Mocking the Draft: Stabbing in the Dark

Here be dragons…

The draft is fast approaching, which means the draft posts will now come thick and fast. My apologies to those of you who don’t care about the draft…

Things get really interesting now. How does one determine who might be appropriate choices for the Steelers on Day Three?

There can be some unexpected bargains as draft stock falls. But we’ve long ago passed the “sure-fire” prospects and are mainly looking at projects of one kind or another. And as we all know, guys are projects for a reason, and sometimes the reasons don’t add up to a useful player, at least in the timeframe necessary in the era of shortened rookie contracts.

And for that matter there’s some question as to what happens to those “sure-fire” prospects too. If you look at the numbers, only a top-five pick is a ‘sure thing,” and even some of those have come a cropper. Here’s some top ten draft picks in recent years who haven’t really produced in the way you would expect:

No. 1: Courtney Brown, DE (Cleveland Browns, 2000)

No. 1: JaMarcus Russell, QB (Oakland Raiders, 2007)

No. 2: Reggie Bush, RB (New Orleans Saints, 2006)

No. 2: Charles Rogers, WR (Detroit Lions, 2003)

No. 3: Joey Harrington, QB (Detroit Lions, 2002)

No. 3: Charles Rogers, WR (Detroit Lions, 2003)

No. 3: Vince Young, QB (Tennessee Titans, 2006)

No. 3: Trent Richardson, RB (Cleveland Browns, 2012)

No. 4: Peter Warrick, WR (Cincinnati Bengals, 2000)

No. 4: Aaron Curry, LB (Seattle Seahawks, 2009)

No. 5: Justin Blackmon, WR (Jacksonville Jaguars)

No. 6: Johnathan Sullivan, DT (New Orleans Saints, 2003. To add insult to injury, they traded up to get him.)

No. 6: Vernon Gholston, DE (New York Jets, 2008)

No. 7: Troy Williamson, WR (Minnesota Vikings, 2007)

No. 8: David Terrell, WR (Chicago Bears, 2001)

No. 8: Derrick Harvey, DE (Jacksonville Jaguars, 2008)

No. 10: Jamal Reynolds, DE (Green Bay Packers, 2001)

No. 10: Mike Williams, WR (Detroit Lions, 2005)

No. 10: Matt Leinart, QB (Arizona Cardinals, 2006)

A few interesting things about this list appear when you look at it. First, few teams are immune to the curse of the bad top-ten pick.

The Steelers have managed to be more or less immune by not picking in the top ten since 2000. They took Plaxico Burress at No. 8 that year. You could argue they might have gotten more value with, say, Brian Urlacher, who went at No. 9, although of course Urlacher was a 4-3 guy. But you can also argue they did better than the rest of the AFC North that year, although it wasn’t the AFC North then. You can see Cincinnati and Cleveland’s picks  in the bust list above, The WR the Ravens traded up from No. 15 to No. 10 to take, Travis Taylor, was not dreadful by any means, but was also probably not worth a top-ten pick, especially when you note they had to give Denver their second-round pick as well.

The second takeaway is, don’t draft a wide receiver or defensive end in the top ten if you can help it. Obviously some top-ten WRs have worked out well, but it’s a high-risk position. As, obviously, is QB, but I think that’s a chance you have to take if you need a franchise quarterback.

And the third takeaway is, apparently No. 9 overall is a magic slot. There hasn’t been a single complete bust since 2000. Maybe ever, but 2000 is as far back as I looked. So if you can’t get the No. 1 overall pick, maybe you should aim for No. 9.

And the final takeaway is, Detroit should be banned from ever drafting a WR. It would be a great kindness. Well, okay, they took Calvin Johnson No. 2 overall in 2007, and that worked out, but compare that to the many who didn’t.

To return to the point of this post, namely who the Steelers might choose with their last four picks, by Round 4 there’s no way to even guess what needs are left to be filled, unless, of course, you are of the camp that the Steelers should just take all defensive backs for the entire draft and hope they can come up with a couple of keepers. But let’s see who is being mocked to them, remembering that the Steelers don’t have a 5th round pick but do have two 7th round picks:

  • Miles Killebrew, S; Tom Hackett, PT; Keith Marshall, RB; Roger Lewis, WR (Dan Brugler, Charles Campbell)
  • Jatavis Brown, S; Kevin Peterson, CB; Giorgio Newberry, DT; Joe Schmidt, ILB (draftek)
  • Joshua Perry, OLB; Brandon Allen, QB; Derek Alexander, DE; DeAndre Elliot, CB (big jay71)
  • Javon Hargrave, DT; Morgan Burns, CB; Jared Norris, ILB; Alex Redmond, G (nfl spinzone)
  • Pharoh Cooper, WR; Cory James, LB; Tavon Young, CB; Caleb Benenoch, OL (bleacher report)
  • Dak Prescott, QB; Temarrick Hemingway, TE; De’Runnya Wilson, WR; Bralon Addison, WR/RB (fansided)
  • Brandon Allen, QB; Shawn Oakman, DE; Drew Kaser, P; Josh Forrest, LB (The Point of Pittsburgh)
  • Bryce Williams, TE; Tyler Marz, OT (Invictus XI)
  • Avery Young, OT/OG; A.J. Stamps, S; Drew Kaser, P; Cayleb Jone, WR (nfl draft geek)
  • Paul Perkins, RB (Brown)
  • Hunter Sharp, WR (Reuter)

These are the 123rd, 220th, 229th, and 240th guys on the draftek big board, regardless of position or team:

