Kevin C. Cox
The receivers group was the most impressive of the three positions on display Sunday. Highlighted among that was the outstanding size and speed combination of Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson. He may have done enough to be off the board when the Steelers pick at No. 17.
With owner Al Davis no longer in charge (theoretically) of the Oakland Raiders draft board, perhaps Combine-timed 40-yard-dashes don't carry the ability to vault a previous mid-level talent into the first round, but that doesn't take the shine off some serious speed brought by the wide receivers group in this year's draft class.
Texas WR Marquise Goodwin led all runners with a 4.27, and West Virginia's Tavon Austin and Texas A&M's Ryan Swope clocked in with 4.34 performances, highlighting a very fast receivers class.
Austin likely solidified himself as a later first round pick with the combination of his speed and an impressive display of route-running. He looked explosive in and out of his breaks, suggesting he really could be an outstanding prospect in a passing offense. Granted, he's tiny (and the Steelers taking him at 17 would conjure far too many Troy Edwards memories for comfort), but watching him in these drills, it's hard not to think he could turn himself into something very effective in the slot at the next level.
Pittsburgh has a slot receiver. They're talking now to former Chiefs slot receiver Steve Breaston. Assuming the offense wishes to use the space outside the numbers, they'd be mindful to address any power pick used on a receiver on one who can play out there - someone with size and athletic ability.
That's where Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson comes into play.
If we are to not use the Calvin Johnson-types in the league as a reasonable example of a "big" receiver (he is so far above the norm it's ridiculous), one would say Patterson is a large receiver. And if we dare to suggest seeing multiple guys running 4.3 does not make 4.42 slow, then package that size and speed together, you have one insanely gifted athlete.
He's raw, but that can't be considered a real negative, considering his level of production in one year of major college football (and two years of junior college, where he was a two-time All America selection).
With his Combine performance backing up his obvious high-level athletic ability shown on film and his size, it may even deter Miami at No. 12 to not pursue free agent Mike Wallace and draft Patterson - who is considerably bigger, more versatile and far less expensive.
The running backs had generally unimpressive 40 times, but that isn't necessarily an issue. If Pittsburgh is looking to incorporate more zone running (stretch zone in particular), speed isn't the top priority - assuming they're planning to draft an NFL-level running back. Pitt's Ray Graham ran a 4.8, which isn't out-and-out surprising after having seen him on film. Graham wasn't considered to be a high-level pick anyway, and at that point, one has to evaluate his level of production when weighed against his average speed.
He was obviously doing something right.
Wisconsin's Montee Ball is another example of that. Running in a great zone scheme at Wisconsin, Ball put up nearly legendary numbers through his career. Never in that time was Ball considered to be the fastest or the strongest runner. His 4.66 time was actually higher than what it seemed like he'd get, but if nothing else, he turned himself into an extremely tempting third round target for Pittsburgh.
As far as the quarterbacks go, we were definitely spoiled by a monster 2012 draft class. There were absolutely not any Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin types on site, but West Virginia's Geno Smith likely scored a success in his workouts, and will likely be a first round pick. It could accelerate from there, as it usually does for quarterbacks leading up to the draft.
If the Steelers were interested in finding a back-up in this draft, it will likely be no earlier than the fifth round - a common location for many of the back-ups they've drafted in the past, for better or worse.