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Thread: Predicted odds on who the Steelers take at #18

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    Predicted odds on who the Steelers take at #18

    Wexell is absolutely the best of the Steelers' writers. No one else is close. If he says something it has a basis in fact.

    With Steelers turning to the draft, we do too



    By Jim Wexell
    Publisher SteelCityInsider.com
    Posted Mar 16, 2010



    | More

    SCI.com publisher Jim Wexell puts odds on the seven-player pool he believes the Steelers will choose from in the first round of the 2010 draft.

    The Larry Foote signing put a close to the Steelers’ free agency season. Of course, Kevin Colbert said he’ll keep his eyes open, but told reporters that “the focus is going to shift more heavily toward the draft.”
    We can do that. The Foote signing was a final piece of the pre-draft puzzle as we get around to posting odds on the Steelers’ first-round pick.

    From the longshots to the favorite, here’s what my instincts are telling me:

    18-1 – Jared Odrick, DE, Penn State: I watched this guy all year and was captivated by his height, quickness and relentless motor. No, he was not a two-gapper, but I strongly doubt that Aaron Smith was a two-gapper during his days at Northern Colorado. He was taught, and so can Odrick. But the rest of the draft analysts don’t seem to share my enthusiasm on Odrick anyway. And even if Mike Tomlin shows up at Penn State’s Pro Day and shouts out encouragement as he did to Quentin Groves a few years ago, I don’t see a two-man position receiving a second consecutive No. 1 pick, particularly since the Steelers also kept last year’s sixth-round pick, Sunny Harris, and hold him in high regard at the position.

    15-1 – Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida: This is another guy about whom I raved all season, but that was when I thought he was a second-rounder. His stock has risen, and I’m not really sure why. He didn’t have a first-round game against Alabama, and at 304 pounds ran a 5.27 40 at the combine. He’s quick to the second level, but rarely pulled at Florida. A very good player, Pouncey can also play guard, but I only see the Steelers considering him as a member of a pool of late first-rounders in a trade-down. I prefer they wait on Baylor’s J.D. Walton in R2-3 if they’re finally going to put a high priority on the center position.

    12-1 – Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama: What? You say I may as well throw long odds on Eric Berry and C.J. Spiller, too, since the Steelers won’t have a chance to draft them either? Well, I believe there’s a good chance McClain will fall to the Steelers – and that they will pass. Yes, it’s a surprise, particularly since I’ve tooted this guy’s horn all season long. But I’ve also always questioned his motor. It was something I tried to repress because I admire his leadership, intelligence and run-stuffing ability so much. I think I just wanted him to be the perfect replacement for James Farrior. But I’ve been hearing whispers about him lacking speed. At his Pro Day he ran well, and told scouts that he’d been bothered by a hamstring injury since mid-season. So I went back and watched the national title game, and his lack of speed is clear. Texas ran five outside plays that should’ve involved McClain – or any inside linebacker worthy of pick 18. He got to one, only because the flow took him that way and he broke quickly to break up the screen pass. But he was hopelessly outrun on two outside running plays and two bubble screens. It’s a wonder Texas didn’t run outside more often because they were hugely successful. If it was the hamstring, well, that’ll be tough to prove. Throw in his admission of having Crohn’s disease and I see McClain slipping. I also watched Brandon Spikes the other night and would prefer drafting him in the second round to McClain in the first.

    8-1 – Joe Haden, CB, Florida: In watching Spikes, it wasn’t difficult to miss Haden as he broke sharply on short passes and came up hard in run support. He’s a viciously physical cornerback, something the Steelers require. But, is he fast enough? That question arose up after the 193-pounder ran a 4.58 40 at the combine. In taking a closer look at his bowl game, Cincinnati’s receivers twice beat Haden deep. The first time he was fooled on a gadget play and recovered in the nick of time to break up the underthrown pass. On the second, he was clearly beaten but the deep ball was overthrown and incomplete. Certainly it’s a small sampling, but the question remains in my mind, particularly in a draft that’s thick with upper mid-round cornerbacks. While Haden plays a position at which the Steelers have a clear need, and he plays it with Steelers-style toughness, the odds are high because someone may draft him earlier. And if he’s not drafted earlier, it’s possible the Steelers are worrying about his speed as well. (P.S.: The Steelers drafted my 8-1 choice last year.)

