Momma’s Mocks, Round 7
Hang in there, everyone—just a few more hours before something actually football-related begins! (The picture is a screenshot from NFL.com, taken right before I posted this. It will be much closer by the time most of you read this.) I’ll finish up with some 7th round possibilities, drawn mainly from the guys the Steelers took an extra look at. Here goes:
One position that hasn’t been addressed at all in my mocks is a development project for the offensive line. I haven’t checked out the rugby player yet, but I’m really hoping he’ll make the cut. My Welsh son-in-law is obsessed with the idea of seeing American football players play rugby, so at least he can see it the other way around. So let’s begin with him:
? Jordan Mailata
The question mark is, of course, because Mailata has never played a single snap of American football at any level. He’s a freak athlete, and huge—6’8″, 345 pounds, 36″ arms and 11″ hands(!). And despite all this he ran a sub-5.0 40 time at the combine, which is pretty amazing.
This combination of size and athleticism is seldom found outside of the upper rounds. So why on earth would anyone think he will be available to the Steelers in Round 7? It’s a bit like real estate, in my opinion.
Probably 90% of ordinary house-buyers (in other words, people who aren’t particularly experienced at evaluating real property) walk into a house and are immediately overwhelmed, for good or ill, by stuff that has nothing to do with the actual house. Maybe the seller was smart enough to get one of those home stylists (I forget what they are called) to come in, cull their excess stuff and put it in a storage unit, and even maybe move in some different furniture. So now the house exudes an aura of calm and comfort, which appeals to almost everyone. And if in addition the decor appeals to the buyer’s taste, they can easily see themselves in the house and are much more likely to make an offer.
Conversely, if they walk in and there are clothes on the floor and peeling wallpaper and grime on the light switches, most people are put off. But the point is, what matters is what’s underneath. If the basic structure is good and the basic layout is either more or less what you need, or can be easily altered, the decor and cleanliness (or lack thereof) are entirely beside the point. But it’s very difficult for most people to imagine what it could be like.
NFL scouts are, I would think, also prone to blind spots. If they weren’t, their record would be better.
Some of them are stuck on measurables. There is something to be said for that, as you can’t make a guy taller (although you can, to some extent, alter his body composition for the better, assuming he’s willing to cooperate.) Al Davis was famously wowed by speed, and again, you can’t teach speed. But he made some pretty poor draft picks because of his obsession with pure speed, divorced from the other qualities you need in a given position.
You get the idea. The NFL scouts, coaches,and GMs presumably try very hard to take everything into consideration, but in the end they either love a player or they don’t. It is all exacerbated by the fact that nobody knows exactly how a player is going to look once he hits the NFL.
The Steelers have made plenty of such mistakes. Limas Sweed had everything, and was the “steal of the draft” according to some, but the one difficult-to-see thing he didn’t have (or couldn’t develop with the Steelers at any rate) was the between-the-ears stuff. Jarvis Jones was a high-character, productive-in-college guy who never quite achieved the next level. And so on.
On the other hand, a whole lot of teams passed on AB because of his size and small-school resume.
So to return to Mr. Mailata, he’s got most of what you want in an NFL tackle (he’s actually a bit tall, which can be a problem, as Alejandro Villanueva occasionally has struggled with.) But nobody knows whether he can actually play offensive tackle (or anything else) in the NFL. Or at least learn to do so within a reasonable time frame.
While Villanueva was a novice on the O-line when the Steelers picked him up, he had at least played a lot of football—at a handful of positions. Mailata starts from zero, other than he’s played a game that uses a somewhat similarly-shaped ball.
All of that said, I would love to see him fall to the Steelers. They have the best O-line coach in the league, thank heavens—I was really afraid for a few weeks that Mike Munchak was going to leave. (Which makes you wonder if in the end the choice the Steelers were making was between Munchak and Todd Haley. But I suppose we will never know for sure.) And the Steelers (and Munchak in particular) have the experience of teaching a guy the position from the ground up.
And one would presume Mailata has the desire to succeed, since he’s giving up a promising rugby career to take this gamble. I assume that the money, even for an entry-level NFL guy, is substantially better. But we all know what assumptions do. So I looked it up.
Last year the players in the NRL (the Australian league) negotiated a new deal with the owners. The salary for an average player will increase over the next several years until it is double what it was in 2016, and the salary cap has increased for 2018 to $9.4 million. Mind you, this is for a 29-man squad rather than a 53-man roster. But don’t forget that the Australian dollar is currently worth about 76 cents in US dollars. So for 2018 the average salary will increase to $313,000 (Australian dollars, or about $220,000.) The NFL minimum appears to be about $500,000. But other than the signing bonus, which for a 7th-rounder is somewhere around $60,000, nothing is guaranteed for players taken below the second round. Or so I surmised from this article on SI.com.
