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2009 SCM Draft Preview

By Harvey Aronson, SteelCity Mafia
April 14, 2009
 
  April 25th is approaching and that means one thing…NFL draft day. The Pittsburgh Steelers have the luxury this year of heading into the league selection process as reigning world champs. That means they pick dead last in the first round and every round thereafter except having an extra pick in the later rounds as a result of the Sean Mahan trade. There are some compensatory picks that will come as a result from the loss of free agents in 2008, mainly Alan Faneca to the Jets. How the Steelers use those picks, whether they make any trades to move up or down, this all will be known come April 25.

  I will focus on the areas that I believe the Steelers need or could use help in. 2009 brings a need in my opinion at the offensive line, the defensive line, cornerbacks, and some depth at wide receiver, however, I don’t believe we will see any receivers drafted. I believe of the nine picks the Steelers have in their hands, you will see a mix of offensive lineman, secondary men, defensive lineman, and perhaps a surprise at punter, wide receiver, and even linebackers. We might even see some draft picks at tight end. Then, once the draft has concluded, there will be those 20 or more undrafted rookies offered contracts. For this year’s report, I will only focus on offensive lineman, defensive lineman, and cornerbacks. The preview will take a glance at the top five consensus collegiate players at those positions entering the NFL draft and follow that up with mock drafts that appear across the internet. I’ll be listing players with the universities from which they played ball at as well as their heights and weights. We’ll begin with the positions most experts will say the Steelers need the most help in…offensive line.
 
Offensive Tackles
In no particular order, the following men are the consensus selections as the top athletes at their position of o-tackle.

Jason Smith Baylor, 6’5”, 305
Remember Larry Brown? The old Steelers tight end that became an All-Pro offensive lineman? Smith is in that category having begun his collegiate career at tight end and then converted to the o-line at tackle. It was his sophomore season and he played almost every down at tackle. A few injuries in his junior year brought Smith a step backwards, but he made it as a All-Big 12 lineman regardless. The word on Smith is that he is very athletic with quick feet, perhaps coming from his days at tight end. Smith has good balance and is strong. He is powerful off the snap and can go side-to-side. As a pass protector he does well in that area. Smith has held his own when facing speed rushers and tends to be aggressive while giving 100% on every play. Smith is said to have a “nasty” streak, something Steelers coaches love. Has a great work ethic and plays the game smart. On the down side, some scouts believe Smith can improve his strength and get bigger. While having good balance, moving backwards Smith can be knocked down. At Baylor, his offense was not a “Pro Style” formation so there is a learning curve. Against the run, Smith has some issues creating holes at the line.

Eugene Monroe, Virginia, 6'6” 315
Monroe moves faster on his feet than one might think for a 315 pounder. He’s agile with some quickness and has the long arms pro scouts like. Operates on the field with smoothness and has the knack to make adjustments on broken plays. Has good feet and better in pass protection than against the run. The word on Monroe is that he is wise to the playbook and aware of his surroundings on the field. As for negatives, Monroe draws attention from scouts as to his motor and whether he can play a full 60 minutes, let alone a 16 game season. The word on his lower body is that it lacks strength and that Monroe is not as aggressive as needed for the NFL. On rivals.com, Monroe was the third-most sought after recruit coming out of high school. At Virginia, he backed up current NFL pro D’Brickashaw Ferguson during his freshman season where he also spent time as a right guard. Because of a dislocated kneecap in 2006 and then a sprained knee in 2007, Monroe missed two games of the 2007 season. Last season, Monroe was named to the All-American Team, on the second team of that squad. He was first team All-ACC. Also in 2008, in the ACC, Monroe was the recipient of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, given to the offensive lineman who is deemed “best blocker” in the conference.
 
Michael Oher, Mississippi, 6'5”, 320
Oher is probably the consensus #1 across the board at offensive tackle. With the Steelers picking #32, forget landing Oher. Unless Pittsburgh moves way up the boards he’ll be long gone. Nonetheless, Oher has the size and the athletic ability that pro scouts are really after. Oher has all the tools to become a stud in the NFL including his size, quickness, agility, balance, and strength. Oher excels in pass protection and in the run game is hard to move. Has the mean streak as well winning almost every one-on-one battle. Playing at Mississippi, Oher has faced the tough SEC teams. Oher has played for the most part injury free showing his durability. If there is a negative, it’s that Oher plays down to lesser opponents and does not play at a 100% level all the time. He can appear lackadaisical and needs to learn better footwork and proper use of his hands for the pros. Smarts is not one of Oher’s better assets. Back on the positive side, in four years at Ole ‘Miss, he never missed a game. In 2008 he was a finalist for the Outland Trophy. In high school, Oher excelled in both basketball and track.
 