    5-1 – Sean Weatherspoon, ILB, Missouri: This guy dropped on the tote board when the Steelers signed Larry Foote the other day. I’d given several reasons why Weatherspoon makes sense for the Steelers, and there’s a good chance he’ll be available at pick 18. But with two solid backups now behind Farrior and Lawrence Timmons, and two just-signed special-teams stars from the CFL behind Foote and Keyaron Fox, it would make little sense to squeeze Weatherspoon onto the roster for future consideration. So, why have him rated so high at 5-1? Well, I can just hear Mike Tomlin telling reporters on draft day that Weatherspoon will start his career as an OLB – a position with a hole on the second-team depth chart – because that’s where he played in college. Yes, Weatherspoon, like Timmons before him, was a 4-3 OLB, but he prefers the middle and that’s where 4-3 OLBs play on 3-4 NFL teams. This thinking would be swallowed whole by the media, as it was when the Steelers tried to tell us that Timmons was an outside linebacker on draft day 2007.

    4-1 – Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho: At the combine, new OL coach Sean Kugler told Iupati he was the Steelers’ No. 1 offensive lineman. And Iupati fits a position of need. He’s a 6-5+, 331-pounder who can not only run better than any other Steelers lineman, he has the frame to add 20 more pounds. He’s a monster and would help the Steelers with their short-yardage game. But Iupati’s shown to be a liability in pass protection. His supporters claim these problems can be fixed, that he’s played too little football and probably hasn’t received much coaching yet. Still, in my mind, a guard at pick 18 should be a sure thing, as Steve Hutchinson was at pick 17 in 2001. But the upside here is too big to ignore, and it’s quite likely he’ll be available when the Steelers take their turn.

    3-1 – Earl Thomas, FS, Texas: Here’s a guy I was willing to ignore because of A.) the depth of the position in the draft, B.) his poor showing against the Alabama run game, and, C.) the fact the Steelers signed two safeties in free agency and already have Troy Polamalu at the position. Then I learned yesterday that the Steelers had scheduled Thomas for a visit on April 8-9. When I searched his numbers for my story, I read an intelligent write-up in which the analyst compared Thomas to Polamalu. Not that I take such media remarks seriously, but when I turned the tape on to re-watch Thomas in the national championship game, the comparison rang true. Sure, Thomas was run over a couple of times by the Alabama RBs. But as I watched him closely, I saw the quick-twitch Polamalu speed as Thomas came up hard to upend Alabama backs on a handful of occasions with shoulder-first dives at their feet. I also watched Thomas stop three breakaway Alabama plays down the sideline with a burst of speed from the middle of the field. I also watched Alabama – seemingly on purpose – avoid throwing at all to anyone covered by Thomas. The three or four deep Alabama passes were all thrown with the other Texas safety over the top. Nick Saban was not about to let Thomas beat him, because, as a redshirt sophomore, Thomas had intercepted a school-record eight passes, 10 in his two-year career. In the title game, he was used as a chess piece in the Polamalu mold: He blitzed, covered slot receivers, played deep center field, played in the box, and on special teams he was used as a jammer and later came off the edge and almost blocked a punt. He’ll play this coming season as a 21-year-old and is nearly the exact size (5-10.2, 20 as Polamalu (5-10.1, 206) when Polamalu came out. Polamalu ran a 4.40 40 at his combine and dipped into the 4.3s at his Pro Day. Thomas ran a 4.48 at the combine and will likely run faster at his Pro Day (March 31). Thomas might also be able to play cornerback, and could in the least replace Deshea Townsend as the Steelers’ nickel back and third safety.

    However, with Thomas’s stock on the rise, and the prototype having been established by Polamalu (no safety shorter than 5-11 had been drafted in the first round for 19 years before Polamalu), it’s unlikely that Thomas will be available at pick 18. The Jacksonville Jaguars, at 10, are becoming the choice landing spot on mock drafts for Thomas, after the safety-deficient Jags addressed their other main weakness by signing pass-rusher Aaron Kampman in free agency.

    But, there’s the possibility of trading up, something Kevin Colbert has done twice. The first time in team history was in 2003, when the Steelers held their breath as the San Diego Chargers, picking 15th with a hole at SS after losing Rodney Harrison, traded down 15 spots to draft a CB named Sammy Davis. The Steelers then moved up 11 spots to draft Polamalu with the 16th pick. It cost them third-round and sixth-round picks, which was less than half of the points required, according to the draft pick value board. If the Steelers can procure a similar deal this year, or even pay a smaller price if the Jaguars pass on Thomas at 10, it’s the move I expect them to make.


