There are many reasons why NFL teams bring in prospects for pre-draft visits. Some are for workouts, some are for medical checks and some are fact finding missions for players with some type of Red Flag incidents in their past. One of the more intriguing nose tackle prospects to visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in Regina (Canada) defensive tackle, Akiem Hicks, who may fall into multiple categories on that list.
Hicks, a 6-4, 320 pound prospect, does have that checkered past and definitely requires some scrutiny. At one-time, his promise led him to the top of the JUCO ranks and he was a highly-touted recruit for LSU after the 2008 campaign. Unfortunately, he became broiled in a recruiting scandal and never played a down for the SEC powerhouse, eventually transferring to Regina, where he became a Canadian West star.
Although raw and rather inexperienced, Hicks’ looks the part of an imposing defensive tackle, combining mammoth size with enough athleticism to anchor the point of attack. On top of his natural mass, passion for the game and athleticism, he has flashed a sound grasp of defenses, with a versatile skill set that allows for scheme flexibility. Unfortunately, it is those characteristics that are also causing concern during this process.
Although, he was a successful player at Regina, he never developed into the dominating player that his size or athleticism projected him to, especially against the smaller schools in the league. To make matters worse, he lacks the fundamental discipline and technique needed to be a successful defensive tackle, often playing too upright with an inconsistent motor.
In the end, his performance at the East-West Shrine Game did open the eyes of scouts as he demonstrated the ability to potentially be a solid player in both even or odd man fronts. Yet, he remains a question mark in the draft, due to his lack of experience against high level competition. While he has flashed the potential to develop into a ontributor in the NFL, it will take a team with a experienced defensive line coach to help him reach his potential and that is something that will push his draft stock down. Even if his character checks out, He is at best, a late round developmental prospect with some upside.
In all, the Steelers brought in six defensive linemen and Steelers101 will continue to profile these pre-draft visitors. To date, we have completed four of the six that have made their way to Pittsburgh. Below is a list of the rest of defensive linemen that visited with the organization with the their completed profiles annotated and hyperlinked, feel free to check them out and weigh in with your thoughts.
BYU nose tackle Hebron Fangupo(Steelers101 profile 4/14)
Cincinnati nose tackle John Hughes (Steelers101 profile 4/18)
Regina defensive tackle Akiem Hicks
Cincinnati defensive end Derek Wolfe
Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe
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