View Full Version : Ranking the decision-makers at the NFL Draft - Colbert #5

05-01-2010, 03:03 AM
Ranking the decision makers: Who is best at the NFL draft?

By Nate Davis, USA TODAY

So which franchise really stands the best chance to reap the most from its rookies now that the 2010 NFL draft has concluded? USA TODAY ranked the 20 league personnel executives who have been on the job for at least three years with their current team (the exception being Scott Pioli) to try and get a better idea as to who scores touchdowns in April, who settles for field goals and who coughs it up.

REPORT CARD: Grading the 2010 NFL draft class

1A. Bill Belichick, head coach/el jefe supremo, New England Patriots— Little point in arguing after he transformed a franchise that seemed to be in decline into a three-time Super Bowl champion virtually overnight. Clearly Belichick learned a lot after the five putrid drafts the Cleveland Browns produced during his tenure there in the 1990s. New England has become known for its deft ability to amass quality picks and find excellent players later in the process who won't come with the price tag of a top-10 pick. Belichick has made seven second-round picks over the last two drafts and picked up an extra Round 2 pick next year after extracting it from the Carolina Panthers for a low third-round pick last Saturday. Key contributors such as receiver Deion Branch, defensive end Jarvis Green, tackle Matt Light and cornerback Asante Samuel all came at pick 48 or later. But Belichick knows how to find first-round stars, too, including 2008 defensive rookie of the year Jerod Mayo and Pro Bowlers Logan Mankins, Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork.

• Best pick: Tom Brady— The Patriots admit they got lucky finding him in the sixth round in 2000, but at least they were smarter than the 30 other teams that also passed on him multiple times. Probably the best value pick in the history of the NFL.

• Worst pick: Chad Jackson— The 36th pick of the 2006 draft only caught 13 passes for New England.

1B. Scott Pioli, GM, Kansas City Chiefs— He and Belichick are essentially inextricable when it comes to New England's ascendancy. It's too early to assess Pioli's tenure in K.C., though last weekend's haul looks to be among the best of the spring. But the Patriots' success on the personnel side is just as much a credit to Pioli's eye for talent as Belichick's. And the litany of players they plucked from college aside, Pioli and Belichick were masters of using picks as currency for established stars with depressed value (Corey Dillon, Randy Moss) and gems other teams didn't appreciate (Wes Welker). After a recent spotty draft record, the Chiefs were in desperate need of a draft craftsman like Pioli.

• Best pick: Matt Cassel— He barely played at USC, but Pioli took a flier on him in the seventh round of the 2005 draft anyway. Cassel proved in 2008 he can play at a Pro Bowl level, something Pioli is banking he will do for the Chiefs.

• Worst pick: Laurence Maroney— The 2006 first-rounder has never rushed for as many as 900 yards and probably never will for the Patriots, who have opted not to make him a featured back.

3. Bill Polian, president, Indianapolis Colts— He constructed a four-time Super Bowl team in Buffalo and nearly got the Panthers that far in just their second season of existence (1996). But Polian has outdone himself by sustaining the Colts as an AFC power since he joined the team in 1998. Indianapolis' 115 regular-season wins over the last 10 years are the best for any decade in NFL history. The team hasn't failed to win at least 12 games since 2002. It's quite a testament to Polian in an NFL epoch where it's nearly impossible to stay near the top for such a protracted period. He masterfully manipulates the draft, finding a near-perfect mixture of cornerstones and players that restock the team's more perishable needs. And given the lack of trades (though swapping out Marshall Faulk to draft Edgerrin James was a notable one in 1999) and splashy free-agent signings Indy makes, it's Polian's draft acumen that seems perhaps the biggest reason for the franchise's winning ways.

• Best pick: Peyton Manning— It wasn't as much of a no-brainer in 1998 when many argued that Ryan Leaf had more potential. Polian obviously made the right call on the man who could go down as the greatest passer ever.

• Worst pick: Tony Ugoh— Polian sent his 2008 first-rounder to the San Francisco 49ers to move up in Round 2 of the 2007 draft to get Ugoh, who was supposed to be the long-term replacement for left tackle Tarik Glenn. But Ugoh has fallen out of favor and only started four games last season after losing his job.

4. Ozzie Newsome, GM/executive vice president, Baltimore Ravens— In the Ravens' first-ever draft in 1996, he took offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden and linebacker Ray Lewis, two near sure-fire Hall of Famers. Newsome has continued to be one of the league's savviest talent evaluators, finding stars in the first round (Joe Flacco, Jamal Lewis, Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs among them) and front-line contributors as late as the sixth round (Derek Anderson, Chester Taylor and Adalius Thomas). He even secured Ogden's replacement at left tackle, Jared Gaither, in the fifth round of the 2007 supplemental draft. Newsome was the architect of Baltimore's 2000 Super Bowl team and consistently has the franchise in playoff contention year in and year out.

• Best pick: Ray Lewis — He's been the face of the franchise since the Ravens arrived in Baltimore.

• Worst pick: Kyle Boller— Newsome traded back into the first round of the 2003 draft (he'd already picked Suggs) to add Boller, who was supposed to the long-term answer at quarterback the Ravens have struggled to find. Boller wasn't.