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  2. #2
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    Re: Predicted odds on who the Steelers take at #18

    not a bad write up. I think his evaluation of Haden isn't very good. the kid started 3 years at Florida and he only mentions 2 plays? seriously? the kid is worthy of a top ten pick and he rags him for 2 freakin plays!
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    Re: Predicted odds on who the Steelers take at #18

    That's weird, I read an online scouting report of Earl Thomas yesterday that compared him to Polamalu as well. I wonder if it was the same one. Here's the one I found (I appears to have been written back before players committed to the draft, though):

    http://draftboardinsider.com/cgi-bin...ct.cgi?id=1089

    Scouting Report: Thomas has a solid build, lean with a small waist and long limbs. He plays a FS at Texas but is asked to do a little of everything. And trust me, he does it all. Only a redshirt sophomore but his coverage skills are very good. He has great anticipation and does an excellent job of reading and diagnosing the making the big play on the ball. He's one of the most physical safetys in the draft, and has no qualms about sacrificing his body for a play. Some think that he's better suited to play a very physical CB in the NFL, to maximize his coverage skills, and try and keep his body in tact. The only real negatives to Thomas' game are the fact that he plays more physical than his frame will hold and it could shorten his NFL career and that he does at times play a little out of control and forgets his assignments.

    Draft Status: Thomas is only a redshirt sophomore, but if the Longhorns win a national title, there's a real chance he makes the jump to the NFL. If he did, he'd be no worse than the 2nd safety off the board and probably the 3rd defensive back which means he's probably a top 15 pick. For a player so young, but so talented all that can happen at this point is to have his game get picked apart and hurt his stock. He's not going to get any bigger or any faster or any stronger, and his skills set is what it is.

    Final Analysis: Love, love love what Thomas brings to the table. He reminds me a ton of Joe Haden only playing safety. He's got good size for CB, a little undersized for a safety as physical as he is. But he's got great strength both in coverage and in run support, he runs very well, is a great leaper, and has soft hands. He can blitz when asked to, and literally anchors the back 4 of the Longhorn defense. No matter what happens for the Longhorns this year, Thomas would be foolish to return to school when his stock really can't get much higher.

    Reminds me of: Troy Polamalu, S Pittsburgh Steelers-Both a little undersized, super aggressive, and able to do anything on the football field. Thomas can certainly grow into the kind of impact player Polamalu is, given the right scheme and coaching. All the physical tools are there.

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    Re: Predicted odds on who the Steelers take at #18

    Quote Originally Posted by Oviedo
    Wexell is absolutely the best of the Steelers' writers. No one else is close. If he says something it has a basis in fact.

    With Steelers turning to the draft, we do too



    By Jim Wexell
    Publisher SteelCityInsider.com
    Posted Mar 16, 2010



    | More

    SCI.com publisher Jim Wexell puts odds on the seven-player pool he believes the Steelers will choose from in the first round of the 2010 draft.

    The Larry Foote signing put a close to the Steelers’ free agency season. Of course, Kevin Colbert said he’ll keep his eyes open, but told reporters that “the focus is going to shift more heavily toward the draft.”
    We can do that. The Foote signing was a final piece of the pre-draft puzzle as we get around to posting odds on the Steelers’ first-round pick.

    From the longshots to the favorite, here’s what my instincts are telling me:

    18-1 – Jared Odrick, DE, Penn State: I watched this guy all year and was captivated by his height, quickness and relentless motor. No, he was not a two-gapper, but I strongly doubt that Aaron Smith was a two-gapper during his days at Northern Colorado. He was taught, and so can Odrick. But the rest of the draft analysts don’t seem to share my enthusiasm on Odrick anyway. And even if Mike Tomlin shows up at Penn State’s Pro Day and shouts out encouragement as he did to Quentin Groves a few years ago, I don’t see a two-man position receiving a second consecutive No. 1 pick, particularly since the Steelers also kept last year’s sixth-round pick, Sunny Harris, and hold him in high regard at the position.

