is scrapping in-person workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium, instead opting for pro days on college campuses. The NFL will coordinate with schools to ensure “consistency in testing and drills,” providing video of said workouts to all clubs.
Interviews and psychological testing of prospects normally executed at the physical combine will instead be conducted in an entirely virtual format.
As for medical evaluations, limited in-person exams will most likely be conducted over a three-day span in early April. While some evaluations will also be held virtually, an undetermined number of prospects will be invited to designated satellite locations for in-person exams. Each franchise will be permitted to dispatch a physician and athletic trainer to conduct the in-person portion.
Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft in April, the league will work directly with clubs, schools and affiliated broadcast partners to ensure media availability with Combine invitees. The NFL intends to keep with tradition and make head coaches and general managers available to the media as well.
The altered Combine format was devised and overseen by a special committee of league and club officials, including NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills, Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill and Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert.
Further details regarding protocols and finalized dates will be released as the committee continues to meet and plan over the coming weeks.
Here’s the full memo on changes to the 2021 scouting combine: pic.twitter.com/e1KNcuaUTn
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 18, 2021
Report: NFL to Make Significant Changes to Combine Due to COVID-19
Major changes to the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine are expected amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a report by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, plans of hosting the combine as traditionally constructed are “dead” following a conference call between league officials Friday. It is becoming increasingly likely that the medical and performance-based portions of the event will be held separately.
A number of alternatives are being considered, including regionalized medical checks, standardized pro days and interviews conducting via Zoom.
With regards to the regional medicals, the NFL could set up shop and administer the examinations at hospital in states where a large number of players are conducting their workouts and preparation, such as Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.
The intent would be to limit travel for players, where as the team physicians conducting the examinations would likely have already received their vaccinations.
Other aspects of the medical process can be accomplished virtually, such as reviewing injury histories.
As for the pro days, NFL or individual team personnel would put players through drills at their respective schools, but standardize each workout to ensure prospects are going through the same exercises as they would in Indianapolis. Measurements and result would then be distributed league-wide as they normally would be.
League officials will continue to meet over the coming days, according to Breer, but a finalized plan is expected later this coming week.
The NFL has also weighed the option of postponing the combine until April, but still holding it in Indianapolis. While it is on the table, the move would likely requirement the 2021 NFL Draft to be postponed as well.