Non-top prospects to watch at NFL Combine


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Penn State receiver K.J. Hamler -- DKPS

With the NFL Scouting Combine set to kick off next week, the focus of the Steelers will shift from prepping for free agency, which is what the front office and coaching staff spent time focusing on this week, back to the draft.

The Steelers' staff will spend the week in Indianapolis meeting with draft prospects, checking out their medicals and watching them work out on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.

But with the Steelers not holding a first-round draft pick, their focus might be a little different than most other teams.

As general manager Kevin Colbert noted last week when talking about how the team might handle mock drafts prior to the draft, the Steelers know there at least 20 or so players they will have no shot at acquiring with the 49th pick, where their top pick lies.

"Take 20 guys out and say there’s no way they’re getting to 18 in the second round," Colbert said.

So on which players will the Steelers focus on in Indianapolis? Here are a few on which to keep an eye:


Zack Moss, Utah: A 5-foot-10, 222-pound bowling ball-type, Moss has excellent balance and runs hard. What kind of speed does he have? And he had a meniscus injury in 2018. How does that check out? Moss' running style has been compared to that of Marion Barber. He enjoys contact, but has the wherewithal to roll through it. His cousins are speedy receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss, so it will be interesting to see what he runs in the 40. He also got a medical flag at the Senior Bowl. Is he healthy? Rounds 2-3

Cam Akers, Florida State: Akers' production at Florida State was up-and-down but it wasn't his fault. The Seminoles' offensive line was a mess. A lot of what he did came on his own. At 5-foot-11, 212 pounds, he has good size. Like Moss, a key for him will be his 40 time, not that the 40 time is a deal breaker at running back. Both guys are elusive. But unlike Moss, who had a number of big runs at Utah, Akers doesn't have those on his resume. Rounds 2-3

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU: Listed at 5-foot-8, Edwards-Helaire will be considered a small back by most. But how much weight does he pack onto that diminutive frame. He was listed at 205 pounds at LSU, which for a guy his height, is solid. Is that his actual weight or is he under 200 pounds? LSU has a good track record of producing solid NFL backs in recent years -- Joseph Addai, Stevan Ridley, Spencer Ware, Alfred Blue, Jeremy Hill, Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. Edwards-Helaire should be the next. Edwards-Helaire also returned kicks at LSU. Rounds 2-3

Eno Benjamin, Arizona State: Like Edwards-Helaire, at 5-foot-9, Benjamin is slightly vertically challenged. He's listed at around 200 pounds, but carried the ball 300 times in 2018 and over 200 in 2019. He also caught 77 passes over the past two seasons. Benjamin has an unorthodox running style that reminds some of the Bills' Devin Singletary. That's not a bad comparison. He's got some escapability, but like the others above him, how fast is he? Singletary ran a 4.66 40 at last year's combine, but it didn't affect his production. Can Benjamin be that type of player, as well? Rounds 3-4

Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State: There has to be at least one small-school gem on this list, right? Evans will be that guy among the running backs. He's a little undersized at 5-11, 200 pounds, but he's elusive, productive and tough. In 462 career college carries, he did not have a fumble. Evans also averaged over 25 yards per kick return in his career, scoring a touchdown on a kickoff in each of his three seasons. Rounds 4-5

Darius "Jet" Anderson, TCU: When you have the nickname "Jet," you'd better be fast. The question with Anderson, is whether he's big enough to be anything more than a change-of-pace back. Anderson is listed at 195 pounds on some draft sites and 212 on others. Nearly 20 pounds is a big difference. Rounds 4-5


Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic: At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Bryant has decent size. Can he add more weight to his frame or is he just a big receiver? Bryant is an accomplished receiver and might be the most well-rounded tight end in this draft. It's his ability to block -- at least his willingness to do so -- that could interest the Steelers. He could wind up being the top tight end in this draft. Round 2

Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri: Okwuegbunam (pronounced O-coo-WAY-boo-nham) has excellent size at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds. Despite that, his blocking is a big question mark. Can he pick that up quickly at the NFL level? Okwuegbunam is an interesting prospect in a class that has a lot of "big receivers" but few guys who look like they will fit into the well-rounded game the Steelers expect out of their tight ends. Rounds 2-3

