Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Draft Prospect Profile: Jeff Otah

With the NFL Draft now just about a month away, the Steelers are beginning to bring in prospective draft choices to their South Side facilities. If you look back at past first round Steelers draft choices, almost all of them (Simmons, Polamalu, Roethlisberger, Miller, Timmons) visited with the team prior to the draft. The lesson here is that the Steelers first round pick will almost assuredly be someone who comes into Pittsburgh for a visit. With that said, over the next few weeks I will be providing brief profiles of those players who will most likely be picked in the first round and come into Pittsburgh for a visit. Chances are, one of these players profiled will be the team's first round selection in April. Today, it's Pittsburgh offensive tackle Jeff Otah, who according to the Post-Gazette has already visited with the Steelers.

Player: Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh

Height/Weight: 6'6'', 340 lbs.

Overview (courtesy of NFL.com):

Otah played only two seasons at Pittsburgh, but many rank him with the elite offensive tackles produced by the school over the last two decades. He is a road grader in the mold of former All-Americans Jimbo Covert (1979-82), Mark May (1977-80), Bill Fralic (1981-84) and Ruben Brown (1991-94), all of whom enjoyed productive NFL careers. Called the "best blocker I've ever coached," by Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt, Otah served as offensive captain for one of college football's best running attacks as a senior.

Otah concentrated mostly on basketball, lettering twice at William Penn High School. As a senior, football coach Bill Cole convinced Otah to compete in football and he started in his only year on the team. Because of a lack of playing experience, he was not recruited coming out of the prep ranks and enrolled at Valley Forge Military Academy in 2004.

At Valley Forge, Otah started 17 consecutive games over two seasons, where he was rated the 26th-best junior college offensive lineman by Scout.com and 31st by Rivals.com. He was a two-time All-Seaboard Conference choice and was selected the league's Most Valuable Player in 2003. He led the team to a pair of conference co-championships and also lettered twice in basketball. He averaged nearly 19 points and 12 rebounds per game during his hoops career at Valley Forge.

Otah enrolled at Pittsburgh and immediately took over the demanding left tackle position in 2006. He started all 12 games, delivering 91 knockdowns with 13 touchdown-resulting blocks. He allowed four sacks and one quarterback pressure while recording one solo tackle and recovering a pair of fumbles.
The winner of the team's Ed Conway Award in 2007, given to the team's most improved player, Otah garnered All-Big East Conference honors as a senior. He produced 101 knockdowns, with 13 of those blocks leading to touchdowns. He finished with an 82% grade for blocking consistency, allowing four pressures and 8 1/2 stops for losses. In two seasons at Pittsburgh, Otah started all 24 games, grading 81.58% for blocking consistency, as he delivered 192 knockdowns, including 26 that led to Panthers' touchdowns on the team's 1,523 offensive snaps.

Wannstache: You can’t teach Otah’s size. At 6’6, 340 lbs, the guy is an absolute monster. People will look at his size and just assume he’s another Max Starks, but Otah has better footwork and athleticism, so much so that some scouts believe he could eventually make the transition to left tackle. However, Otah is a raw prospect who only began playing football his senior year in high school. He’s not as polished as some other tackles in the draft, but his ceiling is extremely high.

Otah struggled at the combine, looking a bit stiff and sloppy in the blocking drills and running one of the slowest 40 times among offensive lineman (5.56). However, when it comes to offensive lineman the 10-yard split is much more important, as it measures an offensive tackle’s initial explosiveness off the line or how he’ll move on say, a screen pass. The truth of the matter is, an offensive lineman is never going to run 40 yards down the field. In the 10-yard split, Otah had a much more respectable time, at 1.85 seconds. What I like more is that Otah gutted it out at the combine with a high ankle sprain. Other prospects may have sat out the drills, but Otah went ahead and took advantage of the opportunity to showcase his skills in front of all 32 team’s general managers and scouts. He knew he still would have another opportunity to impress, and he wisely sat out yesterday’s University of Pittsburgh Pro Day in lieu of a private workout two weeks from now, in order to give himself more time to heal his ankle injury. While his combine performance was disappointing, Otah is the quintessential player who looks “better in pads than in shorts.”

If we’re to believe Kevin Colbert’s mantra of evaluating players by “80% tape and 20% measurables” than Otah’s performance at the combine shouldn’t hurt him too much in the eyes of the Steelers. All they have to do is pop in the tape and see him get the better of Virginia defensive end Chris Long not once, but twice, and also hold South Florida defensive end George Selvie in check as well. Long is going to be a top 3 pick in this year’s draft, and Selvie could very well be a first rounder next year. The question is whether Otah will make it to #23. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has Otah going to the Chiefs at #5, but that would be an absolute reach of mammoth proportions. More likely, Otah will fall somewhere in the mid to late first round, with tackle needy teams like Carolina, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, and Philadelphia all possibilities. My guess is if somehow Otah is there at pick #23, he will get serious consideration from the Steelers.

End of Post


Anonymous said...

I'm convinced Otah is at the top of the Steelers' board. The local connections and the immense talent just make too much sense.

Dave Wannstache said...

Personally, I think Branden Albert, the offensive guard from Virginia is at the top of their board.

They've been looking and scouting at more guards and centers than tackles. That signals to me that they think the interior offensive line is the problem. Assuming Starks stays with the team, I think the Steelers actually like the tackles they have on the roster.

I feel like drafting Albert would almost be like drafting two players in one. He's a great left guard, but people feel he could definitely become a very good left tackle as well. That flexibility allows you to put him wherever is necessary after deciding what to do with Marvel Smith after the 2008 season. I'll have a prospect profile for Albert coming sometime in the next few weeks, since he is scheduled to visit the Steelers.

bgsteelfan said...

Personally, I think this one's a long shot, just because I think he'll be gone before we get near him. However, I don't think we can go wrong with either him of Albert.