Mocking the Draft Part 3: Finishing the Round 1 Prospects
Almost everyone seems almost convinced that, despite their recent history of passing up DBs in the first and second round, at least, the Steelers will take a defensive back in the first round. (The last time they did so, they traded up for Troy Polamalu in 2003. That seems to have worked out okay.)
Although Eli Apple, who has been heavily mocked to the Steelers, has been moving up the board, with some showing him going as soon as No. 15, there are a number of possibilities, including one I didn’t cover, Kendall Fuller.
But it is always possible that the DBs for whom the Steelers have a first-round grade will be gone by No. 25, and that being the case, let’s look at a couple of other players I’ve seen mocked to the Steelers.
Calhoun is an interesting prospect at a position the Steelers are almost certainly going to address at some point (probably fairly high) in this draft, because the depth at the defensive line was not, well, deep, and it has gotten worse with the free agency loss of Steve McLendon and even the much-derided Cam Thomas, the Steelers are down to Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and a lot of question marks. Here are the names of the question marks:
- L.T. Walton, DE
- Caushaud Lyons, DE
- Ricardo Matthews, DE
- Daniel McCullers, DT
- Roy Philon, DT
- Lavon Hooks, DT
Matthews was just signed two days ago. Since it was reported that Matthews graded out below Cam Thomas last year, I’m not sure any of us are going to sleep better after this signing. I know nothing whatsoever about Philon and Hooks (sounds like a law firm) and that also does not engender confidence.
So Calhoun becomes a much more enticing prospect than we perhaps would have thought a few months ago. He’s also a fine looking man for a Big Eater. This is perhaps because of his unusual athleticism for this position. (Do I sense a trend?) thesportsbank.net reported in December of 2013:
Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun is one of only two defensive players in college football this season to score three touchdowns.
“Shilique Calhoun had a breakout year from his defensive end position,” Spartans Coach Shilique Dantonio said. “He’s a high-motor guy, who has the knack for making big plays. Shilique has played at a consistently high level all year, not only pressuring the quarterback but playing versus the run as well.”
During his time at Michigan State Calhoun was an every-down player, starting 41 games.
From a personal standpoint he’s also an aninteresting prospect. He was a criminal justice major and plans to be a police officer when his NFL career ends. (According to an article in the Daily Record, “The protect-and-serve instinct comes from a portion of his family that is in the Army.”)
He was considered to be a leader on and off the field, with a tireless work ethic. Sounds like a Steeler.
Pat Narduzzi, who was defensive coordinator at Michigan State for Calhoun’s first few years (he’s now the head coach at Pitt) enthused about Calhoun after the breakout season mentioned above:
“I saw athletic ability,” Narduzzi said. “He had so much athletic ability, and that’s what we are looking for. We’re not looking for the biggest, strongest guy. We’re looking for guys who have athletic ability. I saw him on the basketball court slap his hand against the backboard and be an athlete.
“But did you know he’d be this tough? No, you never know when you bring these guys in. You try to see it on the football field. But besides all that, you loved his personality. You fall in love with him on the phone, you fall in love with him when you see him.”
I ran across other references to his “engaging personality.” I like that in a player.
NFL.com grades him out at 5.64, and says:
Not many players are named to All-American squads once during their college career, much less twice. Calhoun’s managed to earn the nod three straight years, making big plays for the Spartans as they competed for Big Ten titles. As a redshirt sophomore, Calhoun was the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year and first team all-conference recognition in addition to second team All-American notice from several sources after recording 14 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries and an interception.
Former high school basketball standout with an athletic, well-proportioned frame. Three-year starter with above average pass rush production. Posted 128 quarterback pressures and 26.5 sacks over last three years.
Negatives include lacking “nastiness” at the point of attack. I can live with that. Whether Coach Tomlin and Coach Butler can is another matter…
Another player the Steelers were said to spend a lot of time looking over at his pro day. Although the Steelers aren’t keen to spend a lot of captial—monetary or draftwise—on a one-down player (and hence they let Steve McLendon walk) reports are that Billings is athletic enough to be more than a one-down guy.
In fact, versatility is his middle name. There is a wonderful article on Sports Illustrated from last October with a lot of fascinating information on Billings. Here is some of it, but if you’re at all interested in Billings, check out the link:
Andrew, now 20, wasn’t born into a sports-savvy family. Anthony [his father] played baseball at Paul Quinn College, a historically black school that competed at the NAIA level, but never pushed either of his boys (Anthony Jr. is 23) on to a field or court. Andrew signed up for baseball as a default of sorts, but when Anthony and Sylvia [his mother] grew weary of chauffeuring their children to and from practice on a daily basis, they pulled him out. They wanted their boys to do “regular kid stuff” like play musical instruments, not get obsessed with, or feel tied to, any one activity. Though he was a towering figure as an elementary schooler and a legitimate home-run threat each time he stepped up to the plate, Andrew puts it like this: “They took me out, so I guess I wasn’t that good.”
It’s probably also accurate to say Billings wasn’t that into baseball. I find that kids who really want to do something manage to find a way to persuade their parents. Author Linsay Schnell continues:
Then he found powerlifting.