5. Kevin Colbert, director of football operations, Pittsburgh Steelers— His moves (especially in tandem with former coach Bill Cowher) have been a huge factor in the Steelers' two titles since 2005. He's quietly done a first-rate job in the first round over the last decade, importing Plaxico Burress (2000), Casey Hampton (2001), Troy Polamalu (2003), Ben Roethlisberger (2004), Heath Miller (2005) and Santonio Holmes (2006). Of course the recent character concerns regarding Roethlisberger and Holmes — who hooked up for the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII— have taken some of the luster off those choices. Colbert has also had trouble finding studs in Round 2, LaMarr Woodley being the notable exception.

• Best pick: Polamalu— His value was never more apparent than 2009 when the historically stout defense sagged badly without him. Probably the most versatile safety in the game today, and few are as effective in run support, coverage and rushing the passer. Colbert traded up 11 spots to No. 16 to get Polamalu.

• Worst pick: Alonzo Jackson— A linebacker taken the round after Polamalu, Jackson had just eight tackles in two seasons before getting his pink slip.

6. A.J. Smith, GM/executive vice president, San Diego Chargers— Smith's roster has been widely lauded for years as the NFL's most talented, though it has yet to justify the compliment with the franchise's first Super Bowl victory. Smith's most famous move came at the top of the 2004 draft when he took Eli Manning No. 1 overall despite the protests of the Manning family. Smith didn't waste much time dealing with the New York Giants, parlaying Manning into Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman, Nate Kaeding and Roman Oben when all was said and done. Less known, Smith also picked up Nick Hardwick (third round), Shaun Phillips (fourth) and Michael Turner (fifth) in that draft. His first four picks in 2005 were Merriman, Luis Castillo, Vincent Jackson and Darren Sproles. Still, it hasn't entirely jelled for the Chargers, and Smith hasn't picked an impact player since 2006.

• Best pick: Antonio Gates— Smith didn't even draft the future star in 2003 but signed him off the street. The rest is history, including the part where every team scouts the college hardwood looking for tight end projects.

• Worst pick: Craig "Buster" Davis— With 30 catches in three seasons, the 2007 first-rounder looks like an unqualified misfire. The jury is also out on 2007 second-rounder Eric Weddle. Smith moved up 25 spots in Round 2 that year at the cost of his own second-rounder, two third-rounders and a fifth. Weddle's eye-popping athleticism hasn't translated to eye-popping play, though.

7. Andy Reid, head coach, executive vice president of football operation, Philadelphia Eagles— The boo-birds in Philly will be quick to point out that Reid's been on the job for 11 years and has yet to end their championship drought … they'll also probably express dissatisfaction with some of his pass-biased playcalling. But Reid's a very good coach and very good executive, and despite the lack of a Lombardi, he's turned the Eagles into the class of the NFC over the last decade. So his moves in the personnel department deserve some praise. The Philly faithful might still be bridling, but picking Donovan McNabb over Ricky Williams in 1999 was the right choice. And if you look at Reid's draft history, you'll find several players that went on to start for other teams (Bobbie Williams, Raheem Brock) even though they didn't stick with the Eagles.

• Best pick: Brian Westbrook— The 2002 third-rounder arguably carved himself a niche as the best back in Philadelphia history not named Van Buren. Runner-up: Trent Cole— The Pro Bowl defensive end was mined in Round 5 in 2005.

• Worst pick: Freddie Mitchell— Reid has had problems developing receivers (a malady that may be cured by DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin). But Mitchell was the most notorious bust, especially since he acted like such a boomer. Runner-up: Jerome McDougle— Reid loves to draft linemen high, but this is one he should've passed on.

8. Jerry Reese, GM/senior vice president, New York Giants— He was on the job during the 2007 season when the Giants won the Super Bowl, but his predecessor, Ernie Accorsi, was largely responsible for the construction of that team. However seven of the eight players Reese picked in the 2007 draft were major contributors, including seventh-rounder Ahmad Bradshaw. Perhaps one of Accorsi's best decisions was getting Reese on his staff in the first place.

• Best pick: Steve Smith— With more playing time, Bradshaw may emerge as Reese's top steal. But for now, the honor goes to Smith after the 51st pick of the 2007 draft led the NFC in receptions (107) in 2009.

• Worst pick: Kenny Phillips— Reese hasn't really made a pick that can be considered poor to this point and tagging Phillips with this label is admittedly premature (and, frankly, unfair). But given the season-ending knee surgery he had last year and all the safeties (Antrel Rolle, Deon Grant, Chad Jones) Reese has stockpiled since, it no longer seems certain Phillips will reach the stardom predicted for him.

9. Mickey Loomis, GM/executive vice president, New Orleans Saints— He cracks the top 10 for building a Super Bowl champion; he barely cracks it because the Saints have only been a playoff team twice in Loomis' eight-year run. Save 2006, none of Loomis' drafts have been anything out of the ordinary. But his 2006 crop netted Reggie Bush, Roman Harper, Jahri Evans and Marques Colston, all starters for the Super Bowl team with fourth-rounder Evans earning all-pro honors at guard. However Bush does remain a focus of debate — a supremely gifted athlete with game-breaking skills, but hardly the 21st-century version of Gale Sayers most expected he'd be with the No. 2 pick. Loomis' most fateful off-field moves also occurred in 2006 with the hiring of coach Sean Payton and his willingness to take a chance on then-damaged quarterback Drew Brees.

