Jack Cichy had a strong 2015 sophomore campaign that put himself on the map. Cichy put up 60 tackles, four for loss and five sacks. He followed it up with a strong start to his junior season before going down for the year with a pectoral injury. Unfortunately, he was never able to build on that momentum as an ACL injury ended his 2017 before it even started. With the handful of injuries, Cichy opted for the NFL. Does he fit into the Steelers long-term plans, and do his injuries make him worth a risk in the middle rounds?
Cichy has great instincts. He finds ways to breeze through traffic and flow towards the football while maintaining his lane discipline. Watch his patience in the play below. He is reading and reacting and making a quick break on the football to stop the read option before it ever has a chance.
He uses his instincts and understanding of where he is on the field to sort through traffic and stay clean in the second level to consistently make plays. Below, Cichy is taking on James Daniels, one of the better center prospects at the second level in the past few seasons. Watch how Cichy is able to pause to swipe him aside with a hesitation before bursting into the hole to make the tackle.
The play below comes down to his understanding of angles. He is able to position himself to the outside of the guard to stay clean and have positioning on him to the strong side of the field. As the guard tries to pursue Cichy he is quick to disengage and make the play near the line of scrimmage.
He also uses this to flow sideline to sideline while avoiding traffic. Amara Darboh runs a 4.45 forty yard dash. However, Cichy was able to make up ground while fighting through traffic due to his understanding and change of direction ability. That is why playing speed matters more than timed speed.
Again, Cichy is quick to recognize the jet sweep and is relentless in his ability to beat Curtis Samuel, who ran a 4.31 40-year dash to the sideline. He forced Samuel inside and was able to wrap him up for the tackle.
Cichy is a smooth mover, and it shows in his coverage ability as well. He is comfortable off of the ball and in space and has loose and fluid movement that allows him to change directions quickly and cover ground, like in the play below.
He also has the athleticism to stay down the field with tight ends and knock passes away. The play below is a pass down the seam about 20 yards downfield. Cichy was able to stay within reach and used his length and an extension to knock the pass away.
The weakness for Cichy is obvious. Health. Of the 44 games in his career, he has missed 20 and has started in just 11. The tape is impressive, but it is tough to rely solely on that when evaluating the player. If he cannot stay on the field, he has no use for the team. On top of that, the injuries were both soft tissue and were in different areas. While it could be argued those are freak injuries, you have to wonder how well his entire soft tissue will last with greater physicality.
On the field, there are concerns about just how athletic Cichy is. In traffic and moving laterally, he can find his way. However, in straight line speed, or in trying to keep up with more athletic tight ends and running backs there could be questions.
Cichy may be best off in zone when it comes to pass defense.
Alex Anzalone New Orleans Saints
It is never really fair to compare an NFL draft prospect to a rookie player, but it feels like we saw a similar story with Alex Anzalone. The tape said a second-round player for sure. He looked quick, aggressive and smart. However, his shortened sample size saw him fall to the 78th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Anzalone ended up starting in four games for the Saints and was an impact rookie and helper to the emergence of the defense in that time. However, it was the consistent injuries that left him on the sideline and caused his rookie year to play out just like college career. When on the field, Jack Cichy can make that instant impact. The question is how long can he stay there?
A fit for Pittsburgh Steelers
Cichy is a good fit for the Steelers if they can address the inside linebacker position via free agency. The team would have their starter for next season in place while Cichy is able to recover and play special teams. If Cichy can get healthy, he can be a long-term option as a starter.
Still, the team will be prepared to be playing without him and will be delighted by his presence. The question becomes at what point does the bet become worth the risk? The Steelers likely would not have to decide until the third round, and if he is sitting there in round three, and he has passed their medical testing he would be hard to pass up on. Keep an eye on the name Jack Cichy connected to the Pittsburgh Steelers as we start to move closer to the NFL draft.