All of this is to say that Mr. Mailata is taking a gamble on his own ability to translate his rugby skills to the NFL quickly, and if he doesn’t succeed it surely won’t be for lack of trying. I will be fascinated to see how soon somebody decides to pull the trigger.
As far as I can tell, he has only visited five teams—the Steelers, the Washington team (my boycott on their name still stands), the Eagles, the Browns, and the LA Chargers. The Eagles have the last pick in the sixth round, naturally, and Washington has the pick before (traded from the Browns.) There are a bunch of compensatory picks after that, but none for the teams Mailata visited. The Steelers have the second pick in Round 7, right after the Patriots. This does not, of course, preclude a team who didn’t invite him for a visit from grabbing him ahead of the Steelers. Fingers crossed!
And now for the more usual sort of prospects. Or Moore. Because, people, Momma has fallen completely for this guy:
FB/TE/LS John David Moore
Handsome. Check. High character. Check. Smart. Check. Hardworking. Check. Moore has got it all. And although I put “handsome” first, actually this guy could have looked like Quasimodo and I still would have been interested (assuming I made it past the pictures.)
This young man is the first football player at LSU in 40 years to attempt an architecture major, much less to graduate, which he is about to do. The program at LSU is a five-year grind which not everyone can manage. In fact, in Moore’s class only 25 of the 90 originally enrolled will graduate. His GPA averaged between 3.9 and 4.1.
But wait, there’s more. Last fall Moore was named to the SEC Community Service team. The purpose of this team is to “highlight an athlete from each school who gives back to his community through superior service efforts.” He wears No. 18 on LSU’s team, which they award each year to a player that “represents what it means to be a LSU football player and one who serves as a great teammate, possessing a selfless attitude [and] work ethic, and is a model citizen, both on and off the field.”
But wait, there’s more. Notice all those abbreviations in front of his name? He primarily played fullback but moved to tight end in 2017. He trained for his Pro Day at both fullback and tight end, and added in training for long snapper drills, as he wanted to show his versatility. Coach T is all about versatility. I’m all about having a back-up long snapper who actually knows what he’s doing…
If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I love this guy. I would sure love to see him in the Black and Gold!
I was going to quit here, as it was difficult to see how these guys could be improved upon, but steelmn suggested a guy, and a quick look indicated there was a lot to like about him. So let’s take a not-quite-so-quick look at:
OLB Nick DeLuca
Let’s get this out of the way first—the Steelers didn’t take a look at him. He was invited to the Combine, but apparently they didn’t even talk to him there. Which makes the likelihood of the Steelers picking him up a good bit less. But by the time the Steelers make their last 7th round pick there aren’t many more guys who are going to be drafted, (10 more, actually,) and the fun with free agent signings begins.
And DeLuca has some intriguing aspects. Let’s start with what steelmn thinks:
“I hope the Steelers look into Nick DeLuca, an ILB from North Dakota State who I think will be a solid NFL player. He won’t make anyone forget about Ryan Shazier when it comes to straight line speed but he has the “nose for the ball” instincts and he doesn’t miss tackles. Both of those things are needed in the middle if the Steelers are going to return to the defensive standard set by the Steel Curtain.
He was the best player on the best defense in the FCS and he opened a lot of eyes at the Senior Bowl. The Steelers could probably get him in the 7th round or even as an UDFA.”
Lance Zierlein appears to like him, with one big proviso—he had significant injuries in both 2016 and 2017. And, as noted by steelmn, he isn’t fast. Zierlein says “Doesn’t run fast even when healthy.”
From my standpoint, he graduated last December (degree in University Studies), which you all know I like, and he certainly checks off the “handsome” box. And here’s a fun fact—his former Little League football team named an award after him—”The DeLuca.” I don’t know what the award is for, but it sounds good!
It seems as if he’s a guy who really ought to get a shot in the NFL, and who knows? Maybe the Steelers will be the one to give it to him. Thanks for the tip, steelmn!
And now I bid you adieu for a few days. My husband and I are taking a little trip to a former part of the USSR (Bratislava) to celebrate our 40th anniversary. Amazingly, he has managed to put up with me for four decades, probably primarily for my cooking. Whoever coined the phrase “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” knew what they were talking about. So once again life is going to trump football this offseason, at least for a while. But I’ll be back in the next few weeks with some thoughts on the draftees, and perhaps Ivan and Hombre de Acero will chime in…