Momma Looks at the Actual Draft: Round 1

The vast majority of readers of this post are aware, I suspect, of two things—1) Momma’s Mock Drafts® rely on a unique metric (Best-Looking player Available) because Momma can’t be bothered with college football and 2) in the end, Momma loves a well-developed character more than a well-turned ankle, or whatever it is Momma is checking out.

Last year Momma had the thrill of several of her selections being taken by the Steelers, including first-round pick T.J. Watt. That appears to have been a slam-dunk for both Momma and the Steelers. This year, on the other hand, the Steelers took none of Momma’s picks, even when they coincided with the guys the “experts” said they would likely take. Not a single one.

And speaking of the “experts,” do check out Steel Curtain Rising, Hombre de Acero’s site, as he’s getting ready to post his assessment of the draft—the 2013 draft, that is. As Hombre says, if Chuck Noll thought you needed five years to properly assess a draft class, that’s good enough for him. It should be pretty hilarious, at least if you prefer sticking one to the draft experts above having, you know, really good players… It isn’t up yet as I write this, but is going up soon.

But to return to this year’s draft, one which has already been judged with a fine-toothed comb, if you will pardon the mangled metaphor, I’m going to discuss over the coming weeks the young men the Steelers saw fit to pick, even after they surely adjusted their draft board after reading my mocks. I’m going to do it a bit differently this year, though, because this draft is a bit of an outlier.

Or is it? Perhaps it is a straw which shows the way the wind blows. After all, the two things everybody knew going into this draft were 1) Kevin Colbert’s comment about drafting a quarterback if one they liked remained at a spot they liked was “smoke and mirrors,” to quote long-time Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette, (we will get into the whys and wherefores when I cover Mason Rudolph) and 2) the top priorities going into this draft were all on defense, and they would be addressed long before any offensive needs were considered. And of course the first round pick was a defensive player (but not the right one, as everyone has been eager to point out) but it wasn’t until Round 5 that another defensive player was taken.

The actual draft occurred in the small hours of the morning here in France. So when I awoke the next day and saw that Justin Reid was still available and the Steelers had picked a safety but he wasn’t Justin Reid and in fact was one I hadn’t even looked at because no one was mocking him to the Steelers (okay, maybe in the 3rd round,) I was just as shocked as everyone else. And to be quite honest with you, he probably wouldn’t have made the cut for my draft anyhow, given how superficial a look I take at these guys initially just to narrow the field a bit. After all, I eliminated Quadree Henderson from contention based simply on his Twitter motto or whatever you call the phrase next to the picture.

Which I admit is no more admirable than the sports radio caller who complained last spring about T.J. Watt because his butt was too small. (I kid you not. He said that Watt clearly wasn’t a good athlete because he had a small butt. There’s an article about it on this site, somewhere during last springs’ posts, because you can imagine that I would want to write about that.)

But allow me to rein myself in here. I’m wandering even more than usual today. To return to the comment about a “straw which shows the way the wind blows,” the idea that the Steelers are in their 3-4 base about a third of the time now, and that sub-package football often blurs the distinction between defensive backs and linebackers anyhow has been tossed around quite a bit. But Tim Benz of the Trib wrote an article the other day that goes beyond that. He compares this to the sea change that took place when the 3-4 defense was developed:

[B]ack in the early 90s, the Steelers pioneered the movement of signing and drafting players as outside linebackers in their 3-4 defensive scheme who were previously ends in a 4-3 scheme.

Kevin Greene was one in free agency. Jason Gildon and Joey Porter were two in the draft.

Largely, the job is the same. The title of the occupation is just different. As a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker you go get the other team’s quarterback.

So is what the Steelers are doing now with their safety-stocked defense really all that different?

Because it feels like it is being met with skepticism, though the premise is the same. Does it matter if a player is called a linebacker or a safety if he performs the same duties regardless of the label on the back of the football card?

Basically, the Steelers are playing Moneyball, as I see it. Safeties have been a market inefficiency, being somewhat undervalued. In the meantime, the job description for an inside linebacker (or at least some of them) has changed. How long have people been saying Ryan Shazier should be moved to safety? And how obvious was it that the whole defense was crafted around his skill set in the games after he went down?

Now I suppose one could fault the Steelers that there was no one in line behind him, especially given that his style of play lends itself to injury even more than the usual player (Breaking update—the injury rate in the NFL is 100%, according to Mike Tomlin.) But it’s pretty difficult to keep elite athletes hanging out on the bench, and Shazier was a first-round pick for a reason (although many people thought he was overdrafted, in a nice parallel to this year’s draft.)

So after that extremely long preamble, let’s take a look at Edmunds. I’m not going to focus on the footbally stuff, because honestly that doesn’t matter so much. What he did in college is past and gone, and as we saw from Jarvis Jones, a highly productive college career doesn’t necessarily translate particularly well into the NFL. But why is that?

