Jabaal Sheard became the second Pitt player to be taken in the NFL Draft, going to the Cleveland Browns in the early part of the second round.
For Sheard, it was quite a journey - from the ugly offseason incident to stepping out of Greg Romeus' shadow and becoming possibly the best defensive player in the Big East.
He was targeted for quite a while, according to Browns GM Tom Heckert:
"He’s a good football player we think he can play the run, he obviously can rush the passer. I think he was the defensive player of the year this year in the Big East. He’s a really good player. He was a guy we targeted a long, long time ago and we were happy he was there. We were a little nervous about it but we’re glad he was there."
Sheard, though, when asked in his conference call, had no idea and hadn't even taken a visit to speak with the nearby Browns' management:
Speaking of that call, he was, of course, asked about that Summer incident where he had an altercation. I thought he did a good job of explaining what happened and not dodging the issue. It also sounds far better than the story we heard earlier about him 'throwing' a guy through a window. Far more interesting to me, was this ... which I had never heard about:
(On if he had any idea the Browns would draft him) -- "No, I had no idea. Honestly, I kind of didn’t talk to them since I think the combine. I think they came to my pro day. I had no idea it was going to happen.
(On his bravery medal for helping an elderly woman escape from a burning home) -- "I grew up in a pretty rough neighborhood. It was a house that was like smoking and the fire alarm was going off. Nobody reacted, everybody just watched it. I was probably about 11 at the time so me and a couple of my friends were riding bikes around the neighborhood and we happened to see that the house was smoking and the fire alarm going off. We ran over and tried to break in and then we ran to call the police and came back and started breaking in. Just as we were breaking in, the fire truck arrived, so they came and got us out of the way and got in there. It just happened there was an elderly women that had slipped and was unconscious and it just so happened that we did it just in time because it could have been worse than what it was."
Pretty cool. Anyway, about that incident - the Browns obviously did their homework in finding out about Sheard, but couldn't be convinced he was a bad pick:
Heckert said he and the Browns talked to "a ton of people ... we can't find one person to say anything negative about this kid." Heckert quizzed former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt about Little when the Browns interviewed Wannstedt for the team's defensive coordinator job.
Despite going fairly high (only five picks into the second round), Sheard thought he could have been a first-rounder:
So why the Browns? Well, with their new 4-3 defense, they apparently wanted to stockpile some talent in that area, taking two defensive linemen in the first two rounds. Looks like the Browns are trying to add a bit of muscle. And Sheard is already talking about teaming up with first-round pick, DT Phil Taylor:
The Browns have used their first two draft picks this year to bolster their defensive front as they convert to new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron's 4-3 scheme. The Browns also selected Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor in the first round with the 21st overall pick.
"I think that's great," Sheard said. "I'd love for (Taylor) to be in the middle. I know they're gonna have to double team him (and) give me a little freedom on the edge. I think we're gonna be a great package."
Taylor, for his part, is also on board with playhing alongside Sheard:
Soon after getting the news Sheard was his new teammate, Taylor sent a tweet to Sheard: "congrats man!! Let's get it done."
But there's more to the defensive line than merely getting to the quarterback. And apparently, Sheard needs to work on a few other things:
The bad: Rushing the quarterback is where the story ends for Sheard. He's not great against the run and he wasn't known for dropping back into coverage while at Pitt. From looking at a few mock drafts, I believe the Browns may have been able to move down a handful of slots and still acquire Sheard.
I don't know how good or bad Sheard is particularly at stopping the run, but I will say this about where he was picked - If you're the Browns and that's who you want, then you don't go fussing around, taking gambles about dropping further. Pick the guy you want - it really is that simple. Plus, Sheard was projected by many to go in the second round, so I wouldn't say this was a reach.