Finding Carl Nassib’s NFL Fit
In our first installment of this series, we took a look at where quarterback Christian Hackenberg might wind up in the 2016 NFL Draft. Our second installment will take a crack at projecting next-level fits for one of the draft’s most intriguing prospects.
DE Carl Nassib — Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins
Nassib came out of nowhere in 2015 to lead the nation in sacks and break Penn State’s single-season sack record. While his performance rather otherworldly, he’s still considered a risk in the eyes of scouts given how little overall film he has. In the same sense, the team that selects Nassib might wind up winning the jackpot. Though he’s only had one year of monstrous production, he might just be scratching the surface of his potential. With proper coaching, one lucky team might wind up with a dominant pass rusher for years to come. Because teams are wary of taking Nassib too high, there’s a good chance he’ll last until the fourth round, with the potential to go somewhere in the second or third
One coach in particular has a well-documented history of turning mid-round players into Pro Bowlers — Bill Belichick ring a bell?
The Patriots have two second rounders and two third rounders, and a developmental prospect/situational edge rusher like Nassib would add some needed depth in the pass rushing department after the team traded Pro Bowl OLB Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals. Obviously, Nassib wouldn’t be contending for a starting job right off the bat, but he’d definitely be an asset on third down. The Patriots are set up front with young contributors like Dominique Easley and Malcom Brown, while free agent acquisition Chris Long figures to balance out the team’s line at end. Operating out of a 3-4, the athletic Nassib could provide the Patriots a weapon as a pass-rushing OLB, but could easily provide the veteran Long some relief if need be. Belichick has a penchant for maximizing young players’ talent, and there aren’t many better situations for a rookie to fall into the winning culture New England prides itself on.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are another team that could select Nassib on draft day — something a large majority of Penn State faithful would welcome with open arms. Nassib, who would join fellow Penn State alum Jesse James in Pittsburgh, would play a similar role with the Steelers as he hypothetically would with the Patriots. Operating out of a 3-4, defensive coordinator Keith Butler would be able to slot Nassib at a number of different positions in a situational role. First round rookie Alvin Dupree mans the strong side behind defensive linemen Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward, but a player like Nassib could be utilized behind the Steelers’ young corps as a pass rushing specialist — something that could play to his strengths as a sack artist. Nassib is something of a hybrid in that he could line up with his hand in the dirt or in a two-point stance on the outside. Just as the Patriots, a second/third round selection would make sense for Nassib.
Last but not least on our list is the Miami Dolphins. Coming off its 2013 NFL Draft debacle in which the team selected Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan No. 3 overall, the team finds itself in a pickle three years later. Jordan’s failed three drug tests in as many years, which casts his NFL future in doubt. The Dolphins recently lost 2012 draft pick Olivier Vernon to the New York Giants in free agency, meaning regardless of who fills his place there will be a hole to fill. Ndamukong Suh is the big-ticket centerpiece of Miami’s defense, but the team needs depth. Nassib could provide a pass rushing threat in relief, but in a more traditional role. In Miami he’d be asked to play the traditional defensive end role, and if his potential is maximized, he could ultimately wind up playing the role Jordan never could. Nassib must improve his technical skills, but his raw potential is undeniable. Miami could be the perfect fit for a player like Nassib, and given its needs on paper, the Penn State star makes plenty of sense.
Nassib is a difficult player to figure out, but his potential runs through the roof. Nassib needs the right team, but with the right coaching he’ll have a lengthy NFL career. Stay tuned for the next installment in our series.