Andre Smith, Alabama, 6'4”, 340
Another SEC product in the top five, Smith was highly touted until the combines came about. At Indianapolis, he simply said he was not ready to perform, was out of shape, and left the workouts without notice. That’s a huge red flag for pro scouts. It speaks to work ethic and attitude. Smith also does not fair well with injuries and returning from them. Still, the book on Smith is that he has outstanding athleticism and can show signs of quickness and excellent balance. For weighing in at 340 pounds, Smith does not move like a mountain man. He likes to throw his weight around and overwhelm opponents, and rarely gets bull rushed. He did not miss a start at Alabama and like Michael Oher, played in the tough and competitive SEC. Downers? That attitude and work ethic I spoke about before. His weight is a concern and he definitely can not get bigger for the pros. His footwork is said to get sloppy sometimes and with that amount of weight, has trouble moving side-to-side. NFL coaches absolutely dislike men with attitudes and those who do not want to put the time and sweat into preparations, so that is a major issue heading into the draft. At Alabama, Smith entered their history books by becoming only the seventh true freshman to start in a career-first game then went on to be named to the 2006 Freshman All-American team. Last year, Smith was the recipient of the Outland Trophy award. He was also a unanimous First Team All-SEC selection and First Team All-American in 2007. That “attitude” problem rose to the forefront however last year during the Sugar Bowl when he was suspended from playing after he was accused for taking gifts from a pro agent. Smith played on the left side at Alabama but could be open for a position change after the draft.
 
Eben Britton, Arizona, 6’6”, 309
A lot of times, offensive lineman that have too much height and not enough weight do not make it in the NFL. Remember Kris Farris, drafted in 1999? The man played at UCLA for four years and never got hurt. He had unusual height, was not that heavy, and never made it through training camp after hurting I believe and ankle. His career in the bigs lasted just once year with the Steelers and he never got to play. Jamaine Stephens was another and while he lasted on the roster for several years, he is considered our biggest bust ever. So with Britton comes a tall frame, and lanky. The good book on Britton is that he uses necessary techniques to play the position with the utmost ability. While lacking the bulk desired for the NFL, Britton still plays hard and aggressive and is unusually strong despite the lack of girth. Britton is also said to be a very smart player. However, Britton is not your greatest athlete and despite his height, lacks the “long arms” pro scouts desire. His mobility is a question mark and gets beat by speed rushers. His leg work is something to be desired and that causes problems in space and with his range. Whoever drafts Britton has a project on their hands. Britton has not earned front page awards or much of the notoriety of the men mentioned before him.
 
Below are perhaps the top 10 players at offensive tackle.
Jason Smith, Baylor, 6-5, 309
Eugene Monroe, Virginia, 6-51/4, 309
Michael Oher, Ole Miss, 6-41/2, 309
Andre Smith, Alabama, 6-4, 332
Eben Britton, Arizona, 6-6, 309
William Beatty, Connecticut, 6-6, 307
Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma, 6-7 3/4, 332
Jamon Meredith, South Carolina, 6-4 5/8, 304
Troy Kropog, Tulane, 6-5 3/8, 309
Gerald Cadogan, Penn St. 6-5 1/8, 309
 
 
Centers

  Justin Hartwig is firmly planted at center for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Darnell Stapleton can play there as well if needed. But the Steelers might be interested in finding a player for the future once Hartwig is not around and some depth if he gets hurt and Stapleton is needed elsewhere. So the top centers in this year’s draft follow.

Alex Mack, California, 6’4”, 316
Here’s your best option at center in the draft. Mack seems to be atop every expert’s board at this position, but like Michael Oher, he’ll be WAY gone at #32. Mack is a leader on the line barking out calls for the line. He has excellent vision and plays the running attack better than anyone else in the country. He has perfect size for the position and should be a lock as an all-pro in years to come in the NFL.
 
Max Unger, Oregon, 6’5”, 305
Right on the heals of Mack is Unger. Lacking some of the bulk that Mack has, Unger might be more versatile and started every game he played while at Oregon. Mack is a converted tackle having played the left side his first two seasons before moving over a notch and getting in the middle. He’s not as much a mauler as Mack but is still a very viable option for teams looking for help at center and possibly on the line in a conversion project.
 
Eric Wood, Louisville, 6’3 7/8”, 310
This year’s draft class may be the strongest at center. Drafting either Mack, Unger, or Wood, the Steelers win either way. All three are outstanding at their position and great athletes. Wood might have the best size in the way of bulk of these first three. Wood is strong, very aggressive, and what the Steelers staff likes the most, he gets physical. That’s the mold of a Steelers offensive lineman. Wood has that nasty streak in him typical of the better linemen that have worn the Black and Gold. For his size, Wood can move. He also plays into linebacking area on plays, which equates to a good finisher. Wood is also a student of the game and has outstanding football smarts. His motor is of the highest level and he gives it his all even in practice. If Wood has a negative, the book his downsides are that he gives too much in pass protection and can be overpowered. His fluidity is a bit lacking, and while a smart player, might be a bit short on being aware of plays developing to his left and right. Wood has also had a history of problems with the bigger defensive players. Despite all that Wood came off a redshirt year in 2004 to start for the Louisville Cardinals the next four seasons. With 49 consecutive starts, that has set the record for that University. Wood has been a three-time All-Big East on the second team in 2006 and then elevated to first team last season and in 2007. His brain also earned him a sport on the Academic All-Big East. Wood is also a converted tight end out of high school.
 
Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas, 6’3 5/8”, 301
Luigs is the smallest of these top prospects, but by playing in the SEC, faced top opposition. Luigs is a good athlete and because of his lighter weight as a lineman is very fast. Has great agility and despite being smaller than the average center, can get aggressive and show a mean streak. Uses the technical skills of a center very well and like Wood is smart about the game. Luigs likes to work hard but lacks the strength required to be top-notch in the NFL. If he doesn’t bulk up, he will most certainly get pushed around by the big boys in the bigs. Still, Luigs started all four years at Arkansas and like Wood missed the 2004 campaign as a redshirt. Noted as an All-SEC selection four times, Luigs started every game at Arkansas. He nearly matched Wood’s consecutive game streak with 46. Keep in mind, Luigs blocked for the likes of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Michael Smith.
 