One of the mysteries of the football universe is the attempt to determine how much it matters which team drafts any given player. Obviously some teams are better at player development than others, although I believe you could even call that into question. But, for instance, why is Cleveland a black hole for quarterbacks (and will this continue to be true going forward?) or why do the Steelers appear to have a magic touch for wide receivers but not for cornerbacks, or how can the Lions have a really excellent quarterback and not seem to win very much anyhow? There appears to be a factor no one has managed to calculate that is a combination of the player, the coaches, the team, and perhaps even the city itself.

One has to wonder if Jarvis Jones would have done better on a team where he didn’t have to sit behind James Harrison. I believe this question also occurred to the Steelers’ brain trust, which is why Keith Butler is now the defensive coordinator. But there is no way to the repeat the experiment. Nor does the fact that Jones didn’t do anything after leaving Pittsburgh necessarily mean anything. Perhaps the development window was lost. And it is interesting that in Jones’ case the Steelers went against their well-known preference to take younger players. Perhaps this is part of the reason—the sooner they are in the system (particularly, I think, on defense) the better. Jones was 23 when drafted and turned 24 that October. Just a thought…

One thing we know for sure about Terrell Edmunds—if he sits on the bench this year, it will either be because of injury or because all those scouts who had a third-round grade on him were right, and had in fact overvalued him in the third round. Because if we know anything to be true, we know that Edmunds needs to be the player the Steelers thought they were getting. There is an enormous hole in the middle of the Steelers’ defense, and if Edmunds (and/or Marcus Allen, or Brian Allen, or ?) doesn’t have a substantial role in filling it, it’s difficult to see how it is going to be filled at all, no disrespect to Jon Bostic or anything.

But however Edmunds turns out as a football player, and whether he is really the player the Steelers thought they were getting, on a personal level he appears to be a gem. Yes, he comes from a football family. Both his brothers are now in the NFL as well, as his younger and taller brother was drafted ahead of him and his older brother is a running back for the Saints. His dad played for the Seahawks and Dolphins. But in a lovely article by Kevin Gorman of the Trib, his mom says that they didn’t care what the boys chose to do, just that they focused on whatever they chose and did it well. “Whatever you do today is going to prepare you for tomorrow. So you can’t think, I’m going to be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a manager, an NFL player, and you don’t put the work in,” she said in a video. She emphasized that one of the most important things she taught her boys was the golden rule—to treat others as you want to be treated.

She sounds like she would make a great coach. She said that motherhood is one of the toughest jobs there is, because you can’t be their friend. You have to make them accountable for their actions, and if they do something wrong you have to communicate that to them and let them know why it was wrong and why they should not do it, rather than allow them to justify their actions to themselves.

Apparently Felicia Edmunds (whose nickname is Cookie) made quite an impression on Mike Tomlin. He and Kevin Colbert took Edmunds and his parents to dinner, and she spent the evening peppering him with questions. He was asked in his first press conference as a Steelers “what sort of questions did his mother ask Tomlin and Colbert at the dinner?” After hesitating a moment, Edmunds laughed and said “What kind of questions did she not ask?”

And in the Kevin Gorman article Edmunds admitted he was “sort of a mama’s boy.” You all know I like that in a man—mainly that he is man enough to admit it. And honestly I think there is a lot to be said for a player having a strong family background—it just means one less thing to overcome.

And I have to note one other thing about his family—they have now fostered 21 children, and currently have three boys, ages 16, 12, and 11. I have nothing but admiration for people willing to take on such a daunting task. And I suspect that one of the primary things you learn from foster brothers and sisters is gratitude for a good home life.

In an interview with the New York Post, moments after he was drafted, Edmunds said:

“I honestly don’t know how I’m doing this interview right now because I’m so filled up with joy, first for my brother,” Terrell Edmunds said. “I was so excited for him. … Then hearing my name called, I can’t speak enough for my family.”

But the best part of the interview comes later:

Tremaine was making the media rounds at AT&T Stadium when he heard his brother get drafted.

“Let’s go, man, that’s my brother!” Tremaine shouted.

Terrell said he was in the bathroom when he got the phone call. He thought it was a friend prank calling him. Then he saw the number and answered.

“I ran out of the bathroom, my pants unzipped and belt undone, I ran to my parents and I couldn’t even tell them what was going on,” Terrell said. “I was just pointing to my phone, so excited and so ready.”

Maybe not entirely ready…

And to continue for a moment on the subject of family, I watched a post-practice interview from last fall in which Edmunds was asked what it was like playing with his brother on the same defense. After being told it was “a blessing” the reporters started digging. One asked whether there was ever a situation where one messed up, created a problem for the other, and the victim gave the instigator a hard time. Edmunds smiled and said no, there was never anything like that. He said that both of them messed up from time to time, and they would watch tape together to try to learn from it. And so on. One had the impression of a close and easy relationship between the brothers, and a great level of maturity in Edmunds.

