Let's continue with our countdown of the Top 10 Draft Successes and Top 10 Draft Busts of the Kevin Colbert. The series of posts is part of SB Nation's new campaign partnership with Bud Light, who's boldly offering up $10,000,000 bucks to any one who guesses the exact outcome of the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. You can find more details about the contest at the end of this post.
I'm repeating what I mentioned in my first post about the parameters of the list:
I'm excluding first round picks from my list of 'successes'. I could make that clear in the title, but it looks a bit clunky that way. If you're reading this in its entirety, then you'll surely see this note in each of the posts. Something tells me though I'll find a thread out there this next few weeks where somebody blasts me for not including Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger, or Maurkice Pouncey on this list. But really 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. Of course, there's different levels of 'panning out.' Ziggy Hood looks like a keeper and solid pick, but he ain't Troy Polamalu or even Lawrence Timmons. No knock on the Zigster, but just saying that it's worth doing a list of 'best first round picks of all time' perhaps, but for this narrow time frame, 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.
Without further ado...
No. 9 Draft Success in the Kevin Colbert Era -- OT Marvel Smith, Second Round Pick, 2000
By excluding first round selections from this list, it's obvious that I'm defining 'success' more as 'value' than anything else. In other words, I'm trying to identify those guys that Kevin Colbert and his team of scouts and talent evaluators found in the middle and late rounds that turned out to be major contributors to the organization for multiple years.
What about second round picks? Shouldn't they be safe bets too more often than not? Well, yes, but the draft is such an inexact science that there's a laundry list of guys taken in the second round that didn't pan out in the NFL. In 2000, Kevin Colbert's first year on the job, a very solid talent was taken in round two -- Marvel Smith, a promising looking offensive tackle out of Arizona State. Smith's career fizzled out fairly quickly in the later part of the decade due to lingering back issues. But I think his sudden decline perhaps skews how Steeler Nation perceives his career in the black and gold.
In my mind, second round picks should hopefully stick around for five-ten years, make a Pro Bowl or two, and be a guy that teammates and coaches can rely and lean on. Well, that sounds about like Smith's career in Pittsburgh. Smith started 9 games at right tackle as a rookie in '00. He would then start all 32 games the next two years before missing a significant time in 2003, the first year he was moved to left tackle. In '01 and '02, the Steelers won a combined 23 games; in '03 when Smith was out for an extended period of time, the Steelers won just six games. Was that all because of Smith's absence? Of course not. But it's worth noting and part of the story. He rebounded nicely in '04, starting all 16 games once again and earning Pro Bowl honors for the first and only time in his nine year career. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Steelers got back on track, winning an incredible 15 regular season games during Ben Roethlisberger's rookie season.
Unfortunately for Smith, his career ended at the age of 30 after crippling back problems forced him to hang it up for good. That's too bad for him and his family, because he probably had another couple of good years in him, not to mention another contract. It must have been one of those 'business' decisions that's never fun to make for an organization or player, but the Steelers were wise not to re-invest in Smith after his six-year, $20-plus million dollar deal signed back in '03 expired following the conclusion of the 2008 season. Smith tried to give it one final go in San Francisco in 2009, returning back to the Bay Area where he grew up. Unfortunately for Smith, he didn't make it out of camp before realizing his back simply wouldn't hold up. He retired in late August of '09.
In conclusion, I'd say that the selection of Smith in the 2000 draft was a successful one for Kevin Colbert and the Steelers organization. He may not have been a perennial Pro Bowler, and he won't be remembered as one of the all-time Steeler greats in the trenches, but he was a
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