Cole Kmet, Notre Dame: Kmet is an interesting prospect. He's still very much a work in progress as a run blocker. But as a pass catcher, he's solid. He's a better all-around prospect than Zach Gentry, the Steelers' 2019 fifth-round draft pick, to be sure. At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, he's got good size. Does he have what it takes to become a future starter? Rounds 2-3

Devin Asiasi, UCLA: At 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Asiasi is built like a fullback. But he's a downfield threat -- he averaged 15.2 yards per catch in his career -- who can block. He was used most as a blocker early in his career -- at Michigan and then after his transfer to UCLA -- before having a breakout season as a pass catcher in 2019, when he caught 44 passes for 641 yards and four scores. His weight has gotten up as high as the 270s, so it will be critical for Asiasi to show he can be a natural 260-pound player. Rounds 3-5

Thaddeus Moss, LSU: Some Steelers fans are suggesting the team use its second round pick on Moss, the son of Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss. That's too high for him, in my opinion. He's slightly undersized at 6-foot-3, 249 pounds. Can he get a little bigger than that? There also are injury concerns as he missed the entire 2018 season with a foot injury after transferring from North Carolina State to LSU. That meant the bulk of his college production came in 2019, when he caught 47 passes for 520 yards and four touchdowns. He's decent as a blocker, which works in his favor, but he's not a second-round prospect, folks. Rounds 4-5


Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma: Gallimore is very much in the Javon Hargrave-class of nose tackles. It's all about a quick first step. He had seven sacks the past two seasons for the Sooners to go along with 11.5 tackles for a loss. But he might be a little undersized at 6-foot-2, 304 pounds. What's his base look like? Can he hold up inside or is he simply a player who has to rely on shooting gaps? Rounds 2-3

Rashard Lawrence, LSU: Like Gallimore, Lawrence possesses strong hands and a good motor. But is he a true nose tackle? Does he possess the base to hold up inside taking on double teams? At 6-foot-2, 308 pounds, he's only slightly bigger than Gallimore. He also was much better in 2018 than he was in 2019. Was that because of an undisclosed injury? Rounds 2-3

Leki Fotu, Utah: A former rugby star, Fotu didn't play football until his senior year in high school. So the best days are likely still ahead for this 6-foot-4, 335-pound behemoth. He's a massive run stuffer but isn't going to provide much as a pass rusher. Like Zack Moss, his Utah teammate, Fotu got a medical red flag at the Senior Bowl and was unable to participate. Is he healthy? And is it a lingering issue? Rounds 3-4

Benito Jones, Mississippi: At 6-foot-1, 326 pounds, Jones has the look of a true nose tackle. He's a bowling ball, though he's a little top heavy. Will that hurt him as an anchor or will his natural strength make up for that? Jones also has some pass rush skills as his 5.5 sacks in 2019 might suggest. Rounds 3-4


K.J. Hamler, Penn State: At just 5-foot-9, 174 pounds, Hamler isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. But he should kill the 40-yard dash. Can he be a Tyreek Hill-type, or will he be relegated to being a very fast slot receiver. Hamler also had some injury issues in college. Can he hold up to the beating against bigger, faster, stronger NFL players? Round 2

Michael Pittman, USC: At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Pittman is a specimen. He probably won't run anything below a 4.55 40, but with his size, he won't need to. He's plenty fast enough. He dealt with ankle and shoulder injuries in college. In this deep class of receivers, he falls into the second round, at the earliest, unless he surprises with an outstanding workout. Rounds 2-3

Tyler Johnson, Minnesota: Unlike Hamler, the question with Johnson is whether he's fast enough to play in the NFL. He's got everything else. His production at Minnesota was outstanding. And he was very good on the contested catch, much like a poor man's version of DeAndre Hopkins. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, he's a good-sized receiver. But if he runs anything over a 4.6 40, he's in trouble. Rounds 2-4


I'm sorry, but I'm not going to bore you with offensive linemen prospects to watch, especially since I don't believe the Steelers will take one before the fourth round.

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