Whether he's clogging up lines or blowing through them, Casey is a guy I've always enjoyed watching whenever USC plays. In fact, in a draft filled with potential sleepers on the defensive side of the ball, I think Casey's got the biggest chance to go far. CBS had him rated as the eleventh best defensive tackle in this draft and the 80th overall prospect, but this was a stacked year for the position. There were seven defensive tackles ranked in the top 50 in 2011; they were all selected within the first 53 picks.
Unfortunately for Casey, he was not among them, but in my opinion, he certainly could have been. His limited versatility caused his stock to slip, but prior to the draft, there was much speculation that the Titans would try to get younger up front, especially at defensive tackle, and Casey fits the bill as one of the premier 3 technique player in the draft.
There was some discussion as to whether he could fill a void at nose tackle earlier. Hypothetically, the Titans would be able to skip on Haynesworh in free agency and simply throw Casey in there to eat some space up the middle. However, this seems to be more or less just interwebz speculation. There's nothing wrong with that, this whole thing we've got going here in based on interwebz speculation, however, this is one that needs to go back to the drawing board. For starters, many don't think that Casey has the ideal size to line up in the middle. From a quick comparison, his body shape is nearly identical to players like Casey Hampton and Aubrayo Franklin, so I'm not really sure where this came from. He's not the 6-6, 360 pound behemoth that Fat Al was, but if that's the standards we're holding all nose tackles to then we're all doomed. The more concerning part about his game is the fact that if he doesn't win the initial battle, he tends to get his pads too high and can be pushed back despite excellent lower body strength. Luckily for Casey, this didn't happen terribly often during college due to his "nasty explosiveness" (still funny) and his aforementioned core strength, but one has to wonder whether he'll be able to keep it up against NFL interior linemen. Often when a player is getting too high, it's simply because he's been able to just throw fools out of his way ever since he was in Pop Warner, so hopefully it's something he works on during the pre-season. Something else that doesn't allow him to play nose is the fact that he's simply an average run defender. Instead of trying to stand up a guard or center, he often tries to bowl through the line and gets caught out of position. Average run defender in college often translates to below-average run defender in the NFL, but this is something that can hopefully be taught in the next couple of years.
While he improved his pad level in 2010, the nose tackle should be an unmovable man; if he gets pushed around, even just a little bit, the entire defense can collapse and suddenly, the 3-4 looks like the worst thing ever.
So, like I mentioned before, Casey isn't the most versatile of players, he's a 3-technique, take it or leave it. No nose tackle for you. The thing that strikes most people who watch him is that he's among the most entertaining type of players in the game; the ultra-disruptive defensive tackle. This guy has a real nose for the enemy backfield and special pension for causing havoc. Something that helps him achieve this is his initial burst off the ball. He's got a remarkably quick first step for a man his size and moves pretty well in that stocky frame. This skill set and body type gives him his greatest assets to penetrate the pocket, the skill that earned him a third round selection. All signs point to him being a much better pass rusher than run stuffer. Take that for what it's worth.
What I really love about him is the rave reviews that he gets in the effort department. He seems to have a good grasp on the concept of working for what he wants and is a super high achiever. With the departure of Everson Griffen, the Trojans needed a leader on the defensive line. Casey stepped up his game and became that leader. His elevated level of play thankfully didn't go unnoticed, and now it seems like the Titans have got one of the better high-upside D tackles in the draft. To wrap things up, I'll make a player comparison. While he obviously wasn't picked nearly as high, I think that Jurrell Casey could have a similar career to fellow Trojan, Sedrick Ellis. They have very connatural skill sets and, while Ellis was the better prospect, they both seem more well equipped to rush the passer from the inside and cause chaos in the backfield than to be run stopping giants that anchor a line.