What? Is this guy nuts? What the hell is he doing posting about next year's draft, when this year has barely gotten underway?
Well the answer to that my friends, is that the NFL draft is a year round process, and contrary to what some may believe, I am just as excited for the regular season as you. In fact, I was going to attempt a whole full-blown season preview, but then right around the end of the preseason, a million 53-man roster posts (including one of my own) and a dozen other predictions posts, covering the schedule and possible outcomes of the season were written, so I figured it'd just be beating a dead horse at this point.
For those of you who are newer to BTSC, I'm a draft nut, plain and simple, and since I never decided on a favorite college football team it makes it easy for me to become more of an objective observer and fan of individual players. Unfortunately I don't have much coverage of College games, and have to sort through several different scouting reports, and try to find the most consistent attributes and shared observations of scouts to get an accurate picture of what a player's strengths and weaknesses are. For these reports and evaluations, I will be compiling the works of Walterfootball, Mocking the Draft, ESPN, and NFL.com.
So anyway, I felt that an appropriate way for me to begin contributing to the '09 season, was to take an inside look every 4 weeks or so at who HSS thinks are the most fitting, top prospects for the Black and Gold come 2010. I'll attempt to keep updating my fellow BTSCers on who to watch as the season progresses-hopefully once every 4 weeks but it's a work in progress so bear with me if some info is a little lax.
HSS Top 5 2010 Draft Priorities:
5. Speedy Running Back/Any Running Back:
I'm not saying this early on whether Willie Parker still has it or if Rashard Mendenhall has it at all, but what I saw this past week in Tennessee led me to believe that Mewelde Moore may be our #1 running back right now. Granted, the Titans have a great defense, and our offensive line blows when trying to move forward and block at the same time, therefore I will hold off final judgement to a later date. Still, with FWP's contract up at the end of the year, and the depth that the incoming draft class could hold for running backs could easily be catching the eye of Kevin Colbert and co..
Top 3 Players to watch: Jahvid Best*-Cal, C.J. Spiller-Clemson, Charles Scott-LSU
4. Strong Side Inside Linebacker/James Farrior's Future Replacement:
Would've been higher on the priority list if not for the surprising development of Keyaron Fox, and the potential of Donovan Woods. Still, it wouldn't hurt for the Steelers to put our minds completely at ease with adding a young, talented linebacker somewhere along the way.
Top 3 Players to Watch: Brandon Spikes-Florida, Rolando McClain*-Alabama, Joe Pawelek-Baylor
3. Free Safety:
As sound as Ryan Clark has been, he's getting older, and his is yet another contract that expires at the end of the season. Though I believe he'll be at the top of the "New Contract Priority List", there is still a need to look ahead for the future after Clark, especially if he does look elsewhere.
Top 3 Players to Watch: Morgan Burnett*-Georgia Tech., Myron Lewis-Vanderbilt, Reshad Jones-Georgia*
2. Nosetackle/Defensive Line Youth:
Odds are that Casey Hampton is not in the Black and Gold come 2010, but there's always hope. Still, with Hampton getting older, a replacement is needed for the coming years. Not only Hampton but Aaron Smith and Brett Kiesel are getting older as well and with only Ziggy Hood in the stables to really take over a starting role in the near future, it would be wise to bring in a higher-end defensive lineman prospect.
Top 3 Players to Watch: Terrence Cody-Alabama, Corey Wootton-Northwestern, Cameron Heyward*-Ohio State
1. Offensive Line:
By far the biggest need in organization, the offensive line has a glaring need for improvement. Despite what Bruce Arians, says, I don't expect to ever consider Willie Colon among the elite in the NFL. Room to grow-yes, Elite-never. But it's more than just Colon (who flashes above average play from time to time), but rather the majority of the offensive line that needs an upgrade. Outside of Starks and Hartwig, who can at times be underwhelming, the other members of the offensive line can be characterized as disappointing. Sure they've had their moments, but it's the inability to consistently fail at producing running lanes, and consistent pass protection that have the offense sputtering out more often than not. The chances of not taking a lineman in the first round are present, but not prominent. The chances of passing on a lineman in the first two rounds should be slim to none.
Top 3 Players to Watch: Bryan Bulaga*-Iowa, Trent Williams-Oklahoma, Ciron Black-LSU
HSS's Top 5 Senior Prospects:
#5. Brandon Spikes, MLB, Florida:
Ht: 6'3" Wt: 250 lbs DOB: 9/3/1987
The Good: Could be Farrior's future replacement. Strong, aggressive player. Athletic, good pursuit. Could be an ideal strong side ILB.
The Bad: Can over-pursue, not the most fluid player, not a stellar coverage 'backer, lacks elite speed.
Draft projection as of Quarter 1: Early Middle, High-Late First round pick.
#4. Charles Brown, OT, USC:
Ht: 6'6" Wt: 296 lbs DOB: 4/10/1987
Good: Real nice left tackle prospect, good, if not great pass protector, could be a potential upgrade at Left Tackle. Flashes good athleticism and footwork and is an aggressive blocker. Could be one of the most all around tackles out there if he can improve his strength.
Bad: Not an overwhelmingly devastating run blocker, does not have elite strength, may not be able to handle the strongest defenders at this point.
Draft projection as of Quarter 1: Late First-Early 2nd round pick, could be a steal in the second but could easily warrant a 1st round pick.
#3. Ciron Black, OT, LSU
Ht: 6'5" Wt: 325 lbs DOB: 10/29/1986
Good: Versatile; can play Guard and Tackle. Outstanding run blocker with great strength and drive, and the nasty mauler attitude to go with it. Quick, solid technique. Outstanding Right Tackle or Right Guard prospect, Good character and teammate.
