At the combine, Texas defensive end Brian Robison led his position in the vertical jump (40.5), broad jump (10-1) and 3-cone drill (6.89). He was the only defensive lineman under 7.0 secondes in the 3-cone and also benched like a lineman with 27 reps.
But let's face it: Robison is not a defensive lineman. He's a 3-4 outside linebacker with the build and the motor to match.
As an end in a very basic 4-3, Robison totaled 14 sacks and 37 tackles for loss the last three seasons. Playing hurt last season, he recorded 5.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss. Throw in his six career kick blocks and his national runner-up finish in the shot put and you have the makings of a special athlete.
Robison came to Texas as an outside linebacker, but the big question for a move back to his old position is this: Can the 6-3 1/8, 259-pounder drop into coverage?
"He looked natural enough to still play there in the pros," is the scouting report from Pro Football Weekly.
That's a better projection than the one given a similar athlete who came out of Colorado State as a small defensive end in 1999.
"Doesn't look quite as smooth in change of direction skills," was the report on Joey Porter. "Not natural in drops or coverage."
|Robison's measurables compare favorably to former Steelers OLB Joey Porter. (Photo: Inside Texas)|
Porter's combine time of 4.68 in the 40 and his vertical of 39 were just a bit off Robison's 4.67 40 and 40.5 vertical. And Robison at the 2007 combine outweighed the 1999 Porter by 18 pounds.
Porter was the 12th pick of the third round in 1999. The Steelers are picking 13th in that round this year.
After one particularly exhausting defensive stop, Shaw didn't leave the field with the rest of the Penn State unit. He was part of the punt-return team, too, but the problem was the punt returner fumbled the ball back to Michigan and Penn State's defense was forced to return.
Shaw couldn't make it and he collapsed near the sideline. The cameras showed it, but went to a break and never did explain what happened to Shaw, the pass-rushing defensive end.
"Oh, you guys want to know the secret about that?" Shaw laughed when he heard the question several months later at the combine.
"I was tired," he said. "Honestly, I was tired. The reason I went down was because they couldn't get my sub on. My sub wasn't paying attention and I just went down on a knee just so they'd stop the game for a second so they could get my sub on."
Tired, but not out of it mentally -- that's Shaw, a small but energetic defensive end.
A Michigan state sprint champ in high school, Shaw went to Penn State as a running back and carried 14 times for 59 yards as a freshman. He moved to middle linebacker the next year and started seven games. He started all 12 games at an inside linebacker position in 2005 but moved to defensive end last year and had seven sacks.
At the combine, Shaw measured 6-1½, 236 and ran a 4.51 40, but supposedly didn't test particularly well in the linebacker position drills. At his pro day, he ran 4.46 and 4.47 40s in front of coaches such as Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
Shaw projects to strong-side linebacker in the NFL but can likely play anywhere he's needed. If he's drafted late on the first day, it'll be due to that attitude and desire to please, not to mention his great speed and motor.
|If Tafisi runs well, a visit with Steelers will follow. (Photo: AP)|
There aren't many stories to tell about a potential fifth-round pick who played college football some 3,000 miles away from Pittsburgh, but there is this one: In all of the games I taped and watched this past season, only one player drew an asterisk next to his name in my notebook that denotes "Steelers' sleeper," and his name is Nu'u Tafisi.
Tafisi is a 6-1, 265-pound defensive end from Cal who'll turn 26 on June 30. He's expected to run close to a 4.85 40 at his pro day. And here's one last number: 53. That's his jersey number and that's what made me think of him as a Clark Haggans-type in the fifth round. He plays like him on the field, too.
In spite of the lackluster numbers, the Steelers agree. They're waiting for him to run, since he's been rehabbing a minor leg injury suffered in the Hula Bowl. If his time is satisfactory, they'll bring him in for a visit.
There are other reasons to believe Tafisi is Steelers material. He was given Cal's Joe Roth Award for courage, attitude and sportsmanship in 2006. He follows in the footsteps of the Steelers' sixth-round pick last year, Marvin Philip, who won that award in 2005.
Also, Tafisi is a relative novice to the game. He was born in Samoa and moved to Salt Lake City at the age of 14. He spent two years on a religious mission before playing at a junior college. He transferred to Cal and started 24 games in two seasons and compiled nine sacks. He's strong, plays bigger and faster than his numbers, and has a great motor and passion for a game that he's still learning to play.