• Best pick: Colston— The seventh-rounder has been a 1,000-yard receiver in each of the three seasons he's been healthy.

• Worst pick: Johnathan Sullivan— The sixth pick of the 2003 draft was quietly one of the bigger busts in recent memory. The defensive tackle made little impact before the Saints gave up on him following the 2005 campaign.

10. Mike Tannenbaum, GM/executive vice president, New York Jets— Tannenbaum just completed his fifth draft, and he again employed his signature move: trading up for players he wanted (tailback Joe McKnight and fullback John Conner this spring) at the expense of low-round selections. Tannenbaum's first draft brought Pro Bowlers D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold in the first round. The next year, he shot up the board in the first round for all-pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and in the second for emerging linebacker David Harris. In 2008, "Mr. T" took linebacker Vernon Gholston with the sixth pick, then dealt back into Round 1 to get tight end Dustin Keller. The coup de grace may have come last year when Tannenbaum paid a relatively low price to jump up for Mark Sanchez at the No. 5 spot before securing the first selection of the third round to get big back Shonn Greene. The Jets typically have among the fewest draftees annually, but they almost always haul in quality at the expense of quantity.

• Best pick: Revis— He appears to be well worth the first-, second- and fifth-round choices the Jets gave up for him now that he's widely recognized as the game's best cover corner.

• Worst pick: Gholston— He's hoping a move to defensive end can salvage his heretofore unproductive career.

11. Marty Hurney, GM, Carolina Panthers— The team's performance in 2010 will likely determine if Hurney gets to run a 10th draft in 2011. By choosing Julius Peppers and Jordan Gross atop his first two drafts, Hurney helped a franchise emerge from a 1-15 season in 2001 into NFC champions just two years later. Hurney's last four first-round picks (DeAngelo Williams, Jon Beason, Jonathan Stewart and Jeff Otah) all appear to be cornerstones of the team's foundation going forward, though it must be noted he hasn't picked in Round 1 since 2008. Hurney should be credited for acquiring the unknown Jake Delhomme in 2003, but the fact that he never found a franchise quarterback to groom behind Delhomme — perhaps until getting Jimmy Clausen last week — could prove to be his downfall. Finding a complement to receiver Steve Smith has also been a tricky bugaboo.

• Best pick: Peppers— Yes, he had his warts, but the No. 2 pick of the 2002 draft is probably the greatest player in franchise history to date.

• Worst pick: Dwayne Jarrett— He slid during the 2007 draft, and Hurney should have let him slide past at pick 45. The former USC star has manged just 33 receptions in the pros and has often been inactive on game day.

12. Ted Thompson, GM/executive vice president/director of football operations, Green Bay Packers— Fairly or not, he'll probably be forever judged by his first pick with the Packers, 2005 first-rounder Aaron Rodgers. Thompson cut the cord with legendary Brett Favre in 2008, a move some considered ruthless, calculating and self-serving. Others deemed it prudent, necessary and forward-thinking. Rodgers has played like a Pro Bowler since taking over for No. 4, and if the talent around him coalesces, history could very well cast an approving eye on Thompson, especially if he keeps drafting players like Clay Matthews and getting talents like Ryan Grant for sixth-round picks.

• Best pick: Greg Jennings— The 52nd pick of the 2006 draft quickly became a productive player, hauling in 25 TDs over the past three seasons. Of course Rodgers, who famously lasted until pick 24 in 2005, seems ready to supplant Jennings soon.

• Worst pick: Justin Harrell— Thompson took a chance on a player with an injury history at Tennessee, and unfortunately that's spilled over into the NFL. The 16th pick of 2007 has played sparingly, recording just 18 tackles and zero sacks in his 13-game career.

13. Jerry Jones, owner/president/GM, Dallas Cowboys— He had his rough patches after divorcing coach Jimmy Johnson following the 1993 season. Shante Carver was the first first-round pick of the post-Johnson era (though Jones did get Larry Allen in Round 2). But after a series of less-than-lackluster years — aside from the Greg Ellis/Flozell Adams crop in 1998 — Jones started hitting his stride in 2002 (Roy Williams, Andre Gurode). In 2005, he brought in DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Marion Barber, Chris Canty and Jay Ratliff. He got five more studs in 2008: Felix Jones, Mike Jenkins, Martellus Bennett, Tashard Choice and Orlando Scandrick. As Jerry would tell you, it's not how you start — it's how you finish.

• Best pick: Jason Witten— This helped erase the memory of taking tight end David LaFleur at No. 22 in 1997. A third-round pick in 2003, Witten was the best tight end in the NFC over the past decade. Of course, signing Tony Romo as an undrafted free agent may ultimately be the move that defines this era of Cowboys football.

• Worst pick: Quincy Carter— A second-round pick in 2001, Carter was just one of Jones' many misguided efforts (Ryan Leaf, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson) to replace Troy Aikman. Thank the (blue) stars for Romo.

