This is my favorite time of the year, minus the playoffs. I love the prospect of adding new members to Steeler Nation. The potential is purely tantalizing. I love the what ifs, the maybes and the HOPE. I spend hours familiarizing myself with prospects, possible trade scenarios, and imagining draft hopefuls as future Hall of Famers.
So…..Let's say we have the pick of the litter in the 2014 draft, for funsies. Who is in play?
Obviously quarterback is out of the equation. So are interior offensive lineman, 4-3 specific defenders and RB's (well, they're out of the question for every team rd. 1). That leaves us with this group: Clowney, Mack, Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson, Sammy Watkins, Anthony Barr, Justin Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard, Tyler Lewan, CJ Mosley, Mike Evans, Eric Ebron, Hasean (lol) Clinton-Dix, and Ryan Shazier.
Not too shabby of a group, aye? If we had the pick of the litter, we'd take Clowney or Watkins (maybe Mack), right? Well they will not last beyond pick number 8 for all of you dreamers.
Of the 14 picks ahead of us, 3 quarterbacks will be selected (Manzeil, Bortles and Bridgewater) maybe a 4th (Derek Carr wants to throw his hat in the ring). At least 2 tackles will be taken (Robinson and Matthews), with the possibility of Lewan falling. Clowney, Mack, and Watkins (oh, to dream) are guaranteed to be gone. That leaves us with Barr, Gilbert, Dennard, Lewan, Mosley, Evans, Ebron, Clinton-Dix, and Shazier.
I am highly against selecting a tackle because Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert and Mike Munchack (opinions and future production will vary). If Evans falls to 15, that's the pick, but I do not like lying to myself, so scratch him off of the board. Gilbert is likely a Lion, but he might be in play at 15. If Barr falls to 15, we have a discussion on our hands, but this is not a probable scenario.
So now we're looking at Dennard, Mosley, Clinton-Dix, Shazier, and Ebron.
So Dennard… Is he related to the Patriot's Alfonzo Dennard? Thats really here nor there. However, in Dick Lebeau's defense there's no way that a round 1 corner is a good value. As a primarily zone (cover 3) team, the Steeler corners are asked to keep plays in front of them and break on passes, guarding against the big play. As cornerbacks are reactionary, preventative defenders in the Steelers' scheme, a round 1 pick is more valuable at a different position. Furthermore, since the Steelers' scheme calls for the corners to play cautiously until the ball is in the air, breaking speed is at a premium. A 4.5 40 is not fast enough given that faster corners will be available later (think Pierre Desir or Stanley Jean-Baptiste). Dennard is out for me.
CJ Mosley… He's a beast, no lie. He fills an apparent hole, but I'm not in love with him as a first rounder. Didn't the Steelers play above 60% of their defensive snaps in sub packages? (yeah, yeah out of necessity or w/e). I see Mosley as a Timmons type LB, not a Foote/Farrior type, and that's where the hole is. I have no doubt he'll be a good NFL defender, but I'd rather see where Vince Williams and Sean Spence take us than spend a valuable #1 on an ILB.
Hasean Clinton-Dix… I hate his nickname so very much. He's a playmaker, but is he a difference maker? NFL style? IMO you don't take a safety in the first round unless it's a Troy, Eric Berry, Earl Thomas type guy. Ha-Ha just doesn't scream amazing to me.
Ryan Shazier… Honestly. I like him a lot. Great speed and good size. I have serious doubts about all Big Ten prospects (another discussion for another time). But this guy is not your typical Big Tenner. I can see him as a legitimate weapon on defense in time. That's just it, the whole in time part. The Steelers are in need of a difference maker NOW!
Eric Ebron… For years I have jealously watched competitors with their athletic receiving TE's (New England with Gronk and formerly Hernandez, New Orleans with Jimmy Graham, Denver with Julius Thomas, Atlanta with Tony Gonzales). They are literally kryptonite to todays NFL. You put a safety on them (Ha Ha! [Clinton-Dix}), a linebacker (burnnnnn city), or even a corner (so, who's covering the WR?), your defense is at a disadvantage. They are the queen in a chess game, movable pieces capable of any role (blocking, route running, receiving…).
But Heath Miller?
Heath cannot play for 100 years. The biggest knock on Ebron is his blocking ability. Ok, fine…But who cares? We have Matt Spaeth as a purely blocking TE, Miller who is nearing the end, but an above average blocker, plus a swing tackle in Beachum/Adams. We don't need Ebron to come in and clear space.
I see Ebron as a matchup nightmare who can line up in line, in the slot, and split out. He is a "tall" receiver, that Ben seems to crave, and would add an element to the offense that has never before been there. His blocking ability will develop (especially if they stick him in some Munchack drills). But in the short term, he would be difficult to deal with defensively. Would you take a corner off of Wheaton/Cotch to cover Ebron? (do so at your own risk). Or would you take your best cover LB off of Bell to cover Ebron? Seems like a losing scenario for a defense.
So that's my pick! Go Steelers!