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Author Topic: Finny's April Fool's Day Steelers mock  (Read 765 times)
Finnegans Wake
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« on: Mar 31, 2009 at 13:55 »

I'm trying to keep this in line with some knowledge of players the Steelers have talked to at the Combine, that they've scheduled for visits, or that they showed interest in at the Combine.  In the shifting sands of draft board values, I've included the most recent NFLDS ratings, a computerized mock site's ratings (Draft Tek), and some notes.

1.32 - Eric Wood, C, Louisville.  (NFLDS #46, round 2; Draft Tek #51, round 2.)



Combine Invite: Yes
Height: 6037
Weight: 310
40 Yrd Dash: 5.19
20 Yrd Dash: 2.84
10 Yrd Dash: 1.68 
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 30
Vertical Jump: 30 1/2
Broad Jump: 08'03"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.51
3-Cone Drill: 7.56
 
Justin Hartwig is a serviceable center and notable upgrade from Sean Mahan, but he was signed in 2008 to a two-year deal.  While he could be retained next year, a more likely scenario would see a top center/guard prospect drafted early this year, and possibly get his feet wet at one of the guard positions, before sliding over to snapping duties next year.  Alex Mack and Wood are the 1a and 1b in some order, and the Steelers would get a solid starter with either.  Some mocks have Mack off the board even earlier than 1.32, but even if it were a true toss-up between the two, I've started to buy into the recent buzz over Wood.  Wood had a solid workout at Indy, but there seem to be some details that put him ahead of Mack in my book.

Both were solid in blocking grades, according to NFLDS.  However, this encapsulates why I think Wood will go higher than most mocks predict:

Quote from: NFLDS
Called by many the "most prepared player in the nation," Wood has been known to be found in the wee hours of the morning still examining game tapes in the film room, preparing for his upcoming opponent. He not only brings incredible knowledge and instincts to the field, but plays with the true nastiness that has scouts comparing him to the NFL's old time centers like Mike Webster of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tim Grunhard of the Kansas City Chiefs.


The Webster name-check is cool enough, but it's his preparation and nastiness that we'll see on the field.  The Bengals are also very interested, and won't let him slip past their second round pick (2.38). 

Quote
He started 49 consecutive games at center. In the last two seasons, coaches stats credit Wood with 27 blocks that resulted in touchdowns and 164 knockdowns. On his last 992 pass plays he allowed only two quarterback pressures.


That's a pretty sobering statistic: two QB pressures in 992 pass plays.  Wood made all the line calls, and has lined up at OG, OT, and even TE for a few snaps.  He's a guy whose only downsides seem to be that he's a center, a position devalued in mock drafts, and that he'll need to get a little more physical to match up with NFL nose guards.  Frankly, I see him as much better than Max Unger, who as a jack of all trades doesn't have the same muscle and is too reminiscent of Ryan Cook.  Wood would contribute now and for years to come.

Quote from: NFLDS
Wood is a quiet team leader who plays with true aggression. He is an "old school" no-nonsense type who will not hesitate to get in a teammate's face, yet when he speaks, the team listens. He has no known off-field issues and the coaches say he is a pleasure to work with...  Wood is alert to twists and games and while he is stiff in his hips, he does fire off the snap quickly to attack his opponent. He needs to develop better leg strength and a hand punch to do a better job of matching up with physical nose guards, but he does show good slide agility to mirror and does a nice job of keeping his head on a swivel to excel on short pulls and screens.


Jonathan Luigs and Antoine Caldwell are other center/guard prospects worth looking at, and both have round 3 grades, which means we would need to select them at 2.64.  I actually slightly prefer A.Q. Shipley, who is unlikely to be anything but a center at the next level.  Although he's rated as a round 5 prospect, I believe teams like him better than do the mock sites, and he won't get past round 4, which means we would need to draft Shipley in round 3.  Beyond those centers are less reliable project-types who won't be ready to help us next year if we decide to let Hartwig go.

