Monday, April 29, 2013

Draft wrap-up

The grades for the performance by each team in the NFL Draft continue to come out (Mel Kiper gives the Steelers a B, while the Ravens and Bengals each get an A-, and Cleveland got a C+), and we thought we would share some quick thoughts on the Steelers haul of new players.

Sure we identified Tyler Eifert as the Steelers' guy, but you cannot fault the team for selecting Jarvis Jones (concerns about spinal stenosis notwithstanding) -- he excelled in the best collegiate football league, is very familiar with the 3-4 defensive scheme, and has the potential to be an impactful player from day one. We give the pick a thumbs up.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead?  No change.

The choice of Le'Veon Bell with the 48th overall pick is a little bit more of a head scratcher for us -- and not because we believed that the signing of LaRod Stephens-Howling almost certainly meant the Steelers would not take a running back on day two of the draft -- but mostly because none of the resources we consulted leading up to the draft identified this young man as being a second round talent.  Indeed the draft experts at ESPN had Mr. Bell rated as the 89th best player overall.  Yes, he fills a need, and yes he is a physical running back, but overreaching this way is a cause for concern.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead? Arthur Brown, OLB, Kansas State.

Markus Wheaton, the 79th overall selection, intrigues us greatly.  We are familiar with Pac-12 football, and love Mike Reilly's pro-style, gadget laden offense, and the coverage reads that Mr. Wheaton was expected to make in the Oregon State offensive scheme are certain to help ease his transition to the NFL. Mr. Wheaton has speed to burn but he is very slight of build, and we believe can be physically dominated by stronger, bigger DBs at the line of scrimmage.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead? Jonathan Franklin, RB, UCLA.

As for the fourth round selection of Shamarko Thomas, all we can say is"wow."  The Steelers trade with a divisional opponent to move up to the 111th pick to get a player of real value (ranked 79th overall by ESPN).  We did not see a lot of Big East football in 2012 (frankly, it's unwatchable, but that is a post for another day), so Mr. Thomas' play is something with which we are relatively unfamiliar.  We like the physical dimensions of the player (a little shorter than we would prefer), and the reported . . . ferocity with which he supports the run. However, he has suffered from at least two concussions in the past two seasons, including a very scary incident last season versus Pitt.  On the human interest side of things, Mr. Thomas has a very compelling, albeit tragic, personal story.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead? Barrett Jones, C, Alabama.

Four choices later the Steelers get a quarterback, and a pretty decent one at that, in Landry Jones.  Some have questioned the choice, but we agree with Randy Fichtner -- it is time to "freshen the room" where quarterbacks are concerned.  Charlie Batch has been wonderful, and we always root for our hometown guys, but Landry Jones has the ability and experience to be an A+ backup and spot starter in the NFL.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead?  No change.

The selection of Terry Hawthorne -- a mediocre cover, good run support cornerback, with decent speed -- may yield dividends in the long run (after Carnell Lake has had some time to work with him) but the hope here is that he can have an immediate impact on special teams.  He is fast and likes to hit people, and there is always a place for someone like that on the team.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead?  Joshua Evans, S, Florida.

Justin Brown, the 186th selection, is someone who quit on Penn State (i.e. transferred after the imposition of NCAA penalties against the program), so we are inclined to just not like him.  But putting that aside, Mr. Brown went into Norman and became a favorite target of the Steelers' newest quarterback, Landry Jones (66 catches 822 yards, four touchdowns during the regular season).  Mr. Brown has good size (6'3", 207 lbs.) and decent speed.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead?  Stacy McGee, DT, Oklahoma.

As for Vince Williams, the 206th choice, we believe that this was a steal.  A solid inside linebacker who is strong against the run, effective in short to medium pass coverage, and great football instincts.  Despite some injury concerns in previous seasons, Mr. Williams played in every game of the 2012 season.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead?  No change.

Last, but not least is the project that is Nicholas Williams. He has above average physical tools, but is still relatively new to the game of football (i.e. just one year in high school). This is an inspired choice, and if the Steelers can keep this Mr. Williams on the practice squad for a season we may see a defensive contributor in the future.
Player the Steelers should have taken instead?  No change.

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