14. Rod Graves, GM, Arizona Cardinals— It took him a while, but after getting the keys to the Cards in 2003, Graves has had the franchise in the playoffs the past two seasons (the franchise has had consecutive postseason appearances only two other times in its 90-year history). Armed with two first-round picks in 2003, Graves failed to get future stars in Bryant Johnson and Calvin Pace, but he recovered with Anquan Boldin in Round 2, Gerald Hayes in Round 3 and Reggie Wells in Round 6. Graves' next draft brought in Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett and Antonio Smith, all key cogs in the organization's first Super Bowl run in 2008. Graves' subsequent drafts haven't been nearly as successful, though he did find major contributors in the fifth round with Steve Breaston (2007) and Tim Hightower (2008).

• Best pick: Boldin— A case can easily be made for Fitzgerald and Dockett, too, but Boldin (who was traded this offseason) brought the best mixture of production (three Pro Bowls, five 1,000-yard seasons), value (54th pick) and an on-field attitude that helped finally turn the team around.

• Worst pick: Matt Leinart— He's still got time to shake this tag, but Graves was expecting a franchise quarterback when he drafted the former Heisman Trophy winner 10th overall in 2006. If Leinart doesn't maximize his opportunity in Year 5, he probably never will, at least not in the desert.

15. Rick Spielman, vice president of player personnel, Minnesota Vikings— Spielman's draft record with the Miami Dolphins early in the decade isn't all that impressive, but he's picked up the pace in Minnesota. His first Vikings draft in 2007 produced Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice. But after a mixed bag in 2008, Spielman hit it big in 2009 when all five of his selections started at some point in the season. Phil Loadholt looks like the answer at right tackle for some time, while 2009 offensive rookie of the year Percy Harvin instantly emerged as a weapon by finding chemistry with Brett Favre.

• Best pick: Peterson— With 1,200-yard rusher Chester Taylor on the roster, Spielman didn't need to take Peterson. But he wisely took the best player available with the seventh overall pick. The rest could be history.

• Worst pick: Marcus McCauley— A third-rounder in 2007, the cornerback was gone after two seasons.

16. Mike Reinfeldt, GM/executive vice president, Tennessee Titans— He just completed his fourth draft in Nashville for a franchise that seems to be on the cusp of contention. He's made some curious picks at times but isn't afraid to adhere to his convictions while flouting conventional wisdom. Taking largely unknown Winston-Salem State defensive end William Hayes in the fourth round of the 2008 draft is a perfect example. Hayes is now a starter.

• Best pick: Chris Johnson— Draft analysts assumed Reinfeldt would fill what seemed to be the team's obvious need at wideout. Instead, he took Johnson, the speedy back who'd plied his trade fairly anonymously at East Carolina. Reinfeldt hit a home run by picking this home-run hitter, arguably now the game's most dangerous back.

• Worst pick: Chris Henry— Johnson absolved Reinfeldt of this second-round pick in the previous draft. Henry had sprinter's speed like Johnson, but it never translated to the NFL field as he lacked Johnson's football instincts.

17. Rick Smith, GM, Houston Texans— Smith took over just weeks after Charley Casserly put together the greatest draft in the franchise's history in 2006, reeling in future Pro Bowlers Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans and Owen Daniels. Smith hasn't had that kind of draft day success yet … though in fairness, it's very early in his tenure. And he did sacrifice two second-rounders in 2007 to get quarterback Matt Schaub, a move that looks quite crafty in hindsight.

• Best pick: Brian Cushing— The 2009 first-round linebacker is off to a great start with defensive rookie of the year honors a nice feather in his cap. Steve Slaton, a third-rounder two years ago, also debuted strongly before injuries ruined his 2009 season.

• Worst pick: Amobi Okoye— The defensive tackle will be 23 this season, so the 2007 first-rounder still has time to grow into his body, role and expectations.

18. Jerry Angelo, GM, Chicago Bears— OK, the Bears have reached one Super Bowl during his reign. But they've also been wildly inconsistent, and Angelo's spotty draft record is a factor. Angelo was named to his post after the Bears took David Terrell with the eighth pick in 2001. But his first-round picks include Michael Haynes (2003), Rex Grossman (2003) and Cedric Benson (2005); he traded away Round 1 selections in 2006, 2009 and 2010. Tommie Harris (2004) has been the only first-round star Angelo has secured, but even he hasn't been very productive in recent years as questions abound about his attitude and knees. Greg Olsen came atop the 2007 draft and has been solid, but the other eight players from that class collectively gave Chicago almost nothing. Give Angelo credit for taking Devin Hester, a player without a position coming out of Miami, in the second round of 2006 and letting Chicago's coaches harness Hester's talents.

• Best pick: Lance Briggs— The 2003 third-rounder has been named to the past five Pro Bowls.

• Worst pick: Benson— Missing at No. 4 is a real setback to a franchise, and Angelo missed badly on Benson, who's resurrected his career in Cincinnati. Haynes, a defensive end who came off the board 14th in 2003, had 5.5 sacks in three seasons with the Bears.

