Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Look At Potential Steeler Draft Picks

I've done quite a bit of NFL Draft stuff on the site here the past few weeks, and its been met with some pretty positive responses, though not necessarily from Pittsburgh fans. It seems its been more attractive to the almost unfathomable legion of NFL Draftniks out there. Thanks to a few links from Mock Draft databases, there were more hits on this page in about a week or two than there were in the entire previous history of TRS.

So anyway, with this knowledge in hand I figured I'd try to apply some of the stuff I've seen to our local football squad, the Pittsburgh Steelers. I put together a list of 10 potential first round guys we could see wearing the black and gold and added some tidbits about each. I also listed 10 potential guys I'd like to see at the bottom of the second round, too. Let me know what you think.

First Round Guys
In the first round I think that the Steelers are most likely the address the offensive line in some capacity. Ideally, I think they would like to add an offensive tackle, but those guys don't often slip so if they want someone they will have to either trade up or reach for a second rounder. There are also a couple different interior guys who figure to be late first or early second rounders. There are also other areas the Steelers may zero in on if they are not satisfied with the pickings at number 32. It is still unclear whether or not Bryant McFadden will be back, and if he departs the Steelers may need to beef the secondary up. They also have a need for a third or fourth receiver, as Nate Washington is gone and Limas Sweed is a question mark. Lastly they could also just sit and wait for whatever player is inevitably slipping down the board and use it as a luxury pick. That is tougher to project, but I do have one guy in mind at the bottom.

Alex Mack G/C California
There's little question who the early odds favor the Steelers picking at 32. This guy. And for good reason. He's almost universally regarded as the top interior lineman in the draft, which coincidentally is a big need for the Steelers. However, I'm not convinced he is actually still on the board. I wouldn't bat an eyelash if it the Steelers decided to move up a handful of slots to make sure that they get their man. Assuming of course, he is their man.

Duke Robinson G Oklahoma
Robinson is of the massive, earth-mover variety offensive lineman. The guy is 6'5 327 and is one of the stronger linemen in the entire draft, and that really comes out when you watch his work on the field. He is perhaps a bit too big, though, as there are definite questions about his quickness. Still, he should be able to come in and immediately give Darnell Stapleton a run for his money after playing at such a high-level school like OU.

Eben Britton OT Arizona
Britton has one of the larger frames of any offensive lineman in the draft, and it is widely believed he could get a little bigger and develop into a top-notch tackle. There are certainly some questions about his overall talent level, though. The potential is definitely there, but the excecution hasn't been as much. Britton could easily go 10-12 spots ahead of the Steelers' pick, but others believe that he and Michael Oher could slip into the 20s. I'm sure the Steelers wouldn't mind that one bit. If he is still on the board, I see him almost no way that the Steelers pass him up.

William Beatty OT Connecticut
Beatty was initially regarded by most as a mid-round prospect. However, he has had some above-average workouts and has demonstrated signs of potentially developing into a very good tackle. He probably projects as a left tackle due to his quickness and agility, which has boosted his stock even more. Beatty should not be relied on to come in and play right away, as even at UConn he was mostly regarded as being a very good pass protector but someone who still needed to work on consistency, toughness and run blocking. He figures to need at least a season to watch and learn before he is ready to take on a starting role. Personally, I'm typically not a fan of these types of "project" linemen, especially in the first round, as the risk is just too great.

Max Unger G/C Oregon
To many, Unger may be something of a foreign name, even for people who have read several mocks. For the most part, we are seeing Unger's name tossed around as a mid-second rounder, at best right now. But we've seen too often in the past few drafts that teams will reach for offensive linemen. This is especially true when they are regarded as a reasonably pro-ready, as Unger is seen by most. He doesn't have the upside of others here, but his current talent level and the show he puts on in some of the game tapes may be enough to sneak him into the first round, especially for a team in need of a ready-made starting lineman, like the Steelers.

Sean Smith CB Utah
By most accounts, this is one of the weakest defensive back crops in years, but of all the different late-first/early-second round players Smith has to be considered the most intriguing. There has been a lot of debate about whether or not Smith can be a corner or should be a safety, but if he can handle corner he could be a very unique weapon. He is a jaw-dropping 6-3 1/2, which is of course practically unheard of for an NFL corner. The speed is also only so-so, so its easy to see why many teams think he might be a safety. Still... if he can prove to be even a decent corner that height could make him a truly unique difference-maker. Despite what many say, I have a hard time seeing a monster of a corner like this falling out of the first round.

Alphonso Smith CB Wake Forest
If Smith were two inches taller, he'd be fighting Malcolm Jenkins for a top-10 pick. Instead, he's just 5-9 and didn't prove to be as fast as originally thought in his sprint times. With Smith, though, the proof may be in the pudding. Anyone who has watched his college game tapes has raved about his work at Wake, and the universal thought is that he is an excellent cover corner as long as he isn't matched against any real big receivers. With the Steelers, that wouldn't be a problem thanks to Ike Taylor. Smith is expected by the experts to drop out of the first, but I'm not sure I buy it, as the experience, athleticism and skill are all there, and he should be able to play as a nickel or dime guy right away. I think someone makes a move for him late in the first.

D.J. Moore CB Vanderbilt
Just like Alphonso Smith, the biggest thing holding Moore back is his height. He is even shorter than Smith at just 5-8 1/2. Moore is probably not a match for Smith as a pure corner, but he has his appealing traits, as well. He is an absolute ball hawk, with 12 picks in his last two seasons and can be pretty dangerous with the ball. His height also hasn't held him back at any point, as he held his own against bigger players. The guess here is that Moore does end up falling out of the first round, but we've position runs before (like OT a year ago) that have pushed fringe guys into the first round, so I certainly wouldn't rule it out.