Antoine Caldwell, Alabama, 6’3 ¼”, 309
Finally there is Caldwell. Also playing in the SEC, Caldwell too is the quick, athletic type while not being as big as someone like Alex Mack. But like Luigs, Caldwell can move. Caldwell possesses great feet and good use of his hands. Unlike the others, Caldwell is more vocal and was seen as a leader on offense with the Crimson Tide. Caldwell does not get hurt easily and uses a good motor when on the field. Like the others as well, is a long-time starter. The negative like Luigs would be his lack of girth. He will have to size up in the NFL so he can match up against the many huge nose tackles he’ll see if he gets playing time on the next level. The book on the negative side of Caldwell is that he fails to finish blocks. Scouts also say he does not have a “killer instinct” NFL coaches would love in their lineman. Off the field, Caldwell became the first Alabama football player to earn a college degree in under three years. However, on the flip side, he was suspended four games in 2007 for the having an “improper receipt of school textbooks.” But in a positive light, he served as a two-time captain and received Alabama’s Mal Moore Leadership Award.
 
A.Q. Shipley, Penn St., 6’ 1 1/8”, 304.
I wanted to include Shipley only because he has already visited with the Steelers. Playing in the Big Ten Shipley plays tough, gets physical, and fits the mold of the prototypical Steelers lineman in that he is aggressive. But as I already discussed with the others, Shipley too will have to put weight on if coming to the NFL. He also does not have the wing span that can be an advantage in the bigs, and his hands are uncharacteristically small for a big man. Before switching to offense, Shipley began his career there as a defensive tackle. Last year, Shipley was the winner of the Rimington Trophy given to the country’s best center.
 
The consensus top 10 centers:
Alex Mack, California
Max Unger, Oregon
Eric Wood, Louisville
Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas
Antoine Caldwell, Alabama
A.Q. Shipley, Penn St.
Edwin Williams, Maryland
Jon Cooper, Oklahoma
Alex Fletcher, Stanford
Blake Schlueter, T.C.U.
 
 
Guards

Duke Robinson, Oklahoma 6’5”, 329
My belief is that the Steelers will go the way of offensive tackle and/or center before they think about guard. With Trai Essex and Darnell Stapleton holding down the right side, and Chris Kemoeatu signing a new contract and starting on the left side with Jeremy Parquet ready to try to make the team this season backing him up. With that said, we begin the top guards available with Oklahoma Sooner Duke Robinson. Robinson has great size and long arms to boot. Strength is Robinson’s best asset. A great finisher in his blocks, Robinson will most likely go in the first round so the Steelers will have to take him if they want him with their first pick. Robinson by scout’s reports has ALL the skills necessary to start in the NFL. Playing at Oklahoma, Robinson will come to the bigs with experience against some very good competition. On the downside and scouts believe there are some negatives, the book on Robinson is that he doesn’t play consistently. His technical skills are said to be lacking and he might be too slow of foot for the NFL. Part of his inconsistency is that he gets lackadaisical perhaps not putting his mind to work for 60 minutes. Scouts believe he might have problems with the quicker “Dwight Freeney’s” of the NFL. Robinson has ties to stardom but not in football. His uncle is the great Smokey Robinson. Robinson started three years at Oklahoma and made First Team All-American in both 2007 and 2008.
 
Andy Levitre, Oregon State, 6’2 5/8”, 305
Another strong guard, Levitre brings to the table the nasty streak required of lineman. A smart player, Levitre has excellent awareness and good technical skills. Is better in the run game and has a fine work ethic. Levtre was also a captain for Oregon State and had the reputation of being a leader. On the downside, Levitre is a shorter guard and lacks quickness. He doesn’t have the power off the snap, which some coaches might prefer. His leverage is also said to be lacking. Last year, Levitre was named to the First Team All-Pac 10 and has earned several All-American honors. Levitre has a “versatile” side to him having played offensive guard, tackle, and tight end. He has not experience any time at center yet.
 
Kraig Urbik, Wisconsin, 6’5 1/8”, 328
Urbik has great size for the NFL and that alone will attract attention. Has a reputation of mauling opponents, which on film will bring him to the top of the draft boards at guard. Has played injury free, an important aspect for linemen. His lack of athleticism might hurt his draft status, but at some point he should get selected. The book on Urbik is that he might be a bit clumsy so he will have to learn the NFL game and learn proper use of footwork. Still, Urbik started all four years at Wisconsin.
 
Trevor Canfield, Cincinnati, 6’4 ½”, 307
On the light side, Canfield will need to bulk up to NFL standards to make it on the next level. Still, he has good side-to-side mobility. Canfield makes up for lack of size with technical know-how. He also does not get injured easily. Obviously the negatives are his lack of weight but Canfield had also been involved with an off the field situation when he got into an altercation with another man that ended with Canfield hitting the man with a glass bottle over the head. Charges in that case were dropped. Canfield can play either right or left guard and does block well.
 
