I have no f*#king idea.
I’m sure many of you are thinking, “That’s the kind of insightful analysis we’ve come to expect from TotalSteelers.” While the less sarcastic amongst you may be thinking, “Well, duh, nobody does.” Unfortunately, I’m finding the 2013 NFL Draft particularly vexing to try and analyze. Judging by the mock drafts I’ve been seeing around the interwebz, I’m not the only one.
I don’t waste time doing mocks because the draft is like a game of dominoes, move one piece to another place and the whole thing falls in a different direction. At the same time, we’ve always had a pretty good idea of the what if not the who. Few may have predicted the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting David DeCastro or Cam Heyward but it wasn’t hard to foresee them taking a guard or defensive lineman.
Which is why this year’s draft is so perplexing. The Steelers need practically everything. And the few positions you don’t immediately identify as a need feature prospects that may ultimately prove too good to pass up. It’s the kind of draft where there are a whole bunch of good players but very few special can’t miss types. So we’re left with a draft that can shake out about fifty different ways, any one of which greatly affects who the Steelers take with the 17th pick on Thursday.
To get some idea how confusing this draft is, take a look at some of the mocks people with far too much time on their hands have done. I’ve seen at least twenty mocks on various fan and pro sites with fifteen different names being attributed to the Steelers covering at least a half dozen different positions. For example, ProFootBallTalk recently made the case for us taking Georgia LB Jarvis Jones while Mel Kiper had us taking Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert in his latest mock.
Which points out the dilemma the Steelers themselves will face on draft day. They have a lot of positions where they don’t necessarily NEED an upgrade but aren’t necessarily happy with what they have either. For example, they could take an OLB to replace the departed James Harrison, however, Jason Worilds is going to start next year regardless. So if a more attractive player is on the board perhaps they feel they can put off drafting a new pass rushing OLB until round 2 or 3.
In that light, Kiper’s pick of Eifert is not as ridiculous as it seems. Heath Miller is coming off a devastating knee injury. He’s also one of the team’s more highly paid players. Many scouts view the 6’6 Eifert as the next Gronk. The Steelers could definitely use more weapons in the passing game. Perhaps they pick up Eifert with an eye towards replacing Heath come 2014.
Of course, the Steelers could use their pick to address an actual need. Pretty much the only areas you can safely say they’re set is at quarterback and offensive line. Granted the OL is a work in progress but after addressing it with two firsts and two seconds the past few years, I think it’s time to move on to other areas of concern.
Linebacker is certainly a need. Both inside and outside are possibilities although this draft seems to be heavier in pass rushing OLB/converted DE types. If they look inside, where they could certainly do better than Larry Foote, Alec Ogletree and Alec Brown could be possibilities (particularly if the team trades back). As long as the don’t take noted Catfisher Manti Te’o. Outside LB presents a number of prospects, from the aforementioned Jones to Corey Lemonier and Barkevious Mingo (who would have to fall for us to get him).
Or perhaps the team will address the offense. Again, they evidently feel comfortable going into the season with Antonio Brown and Manny Sanders 1-2 at wide out and the unholy two-headed monster of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman sharing duties at RB but neither of those units are beyond an infusion of fresh talent. Several drafts have Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson coming to Pittsburgh. He’s not the first round equivalent of Mike Wallace – that would be WVU’s Tavon Austin, a small guy who ran the fastest 40 at the combine and is expected to be the first WR off the board – he’s a bigger receiver who can run but is more of YAC guy than a field stretcher.
Several other drafts have the Steelers taking Alabama’s Eddie Lacy, who is expected to be the only RB taken in the first round. The Steelers will be tempted for sure although I think they’ve learned from the Rashard Mendenhall debacle that unless a RB projects as a workhorse featured back, don’t waste a first on him. There are plenty of intriguing backs who had big time college careers like Montee Ball, Leveon Bell, and Marcus Lattimore who will still be around in rounds 3 and 4.
Of course, the team can still go any number of other directions. I’ve seen more than one mock that projects the Steelers taking yet another defensive lineman, this time a big ass nose tackle like Sylvester Williams or Sheldon Richardson. Or they could really throw us a curve and take someone like Texas S Kenny Vaccaro. Troy Polamalu is a sure fire Hall of Famer but he’s highly paid and injury prone. Some scouts peg Vaccaro as the next Ed Reed. Maybe we take him and groom him for a year before asking him to take Troy’s place. That’s the kind of forward thinking roster overhaul the Black and Gold need if they ever want to escape from the Salary Cap Hell they’ve put themselves in.
One thing is for certain, they Steelers NEED a good draft this year more than ever. In season’s past, they missed on a fair number or picks which was okay because we had veterans in place who weren’t going to be unseated anyway. For the first time in a long time, the Steelers roster is in overhaul. In order to successfully complete that overhaul, General Manager Kevin Colbert and company can’t afford another draft which yields one starter and a couple special teamers. The Steelers have chosen to rebuild through the draft. Time to get that process started.