Okay, I'm no draftnik to be perfectly honest. You probably have figured that out by now this past few months as I've left much of the heavy lifting to you all and others when it comes to heavy duty draft analysis. That said, I watch my fair share of college football and I'd like to believe I have more than just the rare nugget of insight to share on the whole draft process. My favorite example, if I may pat myself on the back, is pegging Jerod Mayo as a top 10 pick back in 2008 when he wasn't really projected to go higher than the late teens or early 20s. I selected him at #8 in the 2008 version of our Community Mock Draft. Then again, I also felt confident saying that Matt Ryan wouldn't amount too much that same year. Still hope for that prediction to come true, but chances are he'll at worst wind up being a top 10 QB in this league for the next decade.
Anyway, on to this year. Do I have any similarly bold proclamations about this year's draft class? Not sure I do. But never know until I force myself to dig in a bit. I'm running out of time to do so. Let's take a look.
Where to start? How about, some scenarios I personally would be quite thrilled with.
*Honestly, I'd be just fine with the Steelers giving up just about everything int his year's draft to go get Eric Berry, the do-everything safety out of Tennessee. I'm of the philosophy that teams should focus on getting impact players, not loading up on so-so talent just to add some sad excuse of having 'depth'. The Steelers in particular need an impact player or two. Right now. The window is still very much open for this team to make another run or two at a Super Bowl in the next five years (if Big Ben is around, that is). But they need to add two or three players this year and next that not only contribute, but play at a championship level early on in their careers. I most certainly think Eric Berry will be a stud in this league, and the thought of him and Polamalu patrolling the secondary for Dick LeBeau just makes me all sorts of giddy inside.
*In fact, let me take this one step further just for fun. What if the Steelers were to trade Ben Roethlisberger for Kansas City's pick at #5 + Matt Cassell + a 2nd round pick in either this year or next year's draft? With that #5 pick the Steelers nab Eric Berry and hope he and Polamalu anchor the best defense in football in 2010, while hoping Cassell's play resembles his 2008 season when he had talent around him in New England as opposed to last year in Kansas City where even college teams wouldn't have been scared by the Chiefs playmakers at WR. Will it happen? No, almost certainly not. But if it did, let's just say I wouldn't be too, too concerned about the team's immediate and/or long term future.
*(Editor's Note: I ran this idea by a friend, and he mentioned that Bill Simmons ran a similar idea by Mike Lombardi of the National Football Post. Interesting, though I was told that Lombardi thinks it ain't happening).
*Let me just get this out of the way right here - I'd be willing to bet every last cent that the Steelers don't wind up drafting Earl Thomas, the safety out of Texas. I won't even elaborate on why I think that, but I suppose I will if the team does go in that direction. Just don't see it happening.
*Same with Kyle Wilson. Too important a draft pick and year to gamble on a guy like that. As far as we know, guys like Joe Burnett, Keenan Lewis and William Gay will be play a whole lot better than they did a year ago. In fact, I've asked Jim Wexell to pen an article about the offseason regiment of Pittsburgh's cornerbacks. I asked him to do so thinking that the group may well be pissed off about how little love and support they're getting from Steeler Nation. Of all the potential articles I ran by Wex, he chose that one, which tells me there may be something to my hypothesis that the three of them + Ike Taylor is ready to have a rebound year in 2010. Anyway, back to Wilson. Like I said, not at all a 'safe' enough pick for the circumstances. Not at all a guarantee to be a bigtime lockdown corner. He may be, but that's not good enough in this draft.
*Maurkice Pauncey, Center, Florida. I would love if the Steelers went in this direction at #18. I don't think they would have to move up to snag him, that's for sure. That would allow them to maybe package some picks to move up in rounds 2, 3 and/or 4 as well if they didn't move up in round 1. More importantly, I think Pauncey is a great bet to be an outstanding center. I tip my cap to Justin Hartwig for the work he's done in Pittsburgh, but it's about time to think about finding his replacement for the future.
*Back to the CB position real quickly. If the Steelers feel they need to add some talent there, great, but I just don't see them going there in the opening round when there's ample talent in round 2 to be had at the position. Guys like Kareem Jackson (Alabama), Dominique Franks (Oklahoma) come to mind. I just don't see how you view them as any more of a longshot to make it at the next level than a guy like Kyle Wilson.
*Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU. That's the kind of guy I'd be content with drafting somewhere late in round 2 or early in round 3. He put up some damn nice numbers at LSU when you consider who he had throwing to him this past several years. His stock has fallen because of a knee injury he suffered during the Tigers Bowl game in January, and because of his less than stellar Combine results. But to me, it might make sense to go after a guy that could benefit from an extra year of recovery and rehab (i.e. minimal exposure to his knee) while learning a thing or two about the WR position in the NFL. The upside's there I think for an early 3rd round pick, especially if you're with me in the belief that there's no way more than 2-4 draft picks make it on to this year's roster.
* Perhaps an even safer bet at WR in the mid rounds would be Jordan Shipley out of Texas. Shipley can play in the slot, no doubt about it. But more importantly for 2010 and 2011, he can be a bigtime contributor on special teams. Both in coverage units and returning punts even. Guy lives, eats and drinks football and he's a darn good athlete to boot.
*Jamar Chancey, ILB, Mississippi State could also be a guy worth targeting if he were still to be available in the middle of the 3rd round. Rebounded nicely from a broken leg in 2008, but could still be perceived poorly because of his injury history. The guy can play though - at both LB positions. It might make sense for the Steelers to have a versatile player like this to stash away for a year or two while they see how things play out at the OLB and ILB depth chart for 2011 and beyond.
*I'm not sure who this year's candidates are, but can we maybe find a shifty, speedy running back in the mid rounds this year? Maybe not someone as dynamic and accomplished as a Ray Rice, but there's so many under valued athletic RBs out there to be had after round 1. Again, not sure who the crop consists of this year, but find me someone who's made plays for his college team the past several years in both the passing game and running game; someone shifty with good instincts and a me against the world attitude. I know there are guys out there that fit the bill.
* Not the smoothest of conclusions, but I'll end by saying that the Steelers might also look at an OT in the 2nd round. Someone to play behind Willie Colon in 2010, but more than just a longshot to slide into his slot in 2011. You fill in the blank as to who that might be.