    15-1 – Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida: This is another guy about whom I raved all season, but that was when I thought he was a second-rounder. His stock has risen, and I’m not really sure why. He didn’t have a first-round game against Alabama, and at 304 pounds ran a 5.27 40 at the combine. He’s quick to the second level, but rarely pulled at Florida. A very good player, Pouncey can also play guard, but I only see the Steelers considering him as a member of a pool of late first-rounders in a trade-down. I prefer they wait on Baylor’s J.D. Walton in R2-3 if they’re finally going to put a high priority on the center position.

    12-1 – Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama: What? You say I may as well throw long odds on Eric Berry and C.J. Spiller, too, since the Steelers won’t have a chance to draft them either? Well, I believe there’s a good chance McClain will fall to the Steelers – and that they will pass. Yes, it’s a surprise, particularly since I’ve tooted this guy’s horn all season long. But I’ve also always questioned his motor. It was something I tried to repress because I admire his leadership, intelligence and run-stuffing ability so much. I think I just wanted him to be the perfect replacement for James Farrior. But I’ve been hearing whispers about him lacking speed. At his Pro Day he ran well, and told scouts that he’d been bothered by a hamstring injury since mid-season. So I went back and watched the national title game, and his lack of speed is clear. Texas ran five outside plays that should’ve involved McClain – or any inside linebacker worthy of pick 18. He got to one, only because the flow took him that way and he broke quickly to break up the screen pass. But he was hopelessly outrun on two outside running plays and two bubble screens. It’s a wonder Texas didn’t run outside more often because they were hugely successful. If it was the hamstring, well, that’ll be tough to prove. Throw in his admission of having Crohn’s disease and I see McClain slipping. I also watched Brandon Spikes the other night and would prefer drafting him in the second round to McClain in the first.

    8-1 – Joe Haden, CB, Florida: In watching Spikes, it wasn’t difficult to miss Haden as he broke sharply on short passes and came up hard in run support. He’s a viciously physical cornerback, something the Steelers require. But, is he fast enough? That question arose up after the 193-pounder ran a 4.58 40 at the combine. In taking a closer look at his bowl game, Cincinnati’s receivers twice beat Haden deep. The first time he was fooled on a gadget play and recovered in the nick of time to break up the underthrown pass. On the second, he was clearly beaten but the deep ball was overthrown and incomplete. Certainly it’s a small sampling, but the question remains in my mind, particularly in a draft that’s thick with upper mid-round cornerbacks. While Haden plays a position at which the Steelers have a clear need, and he plays it with Steelers-style toughness, the odds are high because someone may draft him earlier. And if he’s not drafted earlier, it’s possible the Steelers are worrying about his speed as well. (P.S.: The Steelers drafted my 8-1 choice last year.)

    5-1 – Sean Weatherspoon, ILB, Missouri: This guy dropped on the tote board when the Steelers signed Larry Foote the other day. I’d given several reasons why Weatherspoon makes sense for the Steelers, and there’s a good chance he’ll be available at pick 18. But with two solid backups now behind Farrior and Lawrence Timmons, and two just-signed special-teams stars from the CFL behind Foote and Keyaron Fox, it would make little sense to squeeze Weatherspoon onto the roster for future consideration. So, why have him rated so high at 5-1? Well, I can just hear Mike Tomlin telling reporters on draft day that Weatherspoon will start his career as an OLB – a position with a hole on the second-team depth chart – because that’s where he played in college. Yes, Weatherspoon, like Timmons before him, was a 4-3 OLB, but he prefers the middle and that’s where 4-3 OLBs play on 3-4 NFL teams. This thinking would be swallowed whole by the media, as it was when the Steelers tried to tell us that Timmons was an outside linebacker on draft day 2007.

    4-1 – Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho: At the combine, new OL coach Sean Kugler told Iupati he was the Steelers’ No. 1 offensive lineman. And Iupati fits a position of need. He’s a 6-5+, 331-pounder who can not only run better than any other Steelers lineman, he has the frame to add 20 more pounds. He’s a monster and would help the Steelers with their short-yardage game. But Iupati’s shown to be a liability in pass protection. His supporters claim these problems can be fixed, that he’s played too little football and probably hasn’t received much coaching yet. Still, in my mind, a guard at pick 18 should be a sure thing, as Steve Hutchinson was at pick 17 in 2001. But the upside here is too big to ignore, and it’s quite likely he’ll be available when the Steelers take their turn.