Bad: Probably should not play left tackle in the NFL; not quick or agile enough. Lacks overall consistency in the pass protection, and pass protection technique, best potential position is at the RT.
Draft Projection as of Quarter 1: Early middle of first round to late first.
#2. Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma:
Ht: 6'5" Wt: 315 lbs DOB: 7/9/1988
Good: Looks to be a great Left Tackle prospect. Quick, with great footwork and athleticism, leading to great pass protection. Can handle elite speed off the edge, something that our tackles struggle often with.
Bad: Not overly powerful or aggressive in the running game. Does not play with a mauler's attitude. and his technique needs polishing.
Draft Projection as of Quarter 1: Anywhere in the first round-I've seen him ranked as the Top OT, while some rank him in the late 20's in the first round
#1. Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama
Ht: 6'4" Wt: 350 lbs DOB: c. 1987-most infuriating thing in the world, you just can't find his Birthday or much of anything else regarding Terrence Cody online.
Good: Monster of a man who is an ideal Nose Tackle prospect. Extremely strong, powerful, and will engulf and destroy offensive lines-taking on a beating double teams, great run stuffer, explosive at times. Inconsistent yet decent pass rusher with room to grow. Seems to be a soft-spoken yet passionate player.
Bad: Way too fat. Came to Alabama around 400 lbs, still is overweight but has worked hard at improving and has dropped nearly 50 pounds. Stamina and conditioning called into question. Only a two-down lineman at this point in his career, but with better conditioning and loss of weight, he could easily become play all 3 downs. Motor is inconsistent due to his weight.
Draft Projection as of Quarter 1: Mid to late First round.
Interview asking Cody about this year's Bama team, diet, weight loss etc.
HSS's Top 5 Junior Prospects:
#5. Cameron Heyward, DT/DE, Ohio State:
Ht: 6'6" Wt: 290 DOB: 5/6/1989
The Good: Outstanding motor and strength. Powerful player with outstanding size, and decent athleticism. Watching him against USC last week really affirmed my good feelings for this guy's skill wracking up 7 tackles and a sack against one of the nation's better offensive lines. Has surprising quickness and agility. Seems to be very similar to this year's first rounder, Ziggy Hood. Has been a starter since freshman year and SBNation's Mocking the Draft quotes "...is about as solid of an end as there is in college football," and consistency really speaks well to Kevin Colbert and company. Would be a 5T DE.
The Bad: Like Ziggy, there would be a long adjustment period from going from a 4-3 DT to a 3-4 5T, DE. Not a great pass rusher, and may have trouble from time to time because of size. Will have to play with good leverage to be consistent. Seems unlikely to me that he leaves college after this season, but you never know unless you know the guy personally and his motives for staying/going.
Draft Projection as of Quarter 1: Mid to late 2nd Round
Short, but professional highlights of 2008.
#4. Kris O'Dowd, C, USC:
Ht: 6'5" Wt: 300 DOB: 5/14/1988
The Good: Prototypical build. Fast, agile, good in pass protection, and can block well downfield. Looks like the best center in the draft at this point, and could be a great future lineman while developing behind Justin Hartwig.
The Bad: Strength may be a question mark. It'll be interesting to see how well he does at the combine and pro-day. Even more interesting will be how he would potentially handle the huge defensive tackles that reside here in the AFC North if he were to be drafted onto the team.
Draft Projection as of Quarter 1: Late first round, early second round.
#3. Rolando McClain, MLB, Alabama:
Ht: 6'4" Wt: 250lbs DOB: 7/14/1988
The Good: Prototypical, if not rare size for an ILB. Big hitter, freakishly athletic. Could easily be bread to be Farrior's future replacement. Seems well balanced as a run stuffer, and a blizter. Seems to be a solid tackler.
The Bad: Does not have great speed. Can be overly aggressive and over-pursue. Character may be called into question after an incident earlier in his college career where he punched a fellow 'Bama student and started a fight, after the guy was running his mouth. Apparently the guy had it coming to him, but that's no way to represent a football team OTL. Hopefully with that learning experience behind him he'll be a better person for it.
Draft Projection as of Quarter 1: Late first.
#2. Morgan Burnett, S, Georgia Tech:
Ht: 6'1" Wt: 210lbs DOB: 1/13/1989
Good: Outstanding production at GT so far in his career. Good tackler who can flash the ability to support the run. Good instincts against the passing game, I don't need to tell you, his 11 interceptions can.
Bad: Can be caught out of position against both the running and passing game from time to time. Needs to prove he's a consistent run stuffer.
Draft Projection as of Quarter 1: Late first early second.
Highlights and Lowlights vs, Clemson this season.
Pick 6 against Stafford and UGA.
#1. Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa:
Ht: 6'6" Wt: 305 DOB: 3/5/1989
The Good: Explosive, tenacious blocker. Gets downfield into the second and third level extremely quickly, blowing away defenders all the way. Great footwork and athleticism allow him to be great in both the passing and running game. Plays through the whistle. If he were to declare for the 2010 draft, he'd be the best all-around tackle in the group. Could play either Left or Right tackle, but would be better suited at Left.
The Bad: Highly unlikely he'll be available wherever we end up picking. The only thing to hope for is for him to fall to a pick that we can trade up for without giving up the next 2 drafts. I'll add more to this list as the year goes on but there aren't many weaknesses to speak of.
Draft Projection as of Quarter 1: High First Rounder
A short compilation of 2008 run blocking.
So there you have it. My first impressions with the upcoming draft class and who may be our biggest targets in the scouting department. Will be interesting to see how many players that I listed end up being legitimate candidates for a Steelers first round pick, and whether they over or under qualify for the pick. Now let's get back to the reality of this year and get pumped for a great season. As always, Go Steelers!