2.64.  Fili Moala, DT/DE, USC.  (NFLDS #76, round 2/3; Draft Tek #59, round 2.)



Combine Invite: Yes
Height: 6040
Weight: 305
40 Yrd Dash: 5.07
20 Yrd Dash: 2.90
10 Yrd Dash: 1.71 
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 25
Vertical Jump: 30 1/2
Broad Jump: 08'04"
20 Yrd Shuttle:
3-Cone Drill:
No shuttles/cones, left groin strain

Moala is, by rumor, the defensive lineman the Steelers like fourth best (B.J. Raji, Tyson Jackson, Ron Brace, Moala, Jarron Gilbert).  Of those, Raji and Brace are more likely suited to the NT in the 3-4, and Raji is considered a top-10 pick.  Jackson could be a natural 3-4 DE, but likely will also be gone by 1.32.  Brace may not be a dominating enough NT to draft at 1.32, and might not have the lateral movement to transition to end.  Gilbert has the athleticism, but level of competition is a big question.  Moala has been tested against top programs, and looks about Aaron Smith-sized right now; whether he could add enough size and strength to move to nose tackle is debatable, but his Combine lifts argue no.

He is, however, a solid run-stopper, and his ability to occupy double teams shows a good functional strength.  Projecting 3-4 ends is always tricky business, but usually it is the tweener defensive tackles who fit the system.  Moala is already about 25 pounds heavier than the usual draft weight of Steeler ends, but with the accelerated draft interest in 3-4 ends, there are fewer prospects available.  And with the ages of the defensive line players the Steelers are starting, having a rookie who is already at starter's weight means not having to spend a couple of years developing him in strength and conditioning. 

Quote from: NFLDS
A more valuable contributor than his yearly average production (26 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks) would indicate, Moala isn't going to fill the stat sheet, but his presence inside forced opponents to double-team him often, opening up opportunities for his playmaking teammates.


If Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, and Clay Matthews are all projected to go in the first round, that indirectly speaks well of the defensive linemen who took the pressure off all of them.  Moala's duties in the 3-4 would be somewhat different, but the knock on Moala was that he wasn't much of a pass-rusher.  That's not really what we ask of our ends anyway. 

Quote from: NFLDS
Rare size for the position with the frame to add mass. ... Measures in at nearly 300 pounds, but considering his height, Moala almost has a lanky build. ... Good initial quickness off the snap. ... Powerful hands to slap away the offensive linemen trying to control him. ... Quick to recognize the play and work his way toward the action. ... Good size and strength to collapse the interior running lanes. ... High-effort player who will pursue laterally and down the field. ... Durable performer who has seen starting action every year of his career. ... Good bloodlines. Cousin, Haloti Ngata, was a first-round pick and is a standout defensive lineman with the Baltimore Ravens.


There are certainly 3-4 ends to be found throughout this draft, but again, the timing of their development is critical.  Moala could likely start as a rookie, or at least rotate in, and be ready to start full time next year.  Later round prospects would not.  It would still behoove the Steelers to bring in another end in a late round or as an undrafted prospect to develop for depth, since both starters (Smith and Keisel) have age and injury issues.

« Last Edit: Mar 31, 2009 at 13:57 by Finnegans Wake » Logged

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Finnegans Wake
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« Reply #1 on: Mar 31, 2009 at 14:47 »

3.96  Coye Francies, CB, San Jose State.  (NFLDS #102, R3/4; Draft Tek #91, R3).



Combine Invite: Yes
Height: 6003
Weight: 185
40 Yrd Dash: 4.63
20 Yrd Dash: 2.60
10 Yrd Dash: 1.53 
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 24
Vertical Jump: 36
Broad Jump: 10'03"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.24
3-Cone Drill: 6.81


 

The Steelers could go several ways in round 3: continue to bolster the offensive line; add a cornerback, to replace Bryant McFadden; or add a wide receiver to replace Nate Washington.  The Wood selection at 1.32 helps the offensive line priority, making the interior better, and the Steelers re-signed most of their free agent linemen, which may signal patience with a young group, or the willingness to develop later round talent.  More on that later.  Limas Sweed should be able to develop as the #3 wide receiver, and so the impetus would be on a slot receiver who can return kicks: those kinds of players are plentiful in later rounds.  But at corner, our depth is not great, and Deshea Townshend's age is another red flag.  It would not be a surprise if the Steelers went corner earlier. 

However, unlike the defensive end position, there is not a drastic drop-off in talent after the first two rounds.  Coye Francies was widely regarded as a mid-second round pick with caveats, but after his Combine performance his value has dropped.  A JUCO standout who transferred to Oregon St., Francies was dismissed from the team following gun charges that most agree comes down to a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  OSU head coach Mike Riley, however, offered a strong personal commendation of Francies, despite the dismissal.  Following a redshirt year, Francies had 68 tackles and three interceptions, but level of competition was a concern. 