Herman Johnson, L.S.U., 6’ 7 ¼”, 364
Remember Jamain Stephens? Tall like Johnson, drafted first by the Steelers years ago. BUST. That’s what Stephens became. Was it because of a lack of talent? Or, was it that taller athletes don’t make good lineman. This guy is massive. 364 pounds? Are you kidding me? Johnson you would think would be very difficult to move. It’s no surprise that his best asset might be his strength. Playing at LSU gives him valuable experience as well against some of the best teams in the country. Naturally, he is better in the running attack. He holds his own in pass protection though. Johnson plays hard and has the mean streak. However, to no one’s surprise, he is not very quick. His agility is not that great either given his large frame. With all that weight, Johnson has difficulty using his feet. His weight will also be a concern in the bigs, not wanting to get too heavy. In space he has problems. Johnson has earned the nickname “House.” He is also on record as having the biggest body in LSU history. Despite anything else, Johnson would be worth drafting sometime after the first round just based on his girth.
 
Top 10 Guards
Duke Robinson, Oklahoma
Andy Levitre, Oregon St.
Kraig Urbik, Wisconsin
Trevor Canfield, Cincinnati
Herman Johnson, L.S.U.
Cornelius Lewis, Tennessee St.
Tyronne Green, Auburn
Louis Vasquez, Texas Tech
Roger Allen, Missouri Western St.
Andy Kemp, Wisconsin
 
 
Defensive Ends
 
Brian Orakpo, University of Texas, 6’3”, 263
With an aging defensive line and not a whole lot of speed coming off the line, expect the Steelers to start building for the future to replace the likes of Brett Keisel, Aaron Smith, and Casey Hampton. As for Orakpo, he has more of a linebacker size than what it takes to be an end in the NFL. The Steelers have a history of taking DEs from college and converting them to great linebackers (LaMarr Woodley for example). Orakpo is a great athlete with speed. Pursues well and has an explosive burst on the snap. He can also play sideline-to-sideline and has good fluidity. With an outstanding vertical jump, Orakpo excels at batting down passes. Orakpo is a physical specimen; a gym rat; and strong against the run. In addition, hey plays with an attitude. If there is a downside, it would be questions regarding his durability and playing consistently. When it comes to technique with his hands, he is lacking in that area. Despite the physical being he is, this Longhorn can be pushed around. Orakpo has room to grown having ballooned from 210 pounds to his current weight of 263 since arriving on campus. Orakpo has some hardware to boot, having been tabbed First-Team All-American last year as well as taking home the Nagurski Trophy, (for the country’s best defensive player), Lombardi Award (America’s best lineman), and the Hendricks Award for best defensive end. Orakpo was also the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. I spoke to this mauler being a gym rat and reportedly he can bench press 515 pounds with a clean jerk of 380. His vertical leap spoken about is reportedly 40” plus.
 
Everette Brown, Florida State, 6’ 1 ½”, 256
A teammate of Lawrence Timmons, Brown like Timmons is an outstanding athlete. Also like our Timmons, Brown is fast and explosive. Has great feet with a fantastic first step off the snap. Brown can change direction on a dime and does it with balance. His hands stand out because of their size and he puts them to good use. Brown excels in rushing the passer using an array of moves to get into the backfield. He works hard and has earned a reputation as a leader. Again like Orapko, Brown lacks NFL DE size. Against the run he can be manipulated easily. Brown also lacks experience on the field. For his career he has notched 46.5 career tackles for a loss that is second best in Florida State history.
 
Tyson Jackson, LSU, 6’4 1/8”, 296
Jackson is perhaps one of the best at this position coming into the draft. There will be no switching to linebacker for Jackson. He has good size for end with room to grow with his height. Jackson can bull rush opponents and has the necessary power, physicality, use of hands, and leadership as well as work ethic to warrant a first round selection. His speed my be lacking teams looking for a run stopper will turn to Jackson.
 
Aaron Maybin, Penn State, 6’3 ¾”, 249
Maybin is WAY small to play the end in the NFL. However, because of his small stature he is extremely quick having logged a 4.88 40. Maybin plays hard and has a motor that won’t quit. Likes to play the role of leader on the field and is a great athlete with excellent mobility. Where he ends up in the NFL remains to be seen but it won’t be DE. He gets abused against the run and has lots to learn with little playing time for the Nittany Lions. Still, he was named to First-Team All-American last year. He actually began playing last season at 230 but by the time of the combines this year he was up to 249.
 
Larry English, Northern Illinois, 6’ 2 1/8”, 255
Smaller schools sometimes turn out good products. Could that be the case for English? On the light side for the defensive line, his 40 speed of 4.85 bests that of Aaron Maybin. Another fine athlete, English likes to hit. He plays aggressive and tries to use moves to trick defenders. English is a smart player, but his big negative will be his size. There is also a red flag on him for durability. His lack of playing against bigger schools won’t help his case. For his conference, English was named the Mid-American Conference Most Valuable Player in both 2007 and 2008. English has a history of injuries that include a torn ACL in his sophomore season; a pectoral muscle last year; and an ankle injury his first year.
 
Top 10 Defensive Ends
Brian Orakpo, Texas
Everette Brown, Florida St.
Tyson Jackson, LSU
Aaron Maybin, Penn St.
Larry English, Northern Illinois
Robert Ayers, Tennessee
Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech
Paul Kruger, Utah
Lawrence Sidbury, Jr., Richmond
Matt Shaughnessy, Wisconsin
 
 
Defensive Tackles

Now we get into the big boys. The men who might be drafted for a Steelers 3-4 defense that can back up and possibly replace Casey Hampton one day and be a true run stuffer. Here’s the list of the best five.
 
