Onward with the top ten draft 'successes' and busts of the Kevin Colbert era. Let's turn back to the 'successes' list with my entry at No. 4, LB Clark Haggans, taken in the fifth round of the 2000 Draft. As a reminder to those who may not have seen the rest of the list:
I'm excluding first round picks from my list of 'successes'. As I explained in previous posts, it's obvious why I would exclude the first rounders. Quite simply, if you don't hit a homerun with your first round picks in this league, you're in trouble. Those top picks have to pan out if you want to compete consistently. So, let's exclude what are expected to be great picks, and turn our attention to the later rounds to see where Colbert and his army of scouts struck gold with their talent evaluation.
Back to Haggans...
While putting together this list, I didn't immediately think of Haggans as a guy worthy of serious consideration. Then I looked back at his career with the Steelers and quickly realized that he was more than worthy of inclusion.
Here are Haggans' final numbers during his eight years with the black and gold (2000-2007) 8 years, 107 games, 61 starts, 32.5 sacks, 1 INT, 17 passes defended, 12 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 304 tackles.
Taken in the fifth round of Kevin Colbert's first draft as the director of football operations in Pittsburgh, Haggans played sparingly in 2000 and 2001. His primary contributions came on special teams before seeing regular snaps on defense beginning in '02, which ironically was the year that the Steelers seemingly had drafted their outside linebacker of the future in Alonzo Jackson. It's hard to break your way into the rotation on defense when you have Joey Porter and Jason Gildon ahead of you on the depth chart, but Haggans, notorious for his relentless work ethic, did play his way into the rotation in his third season.
Despite just starting two games in '02, Haggans finished with 6.5 sacks, third most on the team. In '03, Haggans again played behind Porter and Gildon, and logged just one sack. When Gildon left the team following the '03 season, Haggans finally got his opportunity to start in his fifth season. He took advantage of the opportunity, starting 13 games and registering 6 sacks, 2 FFs, and 1 FR. The Steelers finished with the No. 1 ranked defense that season.
Anyway, I won't rehash every last season, but I do want to mention that his four best seasons ('02, '04 - '06) were pretty darn solid. Haggans had 27.5 sacks in those four seasons, 14 PD, 1 INT, 10 FFs, 2 FRs and 215 tackles.
For comparison's sake, here's LaMarr Woodley's totals through four seasons: 39 sacks, 3 INTs, 13 PD, 7 FFs, 7 FRs, 186 tackles.
Higher sack totals by Woodley, and several big turnovers that helped turn games in Pittsburgh's favor. But Haggans was every bit as good in pass coverage really, and his tackle totals were higher than the Steelers second round pick in '07. Then again, Wood has only played in four seasons to date, so it's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.
Anyway, the point is that Haggans was more than just a stop-gap contributor in the middle part of last decade. He played at a very high level on several really great Steelers teams. The main reason for Haggans' surprisingly solid career as a fifth rounder is his work ethic. If you do just a bit of research, you'll encounter countless articles about how hard of a worker he is.
In August of 2005, James Farrior had this to say: "Clark is a guy who has no end to his motor. He's always going to work hard and you know what you're going to get from him every time."
Great work by the Steelers legendary scouting department, and nice call by Colbert drafting Haggans during his first draft with the Steelers. And finally, congratulations to Haggans for willing his way to a productive and long NFL career when little was expected of him coming out of Colorado State. Go Steelers!
Kevin Colbert's Top 10 Draft 'Busts'
Kevin Colbert's Top 10 Draft 'Successes'
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