19. Al Davis, owner, Oakland Raiders— He's overseen a franchise that's become a source of ridicule in recent years, largely because of the anemic drafts Davis has presided over. Davis has also been the overlord of three Super Bowl champions, but his ranking here is a reflection of the Raiders' recent misery and a title drought that's exceeded a quarter-century. There's no forgetting some of the Hall of Famers the Raiders have found off the beaten path, men like Howie Long, Art Shell and Gene Upshaw. Davis also stole first-round talents like Bo Jackson (seventh round) and Raghib Ismail (fourth round) when other teams were taking players who'd never leave a footprint in the NFL. And right or wrong, he was the man with the guts to take punter Ray Guy (1973) and kicker Sebastian Janikowski (2000) in Round 1. Davis' 2010 draft appears to be his best of the century and could help get the organization back on the track to relevance.

• Best pick: Rod Martin— The linebacker played a dozen years for the Raiders after coming off the board in the 12th round of the 1977 draft. His three interceptions in Super Bowl XV should have earned him game MVP honors.

• Worst pick: JaMarcus Russell— The top pick of the 2007 draft "grows" ever closer to being the biggest draft bust of all time.

20. Mike Brown, owner, Cincinnati Bengals— It hasn't been pretty since Brown took over the franchise in 1991 after his father, the legendary Paul Brown, passed away. Though they're the reigning AFC North champs, last year's playoff push was only the Bengals' second during Brown's 19-year stewardship. Their last postseason victory came in 1990. Among Mike Brown's legendary first-round whiffs: David Klingler (1992), John Copeland (1993), Ki-Jana Carter (1995, though injuries scuttled his career from Day 1), Reinard Wilson (1997), Akili Smith (1999), Peter Warrick (2000), Chris Perry (2004) and David Pollack (2005, another injury case). The cast of characters with questionable character has also repeatedly burned Brown and the franchise. But it must be noted that last year's division crown is largely due to better drafts in recent years, and the Stripes might finally consistently contend for a few years.

• Best pick: T.J. Houshmandzadeh— The 2001 seventh-rounder averaged 89 catches per year over his last five seasons in Cincinnati. For all of his misses, Brown consistently finds topflight wideouts after Round 1 (Carl Pickens, Darnay Scott, Chad Ochocinco).

• Worst pick: Smith— The No. 3 pick of the 1999 draft was one of the biggest busts ever, losing 14 of his 17 starts with a career QB rating of 52.8. Of course that performance helped the Bengals into position to get Carson Palmer first overall in 2003.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football ... ives_N.htm (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/2010-04-29-nfl-executives_N.htm)

05-01-2010, 10:17 AM
Interesting read H.S.

I've had my disappointments with Colbert as I think we all have. But was distinguishes him from all these other GMs is that while they've all 'busted,' Colbert doesn't do it in the first round. That said, rounds 2-4 are also critical in building depth and grooming future starters so I would have liked to have seen some of that info as well.

05-01-2010, 11:26 AM
I think Ozzie Newsome is a great GM. I think they had a great draft. He has done very well restocking that team in the last 3 years. If Newsome wasn't so terrible at drafting WRs, I'd put him at #1 or #2.

05-01-2010, 01:34 PM
I stop reading when they has BB ranked over Ozzie, Piola and Colbert. Bill trades all his picks every year and still end up with nothing. The last 4 years name me a player that he drafted that have made any kind of impact. Mayo and Merriweather are both overrated players, although i do give him credit for stealing Moss and Wes W.

05-03-2010, 04:30 PM
Evaluating the Pittsburgh Steelers 2007 Draft Class
by BluegrassSteeler on May 3, 2010 12:27 PM EDT 22 comments

(The Crown Jewels of the Steelers 2007 Draft Class)

So, with some unexpected free time over the last few days, I've been working my way through draft evaluations. Most note that what they're doing is really provisional; it's difficult to tell how a team has really done since, of course, nobody has actually played a down for their team. In fact, they'll note, it's really a bad idea to evaluate a draft right after...or a year after...or even two years after. Rather, they tell you that you really need three full seasons in order to evaluate a draft class.

With that in mind I want to offer a brief analysis of the Steelers' famed 2007 draft. I say famed because almost all of the players - except for 5th round pick Ryan McBean and 7th round pick Dallas Baker - remain on the team and are headed into their 4th season. In contrast, it's looking like the 2008 draft will go down as one of the weakest in recent Steelers' history with only Rashard Mendenhall cracking the starting lineup heading into their 3rd season.

What I want to do below then is to offer a brief evaluation of each player as well as what players might have been taken instead. Finally, I'll offer a grade for each pick. Keep in mind that the grade of the pick will be weighted to the round in which they were drafted - the theory being that we should naturally expect less from someone who was taken later and just less pro-ready than players taken before. So, even though William Gay has man detractors - including me - he receives a good grade because he's been a very productive player for a very late 5th round selection.

Sit back. Read. And, as always, feel free to disagree. Especially in hilarious ways.

