We’ve had a lot of recent debate on three receiver options for the 1st round: Cordarelle Patterson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Tyler Eifert. A lot of people here know football better than I do and many of them have come down strongly for the receivers. I had favored the tight end. So I asked for an explanation. And after listening carefully to the replies they’ve convinced me to go with the one they wouldn’t pick: Eifert. So let’s see if I can convince you guys.
The knock on all three is that they aren’t worth a #17 pick. Let’s be honest – NONE of our options this year look like a proper #17 pick. They all have more holes, risks and question marks than you’d hope for at that number. Trading down would be great but it’s not going to happen. So let’s just call them all #25 picks and stipulate that our only advantage is getting to pick our favorite one.
Patterson is your classic boom-or-bust prospect. Upside: he matures into a hall-of-famer. Downside: one or more of the questions about his hands, his discipline, his smarts, or his experience destroy that potential. Bust potential: 50%, minus contributions on special teams.
Hopkins is your classic safe-and-sound receiver. The guy’s hands could end up being a thing of legend. (Did you see that ESPN Sports Science clip? Wow!) He sounds like a solid pro for attitude and approach. And he’s proven his ability to perform long-term against top college talent. Upside: he matures into a true #1 receiver at the Reggie Wayne or Hines Ward level; i.e., an all-pro and fringe contender for the Hall. Downside: he ends up as a #3 receiver we’ll be rooting for ten years from now. Bust potential: pretty darned low.
Eifert is your modern elite tight end prospect. Upside: he matures into Heath Miller or Gronk (and yes, I think Heath’s that good). Downside: he matures into Aaron Hernandez, who doesn’t exactly suck. Bust potential: even lower than Hopkins. But there are also positional knocks on Eifert, which I will assume to be true: (A) we already have a #1 tight end and (B) a #1 tight end is worth less than a #1 receiver. My answers: Eifert fills a current need while Miller is hurt, the “other” #1 tight end would be no worse than a #3 receiver (which we can use too) and probably counts as a #2 receiver, two-TE sets can only help our desired return to the long-term running game.
Okay, decision time. Since I can’t meet with the kid I’m dropping Patterson from the list. To quote Ozzie, “In the 1st round you swing for doubles.” Patterson is a swing for the fences. Of course the Steelers HAVE met with him, and if they came away convinced that the floor is a long-term #3 … Well, absent that data I will let some other team take the risk.
So, Hopkins or Eifert? A “sure-thing” #1 tight end or a “sure-thing” #2 receiver? I vote for the tight end, though I admit that my reasons include as much emotion as logic. Consider what the Steelers would look like with Hopkins:
- Two damned good receivers in Brown and Hopkins, with Sanders or someone else for the slot.
- A damned good tight end in Miller, with Paulson/Spaeth for special packages.
- A line that really OUGHT to be good enough by now.
Balance, balance, balance. A fine football team. Now look at the picture with two elite tight ends:
- Extra blockers for a powerful running game. (I favor run-first teams to begin with).
- An offense that dominates the center of the field more than the edges. (There’s something Manly about that).
- A team built to confuse and kill a defense with 20 yard gains on third-and-three rather than 50 yard gains on third-and-nine. (I love when Ben pulls those rabbits out of the third-and-long hat, but I hate every time he’s forced to try).
- A team that gets harder to stop in the 4th quarter, rather than more of the same.
- A team that forces a defense coordinator to put 8 in the box while pulling his hair out to figure out which 8 he’s got to choose.
Now THAT is my idea of Steeler football! Insert evil laugh. And that is why I’d vote for Eifert. Have I convinced you? If not, what's missing?
Finally, people have argued that Ertz, Kelce, and Escobar would serve just as well as Eifert, and could be snagged in the 2nd round. If we go offense in the 1st then we will almost certainly go defense in the 2nd, so that is not a real argument. And the depth in rounds 3-5 is much better for receivers than for tight ends in this draft. It might be possible to snag another Wallace, Brown, or Sanders in a late round but it is a forlorn hope to aim for another Miller.
Well, there it is. I can’t wait to see the comments. It will ALL be moot if we go defense in the 1st.