Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 43 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 26 and 28.
Sure, the 2011 season ended in disappointment for the Pittsburgh Panthers, but that fact also aided in keeping its players on campus this fall, so it’s not all bad. So while this year’s class is relatively small (just four players on NFL radars right now), next year’s figures to be enormous by comparison.
Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Senior
Lindsey was a highly-regarded senior coming into 2011, yet his year, like that of the rest of the Panthers, just didn’t work out as planned. Observers saw Lindsey as uninspired and sluggish come the season’s second half, and questions arose about his motivation to succeed at the pro level. Now, as the NFL Draft approaches, the doubts keep coming. His 40-yard dash time of 4.93 is on the slow side for an outside linebacker, plus his strength and size aren’t exactly impressive at his position either. With luck, the right 3-4 system sees him as a useful extra linebacker, or at least a significant special teams contributor to start. While he may eventually surprise some folks, Lindsey looks to be a fifth round pick right now.
Lucas Nix, OG, Senior
On the bright side, Nix is a versatile linemen who has experience at both the guard and tackle positions, allowing teams to really plug him into where they need him most. He’s also NFL-ready size-wise, at 6’6″ and 317 pounds. But then there’s the negatives — his 40-time is a dismal 5.43, with a slow reaction time and first step (huge as he’s coming off the ball to block defenders). Additionally, he’s seen several injuries (knees), bringing his durability into question. The biggest issue may come from Pitt’s overall 2011 performance, however. In just 13 games, the squad allowed 63 (!) sacks — easily tops in the ACC, and the type of statistic that jumps out as a sorry reflection for those involved (such as Nix). As mentioned though, his one saving grace is size, and he could see his name called in the fifth or sixth round as a result.
Max Gruder, ILB, Senior
Arguably the Panthers’ most aggressive tackler, Gruder was a force in the middle of the defense, recording 116 stops. While his speed, size and strength aren’t anything to truly brag about, Max constantly displayed the type of instincts that can assist in overcoming physical disadvantages. Most importantly, he’s a natural leader with the ability to take over games against his team’s most difficult opponents. On the year, he had just two games with under eight tackles, showing himself durable and consistent through constant reps and a trying season both mentally and physically. We’ll see if those intangibles are enough to get him drafted, but if he is, it’ll likely be late in the seventh round.
Chas Alecxih, DT, Senior
When he’s played consistently, Alecxih has put up at least mildly impressive statistics — enough for scouts to glance at, at the very least. However, after this stop-and-go season, and streaky play, that box score doesn’t necessarily warrant overlooking his distinct lack of size and strength. At 6’5″ and 285 pounds during the season, he was more height than mass, and that was expounded by subpar strength performance numbers. Now listed at or around 295 pounds, he’s coming close to the weight needed to excel as an NFL defensive tackle, however, unless he significantly improves his 40-time and/or bench press numbers, Alexcih will probably spend the summer trying out around the league.
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