B.J. Raji, Boston College, 6’ 1 ½”, 337
We begin with a massive Raji. He is the buzz around the NFL right now leading up to the draft. Raji is strong and a mauler. He excels in the two-gap defense and can take on multiple blockers. For his size, Raji has excellent mobility and quickness. He also plays with a mean streak, something not seen to often in defensive tackles. One of the best in this draft against the run, Raji can also crash the pocket. He can easily get into the backfield and has good pursuit for a big man. On the downside, his bulk wears him down and he may not be a 60-minute man. At 6’1” he is also obviously lower to the ground and that might work against him in a league of the best football players in the world. Stuffing the run will be his best selling point. If you are wondering what B.J. stands for, his real name is “Busari.” Raji is Nigerian. Last year he as First-Team All ACC. In 2007 he had to redshirt the season for academic reasons. Raji has weighted as much as 350 at one point.
 
Peria Jerry, Ole Miss, 6’ 1 ¾”, 299
Next we have Peria Jerry. A big man with speed. Jerry is also explosive and has great reaction off the snap. With a great motor, Jerry is a backfield nightmare for opponents. Jerry works hard and has good instincts. When facing top level programs while he was at Ole Miss, Jerry performed well. Heading into the pros if he makes it, his frame may not allow much more weight. He isn’t as strong against the running attack and has had a history of problems in the classroom. Jerry is also older than most collegiate prospects at 25. In 2008, Jerry was a first-team All-American.
 
Evander Hood, Missouri, 6’ 2 7/8”, 300
Hood has a great football body. With an evenly distributed weight, he possesses a naturally athleticism and stays active on the field. Hood holds his ground at the point of attack and shows good strength. Hood excels in pursuit and has shown some quickness off the snap. He pays attention to coaches and has shown he can a team leader. On the downside, there is nothing about his game that makes a scout say “wow.” Hood walks around with the nickname Ziggy and despite not being a standout, did start for three seasons for the Tigers.
 
Ron Brace, Boston College, 6’3”, 334
In the mold of a Casey Hampton, Brace is a plug in the middle. With the size comes a nice reaction off the snap and Brace can penetrate the middle and push the pack. Has a great ability to tackle and hit the gaps and collapse the pocket. Like Casey, he does not put up good sack numbers and is more of a bull in the middle. Brace has not had double teams thrown at him much and his durability will come into question.
 
Sen'Derrick Marks, Auburn, 6 1 ¾”, 306
Marks might be a project but brings to the table all the tools to excel in the big leagues. A great athlete with outstanding speed, Marks plays with a high motor and can penetrate the backfield. Has a good ability to out maneuver blocks and is good at pursuit. His negatives include his body shape. Most lineman are taller than his height and when double teamed he has experienced difficulties. Unlike the others, he struggles against the run and being that big body in the middle. His durability is also a question mark.
 
Top 10 Defensive Tackles
B.J. Raji, Boston College
Peria Jerry, Ole Miss
Evander Hood, Missouri
Ron Brace, Boston College
Sen'Derrick Marks, Auburn
Jarron Gilbert, San Jose St.
Alex Magee, Purdue
Fili Moala, USC
Chris Baker, Hampton
Vance Walker, Georgia Tech
 
 
Cornerbacks
 
Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State, 6’ 1/8”, 204
As the top rated cornerback, the chance of Jenkins coming to the ‘Burgh to perhaps replace Bryant McFadden is far and few between. He will be gone by maybe even the fifth pick of the draft. Still, he is one of the best available. He has good height for a corner with great hands. Jenkins is a ball hawk and likes to get physical. Is not afraid of attacking the run, and he is durable. On the negative side, he lacks speed. His burst is not the highest of quality and Jenkins likes to take chances, something that will blow up in his face in the NFL. Some pro scouts are talking moving him to safety once he hits the league. For three consecutive years, Jenkins has been First Team All-Big Ten.
 
Vontae Davis, Illinois, 5’ 11 1/8”, 203
Davis is rapidly moving up on draft boards and might be projected as a solid consensus #2 behind Jenkins. Davis has all the tools to succeed at corner and has shown good burst on the field to get to a receiver, using his hips well and can take off on a turn. Davis is also very tough and like Jenkins will get physical. Davis is also a dual player, serving on special teams returning kicks. The red flags on Davis are his attitude where he has shown he wants to be a “one man show” and ignore coaching. His consistency has been questioned and he might be a bigger risk taker than Jenkins. Davis has a cocky attitude and that will most DEFINITELY not fly in the big leagues. Davis already has a brother playing in the NFL in Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers.
 
Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest, 5’9”, 193
Smith is a good athlete with great speed and quickness. A solid build with good instincts, Smith is fluid on the field with outstanding footwork and technical skills. With the ball he can be dangerous bringing back picks and such. NFL scouts like tall corners, so that might hurt Smith and he can play over aggressive but then doesn’t Troy Polamalu do the same sometimes? When faced against bigger receivers, has struggled.
 
Darius Butler, Connecticut, 5’ 10 3/8”, 183
Butler has been getting plenty of attention despite his smaller stature. However, he is fast (4.53 40), and has outstanding leaping abilities. He plays the game technically and uses his fine skills to his advantage. Also a good return man, Smith has also been a team captain and has the leadership tag. Smith does not backpedal well which could be a detriment against the speedy NFL receivers he’ll see. His tackling skills might need improvement as well. Willis McGahee is his uncle.
 
