Process starts this weekend as former Pitt standouts take first steps toward the NFL



Despite his stellar performance at the Senior Bowl — at which he won practice player of the week — Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald is not a lock to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft in May, according to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Mayock pegged Donald as a late first-, early second-round choice. Donald, along with former teammates, quarterback Tom Savage and wide receiver Devin Street, will have a chance to improve his draft stock at the NFL Combine starting Saturday in Indianapolis.

“I think this kid’s tough enough, quick enough and disruptive enough that he still deserves to be a first-round defensive tackle,” Mayock said. “Some think he’ll go in the second round because of a lack of length.”

Donald is listed at 6 feet, which limits his versatility on an NFL defense. Mayock’s top two defensive tackles — Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III and Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan — are both 6-2.

“The problem with these shorter defensive tackles is when they don’t win on their first move, when they don’t win with quickness, they can get stuck on blocks,” Mayock said.

The Chicago Bears, picking 14th, seem like the highest landing spot for Donald, but Mayock said they would be more likely to take Jernigan, if he’s available.

Playing as a defensive tackle in Pitt’s 4-3 defense, the same position he likely will play in the NFL, Donald had 28.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. He took home four major individual national awards at the end of the season.

Savage and Street seem likely to be selected later. Mayock called Savage the “wild card” of this quarterback class because he has the raw strength and skill, but two transfers (first from Rutgers to Arizona, then to Pitt) limited how much he has been able to develop.

“I finally got to see him this year stabilized in an offensive system for a year,” Mayock said. “He’s a big, strong kid.

“Watching him this year, he’s still a little bit all over the place. He’s had some accuracy issues at times, but he can really push the football down the field and he hasn’t been in an offense long enough to learn.”

One of Savage’s favorite targets this past season, Street will try to prove that he has fully recovered from the various injuries that cost him the last two games of the 2013 season.

Street graduated as Pitt’s all-time leading pass-catcher with 202 career receptions, but Mayock acknowledged his durability was a concern.

“He’s pretty solid college football player,” Mayock said. “Probably mid to late rounds of the NFL draft.”

Street likely go after fellow in-state receiver Allen Robinson of Penn State, who Mayock slotted as a “solid” second-round pick.

“[Robinson has] good strength and size,” Mayock said. “I want to see more burst and ability to separate.”

On-field workouts start Saturday with offensive linemen, tight ends and kickers. Running backs, receivers and quarterbacks go Sunday, linebackers and defensive lineman will work out Monday, and things wraps up with defensive backs Tuesday.


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.

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