    3-1 – Earl Thomas, FS, Texas: Here’s a guy I was willing to ignore because of A.) the depth of the position in the draft, B.) his poor showing against the Alabama run game, and, C.) the fact the Steelers signed two safeties in free agency and already have Troy Polamalu at the position. Then I learned yesterday that the Steelers had scheduled Thomas for a visit on April 8-9. When I searched his numbers for my story, I read an intelligent write-up in which the analyst compared Thomas to Polamalu. Not that I take such media remarks seriously, but when I turned the tape on to re-watch Thomas in the national championship game, the comparison rang true. Sure, Thomas was run over a couple of times by the Alabama RBs. But as I watched him closely, I saw the quick-twitch Polamalu speed as Thomas came up hard to upend Alabama backs on a handful of occasions with shoulder-first dives at their feet. I also watched Thomas stop three breakaway Alabama plays down the sideline with a burst of speed from the middle of the field. I also watched Alabama – seemingly on purpose – avoid throwing at all to anyone covered by Thomas. The three or four deep Alabama passes were all thrown with the other Texas safety over the top. Nick Saban was not about to let Thomas beat him, because, as a redshirt sophomore, Thomas had intercepted a school-record eight passes, 10 in his two-year career. In the title game, he was used as a chess piece in the Polamalu mold: He blitzed, covered slot receivers, played deep center field, played in the box, and on special teams he was used as a jammer and later came off the edge and almost blocked a punt. He’ll play this coming season as a 21-year-old and is nearly the exact size (5-10.2, 20 as Polamalu (5-10.1, 206) when Polamalu came out. Polamalu ran a 4.40 40 at his combine and dipped into the 4.3s at his Pro Day. Thomas ran a 4.48 at the combine and will likely run faster at his Pro Day (March 31). Thomas might also be able to play cornerback, and could in the least replace Deshea Townsend as the Steelers’ nickel back and third safety.

    However, with Thomas’s stock on the rise, and the prototype having been established by Polamalu (no safety shorter than 5-11 had been drafted in the first round for 19 years before Polamalu), it’s unlikely that Thomas will be available at pick 18. The Jacksonville Jaguars, at 10, are becoming the choice landing spot on mock drafts for Thomas, after the safety-deficient Jags addressed their other main weakness by signing pass-rusher Aaron Kampman in free agency.

    But, there’s the possibility of trading up, something Kevin Colbert has done twice. The first time in team history was in 2003, when the Steelers held their breath as the San Diego Chargers, picking 15th with a hole at SS after losing Rodney Harrison, traded down 15 spots to draft a CB named Sammy Davis. The Steelers then moved up 11 spots to draft Polamalu with the 16th pick. It cost them third-round and sixth-round picks, which was less than half of the points required, according to the draft pick value board. If the Steelers can procure a similar deal this year, or even pay a smaller price if the Jaguars pass on Thomas at 10, it’s the move I expect them to make.


    Great article, thanks for posting. I also have a great respect for what Wexell writes.

    I know Geno Atkins ate Iupati up during the Senior Bowl game, but look at Iupati's 2009 season stats -

    Iupati started all 12 games at left guard, played 807 snaps and had 49 knockdowns and 21 pancake blocks. He did not allow a quarterback sack all season.

    Everyone has a bad game now and then. But if you look at Iupati's larger body of work and give him some coaching, this guy could be a fixture and Pro Bowler at LG for the next 10 years.

  5. #5
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    Re: Predicted odds on who the Steelers take at #18

    With what he says about Iupati, I hope he is more like a 20-1 prospect. I don't want a project lineman who has a problem in college with pass protection. If we had to go OL I'd much rather take Trent Williams. I do like what he says about Thomas and I really think Thomas could start at CB for the Steelers. If Lewis or Burnett step up this year, then we may not have to worry about resigning Ike and we would have a CB duo/trio for the next decade.

    Also, Thomas ran a 4.44 at the combine, so he may go under 4.40 at his Pro Day
    http://walterfootball.com/combine2010S.php

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    Hall of Famer Dee Dub's Avatar
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    Re: Predicted odds on who the Steelers take at #18

    Here's my prediction...