D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt, 5’ 8 7/8”, 192
We finish with another midget corner as Moore is just about 69” tall. But like the others, he is athletic. He has all the tools and is a ball hawk. A speedy, deceptive runner in the open field, Moore is lacking the height and weight NFL coaches would prefer. He’ll get burnt against the big men of the NFL, so his future on the next level is a question mark.
 
Top 10 cornerbacks
Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio St.
Vontae Davis, Illinois
Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest
Darius Butler, Connecticut
D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt
Sean Smith, Utah
Coye Francies, San Jose St.
Jairus Byrd, Oregon
Sherrod Martin, Troy
Kevin Barnes, Maryland
 
So exactly who will the Steelers select with their first pick, #32 overall? Barring any trades, here are some mock drafts from the internet.

WalterFootball.com:
Pittsburgh Steelers: Sean Smith, CB/S, Utah

DraftDog.com:
OT, Eben Britton, Arizona (JR)    The 6' 6" 310 pound junior tackle excels at pass protection. He is talented, versatile and played right tackle his first two years. A need pick.

FFToolbox.com
Ben Standig: Alex Mack, C, California
The Steelers need to fortify a leaky pass blocking unit that helped turn Big Ben black and blue. Mack has emerged as the top center and perhaps top interior lineman in the draft and was a dominate force during Senior Bowl workouts, meaning he could be a top-25 pick by draft day. Drafting a corner is also an option with Bryant McFadden lost to free agency.
 
Randall Weida: Sean Smith, CB/S, Utah
Pittsburgh resigned most of its offensive line this offseason, allowing them to focus on defense early in the draft. Sean Smith gives them some versatility at safety and corner, both of which are positions they could use talent and depth.
 
Ricky Dimon: Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
A depleted--and not very good--Pittsburgh offensive line needs to be revamped. Britton would be a steal at the very end of the first round.
 
Joel Welser: D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt
Pittsburgh needs a little help on the offensive line, but if Alex Mack is gone, they might look elsewhere. D.J. Moore lacks the versatility of a Sean Smith, but he is a better pure corner and the Steelers will need one in the next year or two. Moore has been up and down draft boards lately, but he still has the talent to be a first round selection.
 
Raul Colon: Larry English, OLB, Northern Illinois
Des Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel are getting up in years so the defending champions need to start grooming their replacement soon. English will need to adjust at playing the 3-4, but he has the mantle of a big time DE with enough bulk to take on RBs and TEs
 
Forrest N. Long: Larry English, OLB, Northern Illinois
Des Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel are getting up in years so the defending champions need to start grooming their replacement soon. English will need to adjust at playing the 3-4, but he has the mantle of a big time DE with enough bulk to take on RBs and TEs

DraftCountdown.com
ALPHONSO SMITH, CB, WAKE FOREST
It seems like everyone has had an offensive lineman penciled in here for months but since the Steelers were able to retain Max Starks and Chris Kemoeatu that is no longer such a pressing need. On the other they lost Bryant McFadden as a free agent and cornerback is now a concern in the Steel City. If Alphonso Smith were a couple inches taller he would probably be gone by this point but he makes up for his lack of ideal height with outstanding instincts and is a true playmaker in the secondary. At the very least Smith would be an outstanding nickel corner for Pittsburgh as a rookie and he could eventually replace the soon to be 34-year-old Deshea Townsend in the starting lineup opposite Ike Taylor. An offensive lineman like Max Unger, who can play center, guard and tackle, would still make some sense for the Steelers and with all three of their starters as well as the top two backups all over 30-years-old it’s probably time to bring in an infusion of youth along the defensive line. It may be a bit of a stretch but don’t rule out a wide receiver either, especially if they don’t feel like last year's second round pick Limas Sweed is up to the task of replacing Nate Washington.

Who are some of the best athletes at all positions heading into this draft in less than two weeks? Some of the best experts give their opinion.

Mel Kiper's 2009 Big Board
1. Aaron Curry, Sr., LB, Wake Forest,
2. Michael Crabtree, So., WR, Texas Tech,
3. Matthew Stafford, Jr., QB, Georgia,
4. Jason Smith, Sr., OT, Baylor,
5. Mark Sanchez, Jr., QB, USC,
6. B.J. Raji, Sr., DT, Boston College,
7. Brian Orakpo, Sr., DE, Texas,
8. Aaron Maybin, So., DE, Penn St.,
9. Eugene Monroe, Sr., OT, Virginia,
10. Jeremy Maclin, So., WR, Missouri,
11. Brandon Pettigrew, Sr., TE, Oklahoma St.,
12. Percy Harvin, Jr., WR, Florida,
13. Knowshown Moreno, So., RB, Georgia,
14. Andre Smith, Jr., OT, Alabama,
15. Tyson Jackson, Sr., DE, LSU,
16. Malcolm Jenkins, Sr., CB, Ohio State,
17. Robert Ayers, Sr., DE, Tennessee,
18. Chris "Beanie" Wells, Sr., RB, Ohio St.,
19. Clay Matthews, Sr., LB, USC,
20. Peria Jerry, Sr., DT, Mississippi,
21. Brian Cushing, Sr., LB, USC,
22. Donald Brown, Jr., RB, Connecticut,
23. Hakeem Nicks, Jr., WR, North Carolina,
24. Everette Brown, Jr., DE, Florida St.,
25. Rey Maualuga, Sr., LB, USC,