1) Lawrence Timmons (1st Round: 15th overall)

Evaluation: Many folks remain ambivalent on the Steelers inside linebacker and first draft selection of the Mike Tomlin era. I'm not one of them. Timmons played on the outside at Florida State and was slowly transitioned into the inside in the Steelers' particular version of the 3-4. Timmons' spend his first year in the black and gold as a redshirt rookie who contributed, however meagerly, on special teams. In his second year he relieved Larry Foote on 3rd downs and was a force to be reckoned with: Timmons played in all 16 games recording 65 tackles (22 solo), 5 sacks, 3 passes defended, and an interception (which was half a yard short of being a pick-six). This is really incredible production from a guy that was, at the time at least, a situational linebacker. Keep in mind that Larry Foote recorded 63 tackles (34 solo), 1.5 sacks, and 3 passes defended (with no interceptions) as a starter.

Timmons became a starter in 2009 and despite missing two games (and being limited in a 3rd), he recorded 78 tackles (58 solo), 7 sacks, and 4 passes defended. As his sack total indicates, Timmons is a great blitzer who has the speed to fake a drop back and suddenly blow by a defender before he knows what's happened. In two seasons (only one of which he started), Timmons has recorded 12 sacks; since 2002 Larry Foote has recorded 16.5 and in 13 seasons James Farrior has recorded 27.5. Baring injuries, Timmons should surpass Foote's sack total this season and Farrior's career total in the next two to three seasons. With so many defenses worried about Woodley and Harrison from the edge, LeBeau has taken advantage by effectively bringing Timmons from a variety of different directions. Timmons has become the dynamic playmaker in the middle of the field that the Steelers have lacked over the last few years with the graceful decline of team leader James Farrior.

There are, of course, criticisms. Some assert that Timmons suffers against the run. Obviously, given his build Timmons has struggled at times to stone runners at the line of scrimmage or, at least, has struggled more than Larry Foote. However, Timmons is not poor against the run - he just doesn't excel against the run as he does against the pass.

In my mind, Timmons is the prototype for future ILB's in the Tomlin era. Rather than drafting bigger, heavier ILB's who are great against the run but suffer against the pass (as Cowher preferred), Tomlin prefers lighter, quicker ILB's who give a little more against the run, but are much more dangerous on passing downs (and every down is quickly becoming a passing down in the NFL). Some think Timmons would be better suited as an OLB in the 3-4. I disagree; he's perfectly suited to be the kind of fast-twitch run-and-hit backer that will come to be identified with the Tomlin era. Timmons is also only 23 and has not hit his ceiling yet (Tomlin seems to have a preference for drafting younger underclassman he can mold over older players that may have developed some bad habits).

Despite the love I've shown Timmons here, question marks remain: He does need to develop better instincts against the run (reading his keys to determine where the runner is headed), he needs to prove that he can stay healthy for an entire season as a starter, and he needs to show a better mastery of the LeBeau's scheme (he looked lost at times over the season). However, I have confidence that Timmons will remain a stalwart of the Steelers defense for several more years.


Still on the Board: Leon Hall, Michael Griffin, Jon Beason, Ben Grubbs, Joe Staley

2) LaMarr Woodley (2nd Round: 46th overall)

Evaluation: What can I say about Woodley? He is a beast. While at Michigan students would wear shirts that read, "Guns don't kill people. LaMarr Woodley kills people." Over the last three years nothing much has changed.

He's wildly recognized to be the steal of the 2007 NFL Draft and he's the standard against which future 3-4 OLB converts are now judged against (If I had a dollar for every time I heard Brandon Graham described as a "LaMarr Woodley clone". In three seasons (not including playoff appearances) Woodley has posted 29 sacks...let me write that again, 29 sacks! Keep in mind that he did not start until his second season, yet posted 4 sacks as a backup to Clark Haggins in the 2007 season. The utter dominance of the 2008 version of the Steel Curtain was due, in part at least, to the emergence of Woodley as a pass rushing machine that allowed a rather suspect Steelers secondary to look Pro Bowl worthy (Note: Troy should not be included in the "suspect secondary". I move that he receive a separate designation).

Woodley is great against the run. He's a great pass rusher. He's a very good coverage OLB. The surprise isn't that Woodley went to the Pro Bowl in his third season (second as starter). The surprise is that Woodley didn't go to the Pro Bowl in his second season (first as starter). It's hoped that Woodley will join his draft cohort Lawrence Timmons as a part of an incredible Steelers LB corps for a long, long time. It's my opinion that if a 2007 redraft were to occur, Woodley would be a Top-10 pick. He's incredible value at 42nd overall.


Still on the Board: Doesn't Matter

3) Matt Spaeth (3rd Round: 77th overall)

Evaluation: Matt Spaeth has received a lot of heat over the last two seasons and much of it has been deserved. Spaeth is a terrible goal line blocker who almost singlehandedly derailed the Steelers 2008 Super Bowl run by consistently blowing assignments and allow his RB's to be tackled behind the line of scrimmage. On the other hand, Spaeth has filled in admirably for Heath Miller when he has been sidelined due to injury. While Spaeth lacks the after the catch ability of Miller, he has good hands and manages to use his superior size to create mismatches in coverage.

That being said, even if looked at as a receiving TE, Spaeth has under produced. In three seasons Spaeth has managed a grand total of 27 receptions for 195 yards and 4 touchdowns. Since three of those touchdowns occurred during his first season, Spaeth has only managed 1 touchdown reception in the last two years. This is simply inexcusable for a guy who's 6'7" and 270 pounds. As a blocking Spaeth is simply a failure; as a pass catching TE Spaeth is either criminally underused or simply incapable of being much of a factor in the NFL.