    Steelers will still draft Sean Weatherspoon simply because he will be the highest rated on their board at 18. Then they will cut James Farrior. The signing of Foote enables the Steelers to not rush Weatherspoon.
    Steelers 2014 Draft

    1-Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State
    2-Jordan Matthews WR Vanderbilt
    3-Jordan Tripp ILB/OLB Montana
    4-Christian Jones ILB Florida State
    5-Brent Urban DE Virginia
    5-Michael Schofield OG/OT Michigan
    6-Kadeem Edwards OG Tennessee State
    6-Ben Gardner DE Stanford
    7-Aaron Colvin CB Oklahoma

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    Re: Predicted odds on who the Steelers take at #18

    Quote Originally Posted by Dee Dub
    Here's my prediction...

    Steelers will still draft Sean Weatherspoon simply because he will be the highest rated on their board at 18. Then they will cut James Farrior. The signing of Foote enables the Steelers to not rush Weatherspoon.
    If I'm in the FO...Knowing Foote is on the roster...Seeing Farrior's play down the stretch in 2009...This thought would cross my mind if Weatherspoon is there.



  8. #8
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    Re: Predicted odds on who the Steelers take at #18

    Personally I think Wexell is full of you know what.

    Wexell wrote---

    12-1 – Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama: What? You say I may as well throw long odds on Eric Berry and C.J. Spiller, too, since the Steelers won’t have a chance to draft them either? Well, I believe there’s a good chance McClain will fall to the Steelers – and that they will pass. Yes, it’s a surprise, particularly since I’ve tooted this guy’s horn all season long. But I’ve also always questioned his motor. It was something I tried to repress because I admire his leadership, intelligence and run-stuffing ability so much. I think I just wanted him to be the perfect replacement for James Farrior. But I’ve been hearing whispers about him lacking speed. At his Pro Day he ran well, and told scouts that he’d been bothered by a hamstring injury since mid-season. So I went back and watched the national title game, and his lack of speed is clear. Texas ran five outside plays that should’ve involved McClain – or any inside linebacker worthy of pick 18. He got to one, only because the flow took him that way and he broke quickly to break up the screen pass. But he was hopelessly outrun on two outside running plays and two bubble screens. It’s a wonder Texas didn’t run outside more often because they were hugely successful. If it was the hamstring, well, that’ll be tough to prove. Throw in his admission of having Crohn’s disease and I see McClain slipping. I also watched Brandon Spikes the other night and would prefer drafting him in the second round to McClain in the first. [/quote]

    Question….how do you gauge a players motor? Are you there on the field or watching from a television? Are you at practice? And if you can gauge that why cant you also gauge his playing speed? Yet you saw enough of him all year to toot this players horn? Yeah….that sounds intelligent.
    Steelers 2014 Draft

    1-Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State
    2-Jordan Matthews WR Vanderbilt
    3-Jordan Tripp ILB/OLB Montana
    4-Christian Jones ILB Florida State
    5-Brent Urban DE Virginia
    5-Michael Schofield OG/OT Michigan
    6-Kadeem Edwards OG Tennessee State
    6-Ben Gardner DE Stanford
    7-Aaron Colvin CB Oklahoma

  9. #9

    Re: Predicted odds on who the Steelers take at #18

    So far this year, there hasn't been anybody that I've really wanted the Steelers to draft or not draft.

    The more I read about Thomas, the more I'm starting to lean in that direction. Having another playmaker in the secondary would be a huge asset for the defense. Even though he is young, I'd hope that Thomas could contribute in the nickel immediately. I'm not sure if he'll end up as a corner or a safety, but either way, I think he could only help the defense.

    At first, I really liked Iupati. I'd love to see the Steelers get somebody massive on the offensive line who can move people out in the running game. But the concerns about his pass protection ability worry me. More than that, there seem to be a lot of scouting reports suggesting that he isn't the brightest offensive lineman. The current group of lineman seem to have trouble understanding their responsibilities with stunts and blitzes; I don't want to see somebody else that will have that same difficulty.

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    Re: Predicted odds on who the Steelers take at #18

    Quote Originally Posted by Oviedo
    Wexell is absolutely the best of the Steelers' writers. No one else is close. If he says something it has a basis in fact.

    With Steelers turning to the draft, we do too



    By Jim Wexell
    Publisher SteelCityInsider.com
    Posted Mar 16, 2010



    | More

    SCI.com publisher Jim Wexell puts odds on the seven-player pool he believes the Steelers will choose from in the first round of the 2010 draft.

    The Larry Foote signing put a close to the Steelers’ free agency season. Of course, Kevin Colbert said he’ll keep his eyes open, but told reporters that “the focus is going to shift more heavily toward the draft.”
    We can do that. The Foote signing was a final piece of the pre-draft puzzle as we get around to posting odds on the Steelers’ first-round pick.