  • Adam Gotsis, DE; Devon Johnson, RB; Storm Barr-Woods, RB/FB; Jacob Coker, QB

Since I’m calling this “A Stab in the Dark” I’m just going to cull them all for handsomeness, sort them by type and/or position, and see what we’ve got. This is a lot of guys to consider, and we’re not done yet, because I found the following newly-mocked players which I hadn’t previously considered, or not seriously, designated by round:

1. Noah Spence, DE (The Point of Pittsburgh)

1. Myles Jack, LB (Downey)

1. Leonard Floyd, OLB (Brown)
1. Reggie Ragland, LB (PFF)
1. Michael Thomas, WR (PFF live mock)
2. T.J. Green (cbssports)
2. Tyler Matakevich, OLB (draftsite.com)
2. Karl Joseph, S (Fittipaldo)
2. Kevin Byard, S (PFF Steelers Big Board)
3. Artie Burns, CB
3. Max Tuerk, OT/OG/C (big jay71)
3. Vonn Bell, S (nfl spinzone)
3. Jihad Ward (bleacher report)
3. Le’Raven Clark, OT (draftsite)
3. Jalen Mills, S (fansided)
3. Jonathan Jones, CB (The Point of Pittsburgh)
3. Harlan Miller, CB (steelerswire)
3. Tyler Higbee, TE (Brown)
3. Tavon Young, S (PFF Steelers big board)
Day 3 suggestion for Steelers: Prince Charles Iworah, CB (PFF)

Let’s start with the rejection letters for the additional Rounds 1-3 suggestions who I feel merit them. (I don’t feel the need to defend rejecting players projected to go on Day Three…) The next post will begin looking at the live possibilities (for me at least).

Noah Spence, DE

I shouldn’t even be looking at Spence, as I already rejected him back in my Round One posts for character concerns. But yet another site mocked him to the Steelers, and he is definitely worth another look. He’s young, good-looking, and a fearsome pass rusher.

But I just can’t see the Steelers taking a chance on another kid with drug-related concerns. They took a chance on Mike Adams, and although he apparently stayed clean, he hasn’t been productive since his parking lot scuffle on the South Side at 2 am or so. And frankly, if I was Mike Adams, I don’t think I would have thought it was a good idea to be on the South Side at 2 am. That whole incident was murky, his “attackers” weren’t actually charged in the end, and the aftermath of the stabbing has been that he hasn’t played at all.

And then there is Martavis Bryant. Because of his inability to stay clean the Steelers were forced to use a third round pick last year on a wide receiver. I love Sammie Coates, and I have great expectations for his 2016 season, but this is not an ideal scenario by any means. A failed fourth-round pick is not the end of the world, but not optimal either, especially when the failure forces you to use a third-round pick the following year. But a failed first-round pick is not good at all. So tempting as he may be, I sincerely hope the Steelers take a pass on this pass rusher, unless he falls to the fourth round. Which he won’t, as hope springs eternal.

Myles Jack, OLB

I have nothing against Jack except for this—the possibility of him falling to Pick 23 is vanishingly small. Even I like to stick with the probabilities. If he were to do so, of course, Homer J. would get another pony for Christmas. Given that he is being mocked in the top 5-9 lately, this wouldn’t be a pony—it would be a unicorn.

Leonard Floyd, OLB

Although Floyd isn’t projecting in quite the same stratosphere as Jack, he’s still supposedly well out of the Steelers’ reach. And more to the point, his college production in no way reflected his immense athleticism, and that’s always a concern when there’s no apparent reason for it. And I’m afraid he doesn’t quite pass the handsomeness test. So we’ll bid him goodbye and hope for a handsome defensive back in Round One instead.

Michael Thomas, WR

PFF’s “nightmare scenario” for the Steelers in their recent (April 19) live mock draft was that all of the good DBs were gone by No. 23, and so Thomas was mocked to the Steelers. No disrespect intended to Thomas, but I can’t even imagine a scenario where the Steelers take Thomas over Andrew Billings, who was still available in their mock—he was mocked to Seattle with the next pick. Thanks but no thanks, PFF…

Tyler Matakevich, OLB

I’m just not feeling it, especially when his NFL.com profile suggests that he may be limited to a 4-3 Will, and an unnamed AFC North executive was quoted as saying “Not big, not fast and not strong. Hard to make it as an NFL linebacker without those elements.”

Max Tuerk, OL

As I’ve noted before, it’s difficult for the Big Eaters to make the cut, and he doesn’t.

Le’Raven Clark, OT

Not only a Big Eater, with a name like Le’Raven it’s difficult to see Steeler Nation ever feeling good about this pick. Perhaps if he promised to change it to “Le’Rooney”…

Tyler Higbee, TE

Remember how I mentioned in an earlier post a relatively highly-ranked prospect getting himself arrested? Well, here he is, folks. “…second-degree assault, alcohol intoxication in a public place and second-degree fleeing or evading police.” Somehow, I don’t think we need more knuckleheads. And a knucklehead to replace our beloved Heath Miller feels like the ultimate desecration.

Tavon Young, S

His NFL.com draft profile calls him “teeny-tiny.” Enough said…

Prince Charles Iworah, CB

From the same school that produced Higbee, Iworah is an undersized corner. Somehow I feel like we don’t need more of those, unless we want to be the only team in the NFL who plays five corners in the slot and none on the outside. So unless Keith Butler has some mad-scientist configuration in mind that requires a bunch of short DBs, I think I’ll take a pass on this young man.

To be continued. To see my coverage of Round One, click here and here and here.

For Round Two, click here and here and here.

For Round Three, click here and here and here and here.

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