I've quietly been working behind the scenes to try and put some interviews, question and answers together ahead of the draft, interviews with prospects, and draft analysts. So I'm delighted to kick things off with one of my favourite draft writers and someone who's work I have been reading for as long as I cared about the draft.
Steuber began his career in scouting by starting his own independent draft website, which eventually led to his hiring with Scout.com in conjunction with Fox Sports. He was with Scout.com from August 2007 - June 2010, and was recently associated with NFLDraftScout.com in conjunction with CBSSports.com from August 2010 - January 2011
He is now still working with his site www.chrissteuber.com which is the most graphically spectacular draft website on the internet. Here you can see player evaluations, a comprehensive big board and a mock draft that is updated regularly. His draft journal is a must read for any football fan and I encourage everyone here to go take a look.
As well as his work for his own site, he is also the Director of Player Personnel for the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League. So with a decade of scouting players behind him, I reached out to Chris to see if he would answer some questions for us, he was kind enough to take time out from what surely is the busiest time of year for him to do so.
So here we go:
GGN:Who would you say helped their stock the most during the East-West shrine game and the Senior Bowl?
CS: I’d say Tennessee-Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman helped his stock the most at the East-West Shrine game, and Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry really helped his stock at the Senior Bowl.
Coleman is projected to be a late-round developmental QB prospect and could increase his stock even more with a solid showing during workouts. Curry was considered a second – third round prospect entering the Senior Bowl and has now increased his stock to potentially be a late first-round pick.
GGN: What are your thoughts on players who turn down invitations to the Senior Bowl?
CS: It depends on the reason. If a player has an injury situation and decides to hold out and rest for the Scouting Combine, I can understand that. But if a player is not ready to compete at a pivotal point in their journey to the next level, because he’s not in shape and hasn’t been training, there’s no excuse.
GGN: The Jets need improvement in a lot of areas, what are your thoughts on the two Alabama prospects that the Jets have been linked with, Mark Barron & Courtney Upshaw?
CS: Those are the two players that Jets fans ask me about as well. It’s understandable, because they play two positions (safety and linebacker) that are glaring needs on defense.
Personally, I don’t think Upshaw makes it to the 16th pick; he could potentially go in the Top 10. Barron will likely be on the board for the Jets and would be a welcome addition on defense. He has great leadership qualities and impact skills, but he’s more of a physical presence rather than a cover safety, and in the AFC East, a safety with cover skills is essential.
GGN: Do you think that Upshaw has the talent and attributes to be able to drop back into coverage in the NFL?
CS: He wasn’t asked to do much of that at Alabama, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the ability to drop back in coverage. Upshaw is a gamer, an instinctive player who will make an immediate impact at the next level. He relies a lot on his explosion, quickness and strength, and has an uncanny ability to always be around the ball. With the right coaching and patience, I don’t see it being too difficult for Upshaw to get accustomed to dropping back in coverage, but it will be a transition for him.
GGN: The Jets need a safety who can cover tight ends, it has been a problem for sometime. With the Patriots continuing their double tight end sets; which safety in this draft do you envision being most comfortable covering the likes of Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski?
CS: Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are two of the best tight ends in the NFL, and it’s hard to imagine any safety being comfortable covering either one. With that being said, the safety class in this year’s draft is not very strong, and the best safety available is Mark Barron, who just had sports hernia surgery. The surgery shouldn’t affect Barron’s draft status, but he’s not a great cover safety.
A safety that I’m high on and who could be a late second, early third-round pick is Boise State’s George Iloka. He has great size at 6-foot-4, 222 pounds, and the length and range to combat against playmaking tight ends. Another defensive back to keep your eyes on is Virginia’s Chase Minnifield. At 6-1, 185, Minnifield is a physical, rangy corner, who could be converted into a safety at the next level. He has a pedigree (his father Frank played for the Cleveland Browns) and reminds me a lot of Oakland Raiders safety and former first-round pick (4th overall) Michael Huff as a prospect.
GGN: I think you are the only draft analyst at the moment that has the Jets taking Cordy Glenn at #16, why do you think this is a good selection for the Jets?
CS: Well, I’m not really sure who the other analysts have the Jets taking at No. 16, but I feel the Jets have to protect Mark Sanchez better and limit the amount of hits he receives on Sundays. Obviously, Sanchez is crucial to the Jets success, and while the team could use a pass rusher, protecting their franchise quarterback should take precedence.
Glenn is a versatile player and could line up on the right side at guard or tackle. He would be an immediate upgrade over Wayne Hunter at right tackle and likely start from Day One.
GGN: One player who a lot of our members are interested in is Melvin Ingram, where do you think he goes and what can he bring to team? with his versatility do you think he has real value for a team that switches it's sets between 3-4 and 4-3 fronts like the Jets?