In Texas, powerlifting is not a hobby but its own sanctioned sport, with records and title rounds and state championships. Andrew fell hard for its simplicity—it consists solely of the squat, the bench press and the deadlift..Originally pitched to him as a way to stay in shape for football, Billings started powerlifting in seventh grade and got serious about it in 10th. And that, says Anthony, is when he and Sylvia realized what was going on. “We get to high school and suddenly they have a weightlifting team,” Anthony says. “I’m like, ‘This is a thing?’ And it’s not just a big deal, it’s a serious deal. We’re standing around at the weigh in, judges are talking about how good Andrew’s technique is and everyone’s talking about him maybe breaking Mark Henry’s record and I’m like, ‘What is going on? Who is Mark Henry?'”
Answer: The holy grail of powerlifting. A Silsbee, Texas, native and a two-time Olympian, Henry—nicknamed “The Strongest Man That Ever Lived”—has won one world powerlifting championship and two U.S. titles, and is currently a professional wrestler with the WWE. As Andrew grew enamored with the sport, he set his sights on breaking Henry’s 22-year-old state record. In 2013, as a high school senior and Baylor commit, he won a second state powerlifting championship and displaced Henry in the record books, lifting a combined weight of 2,010 pounds: 805 in the squat, 500 in the bench, 705 in the deadlift.
Sounds to me as if he and James Harrison could make things interesting in the training room.
Although Billings started out as an offensive tackle, he ended up in the defense when he went to Baylor. The coach pitched it to him this way:
The summer before Billings’s senior season he attended a camp at Baylor, and Bears defensive coordinator Phil Bennett watched two plays, turned to head coach Art Briles and said Billings was going to become their next defensive star. “His flexion, how he got down, how he got out of stance,” says Bennett of what stood out. “He could wipe a whole line out on offense.”
Now he just had to convince Billings that a position change was worth it. He appealed to Billings’s parents by citing Baylor’s sterling academic reputation. Then he persuaded Andrew by telling him no offensive lineman gets recognized for delivering a great block on a five-yard run. “But if you get a five-yard sack,” Bennett told Billings, “they’ll go crazy.”
And Billings isn’t just versatile on the football field:
In a sport rife with egotistical prima donnas, Billings is refreshingly unassuming. Adding to his unusual résumé, he plays the violin, guitar and piano. (He is self-taught in the last one.) When asked if he sings, too, Billings smiles. “Everyone sings,” he says. “What you’re trying to ask is, ‘Do I sing well?'” He regularly expresses wonder at his situation: Just a small town kid—he grew up wanting to drive semi-trucks—who happens to be really strong, playing for one of the best teams in college football.
What’s not to love?
The cbssports.com scouting report says:
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said in October that “Billings is the best kid I’ve ever gone against.”
Billings finished his junior year with a team-high 15.0 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, adding 40 tackles and a forced fumble. He announced on Jan. 12 that he would forego his senior season.
“After considerable thought, discussions and praying with my family and coaches, I have decided to declare my intention to enter the 2016 NFL Draft,” Billings said in a statement.
A source close to the program told NFLDraftScout.com that Billings didn’t make this decision lightly. He enjoyed the college environment, especially at Baylor, and wanted to finish his degree. A Waco native, Billings plans to take courses part-time while in the NFL.
NFL.com grades him out at an 6.26, a higher grade than any of the defensive backs we’ve considered. (This grade puts him 16th overall in their ranking by grade, irrespective of position.) Their “bottom line” was fascinating:
Billings won’t turn 21 until March of 2016, but he has the overwhelming strength of a full-grown NFL defensive tackle. With elite power and unusual closing speed for a big man, Billings has a chance to become something we rarely see – a playmaking nose tackle with the ability to dominate at the point of attack. Teams will decide through research and interviews whether Billings can handle the NFL life at such a young age, but if he can, he has all-pro potential.
And finally, I promised you a surprise pick. For this, I looked outside of the points of need, just as the Steelers supposedly do in the first round, and looked for the most appealing player, whatever position he plays. I tried to stay fairly well within the realm of players who could at least conceivably be available at No. 25, or conversely would not be greatly overdrafted there. After painstaking research, here is the winner:
While the Steelers, despite the well-publicized problems of Martavis Bryant, don’t really need a wide receiver (and are at any rate exceedingly adept at finding them in the lower rounds), just from the Best Looking Player Available point of view it’s impossible to pass Treadwell by.
“But,” you may protest, “Treadwell will be gone by Pick No. 25.” Probably true, but as David DeCastro demonstrates, you never know what will happen when the clock starts ticking at Radio City Music Hall.
And no, I didn’t do any research, footbally or character-wise. This is strictly based on BLA.
- Karl Joseph, DB
- Noah Spence, OLB
- Kamalei Correa, DE
- Robert Nkemdiche, DT
- Taylor Decker, OT
I’m actually liking Correa a lot. Nkendiche is a fine-looking man, but even the very most cursory glance at his information brings up character issues, so I’m not going there. But if you’re just looking for a really good-looking player, Treadwell certainly grades very high.
That’s all for Round One. I’ll do a much less thorough assessment of Rounds two and Three next week, as it gets more and more difficult to get anything but the most basic information about the players. Rounds Four through Seven are always a crap shoot anyhow. But we’ll see where it goes.
to be continued