Spotlight: Josh Chapman

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The Mock Monitor this week examines who the Falcons will consider in the second round. This week in the Draft Spotlight, we'll continue to examine players the Falcons may consider in the third round and later. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, the website's lead NFL Draft scout, returns to offer his assistance in understanding what kind of player Alabama defensive tackle Josh Chapman could be in the pros.

The 6-foot-1, 316-pound defensive tackle was high on a number of scouts' lists entering the 2011 college season. As a near prototype for the nose tackle position, especially in 3-4 defenses, Chapman's run-stopping ability in the middle of a defensive line is exactly what NFL coaches want. Chapman helped anchor Alabama's run defense in 2011 to the tune of 74.9 yards per game, the nation's best mark. The tackle did all of this while playing on a torn ACL and meniscus in his knee, an injury that occurred Oct. 1. Chapman would only miss one game last season.

Chapman's recent injury has caused teams to lower his grade into the middle rounds of the draft. Rehabbing during the offseason, Chapman has not been able to participate in postseason all-star games or the NFL Combine. Still, Miller is impressed by what he sees in the gutsy tackle.

"Chapman is an interesting prospect," Miller said. "This is a kid who played several games with a torn ACL, but never let it slow him down or show up on film. A classic nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, Chapman is agile enough to play in a four-man front in a zero-technique position. Ideally, Chapman will be used as a two-gap player who takes on blockers."

Alabama has a strong recent history of putting NFL-ready players into the league. Under head coach Nick Saban, Crimson Tide players are taught and perform in an NFL-level scheme, giving them an added bonus as teams consider them. Miller said conditioning at Alabama is also a positive and when Alabama players leave for the NFL, they're often prepared and know what to expect because of their college experience.

In 2011, Chapman was an honorable mention All-American by Pro Football Weekly and a second-team All-SEC member. He had 22 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. His most notable statistic is the yards allowed by opponents in rushing, a number even more impressive when you consider what happened to the Alabama defense when he missed his lone game of the season.

Late in the season, the defensive tackle sat out Alabama's game against Georgia Southern. On that day, the nation's best run defense allowed 302 rushing yards.

"A healthy Chapman would carry a second-round grade from me, but with his injury and an uncertain timetable on a return, I have Chapman in the fourth round," Miller said.

While the Falcons don't have a fourth-round pick this year, they have a third and a fifth. It's unlikely a talented player like Chapman, despite his injury concerns will be available in the fifth round. On the surface, a player that best projects as a 3-4 nose tackle doesn't appear to be a player suitable for the Falcons because they run a 4-3 defense. On the other hand, consider defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's history with the 3-4 and the discussions Nolan and head coach Mike Smith have made public recently about being more multiple in their defensive schemes and alignments and Chapman starts to look like a player that could fill a need for the Falcons.

"With the Falcons in a 4-3 defense, Chapman would bring value against the run, but he doesn't fit the mold of player they have gone after at defensive tackle (Peria Jerry, Corey Peters, Jonathan Babineaux)," Miller said. "While Chapman would be a nice contrast to the speed and burst of these players, he would definitely indicate a change in philosophy on the defensive line."

The red-shirt senior reminds Miller of Miami's Paul Soliai, a big defensive tackle in a 3-4 scheme that is well known around the league for his ability to stop the run.

"He's very stout at the point of attack and uses his legs well to anchor against blockers," Miller said.

Chapman's commitment can't be questioned after playing his entire final college season with an injury that ends most player's seasons. His strength also can't be questioned. During his time at Alabama, he was considered the team's strongest player, benching 480 pounds in 2008 and is believed to have left the program at the 580 mark with a 630-pound squat record.

That kind of strength allows Chapman to take on multiple blockers and hold up in the leverage game that takes place in NFL trenches. Though not considered an explosive athlete, his explosion from his position is fierce and scouts see a player able to knock back NFL linemen with his initial punch.

A punch like that is never a bad thing to have in your defensive tackle rotation and Chapman could prove to be one of the steals of the draft if concerns about an injury he's reported to be rehabbing from successfully turn out to be true.

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