Scouts Inc.'s Top 32
1. Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest, 97
2. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech, 97
3. Jason Smith, OT, Baylor, 96
4. Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas, 96
5. Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia, 96
6. Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State, 95
7. B.J. Raji, DT, Boston Coll., 95
8. Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia, 95
9. Mark Sanchez, QB, USC, 94
10. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri, 94
11. Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State, 94
12. Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State, 94
13. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia, 94
14. Andre Smith, OT, Alabama, 94
15. Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee, 94
16. Percy Harvin, WR, Florida, 92
17. Everette Brown, DE, Florida State, 93
18. Clay Matthews, OLB, USC, 93
19. Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU, 92
20. Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi, 92
21. Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State, 92
22. Brian Cushing, OLB, USC, 92
23. Hakeem Nicks, WR, N. Carolina, 92
24. Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC, 92
25. Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi, 91
26. Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland, 91
27. Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois, 91
28. Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut, 91
29. James Laurinaitis, ILB, Ohio State, 90
30. Louis Delmas, S, W. Michigan, 90
31. Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut, 90
32. Eben Britton, OT, Arizona, 90

Scott Wright's Top 32 Prospects for the 2009 NFL Draft
1. Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Franchise signal caller with one of the strongest arms in football.

2. Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest
Playmaker at the linebacker position with terrific size and speed.

3. Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
Athletic former tight end with the tools to protect the blind side.

4. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Prolific college pass catcher with all the tools except elite speed.

5. Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
Follows Ferguson and Albert as the Cavs next great LT prospect.

6. B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
A massive, powerful player who could excel in either a 4-3 or 3-4.

7. Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio St.
Prototypical size, average speed but will hit and support the run.

8. Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
Workout Warrior who could be a 4-3 DE or a 3-4 OLB in the pros.

9. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
A explosive playmaker as a pass catcher, runner and return man.

10. Chris Wells, RB, Ohio St.
Big (6-1, 235), bruising runner with the ability to be a workhorse.

11. Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
Terrific size along with great athleticism, quickness and strength.

12. Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Only started for one year but is more talented than Matt Leinart.

13. Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma St.
Timed speed's just average but an excellent all-around tight end.

14. Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
Very athletic and can be dominant but has some question marks.

15. Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
Physical tools are first-rate but intangibles are a question mark.

16. Everette Brown, DE, Florida St.
Explosive pass rusher whose optimal fit may come as a 3-4 OLB.

17. Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC
Big, tough, nasty middle linebacker who can really lay the lumber.

18. Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
Undoubtedly a Top 10 talent but durability issues are a concern.

19. Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
Isn't an elite pass rusher but will be a perfect fit in a 3-4 scheme.

20. Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
Tough, versatile 'backer but has really struggled to stay healthy.

21. Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
Not many can match his amazing combination of size and speed.

22. Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
Penetrator with top speed / quickness and outstanding strength.

23. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Average measurables but fantastic vision, patience and instincts.

24. James Laurinaitis, ILB, Ohio St.
Super instinctive and plays both the run and the pass effectively.

25. Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn St.
Top pass rusher but vastly undersized and isn't ready physically.

26. Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest
Doesn't have the height you look for but is fast and a playmaker.

27. Larry English, DE, Northern Illinois
Extremely productive pass rusher who can project to DE or OLB.

28. Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas St.
Could move way up due to his size (6-6, 250) and arm strength.

29. Clay Matthews, OLB, USC
Hard worker who went from a walk-on to a possible first rounder.

30. Clint Sintim, OLB, Virginia
Big hitter who can rush the quarterback and drop into coverage.

31. Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
Top pass rusher who could play end, tackle or outside linebacker.

32. Louis Delmas, S, Western Michigan
Plays both the run and pass effectively and is also a team leader.

Gil Brandt, NFL.com Here is my "Hot 100" --
Tier One (1-10)
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech:
Crabtree was a high school quarterback who caught 231 passes for 41 touchdowns in just two seasons as a receiver at Texas Tech… Holds the NCAA freshman record for most receptions, yards and TDs (134-1,962-22)… Had foot surgery in late February, but has been given a clean bill of health… Very soft hands.

Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest:
Started 48 games in four years for the Demon Deacons… In 2007, he tied the NCAA record for linebackers with three interceptions returned for touchdowns… Ran a 4.55 40-yard dash at the combine at 254 pounds.

Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State:
Tall (6-foot-5 ¾) with a big arm… Passed for 38 TDs over the last two seasons… Started eight games as a true freshman… Smart with great work habits… Father played in the USFL… Ran for 400 yards and 14 TDs in 2008 on a poor team… Risk-reward type of player.

Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU:
A former high school defensive player of the year in Louisiana in 2003… Started 39 games for LSU and recorded 24.5 sacks… Ran 4.97 at 296 pounds at the combine… A very good athlete with long arms (34 ¾ inches).

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri:
After missing 2006 with a knee injury, he started the last two seasons… Set NCAA record for freshman in 2007 with 2,776 all-purpose yards… Caught 182 passes in two seasons for 22 TDs… Excellent return specialist.

Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia:
Played as a true freshman in 2005… Has started at both guard and left tackle over last three years for Cavaliers… Strong, good athlete… Comes from family of 16 children, including 11 boys.

Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas:
Ran a 4.63, had a 39 ½-inch vertical jump and did 31 bench press reps at the combine… Very athletic… Had 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in 2008… Good burst makes him an effective pass rusher… Needs to play more consistently.

Andre Smith, OT, Alabama:
Only seven players in Alabama history have started a season opener as a true freshman; Smith started 13 games at left tackle as a true freshman… This is a very good football player who performs much better then his speed and bench press numbers suggest… Has very long arms (35 3/8 inches)… Will be a Pro Bowl player if he stays in shape.

Jason Smith, OT, Baylor:
Smith started eight games at tight end in 2005… Moved to tackle, starting on the right side in 2006, and at left tackle the last two seasons… He is a good pass protector, with good punch and footwork… Had 33 bench-press reps at the combine, and then 38 at his pro day workout… Very smart, great character.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia:
Started 34 games in three years at Georgia… As a true freshman in 2006, he recorded wins over the 5th-, 14th- and 16th-ranked teams in the nation… Smart player, with a very strong arm and outstanding athletic ability… Ran under 4.9 at the combine at 225 pounds.

Tier Two (11-20)
Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee:
Started only two games prior to 2008, but has emerged after a solid season and a great Senior Bowl week… Plays with quickness and body control.

Everette Brown, DE, Florida State:
Plays with great effort… Ran under 4.7 at the combine at 266 pounds… Had 20 sacks the last two seasons.

Brian Cushing, LB, USC:
Started four games as a true freshman… Plays with reckless abandon… Did 30 bench press lifts at the combine to go along with 4.74 speed… Also had the best time for LBs in the three-cone drill (6.87).

Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State:
Started four games as a true freshman for the Buckeyes, lining up as nickel back… Ran 4.54 at the combine and had very good short shuttle (4.11) and three-cone drill (6.59) times… Has very good instincts.

Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi:
Has started 22 games over the past two seasons… Had six sacks in 2008… Has great first-step quickness and plays with great effort… Is already married and will turn 25 in August.

Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State:
A good natural athlete who led the Big Ten in 2008 with 10 sacks… Very good pass rush ability… Check out the Wisconsin game tape from 2008 to see his skills.

Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi:
One of the great all-time stories in college football: Didn't play football until his junior year of high school, and the subject of a best-selling book… Started 10 games as a true freshman… Has very good feet and long arms (34 inches)… An outstanding person who will play well in the league for many years.

B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College:
Did not play in 2007 due to an academic issue… Has good strength (33 reps at combine) and quickness… Has short arms (32 inches) but big hands… Plays hard on every play.

Mark Sanchez, QB, USC:
Has very good athletic ability, and the ability to throw on the run… Good quickness to avoid the pass rush… Good accuracy… Has been well coached and will be a good NFL quarterback… Played great vs. Penn State in the Rose Bowl.


Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State:
Three-year player with great speed and quickness needed for the position… Good blocker… Did 25 bench-press reps at the combine… Needs to work on catching the ball… Top person.

Tier Three (21-30)

William Beatty, OT, Connecticut:
Beatty might be a little bit of a reach this high, but he can play left tackle in the NFL… Has long arms (34 ¾ inches)… Started 35 games at left tackle for UConn… Slim, basketball player build… Good quickness to handle speed rushers.

Eben Britton, OT, Arizona:
Three-year player who started 2006-07 at right tackle and moved to left tackle in 2008… Very good competitor… Has good feet… Very smart… Needs more upper-body strength.

Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois:
Brother of 49ers tight end Vernon Davis… Very good athlete with lots of talent… Not real easy to coach… Strong (25 lifts at combine) and will tackle… Will remind you of DeAngelo Hall as both a player and a person.

Percy Harvin, WR, Florida:
Harvin has as much talent as any player in this draft… Has great speed and a burst… Comes from same area as Michael Vick, and has had character problems in the past… He can be a dynamic player if he can get his act together.

Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech:
Has outstanding athletic ability and outstanding pass rush ability… Long arms… Not very good vs. the run… Needs to improve stamina.

James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State:
Three-year starter for Ohio State who is very smart and very competitive… Can play all three linebacker spots in the 4-3… Great character person; his father was a professional wrestler and his sister is a hockey player… The first high school player from Minnesota to play at Ohio State in 75 years will have a long NFL career.

Clay Matthews Jr., LB, USC:
His father Clay played 15 years with the Cleveland Browns (1978-93) and uncle Bruce is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame… Was a walk-on at USC… He weighed under 200 pounds as a high school senior… Moves well, and can drop into coverage or rush the passer… Plays with intensity.

Rey Maualuga, LB, USC:
A middle linebacker with great physical ability… Has problem keeping his weight down… He's very strong and a great leader… Played okay in space in college, but may have a problem in the NFL… Has had some character problems.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia:
Redshirted in 2006, then played RB for just two seasons… He is a complete player -- will block, can catch passes and runs with power… Has strong legs, can elude tacklers and will not fumble… Has good, not great, speed, but should be an outstanding player.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State:
Not a speedy pass-catching TE, but he can be a dominant player… He's a better football player than he is an athlete… Has long arms and big hands… Ran 4.88 at the combine at 266 pounds… Has good work habits.

That about concludes this year’s “draft preview” and now it’s a waiting game to see who will be the newest players to sport the Black and Gold. Coming off a Super Bowl victory last February, the Steelers will be bringing back essentially the same team that beat the Arizona Cardinals.

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