Will the Steelers Select any of these Nose Tackle Prospects in The 2012 Draft?

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Hebron “Loni” Fangupo: Brigham Young University (6’1″ 331 lbs.)

If the Steelers decide to go elsewhere on Days 1-2 of the Draft, there are some later Round players which could pay dividends for the Steelers if they choose to go the NT route on Day 3.  Hebron Fangupo is one of those players.

Fangupo tore up the JUCO ranks at Mt. San Antonio JC in Walnut, CA which eventually earned him a scholarship to U.S.C..  Unfortunately for Fangupo, he broke his fibula early in 2009, and had to sit out most of the season.  Hebron was slated to compete for a starting job on the Defensive Line in 2010 at Southern Cal, but he decided to transfer to BYU at the behest of his wife.  In his only season at BYU, Fangupo made 26 Tackles, 6 TFL’s, and 2 PBU’s in 2011.

One of Fangupo’s greatest assets is that for a guy with his size, he has experience playing Defensive End in a 3-4 alignment.  In fact, his positive attitude about playing Defensive Line in a non-statistically-sexy 3-4 alignment should be music to the ears of many of the Steelers’ brass.  And the fact that Fangupo has had experience playing DE could certainly entice D-Line Coach John Mitchell and D-Coordinator Dick LeBeau who value a guy that can do many different things in their exotic sets.

If there are drawbacks to the Steelers selecting Fangupo they would center around his age, and overall experience.  Hebron has played only little over 1 season of major college football, and is already 26 years old (going on 27) due to the Mormon mission he went on after graduating High School in 2003.  Furthermore, if Fangupo wants to be a successful N.F.L. NT, he must learn to use his leverage effectively because at 6’1″ he will face a tough test against some of the League’s more elite Linemen.

If Hebron needs any time to develop, he will already be pushing 30 by the time he could assume a starting role on the Defense.  Yet even if Pittsburgh chooses to address the NT position early in the Draft, I do hope that the Steelers take a long look at Hebron in the later Rounds for depth purposes along the Defensive Line.

Much like Chris Hoke (another former Cougar who did missionary work), Fangupo could be a valuable asset to the Steelers’ D-Line, as well as a versatile option for them to go with if need be.  Who knows?  Maybe the Steelers will be selecting multiple NT’s/DL in 2012?

Akiem Hicks: Regina (Saskatchewan) (6’5″ 324 lbs.)

When one discusses the ultimate “Wild-Card”/”Boom-or-Bust” prospect at the NT position in the 2012 N.F.L. Draft, Akiem Hicks is definitely one of the first names to come to mind.  To understand why Hicks is such a “Wild Card,” one must take a look at his back-story and look at exactly how he ended up playing college football in Saskatchewan.

Hicks absolutely lit up the Junior College ranks at Sacramento City College for two years, and eventually found himself with a scholarship to L.S.U..  Unfortunately for Hicks, he was at the center of some major recruiting violations and he was forced to leave Baton Rouge before even playing a snap for the Tigers.

Hicks left the program in early 2010, and eventually found himself playing up at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan with two years of eligibility remaining.  In that time he has dominated the opposition and earned a chance to play in the East-West Shrine Game where he has been receiving praise from many scouts there who are intrigued by what a physical specimen Hicks is.

The competition up in Canada may be a bit of an issue for some scouts to handle, and Hicks according to scouts is very “raw,” but 6’4” 324 lb. guys don’t grow on trees and if the Steelers and Coach Mitchell see potential in the young man, they will be willing to snap him up if the value is there.  Thus, the Steelers might be willing to take a look at him around Rounds 6-7, as a developmental guy.