Heading into the 2012 season, Pittsburgh looks to rebound after the year of turmoil under Todd Graham. Starting out well lead by Ray Graham, Pittsburgh looked to be on the rebound, and then Graham was injured and missed the rest of the year. After Graham was gone, Pittsburgh struggled to rebound and finished at a 6-7 year while also losing Head Coach Todd Graham to Arizona State. Pittsburgh now looks to rebound with a healthy Graham and an improved overall team.
Ray Graham, RB*- I can’t speak enough about the things I love about Graham and how he plays football. What Graham does best is use his speed and agility to break off the big game changing play. What people don’t know with Graham is that he proved last year that he can be a workhorse RB and take the beating of being the full time starter. Watching film on Graham, he’s very decisive on making his cuts to get to the open hole in the defense. He displays very good ball security and doesn’t leave his body susceptible to injury despite the knee injury last year. He’s not a great pass blocker, but he is very good when catching the ball out of the backfield. Graham has the ability to become a premier 3rd down RB at worst in the NFL, but if fully healthy this year can become a starting RB in the NFL even at his size. My biggest concern with Graham this year will be the health of the knee and if he returns to the form he had last year.
Devin Street, WR*- With all the attention Graham gets on offense, not as much is given to Street, as I feel he’s one of the more underrated prospects at WR. He possesses a strong frame and the ability to pluck the football out of midair in traffic, Street can very well put his name up there with the other big time WR’s to emerge from Pittsburgh. Tough to watch at times with Street, because while being so physically gifted, Street is very raw in his route running and routinely showed him rounding off his routes. While Street can get away with that now in college, NFL CB’s will be able to read his routes and have an easier time trying to pick off the QB. He possesses strong hands and has great breakaway speed. He also does a great job using his size to his advantage. Many times you’ll find WR’s who just get by with their size, but don’t utilize it. Street almost boxes out his opponents like a basketball player and makes the tough catches look easy. With a strong 2012 season, Street could hear his named called as early as the mid 2nd round.
Mike Shanahan, WR- No ladies and gentlemen I’m not talking about the Redskins head coach, I’m talking about one of the more underappreciated WR’s I’ve seen lately. Shanahan is one of those guys who does many things well but doesn’t do a single thing on a superior level. Standing at 6’4, Shanahan has the size to be successful possession WR, but with how the NFL have moved the last few years it’ll be interesting to see if Shanahan can stick on a roster. With the bigger NFL WR’s possessing the speed and strength to be big play threats, you aren’t seeing much more of the true possession type receivers who only go mostly across the middle for the tough catch. Shanahan does a good job using his body to his advantage, has good hands and makes plays to move the chains. After the 2012 season I could see Shanahan going late, but again its all dependent on if teams still value possession receivers or move more away from them.
Hubie Graham, TE- Graham is listed at 6’3”, 230 pounds but despite that he is a very reliable in-line blocker and an underrated receiver. He was third on the Panthers in receiving last season, hauling in 28 passes for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is flying under the radar for now, but I feel he has the chance to be drafted given his ability as a blocker and as a receiver. He’d make a solid H-Back at the next level.
Tino Sunseri, QB- Sunseri got a rap to start off his time at Pitt after replacing Bill Stuhl. After a poor first year, many felt Sunseri was way in over his head and not a good fit, but over the years Sunseri has improved significantly and stands a chance to be drafted late or be a UDFA signing. Sunseri has a decent arm, but at times struggles to drive his throws to his targets. At times he does a poor job squaring up while on the run and this leads to poor throws. He is a very mobile QB who runs the play action bootleg well and can make many plays with his feet. When Sunseri is set, he makes those impressive throws you want to see, but it seems that Sunseri has a hard time keeping his mechanics all correct. Teams will be intrigued by his skill set as a #3 QB or practice squad developmental player. If Sunseri can settle his mechanics then he can have a chance to stick in the NFL.
Aaron Donald, DT*- Donald is the one player you absolutely need to know from the Panthers’ defense. Despite being listed at just 6’0”, 270 pounds Donald was an absolute impact player as a sophomore last year, totaling 47 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks while also breaking up 4 passes. He will need to add weight and get stronger, and may have to move outside to defensive end, but NFL teams will find a way to use a player that has a knack for rushing the passer and making plays in the backfield like Donald does.