Monday, April 10, 2006

With the 32nd pick in the 1st round of the 2006 NFL Draft...

As the 2006 NFL draft draws near, I felt it was time to do a quick 4 round wishlist for my beloved Super Bowl XL Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Please note: no Ravens were harmed in the making of this draft board:

1st round: Nick Mangold (C - Ohio State), Darnell Bing (S - USC) or Bobby Carpenter (LB - Ohio State)

Comment: I still believe Pittsburgh would snag LenDale White if, in light of his recent escapades, he keeps falling, but there are doubts that he fits the type of "team friendly" attitude they embrace. I felt for weeks that, with 3 4th round picks, they were in good position to trade up in the first round (ala 2003 when they traded the 27th pick, a 3rd rounder and a 6th rounder to move up 11 spots to #16 to draft current Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu). I cannot see them doing anything like that in light of White's recent actions. A more likely selection, Mangold would be able to come in and learn under Jeff Hartings for a year, before taking over in 2007. As for Carpenter, he would provide some much needed youth/depth at ILB, but he has worked out very well, and teams like the Pats and NYG need LB help and are picking in front of the World Champs. Bing could potentially learn for a year behind newly-acquired Ryan Clark, before joining fellow Trojan Polamalu in 2007.

2nd round: Calvin Lowry (S - Penn State) or Greg Eslinger (C - Minnesota)

Comments: Bing will likely be gone when the Steelers pick at #64, but they clearly need safety depth. I felt that last season Lowry really established himself as the type of intelligent/athletic DB that would fit in well at FS with SS Polamalu and young CBs Ike Taylor, Ricardo Coclough, and Bryant McFadden. He was a very productive player on last year's dominant 11-1 Orange Bowl winning defense, and he had pro day in State College a few weeks back. Eslinger could be a solid fall back pick if Mangold does not pan out at #32.

3rd round: Gerald Riggs, Jr. (RB - University of Tennessee)

Comments: Injuries really hurt his college productivity, but he is a bigger back with good instincts/genes. You have to figure that after the 5 top RBs are off the board (Bush, White, Maroney, Williams, and Addai), there will be few teams left with glaring RB issues, considering most jobs are solidified at this point. Plus, the Steelers are one of the few teams looking for those bigger backs, which I would classify Riggs as at 235 lbs. They definitely need a younger big back as insurance for the ever-shaky health of Duce Staley.

4th round (a): Paul Pinegar (QB - Fresno State) or Bruce Gradkowski (QB - Toledo)

Comments: After watching Tommy Maddox nearly submarine the Super Bowl season with his performance against Jacksonville, it is clearly time to take the role of Big Ben's caddy seriously (I will say, I am a Batch backer. He's a solid veteran). Neither of these QBs really strike me as starting NFL QB material, but I would be thrilled to have either groomed as a long-term back-up to the godsend. I prefer Gradkowski because he was very productive in the MAC, he is a Pittsburgh native, and he is a tough competitor. A perfect Steeler QB.

4th round (b): Martin Nance (WR - U of Miami OH), Jonathan Orr (WR - Wisconsin), or Domenik Hixon (WR - Akron)

Comments: Due to the presence of Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward and future Pro Bowl TE Heath Miller, I do not see WR as such as huge need as some Steelers fans, but they could definitely use some depth. I was never a huge Randle El fan, as he was a glorified #3 WR and did not really bring much outside of the 3-4 trick plays a year...well worth $27M, right? All three of these WRs should be available here, barring any draft day assentions. Some experts probably would think the 4th round is too high even, at least for Nance and Hixon. Nance had an extremely productive sophomore year with Roethlisberger at QB, and he is the big, strong bodied WR they are currently lacking. I saw Hixon just abuse Memphis (point noted, it was Memphis) in the MAC championship last fall, and he is another physically gifted, bigger WR. Orr was another in a recent string of productive UW WRs who is fast and fairly big.

4th round (c): Michael Robinson (QB/WR/RB - Penn State), Brad Smith (QB/WR/RB - Missouri), Marques Hagans (QB/WR - Virginia), or Reggie McNeal (QB/WR - Texas A&M)

Comments: With so many college QBs in this draft attempting make the transition to WR, you just know the Steelers are taking one at some point. They love these types of guys. There is a chance that McNeal and Robinson could be gone by the 4th round, but there is a chance all 4 could be available. I prefer Robinson, given his leadership ability and versatility, but I also am most familiar with him. Smith was an extremely productive multi-dimensional threat at Mizzou for four years, but he has not worked out well at WR.

Well, there are my thoughts. It should be interesting to see how it plays out.


At 9:32 AM, Blogger Scott said...

This is why we call him Mel. Nice breakdown.


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