On Friday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers continued to boost their defense via the 2016 NFL Draft by selecting South Carolina State defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. Selected in the third round, Hargrave joins Artie Burns (first round) and Sean Davis (second round). Hargrave, a two-time SBN Sports Mel Blount Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (2014 and 2015) was selected 89th overall.
At six-feet, two inches and 305 pounds, Hargrave is a big, physical defensive tackle that Steelers assistant head coach/defensive line coach John Mitchell worked out personally and saw his ability to get hands-on and move his feet. “(South Carolina State) feel like he is one of the best football players to come there in a long time,” said Mitchell on Friday night. “They have had some great football players who came from there, including Donnie Shell who played (for the Steelers).”
Hargrave recorded 37 sacks in his collegiate football career and had ten or more in each of his last two seasons (2014, 2015). During the 2015 season, Hargrave had 59 tackles with 22 tackles for-a-loss and 13.5 sacks in 11 games. Those 22 TFLs ranked fifth in the FCS. In 2014, Hargrave led the MEAC conference and finished third in the nation with 16.0 sacks. He added 55 tackles, 23.5 TFLs, three forced fumbles, two passes broken up and eight quarterback hurries.
“Javon Hargrave is a self-made man,” Mitchell expounded. “When he graduated [high school], he didn’t have the grades…he set out, worked real hard, worked his way in, got there and played very well. If you look at his stats, out of anyone coming out this year, defensive linemen or defensive tackle, this guy is pretty impressive.”
Mitchell admitted that he felt many teams may have overlooked Hargrave because he played for a smaller college and anticipated he had not seen enough competition. “The thing I liked about him was every week that I watched him on tape he didn’t play down to the talent he played against. He played up to his ability. This kid got better, better, better every week. The things that he does extremely well are some things you can’t teach.”
WalterFootball.com ranked Hargrave as the number 18 defensive tackle in the 2016 draft class. The website posted, “Hargrave was a star of the East-West Shrine game, and he used that week to earn a late invitation to the Senior Bowl…Hargrave got the better of interior linemen with a quick burst and also had a powerful bull rush to crash the pocket.” Hargrave is considered a natural talent in keeping his pad level at the appropriate height as he accelerates.
Mitchell admitted that getting Hargrave with Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Dan McCullers will improve the young man’s abilities, but that he is already a very productive player. “Where we put him, (Hargrave) can help us with the things that we do. When we put him in our base defense, when we put him in the three technique, we can control that…he’s going to be over the 6-4, 6-5 guard. The speed that he has and the quickness that he has getting off the ball, he’s going to be a big addition for us.”