04-18-2012, 02:24 PM
With the 2011 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Before and after the 2012 scouting combine, we'll be taking a closer look at the 50 draft-eligible players who may be the biggest NFL difference-makers when all is said and done. We continue this year's series with Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still, who has two cousins familiar to you old-school NFL fans. Art Still was a four-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs who recorded 14.5 sacks in 1984. Levon Kirkland was a two-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers who was so big that he could have been a lineman. With impressive NFL bloodlines come big ambitions. "I think hands down I'm the best defensive tackle in this draft," Still said at the Combine. "I was able to take over a lot of games this season. Just the production that I had, I was able to disrupt plays even if I wasn't making tackles or sacks." Ah, but there's the rub. If you look at just the production, Still was tremendous. But if you look at the times Still was easily blocked or shoved to the ground, you see another talented, somewhat enigmatic interior defender in a draft class full of them. Pros: Still has the quick first step teams look for in a three-tech tackle. He can use that initial quickness to penetrate or to move laterally. Some of Still's most impressive plays come after he executes a quick sidestep to flash across his blocker's face. He then "makes himself skinny" to knife through the line of scrimmage. Still is a sure tackler who blows up a lot of running plays in the backfield. Still often displays sound fundamentals when releasing from the line of scrimmage. He keeps his pad level low and gets his hands inside his blocker's hands and under the pads. When his technique is sharp, Still is hard to dislodge or wash out, and he can stand up to a double team. He can be very effective in short yardage situations, where he tunnels under blockers and makes a big pile to swallow up ball carriers in the middle of the field. Cons: Every interior lineman runs hot and cold to a degree, but Still is remarkably inconsistent. There are long stretches where he does not look like the same player. Blockers throw him to the turf. Double teams drive him backward. Sometimes, this is clearly a stamina problem: with Alabama winning by two touchdowns in the second half, it is understandable that a lineman has gotten worn out from fighting through blocks and chasing Trent Richardson. Other times, it appears to be more of a focus or a technique issue.