Percy Harvin WR Florida
Yes, this is definitely a wildcard pick. I actually don't really think that Harvin is going to be there when the Steelers pick. He may not have a defined position, but he is very dangerous when he gets his hands on the ball, and I think could develop into a pretty nice slot-type receiver. He reminds me a fair bit of Antwaan Randle El, and he certainly worked out pretty darn well in Pittsburgh. I personally can't see the Steelers going receiver in the first round, but if Harvin is there, he could be an awfully tempting toy for the Steelers to snag, and we saw in last year's draft that they aren't afraid to ignore need for talent in the early rounds.

Tyson Jackson DE LSU
This is the guy I think could be a potential slipper on draft day. By some accounts, Jackson might be off the board for close to 15-20 picks by the time the Steelers pick. I'm not so sure I buy that. I have seen more than a few mocks lately that have seen him fall into the mid-to-late 20's and a couple that have him even in the second round. That seems unlikely, but it is worth thinking about. Jackson is not as sexy of a pick as the other DE's because he is a big fella and won't get to the QB much as a pro. For the Steelers, though, he'd be ideal and very tough to pass up. He would stay a DE in the 3-4, and I think the Steelers need to start finding a way to infuse some youth into their quickly aging defensive line.

Second Round Guys
I think the second round needs are close to identical to the first round, with the caveat that I don't think they will go for two of any position with the first two, not even offensive line. There are a few different receivers who could be lurking around at 64, I pinpointed just two of them but others could be in the mix. I think they are especially likely to use this as a luxury pick if they can land an offensive lineman in Round 1, and just take whatever player is the best no matter where he plays.

Derrick Williams WR Penn State
With the departure of Nate Washington and the very uncertain status of Limas Sweed, I think the Steelers would like to add someone else to their receiving corps. Williams is as talented a receiver as they come, and is also a multi-threat type, capable of pulling reverses, breaking off long gains after the catch and can even return kicks potentially. I think he could go much higher than 64, but the recent trend in drafts is for receivers to slip, and the Steelers could benefit again from that trend this season.

Brian Robiskie WR Ohio State
Robiskie is a big receiver, measuring at nearly 6-3, and by most accounts is a pretty pro-ready receiver, unlike Limas. He may not be as capable of being a dual-threat as other receivers, but he is probably the best all-around receiver in the second round grouping, and I think is a relatively safe pick.

Fenuki Tupou OL Oregon
Tupou is a prototypical right-tackle mauler. He is huge, powerful and has a proven track record of for run blocking. However, he probably doesn't have the agility or ability to handle left-tackle duty.

Jamon Meredith OL South Carolina
Meredith is getting consideration as a Day 1 pick because he is probably the fastest lineman in the entire class. That is all well and good, but I've yet to read many glowing reviews of his play in college. I'm not saying its been anything bad, but it has been far from glowing, too. That is a definite red flag, but having that kind of athleticism, which figures to mean he is a left tackle prospect, does at least earn him some consideration.

Phil Loadholt OL Oklahoma
Loadholt is a bit like a Jeff Otah type of prospect. They were both massive players with abilities to fill out even more and some considerable upside that hadn't yet been tapped. Like Otah, Loadholt probably doesn't have the general agility to play on the left side, though the athleticism is probably there. Loadholt has some inconsistencies in his game, which also makes him a bit like Otah. So why is he a second rounder, you ask? Well, the technique has evidently been questionable for some time and the passing blocking is probably lesser than Otah. But the real issue here is that he has some character red flags in his past.

Herman Johnson G LSU
Johnson will instantly become one of the biggest guards in football, standing at 6-7 1/4 and weighing 364 pounds. He uses the size pretty well, though, as he is a powerful run blocker and is solid enough pass blocking. Predictably, though, he leaves a bit to be desired in the speed department, which is why he plays inside. He also is the type of guy you could see eating himself out of the league within a couple years.

Jarron Gilbert DE San Jose State
Gilbert is a terrific athlete for someone who weighs 288 pounds, as evidenced by his infamous YouTube clip (see below). Obviously this kind of stuff can be faked, but the workouts he has put on have confirmed the excellent athleticism. The on-field play has been questioned at times, but he is certainly worth a look as a 3/4 DE in the second round. It would be rare to have a 3/4 end with that type of athletic ability, and maybe he can provide some of the pass rushing presence the Steelers thought they might have in Brett Keisel.

Ron Brace DT Boston College
For the past two years one of the most fascinating things for me to watch when I was lucky enough to have Steeler tickets was the obvious physical struggles of Casey Hampton between plays. You don't realize how much that guy struggles to even walk off the field at times unless you watch the game in person. Sure Big Snack is still a force during plays, but watching his deterioration really makes me wonder how much he has left in the tank. I wouldn't mind at all seeing the Steelers come up with something of a young backup plan for him.

Darius Butler CB UConn
Butler has risen up from relative obscurity to a very strong chance at being a second round pick. His workouts have been pretty solid, but even better has been the pretty strong reviews he has received from numerous scouts who have watched his game footage. He is a versatile corner, capable of supporting the run, defending jump balls really well, and was good in most coverage situations.

Coye Francies CB
Francis is one of the bigger corners in the draft, measuring to roughly the same height as Ike Taylor. He has a ton of potential and all the athletic ability necessary to wind up being a very good corner. However, he has not really developed much yet, so whatever team takes him will be working to mold a raw player, and it is still very much uncertain as to whether or not he can even be a successful corner at the college level. He is also a good kick returner.

1 comment:

Lou D. said...

I hope they do take a look at Derek Williams. He never quite lived up to the hype at Penn State, but he's a great athlete and I think he'll develop into a really good player in the NFL.