Friday, March 16, 2007

2007 NFL Draft Preview: Opening Salvo

Our preference for the Steelers, of course, would be one of the guys who will be gone by the 15th pick of the first round, so let’s not even discuss any of the absolute sure-fire top 10 picks. And, unless we’re mistaken (always a distinct possibility), the following players we like will be gone by pick No. 15:

  • Levi Brown, OT, Penn State
  • Alan Branch, DT, Michigan
  • Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville
  • Leon Hall, CB, Michigan
  • Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas
  • Gaines Adams. DE, Clemson

If ANY of these guys is available, take him. They’ll be gone, though.

Realistically, then, who may be available for the Steelers to draft in the first round? … and at a position that makes sense (which eliminates QB, RB, FB, C*, TE, WR**).

First-round prospects who may be available (realistically) to the Steelers:

Since Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls like to build teams from the inside out (OL and DL), let’s look first at prospects for the Offensive Line:

  • Justin Blalock, G, Texas – Blalock may be the most highly touted guard to come out of college since Alan Faneca. He should be available at 1.15, but the Steelers’s signing of Sean Mahan muddies this picture, along with the contract status of both Kendall Simmons and Alan Faneca. Also, does Chris Keomatu fit in this picture as a potential starter? Uh, we dunno. So … Blalock is a definite maybe, although conventional wisdom says you don't take a guard this high. Clear enough?
Elsewhere on the offensive line, at tackle, there’s a big dropoff after Levi Brown, so let’s just move on to look at other first-round candidates, specifically for the Defensive Front Seven
  • Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State – Jack Ham calls him “the best linebacker ever to play at Penn State.” High praise, indeed, but does he need to add weight? Can he cover downfield? Will he be an effective pass rusher in the NFL? Will he be able to shed blocks? Still, this could be the guy, but so could Adam Carriker or Jarvis Moss …
  • Adam Carriker, DE, NebraskaDescribed as “an Aaron Smith clone,” this guy may well be gone by the Steelers’ turn at No. 15.
  • Jarvis Moss, DE/LB, Florida – He has all the measurables. A fast, rangy, sideline-to-sideline end/linebacker who has shown impact as a pass-rusher. Really, this could be the guy, but he may be gone, too, so you may have to take a look at, say, the secondary, where you can never have enough ballhawks who can cover and play tough in run support. Then there's also ...
  • Anthony Spencer, DE/LB, Purdue - At 6'3, 266, Spencer is often compared to Adalius Thomas, which is not a bad thing at all. At Purdue, he was a finalist for the 2006 Ted Hendricks Award as the top collegiate defensive end. He projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL. He's a phenomenal physical specimen, but can he cover? Probably. He reminds us of a slightly smaller Levon Kirkland. Adalius Thomas? Levon Kirkland? Definitely worth considering. By the way, for the Boilermakers last year, Spencer ranked second in the nation with 26½ stops behind the line of scrimmage, (including 10½ sacks). He also caused five fumbles and recovered another while batting away six passes and blocking one kick. Mayhem personified.

Safety First

In the Secondary***, the top candidates who may realistically be available to the Steelers are:

  • Reggie Nelson, S, Florida – Rangy, fast and very, very intriguing. Selecting this guy, perhaps the top-rated safety, at Pick No. 15 would trigger an entirely new philosophical discussion, which we will get to in a later post. Suffice to say for now the argument has merits. Strong merits. Again, we’ll give this topic a closer look in a few days.
  • Aaron Ross, CB, Texas – He won the Thorpe Award as college football’s top defensive back. If he’s available, he’s worth considering. You can never too many good corners, and the Steelers today don't have enough, let alone too many.
  • Michael Griffin, S, Texas – Ross’s teammate also is worth a close look, definitely, and he may be even better than Ross. At this point, he probably is.
  • Darrelle Reavis, CB, Pitt – Worth a look, but we have reservations. Let’s face it, Pitt’s quality of opponents (weak schedule) works against him. Still, worth a look.
  • Chris Houston, CB, Arkansas – Smallish, but blazing fast (4.32 speed). Anybody remember Harvey Clayton? He was smallish and could run, but he couldn’t cover.

The Situation Right Now: Just a hunch, but we believe the Steelers are looking closely at three players: Moss, Posluszny and Carriker, and not necessarily in that order. You could make a strong case for any of them, as well as for Anthony Spencer, who is maybe the most intriguing prospect of the four.

Personally speaking, yeah, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls wouldn’t necessarily disagree with any of them … But if Reggie Nelson is available … well, put it this way: Can you say, “Ed Reed”?

Still, the cap and depth chart scream, "Linebacker."

More on this later.

*C – There’s a head-scratching logjam at this position with Mahan, Simmons, Okobi and Phillip; it’s a mystery and makes no sense at this point.

**WR – Too many other holes to fill. After Calvin Johnson, too many question marks about the other receivers in this draft. Plus, after Matt Millen, GMs who take first-round wideouts in consecutive years will be few and far between.

*** This entire topic (the Secondary) will be covered in more detail in a later post. Be forewarned: Cap implications will be involved.