Ok, so in Part 1 I went through our roster and outlined potential needs and holes that we might want to address in the 2011 Draft. In Part 2, I'll look for a college player that we might want to draft to fill those needs. Since its almost impossible to predict exactly where these guys will be drafted, not to mention we dont yet know where the Steelers will be drafting, most of these prospects will be best possible options. So, if for instance the Steelers are drafting 32nd overall (*knock on wood*) many of these players will probably be long gone as they are currently projected as sure first rounders. I'll go through the list by position, and give a quick reminder of my conclusions drawn in Part 1.
QB: No way we spend a 1st round pick on a QB, but if Dixon plays well enough to become trade bait we might want a late round project. Pick: Andy Dalton, TCU. Dalton is a solid player but lacks playmaking ability. As a late round pick he should develop into a decent backup.
RB: Good group with Mendy, Redman and Dixon (Moore probably wont be resigned), but lacking an explosive speed guy. Pick: Graig Cooper, Miami. Has some injury concerns with a partially torn ACL but could be a steal in the late rounds. Is really explosive without sacrificing size (like Darren Sproles).
WR: Unusual balance between wily vets and young studs in this group. Lacking a true #1 receiver with size and explosiveness. Pick: Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh. Has elite size and speed at 6'5" and put up big numbers as a sophomore. Needs to become a more complete receiver this year to solidify top 15 status. Also keep an eye on Greg Little from UNC if Baldwin is picked too early.
TE: Heath is established as one of the best overall TEs in the league, could use a more well-rounded #2 than Speath. Pick: Charlie Gantt, Michigan State. A terrific blocker with decent hands, could overtake Speath over time as a late round pick.
OT: Biggest need on our team in my opinion. Too many questions about whether Colon comes back healthy and we could use an upgrade over Max Starks. Pick: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin. Prototypical size for a franchise LT. Could jump over Nate Solder for top OT prospect with a good senior season.
OG/C: Kemo and Pouncey are great on the interior, but major concerns at RG, Essex should be a backup. Pick: Mike Pouncey, Florida. What better way to put more emphasis on the run than pairing the Pouncey twins together to anchor the interior OL for years to come?
DE: Aging Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel need replacements sooner rather than later, but Ziggy Hood's improvement buys us some time. Pick: Cameron Heyward, Ohio State. Marcell Dareus is almost sure to be taken in the top 5, so I ignored him. Heyward needs to add a bit of bulk to fit our 3-4 but we've taken a lot of guys from Ohio State recently (Thaddeus Gibson, Doug Worthington). According to Lebeau they run a somewhat similar defense over there so Heyward would presumably have a smooth transition.
NT: Hampton signed a 3 year extension which gives us some time to find his replacement, but we shouldn't wait too long. Pick: Jerrell Powe, Ole Miss. I'm personally not convinced Powe is a 1st round talent, but I havent seen much of him play either. He's widely regarded as the top NT in the 2011 class though.
OLB: Can't possibly see us taking an OLB early if at all, unless we lose Woodley (I will cry if that happens). Pick: Ricky Elmore, Arizona. Great size and great pass rusher. But will need time to develop coverage skills.
ILB: Timmons looks great but we need a bruiser to pair him with once Farrior/Foote are gone. Sylvester looks promising but is not a bruiser. Pick: Dont'a Hightower, Alabama. Big, run stuffing ILB with good range but injury concerns after missing most of 2009 with a knee injury.
CB: With Ike Taylor looking like he wont be resigned, this could be another huge need unless Keenan Lewis really shows he can play. Pick: Ras-I Dowling, Virginia. Up for debate as to who is the best CB this year between Dowling, Patrick Peterson, and Prince Amukamura. Dowling is slightly taller than the others at 6'2" but doesn't have the top end speed the others have. One thing from the ESPN scouting profile of Dowling had me convinced though.
"At his best in zone coverage, where he can keep WR in front of him and read QB's eyes... Tries to get physical with WR as much as he can."
If you know our defense well, you'd know that this is exactly what we ask of our Corners most of the time. Our corners play off the receiver in a zone, keeping them in front of them and play physical football. Sounds good to me.
S: I'm putting FS and SS together because if we draft one early, the plan will probably be to have him back up Troy while learning the defense and then eventually replace Ryan Clark. Pick: Rahim Moore, UCLA. Moore has been extremely productive and durable as a starter for UCLA. Likes playing center field and reading the QB and should be a great complement to Troy since Troy likes to roam the field.
K: Would really like to replace Jeff Reed with a guy who can kick it in the endzone and not destroy bathroom stalls. Pick: Kai Forbath, UCLA. The only kicker in this class with a decent shot at an nfl job. He's also 9-12 on kicks from 50+ yards so he seems to have a strong leg.
So there you have it, obviously we can't have all these guys and therein lies the debate. I'd love to hear what you all think and if you have any other prospects you'd like the Steelers to look at.