One of the more popular players on the Pittsburgh Steelers is undoubtedly defensive end Brett Keisel. While some of that popularity stems from his impressive facial hair, he's been a key cog in Dick LeBeau's defense ever since he was drafted by the team in the seventh round back in the 2002 NFL Draft.
For clubs that run the 3-4 and are looking for a similar type of player in the middle rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft, NFL Media analyst Brian Baldinger has one player teams should take a look at from the Pacific Northwest who might be flying under the radar.
"Taylor Hart from the University of Oregon," Baldinger said on NFL Network's "Path to the Draft". "He broke his foot at the end of the season but he was a four-year starter. He's 6-foot-6, 280, can run and he's got violent hands.
"To me, if I had to make a comparison now, he looks like a young Brett Keisel without the beard. He's got a promising future as a five-technique in any 3-4 defense."
Hart battled through some injuries during his time in Eugene, Ore., but was one of the bigger players in the Ducks' defensive line rotation when he was on the field. A former basketball player, he has 32 3/4-inch arms and is strong enough to shed blocks with opposing offensive linemen.
He did play defensive end at Oregon and is flexible enough to play defensive tackle in some 4-3 schemes. In addition to being a five-technique at the next level, Hart showed in college that he could set the edge against the run and get to the passer from just about anywhere he lined up.
Keisel was a seventh-round pick nearly a decade ago but Hart's physical attributes and game film could help him land a few rounds earlier in the draft this year. While he likely projects as a possible fourth- or fifth-round pick in May, his stock is hurt somewhat by teams not being able to see him workout ever since he broke his foot in January. He did put up 21 reps on the bench press at the NFL Scouting Combine and has a spot on some draft boards despite unable to do on-field drills in Indianapolis.
As the clock ticks down to the draft, the more comparisons Hart can draw to Keisel will likely do nothing but help his stock going forward. The former Oregon Duck might want to avoid the comparisons in the beard department unless requested by a team, however.