CS: Ingram has a similar skill set and stature to Courtney Upshaw. He’s a maximum effort defender and is scheme diverse, but where he differs from Upshaw is with his versatility on the defensive line in a 4-3 scheme. On occasion, he will move inside and use his speed and pass rushing skills to gain an advantage against a slower, less athletic opposition.
Although Ingram could play in a 3-4 or 4-3, I think he’s best suited for a 4-3 scheme, where I believe Upshaw is best suited for a 3-4. But, like I said, he’s scheme diverse, as is Upshaw.
GGN: Give us a 3-4 OLB that you like in this draft, that people might not be thinking or talking about right now.
CS: Even though he had a down senior year compared to what he produced during his junior campaign, Pittsburgh’s Brandon Lindsey is an intriguing player. He has good size and the pass rushing ability to be a factor off the edge in a 3-4 alignment.
He’s a bit stiff in the hips and isn’t tremendously quick laterally, but he uses his hands well and has the strength and straight-line speed to develop. He’s a defender the Jets could consider in the fourth-round.
GGN: Flipping over to the other side of the ball, a lot of our readers really like Mohamed Sanu, is he a first round prospect? or will his lack of speed hurt his stock at the combine?
CS: Sanu is a fringe first-round prospect. He could sneak into the opening frame with a team like the New England Patriots or San Francisco 49ers; both could use a big, physical receiver. But as you stated, his speed is a concern and I see him more as a possession receiver, rather than a guy who will make big plays downfield. He’s not a dynamic receiver, but he’s sure handed.
GGN: A guy that I would be interested in the Jets drafting is Coby Fleener from Stanford. He looks like a very solid all around player, do you think his blocking is NFL ready?
CS: I’m not as high on Fleener as other people; I’ve heard some say he’s a potential first-round prospect, but I see him more as a second-round player. Currently, I have Clemson’s Dwayne Allen and Georgia’s Orson Charles ranked ahead of him.
His blocking is a concern to me. He has the ability to develop into a good blocker, because of his overall size and awareness on the field, but he’s not there yet. He’s a solid pass catcher and is able to separate from defenders, but if a team has a need for an all-around tight end, who they can count on to be a solid blocker, I don’t see Fleener being that immediately. He reminds me of former Notre Dame and current Seattle Seahawks tight end John Carlson as a prospect.
GGN: Trent Richardson is another player that our readers love, how high do you think he goes in the draft and whichever team takes him, just how good of a player are they getting?
CS: He’s a tremendous player and currently sits fifth overall on my Big Board. He’s the premier running back in this year’s draft, and the second rated runner is not even close to his ability.
As far as where Richardson gets drafted, I truly believe his draft status is tied to Robert Griffin III. If a team trades up into the Top 3 to select Griffin III, Richardson will be a Top 5 pick. In my opinion, he fits best with the Cleveland Browns, who play in a notoriously physical AFC North where a hard-nosed running game is important.
GGN: Everyone who loves the draft usually has a few sleeper selections for rounds 5/6 and 7. Who are your guys this year?
CS: The sleeper of the draft will be Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles. Before he tore his ACL in November, he was considered to be a late first, early second round prospect. But I recently interviewed him, and he was told that he now has a third – fifth round grade. Whoever drafts him will have an impact player once he’s at full health.
A few other players I’m looking at that will receive fifth – seventh round consideration are: BYU OL Matt Reynolds, USC LB Chris Galippo and Baylor DT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste.
GGN: I have to ask for two players who are being hyped as first or second round prospects that you believe will flop in the NFL?
CS: That’s a tough question, because I believe a prospect’s success is determined by the situation he’s drafted into. Not every situation is suitable for every player. But a projected first-round prospect that I’m not high on who is receiving a lot of hype is LSU DL Michael Brockers.
Brockers is a very gifted young player, who already possesses an NFL body. However, his game is very raw and he’s relying mostly on his physical talent at the moment. He must learn proper technique, and that will come in time, but it may take a few years for him to truly develop. He reminds me of a poor man’s Calais Campbell; it took Campbell, who was a second-round pick, a year to make an impact.
GGN: If you are Mike Tannenbaum and you have the Jets selections in hand. Being as realistic as possible who are you taking in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd round?
CS: If the draft took place today and I were Mike Tannenbaum, depending on how the board played out, I’d select Georgia OL Cordy Glenn in the first-round (16th overall), Syracuse DE/OLB Chandler Jones in the second-round (47th overall) and Boise State FS George Iloka in the third-round (78th overall).
GGN: Last but certainly not least, how can we keep up to date on all your work over the draft season?
CS: You can find all of my work on my website at: www.chrissteuber.com.
You can also follow Chris on twitter @chrissteuber.
I'd just like to thank Chris for taking the time to answer these questions, I found it really interesting so I hope that you do too.