    From the longshots to the favorite, here’s what my instincts are telling me:

    18-1 – Jared Odrick, DE, Penn State: I watched this guy all year and was captivated by his height, quickness and relentless motor. No, he was not a two-gapper, but I strongly doubt that Aaron Smith was a two-gapper during his days at Northern Colorado. He was taught, and so can Odrick. But the rest of the draft analysts don’t seem to share my enthusiasm on Odrick anyway. And even if Mike Tomlin shows up at Penn State’s Pro Day and shouts out encouragement as he did to Quentin Groves a few years ago, I don’t see a two-man position receiving a second consecutive No. 1 pick, particularly since the Steelers also kept last year’s sixth-round pick, Sunny Harris, and hold him in high regard at the position.

    15-1 – Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida: This is another guy about whom I raved all season, but that was when I thought he was a second-rounder. His stock has risen, and I’m not really sure why. He didn’t have a first-round game against Alabama, and at 304 pounds ran a 5.27 40 at the combine. He’s quick to the second level, but rarely pulled at Florida. A very good player, Pouncey can also play guard, but I only see the Steelers considering him as a member of a pool of late first-rounders in a trade-down. I prefer they wait on Baylor’s J.D. Walton in R2-3 if they’re finally going to put a high priority on the center position.

    12-1 – Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama: What? You say I may as well throw long odds on Eric Berry and C.J. Spiller, too, since the Steelers won’t have a chance to draft them either? Well, I believe there’s a good chance McClain will fall to the Steelers – and that they will pass. Yes, it’s a surprise, particularly since I’ve tooted this guy’s horn all season long. But I’ve also always questioned his motor. It was something I tried to repress because I admire his leadership, intelligence and run-stuffing ability so much. I think I just wanted him to be the perfect replacement for James Farrior. But I’ve been hearing whispers about him lacking speed. At his Pro Day he ran well, and told scouts that he’d been bothered by a hamstring injury since mid-season. So I went back and watched the national title game, and his lack of speed is clear. Texas ran five outside plays that should’ve involved McClain – or any inside linebacker worthy of pick 18. He got to one, only because the flow took him that way and he broke quickly to break up the screen pass. But he was hopelessly outrun on two outside running plays and two bubble screens. It’s a wonder Texas didn’t run outside more often because they were hugely successful. If it was the hamstring, well, that’ll be tough to prove. Throw in his admission of having Crohn’s disease and I see McClain slipping. I also watched Brandon Spikes the other night and would prefer drafting him in the second round to McClain in the first.

    8-1 – Joe Haden, CB, Florida: In watching Spikes, it wasn’t difficult to miss Haden as he broke sharply on short passes and came up hard in run support. He’s a viciously physical cornerback, something the Steelers require. But, is he fast enough? That question arose up after the 193-pounder ran a 4.58 40 at the combine. In taking a closer look at his bowl game, Cincinnati’s receivers twice beat Haden deep. The first time he was fooled on a gadget play and recovered in the nick of time to break up the underthrown pass. On the second, he was clearly beaten but the deep ball was overthrown and incomplete. Certainly it’s a small sampling, but the question remains in my mind, particularly in a draft that’s thick with upper mid-round cornerbacks. While Haden plays a position at which the Steelers have a clear need, and he plays it with Steelers-style toughness, the odds are high because someone may draft him earlier. And if he’s not drafted earlier, it’s possible the Steelers are worrying about his speed as well. (P.S.: The Steelers drafted my 8-1 choice last year.)

    5-1 – Sean Weatherspoon, ILB, Missouri: This guy dropped on the tote board when the Steelers signed Larry Foote the other day. I’d given several reasons why Weatherspoon makes sense for the Steelers, and there’s a good chance he’ll be available at pick 18. But with two solid backups now behind Farrior and Lawrence Timmons, and two just-signed special-teams stars from the CFL behind Foote and Keyaron Fox, it would make little sense to squeeze Weatherspoon onto the roster for future consideration. So, why have him rated so high at 5-1? Well, I can just hear Mike Tomlin telling reporters on draft day that Weatherspoon will start his career as an OLB – a position with a hole on the second-team depth chart – because that’s where he played in college. Yes, Weatherspoon, like Timmons before him, was a 4-3 OLB, but he prefers the middle and that’s where 4-3 OLBs play on 3-4 NFL teams. This thinking would be swallowed whole by the media, as it was when the Steelers tried to tell us that Timmons was an outside linebacker on draft day 2007.