I tend to think the case is that he's criminally underused (or simply misused). He's miscast as a blocking TE and in Arians' two-TE offense is basically invisible on passing downs. I don't know whether he simply cannot beat coverage or for whatever reason Ben never looks his way. Regardless, he's certainly been a disappointment. While Spaeth remains a valuable backup to Heath Miller - his most productive season was 2008 when Miller was out for injury for a few games - he has simply not lived up to the standard a 3rd round pick should. That is, he has not become a starter or challenged for a starting spot in the offense.

I will be very surprised if Spaeth receives a long-term contract from the Steelers. The saving grace is that teams haven't gotten a whole of production from 3rd round players below Spaeth. In general, he's failed to produce, but that's no different than many members of his 3rd round draft class.


Still on the Board: Mike Sims-Walker, Mario Henderson, Aaron Rouse

4) Daniel Sepulveda (4th Round: 112th overall)

Evaluation: It's always difficult to evaluate special teams players taken in the middle rounds of the draft. This is especially true with punters. If you draft a kicker in the middle rounds at least you can judge them by field goal percentage, the length of kickoff's, how well they kick under pressure, etc. With punters, however, there's no such measurement. Even if we consider Sepulveda's average punt (42.5 yards per punt) or net punting average (37.4 per punt) we can't get a clear picture since oftentimes you don't want a punter to boom it, but rather to place in nicely inside the twenty. To this end, Sepulveda has knocked 57 within the 20-yard line. However, even this stat is incomplete; how many times did Sepulveda fail to place it there when he really should have?

Obviously, the Steelers got a three-year starter with a 4th round pick and this is great value. However, that player was a punter...a punter they traded up for. So, again wouldn't it be a huge upset or failure if Sepulveda wasn't the starter from day one?

Now, you might argue that Sepulveda was well worth his draft status given how badly the punting game suffered in 2008 when he was injured. But did it? The immortal Mitch Berger averaged 42.3 yards per punt with a 36.4 net punt average for the Steelers in 2008. He also landed 19 punts inside the twenty. That means, that Sepulveda averaged about .2 yards more per punt, 1 yard more net average, and (taking Sepulveda's 2009 number of 29) 10 more punts within the 20. Is that worth a 4th round pick? Obviously Sepulveda exhibits more talent in placing the ball inside the 20 (which is vital to field position), but is this worth what it cost to get him? Sepulveda is an active tackler on special teams and this has led the Steelers' punt coverage to, in general, be more reliable than the kickoff coverage.

Even after all of this I'm not sure whether Sepulveda was really worth the pick (and the picks that the Steelers used to trade up and land him). I think he's a better than average NFL punter, but by no means elite. In the end, I'll split the difference.


Still on the Board: Le'Ron McClain, Jermon Bushrod, Doug Free

5) Ryan McBean (5th Round: 132nd overall)

Evaluation: I can still remember being excited when the Steelers drafted McBean. John Mitchell - world class DL developmental wizard - had managed to make mid-and and late- round talents into starters as well as making a perennial Pro Bowler out of Casey Hampton. Even in 2007 everyone was well aware that the Steelers' defensive line was getting old and had little in the way of promising young talent. Many of us thought McBean signaled the beginning of a whole new generation of Steelers' DE's. Of course, we were wrong - Ziggy Hood and Sunny Harris are much more likely to be part of the new wave of Steelers' DL.

McBean never really stuck. He hung around during the 2007 season as part of a rotation that attempted to fill the void upfront after Aaron Smith went down due to injury, but had obviously lost the confidence of the coaching staff. Eventually he would emerge as a starter for the Broncos in 2008, although it's unclear whether or not he'll continue that role in 2009. From what I've heard the issues with McBean were mental - he never knew what he was doing on any given play. Schematically Denver's defense is much less complex than the Steelers, a fact that may go a long way in explaining McBean's success there.

In general, McBean exemplifies the type of pick that has hurt Colbert's drafts in the middle rounds: A boom or bust, high-upside guy who ultimately didn't show the coaching staff enough to warrant a long-term investment. Getting only a partial season from a 4th round draft pick has to be seen as something of a failure. A player drafted in the 4th round ought to warrant at least two years on the roster and push for a role in special teams if not an outright job as a primary backup. In the end, the Steelers got virtually nothing from McBean.

This pick remains perhaps a little infamous because the Baltimore Ravens drafted Pro Bowl RB/FB Le'Ron McClain four spots after the Steelers drafted McBean.


Still on the Board: Le'Ron McClain, Steve Breaston, Kolby Smith

6) William Gay (5th Round: 170th overall)

Evaluation: Before you flame me for giving the William Gay pick a good grade understand this: To get a good nickel-corner in the 5th round with a comp pick is simply great value.

William Gay is not a starting corner in the NFL. If he were this would go down as one of the great picks in Kevin Colbert's tenure. However, even as a good nickel corner who provides good depth and can be decent in rotation (as he was in 2008), spending a 5th round comp pick on William Gay is only one of the better decisions of the Colbert era. If you add in his contributions on kicker coverage units, I think you can begin to see why he was well worth this pick.

