Evaluating the Steelers 2014 Draft, Part I

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

...in terms of Best-Looking Fastest Player Available...

Momma is generally too depressed at this time of the year to do any evaluations of the draft. "Why depressed?!" you might ask. After all, the leaves are burgeoning, the flowers are blooming, and the temperatures are mostly above freezing.

All this is true, but for the past four years the Steelers brass has steadfastly ignored Momma's Mock Drafts and drafted for all sorts of other attributes which may or may not contribute to their on-field success.

But this season Momma has the thrill of having one of her picks and one of her runners-up actually attending mini-camp over on the South Side. She couldn't be more pleased, despite the fact that both young men were almost certain to have been chosen once again without regard for Momma's intensely-researched drafts.

But the real reason for this post was a comment by, I believe, steeler fever in the comment thread after the initial announcement of the Shazier pick, to the effect of "what would Momma say?" I was unable to respond, being embroiled in a weekend of Bach performances at that moment, but the time has come to evaluate these young men properly.

Let's begin with the picks requiring no accolades from me: Dri Archer and Jordan Zumwalt. Here's a shortened version of what I said about Archer:

This unassuming-looking, quiet young man made a huge splash at the Combine when he almost beat Chris Johnson's 40 time. And there's more of interest than just speed about Dri Archer, according to NFL.com:

"Rare burst, acceleration and top-end speed to take the corner and create big plays. Can fly by MAC competition with top gear. Very good agility, balance, vision and creativity. Weaves through a crowd and can find daylight. Soft-handed and plucks the ball with ease. Extremely strong pound-for-pound. Very good career all-purpose yardage. Good versatility -- contributes as a runner, slot receiver and return man. Four career kickoff-return TDs (and was kicked away from)."

Although he is undersized at 5'8" and 170+ pounds, and doesn't look like there is anyplace to put more, his versatility could be very useful to the Steelers. It's not hard to see what the appeal is for Momma : ) ESPN possibly said it best-"Elite lateral agility..." Momma loves the word "elite" in any description of a player who might be picked up in the fourth round, and she loves her some lateral agility as well...But naturally the view Momma would like the best is Archer's receding back as he returns a kickoff for a TD. No amount of helmets and padding can keep a player's beauty from shining through in those circumstances!

The news that Archer has traded the rather ill-fated No. 34 for a receiver number is interesting, and indicates perhaps the Steelers also saw more there than just speed. As with all draft picks, it's easy to get excited at this time of year, and only time will tell how they work out. But Archer presents an intriguing prospect from any angle you look!

If you want to look a bit more, here's a video interview from last weekend.

Since I didn't actually choose Zumwalt, who was projected to go between the third and fifth round, I can only give you the write-up he would have gotten, had I not chosen Khairi Fortt as my fifth-round pick instead. The Steelers were cleverer than I, and got Zumwalt in the sixth round.

Zumwalt has a number of traits I like in a football player, and a few I don't. He "verballed" to Stanford, although he eventually ended up at UCLA instead. (I like 'em smart.) He has position flexibility (played both OLB and ILB, as well as lining up as a fullback on occasion.) CBSSports called him a "defensive tone-setter—has a love for the game and it shows." Gotta love it!

They also said "Very good football intelligence—lines up teammates and makes adjustments." Any player hoping to succeed in a Dick LeBeau defense needs all the football intelligence he can get.

I wasn't so thrilled about the scooter accident in 2012 which kept him out of some games with a head injury. But Ben Roethlisberger had a motorcycle accident for which I've forgiven him, since he survived it and all. And Zumwalt apparently didn't  go on to other exploits showing even less sense and maturity, so we shall fervently hope he learned a valuable lesson.

And I loved CBSSports' final assessment:

High-energy overachiever with a special-teams temperament. Stands out most for his competitiveness, effort, versatility and swagger. Brings the feisty type of attitude desired on a Jeff Fisher or Jim Schwartz defense. Will factor immediately on special teams and could work his way into a starting role.

If you want to know why he was on Momma's BLA list, google him. I'm telling you, he's cute. He is, indeed, a sixth-round steal! I am eagerly anticipating studying him closely in training camp : ) If you aren't convinced, take a look at the newly-posted video interview on steelers.com.

Okay, how about the others? Let's begin with Ryan Shazier. Many of you are aware that while good looks are agreeable to Momma, a good character is of exceeding interest. And Shazier appears to have good character in spades. He has overcome taunting and abuse as a result of his medical condition and risen above it to become a young man of compassion for those in difficult circumstances. His experiences combined with the solid foundation he got at home and his faith moved Urban Meyer to say of him "He's one of the most incredible young men I've ever been around. He's got a heart of gold."

Next I had a look at this video.

Here's a line from the interview which should warm the heart of Steeler Nation: "If you play linebacker, this is the place you want to come to." But the line which warmed Momma's heart even more was when the interviewer pointed out that the first thing he did when they picked him up at the airport was to call his parents and tell them he had arrived safely.

And folks, we got a gem! He is a fine-looking man, although opposing quarterbacks hopefully won't think so.

As part of the research for my mock drafts I looked up all of the various mocks I could find, and nobody, I mean nobody mocked Shazier to the Steelers. Obviously, if he doesn't pan out, Kevin Colbert will be reviled. But if he does (and I have very high hopes) I trust Colbert and company will get the proper credit for thinking out of the box (or out of the backfield) and picking Shazier!

Let's now go to the other end of the draft and check out the newly signed TE and seventh-round pick Rob Blanchflower. I knew nothing about him, although I probably shouldn't have skipped over him since the Steelers had him in for a visit, on the same day as Momma's second-round BLA pick Phillip Gaines, as it happens. (Gaines didn't make it all the way to the Steelers...)

It turns out that Blanchflower is another fine-looking, high-character guy. Perhaps the biggest knock on him (in relative terms, of course, given that he wasn't even a lock to be drafted at all) is his age, but 24 still seems like a spring chicken to Momma : ) In the meantime NFL.com had some nice things to say about him. Here are my favorite bits:

Lays out for the ball and will sell out his body to make difficult catches...Smart. Solid special-teams temperament. Respected leader and two-time team captain. Four-year starter.

His head coach noted he was elected team captain "by a landslide." An article in his college newspaper quoted Steelers TE coach James Daniel :

Rob was a guy who we had targeted...He has a high level of aggression. He's a two-phase guy, which is different than a lot of the guys you have coming at you right now. We look for guys that are either going to be run blockers or they're going to be pass receivers. He's adept at both of them so that is something that interests us in him. He's playing in a multiple formation offense so that gave us a chance to look at him in a lot of things.

Welcome to the team, Mr. Blanchflower. The ladies of Steeler Nation will be watching your progress with interest : )

That will do it for Part I. Part II will cover the remainder of the draftees. I'm not sure I have the heart to do Part III, since the important thing about UDFAs is to not get too fond of them. But if anyone stands out I will chuck him into the Part II mix.

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