And in his interview with Dale Lolley for the Steelers Radio Network, a day after he was drafted, Edmunds described family pick-up football games, which they called “Pick up and die.” He said you either came out of those games as a hard-nosed football player or as somebody who wanted nothing to do with football.

As is usually the case with Lolley, he brought out some interesting things. One rather unexpected one Lolley brought up was that in the midst of the 2017 season, when Virginia Tech had one of the top defenses in the league, their coach singled out Terrell Edmunds as the best player on the defense. Lolley asked him whether he considered himself the leader of the defense, and Edmunds replied that he considered himself one of the leaders.

Lolley mentioned that part of the reason the Steelers drafted him was that they were impressed with his football acumen, and asked Edmunds if he considered himself a student of the game. Edmunds agreed, and noted that depending on the circumstances, he might play either free or strong safety or even corner (and of course he was switched from corner to safety in 2017.) Not to mention some of what Edmunds called “nickel linebacker.”

But I’m slipping back into footbally talk. Enough of that! Speaking of “student”, after considerable searching I was able to find out Terrell graduated from Virginia Tech in December with a degree in multimedia journalism. Perhaps he will have a better idea how to use social media than some of the incumbent meatheads. I discovered the “graduation” part from a tweet Edmunds put out two days before graduation. I was interested to note one of the comments, from a fellow student, who said in effect “you graduated while doing sports. I barely graduated while doing partying. Congratulations.”

And interestingly, all three boys skipped a grade in school. Edmunds was asked at his first conference for the Steelers about that, and the reason was they moved from a private school to public school and had to take a placement test, and all three of them placed a year ahead. Also encouraging…

And although Edmunds described his mom as the “talker” of the family, he noted that his father told the brothers that “nothing comes easy, nothing is given to you.” Edmunds expressed his readiness to start from scratch and learn to be a pro. While he said that the three brothers would talk from time to time about all making the NFL, their father cautioned them that it wasn’t a given, and that in fact they didn’t have to do football at all. The only expectation was that whatever they chose, they give it their all.

Which must have been tough in high school, because all three boys also ran track and played basketball.

Mama’s boy, hard worker, good communicator, accomplished athlete—only the future will tell for sure, but the Steelers seem to have found a real keeper. Momma is pleased…

2 comments

  • High quality, high character guy. Makes it very easy to root for him.

    They’ve got a bunch of those guys – Sean Davis is another one who was also an outstanding student and also from a terrific, hard-working family.

    That doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps in the road. And a lot of fans who felt the pick was a stretch and absolutely hated it will be among the first to pile on.

    Of course, a lot of people hated last year’s second round pick, and many will gladly fess up to being wrong if and when Edmunds proves them wrong.

    Homer calmed the yinzers last May, telling them that by game three or four, they would absolutely be in love with Juju. But the video of Juju and the scouting reports both screamed that he was the second coming of Hines Ward. The pick of Edmunds is far more both bold and complicated. Much, much higher risk, and a move that few teams would even dare to make.

    The risk of an unconventional pick is that if it doesn’t pan out, the GM and Coach may lose their jobs. There is no way in hell that a majority GM’s would ever do what Colbert and Tomlin did here. But, with job security, you can feel more comfortable arguing for – and taking – Edmunds if you really believe it’s the best thing to do. After all, it’s 49 years and counting since a Rooney fired a head coach.

    One of Homer’s favorite moments was when he was taking his field spaniel Katie over to see her best bud, Lucky Dog. Lucky was sitting on the front stoop when a squirrel, traversing the branches of the tree overhead, suddenly fell into Lucky’s lap. Homer thought of that last August, when the Browns released Joe Haden, who suddenly and unexpectedly fell into the Steelers’ lap. Lucky was so startled and happy, he let the squirrel get away. But the Steelers, though startled and happy, signed Haden something like 14 minutes after he became a free agent. You see, things do fall from the sky.

    The hope – and expectation – is that another linebacker – a veteran – will fall into the Steelers’ lap the last week of August, and that will make the Edmunds pick seem even more prescient.

    Anyway, Momma, thanks for a terrific write-up. No question, he’s a smart, hard-working, high-character guy from a great family. All of that helps. But he’s still gonna have to make the reads, communicate, and wrap up. Those were three things that his predecessor did not so well.

    Homer is not as certain about this pick as he was about Watt and especially Juju, and sees this as more of a roll of the dice. But he understands it, agrees with the reasoning, and can’t wait to see how this roll of the dice turns out.

    Baby needs a new pair of shoes.

    Like

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