Gay is slow and small. However, he possesses decent ball skills, is willing in run support, and can be effective when taken out of man coverage and asked to play back in deep zone coverage (where his lack of speed is not such a liability). I would be amiss if I didn't mention William Gay's toughness. He's taken a lot of heat for getting trampled by Adrian Peterson in 2009 - some have said (probably correctly) that Gay getting trucked by Peterson will go on AD's Hall of Fame highlight reel. However, what many fail to mention is that there aren't many corners out there that would ever try to do anything but ankle tackle Peterson. The very fact that Gay attempted to actually tackle Peterson head on is a testement to his toughness he brings to the corner position. Of course, in retrospect he should have gone for the ankle tackle, but you get the idea. To get that kind of production from a 5th round comp pick is really good value.

Also, there wasn't a whole lot left on the board at this point. Thus it seems like Colbert managed to get the best player remaining. The fact that William Gay is not a starter, but only a valuable piece of the corner rotation doesn't detract from the grade of this pick.


Still on the Board: Nick Folk, Kasey Studdard, Ben Patrick, Tyler Thigpen

7) Dallas Baker (7th Round: 227th overall)

Evaluation: You can't expect much from a 7th round pick. Outside of a special teams player (punter or kicker) it's very difficult for a 7th rounder to even make the practice squad, much less make a contribution to the 53-man roster. The fact that Dallas Baker made the 53-man roster his 2nd year and actually made a contribution to the team (a single six yard reception) is actually a bit surprising.

Of course, in retrospect there's one player - another WR - that makes the selection of Baker in the 7th look a bit worse in retrospect: The Steelers could have selected Chansi Stuckey who has gone on to record 62 NFL receptions for 677 yards and 5 touchdowns with the Jets and Browns. Of course, this is really exceptional production for a late 7th round pick (especially a skill position player), but you have to wonder if Stuckey wouldn't have developed into a great 3rd or 4th receiver for the Steelers by this point had he been selected.

Still, Dallas Baker is pretty much par for the course here. So, Colbert gets a pretty average score.


Still on the Board: Chansi Stuckey, Jason Snelling, Ahmad Bradshaw, Chinedum Ndukewe

Overall: This has to go down as one of the better drafts of the Colbert era. Of the seven total selections five remain on the team and six remain in the NFL (Dallas Baker never had much of a chance, anyway). Of the five still on the team, three are technically starters (Timmons, Woodley, and Sepulveda) while two others have spent time as starters (in Spaeth's case because of an injury to Heath Miller; Gay was the started for 14 games in 2009 and in the starter rotation in 2008) and have proven to be good backups and spot players (Gay has also shown himself to be a pretty decent gunner in special teams).

As the first draft of the Mike Tomlin era, it certainly showcased Tomlin's schematic preferences from the beginning: Timmons is an athletic, quick-twitch MLB who would never really have fit in on a Cowher team (since Cowher preferred heavier, run stuffing MLB"s like Foote), but he is probably the wave of the future at the position, as the drafting of Stevenson Sylvester further underscores. I tend to think that Tomlin never intended to play Timmons as a 3-4 OLB; he always meant him as a replacement for either James Farrior or Larry Foote.

Woodley, of course, was the steal of the draft. The Steelers have gotten incredible production from him in three seasons for relatively little cash. But fear not Steeler faithful, LaMarr is about to get himself paid. Some have wondered if the Steelers will be able to resign Woodley, but I have to think that they'll figure out some way in which to keep him around until he's 30. Simply put, Woodley is too valuable a piece of Tomlin's defense to let walk in his prime.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with the Steelers 2007 haul. Two starters (one a Pro Bowler) and three valuable backups is pretty much the standard for having a really great draft in the NFL these days. As such, my final grade for the 2007 draft is:


Good: Timmons a good starter; Woodley an absolute steal; three other contributors remain on the team more than three years later

Bad: Spaeth perhaps a reach in the 3rd round; Overpaid for Sepulveda; Missed either in drafting or developing Ryan McBean

http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/20 ... #storyjump (http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2010/5/3/1456008/evaluating-the-pittsburgh-steelers#storyjump)

05-03-2010, 05:22 PM
On a scale of 1 to 10 with 4 being the highest, I give the 2007 draft a 6.

05-03-2010, 06:44 PM
I don't think this is a valid article and I think the facts are mostly wrong. There are numerous posters on this message board who are far better than Colbert and have graded him significantly lower based upon their experience as professional football talent evaluators, capologists and managers.

05-03-2010, 07:12 PM
the 2006 draft provided us with Sanstonio who did catch the winning TD in the Super Bowl and Willie Colon, the best RT in the league (according to Colon's agent) but nothing else.

Steelers 2006 Draft Board

Rd Pick Player Selected School Pos
1 32 Santonio Holmes Ohio St WR
3 19 Anthony Smith Syracuse S
3 31 Willie Reid Florida St WR
4 34 Willie Colon Hofstra OG
4 36 Orien Harris Miami DT
5 31 Omar Jacobs Bowling Green QB
5 34 Charles Davis Purdue TE
6 32 Marvin Philip California C
7 32 Cedric Humes Virginia Tech RB