However, Francies showed extremely well at both the East-West Shring game and the Senior Bowl.  The question becomes, do you believe the tape on Francies, or the Combine time?  A 4.63 40 is generally considered a deal-breaker.  But, according to NFLDS, Francies again was disappointing in the 40-yard dash, running in the 4.59-4.65 range, though it was obvious to those in attendance that he was gutting it out with a sprained ankle or other lower leg injury. Whatever the injury Francies battled through, he did do well enough in the three cone drill to warrant attention.

According to a recent National Football Post article, the cone drill is worth noting, and 6.81 in that drill is considered good.  NFLDS calls Francies arguably the most underrated cornerback in the draft.  He certainly hasn't had very good luck in selling himself to NFL teams, but he's tall, instinctive and possessing legitimate catch-up speed, Francies can play press and is a reliable enough open-field tackler for zone coverage.  The Steelers spoke with Francies at the Combine. 

4.132  Andrew Gardner, OT, Georgia Tech.  (NFLDS #186, R5/6; Draft Tek #205, R6.)



(Did not work out at Combine; Pro Day results)
Dates: 03/09/09
Height: 6066
Weight: 304
40 Yrd Dash: 4.96
20 Yrd Dash: 2.79
10 Yrd Dash: 1.69 
225 Lb. Bench Reps:
Vertical Jump: 30 1/2
Broad Jump: 08'11"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.70
3-Cone Drill: 7.51

 

I don't think the draft ranking are correct on this guy.  As they say, it only takes one team to be interested in a player, and I think there are a few that really like Gardner.  The Steelers, for one: a Steelers offensive line coach (unnamed) worked Gardner out at his Pro Day.  Gardner, like Tony Hills last year, was on track to be a top tackle prospect this year, but tore his labrum last October.  He was a four-year stasrter at left tackle, and was considered one of the top offensive tackles in college football... a key reason Tech led the ACC and ranked third nationally in rushing offense... 

Despite the criticism that he's not the elite athlete most teams want at left tackle, his 40 time, cone, and shuttle times put him among the most agile of this year's tackles.  In fact, a 4.96 40 would indicate that Gardner could be a left tackle prospect with some seasoning. 

Quote from: NFLDS
Good height with adequate build on the edge. Plays strong, attacking his opponent through the whistle in pass protection by punching and continually extending his arms to keep his man outside the pocket. Keeps his feet moving, which keeps him locked on his man.


The Steelers have so far shown little interest in offensive tackles, and may again go bargain-hunting.  Gardner is a bargain who might just pay off.

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« Reply #2 on: Mar 31, 2009 at 14:49 »

Quote
1.32 - Eric Wood, C, Louisville.

Finny has achieved treeness over Wood.
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« Reply #3 on: Mar 31, 2009 at 14:53 »

5.168  Roy Miller, DT, Texas.

5.169 (Compensatory pick)  Don Carey, CB/FS, Norfolk St.

6.205  Sammie Stroughter, WR, Oregon St.

7.226 (from Tampa Bay)  Khalif Mitchell, DT/DE, East Carolina.

7.241  Frank Summers, FB, UNLV.



The rest later.

UDFA:

WR - Norwood
CB - Toler
OG - Allen
QB- Willy
ILB - Holtzclaw
OG - Isdaner
DE - Potter
NT - Dixon
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« Reply #4 on: Mar 31, 2009 at 15:10 »

That would make me happy on draft weekend... clap iagree headbang

Brinker
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« Reply #5 on: Mar 31, 2009 at 18:47 »

That all looks pretty good.  Get some beef early and a nice CB prospect early day 2.

Quote
He's a guy whose only downsides seem to be that he's a center, a position devalued in mock drafts, and that he'll need to get a little more physical to match up with NFL nose guards.

Let him practice against Big Snack, he'll get more physical.  Sink or swim.
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« Reply #6 on: Mar 31, 2009 at 21:27 »

I'd be purdy happy with those first two picks.

Assuming they go that route, it's a good thing that the offense and defense sit on separate ends of the bench.  Having these guys sitting next to each other would make for some interesting snapshots:

Gay ~ Wood ~ Colon
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