    4-1 – Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho: At the combine, new OL coach Sean Kugler told Iupati he was the Steelers’ No. 1 offensive lineman. And Iupati fits a position of need. He’s a 6-5+, 331-pounder who can not only run better than any other Steelers lineman, he has the frame to add 20 more pounds. He’s a monster and would help the Steelers with their short-yardage game. But Iupati’s shown to be a liability in pass protection. His supporters claim these problems can be fixed, that he’s played too little football and probably hasn’t received much coaching yet. Still, in my mind, a guard at pick 18 should be a sure thing, as Steve Hutchinson was at pick 17 in 2001. But the upside here is too big to ignore, and it’s quite likely he’ll be available when the Steelers take their turn.

    3-1 – Earl Thomas, FS, Texas: Here’s a guy I was willing to ignore because of A.) the depth of the position in the draft, B.) his poor showing against the Alabama run game, and, C.) the fact the Steelers signed two safeties in free agency and already have Troy Polamalu at the position. Then I learned yesterday that the Steelers had scheduled Thomas for a visit on April 8-9. When I searched his numbers for my story, I read an intelligent write-up in which the analyst compared Thomas to Polamalu. Not that I take such media remarks seriously, but when I turned the tape on to re-watch Thomas in the national championship game, the comparison rang true. Sure, Thomas was run over a couple of times by the Alabama RBs. But as I watched him closely, I saw the quick-twitch Polamalu speed as Thomas came up hard to upend Alabama backs on a handful of occasions with shoulder-first dives at their feet. I also watched Thomas stop three breakaway Alabama plays down the sideline with a burst of speed from the middle of the field. I also watched Alabama – seemingly on purpose – avoid throwing at all to anyone covered by Thomas. The three or four deep Alabama passes were all thrown with the other Texas safety over the top. Nick Saban was not about to let Thomas beat him, because, as a redshirt sophomore, Thomas had intercepted a school-record eight passes, 10 in his two-year career. In the title game, he was used as a chess piece in the Polamalu mold: He blitzed, covered slot receivers, played deep center field, played in the box, and on special teams he was used as a jammer and later came off the edge and almost blocked a punt. He’ll play this coming season as a 21-year-old and is nearly the exact size (5-10.2, 20 as Polamalu (5-10.1, 206) when Polamalu came out. Polamalu ran a 4.40 40 at his combine and dipped into the 4.3s at his Pro Day. Thomas ran a 4.48 at the combine and will likely run faster at his Pro Day (March 31). Thomas might also be able to play cornerback, and could in the least replace Deshea Townsend as the Steelers’ nickel back and third safety.

    However, with Thomas’s stock on the rise, and the prototype having been established by Polamalu (no safety shorter than 5-11 had been drafted in the first round for 19 years before Polamalu), it’s unlikely that Thomas will be available at pick 18. The Jacksonville Jaguars, at 10, are becoming the choice landing spot on mock drafts for Thomas, after the safety-deficient Jags addressed their other main weakness by signing pass-rusher Aaron Kampman in free agency.

    But, there’s the possibility of trading up, something Kevin Colbert has done twice. The first time in team history was in 2003, when the Steelers held their breath as the San Diego Chargers, picking 15th with a hole at SS after losing Rodney Harrison, traded down 15 spots to draft a CB named Sammy Davis. The Steelers then moved up 11 spots to draft Polamalu with the 16th pick. It cost them third-round and sixth-round picks, which was less than half of the points required, according to the draft pick value board. If the Steelers can procure a similar deal this year, or even pay a smaller price if the Jaguars pass on Thomas at 10, it’s the move I expect them to make.


    I'm still feeling Spoon....
    BUT...
    Thomas is on their radar in my opinion.
    I wish I could be there for the workout. I bet they work him heavily at CB and ask him how he feels about playing there. The guy is fluid...He doesn't throttle down at all when he turns his hips. I have a little concern of durabilty if he stays at S. I hope there is a write up about the workout. I'm beginning to think that Thomas is the trade up guy in the first. Possible 10 picks in this draft...Be lucky if half make it. The FA signings give them the flexibilty to make some moves in the 1st & 2nd.



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