"You are educated when you have the ability to listen to almost anything
without losing your temper or self-confidence." - Robert Frost

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I feel there are numerous untapped and hard to find statistics in football that should be more available to the public.  Below are what I consider “tops” on my list and I would appreciate if you would vote on which you would like to see more readily available.

The Voting Booth is listed at the right!

 Player Participation
This is just a simple number that would show how many plays a player is on the field for out of the total offensive or defensive plays in the game.

Team Formation Log
A simple count of how of how often teams use personnel groupings like 3 WR/1 TE/ 1 RB or 2 WR/2RB/1TE, etc.  And for defenses how often they are in 3-4-4 or 2-5-4 or 2-4-5 or 4-1-6, etc.

Success Rate
This is a simple percentage (like a batting average) of when a team is successful on a play or not.  A simple formula like 40% of 1st down yardage, 60% of 2nd down yardage and a conversion on 3rd or 4th down would equal a “successful” play.  I would think this could be expanded for run plays, pass plays and for both offense and defense.

 Team Situation Stats
Again, I don’t know why this isn’t around, but how about team offense and defensive stats for certain situation (like they have for individual quarterbacks).  What is a team’s stats on 3rd down?  1st down?  Red Zone?  Trailing?  In the lead?  If all this is available for players, why can’t we find it for teams?

Please cast your vote on the right.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Steelers Draft Analysis (Archive)

Here are my previous Steelers Draft Analysis starting in 2006.  I will try to keep these files updated to include 1-year, 3-year and 5-year updates of each draft class.

Steelers 2006 Draft Analysis

Steelers 2007 Draft Analysis

Steelers 2008 Draft Analysis

Steelers 2009 Draft Analysis

Steelers 2010 Draft Analysis

Steelers 2011 Draft Analysis

Thanks again for reading.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Steelers 2011 Draft Summary

My entire 2011 Draft Analysis is available HERE

OVERALL 2011 DRAFT GRADE (INITIAL):                      2.90 GPA (B-)

OVERALL 2011 DRAFT GRADE (1-YEAR):                     

1-Year Update:

Analysis & Comments:

I would consider this a good, not great, draft for the Steelers.  I see a lot of serviceable players that should see considerable playing time over the course of their careers.  This is a low ceiling, high floor draft as I think Heyward, Gilbert and Brown will definitely provide much needed depth at their positions and see the field sooner rather than later.

What really dictated how this draft progressed all came down to the Heyward vs. Sherrod vs. Ras-I Dowling selection at pick #31.  If we select Sherrod, then many picks after are effected by that decision, as evidence by what I would have done in the Steelers’ draft slots:

1-31            Derek Sherrod, OT
2-63            Davon House, CB
3-95            Curtis Brown, CB
4-128          Marcus Cannon, OG/OT
5-162          Chris Carter, OLB
6-196          Jarrell Powe, NT
7-232          Deunta Williams, S

Note, I am not saying this is a vastly superior draft, just a different way to prioritize needs and value.  This draft above also highly overdrafts Davon House (by two rounds), but he is a player I have high confidence will turn into a very decent cornerback.  Note if I had known House would be available in round 4, maybe I go Sherrod and Gilbert back-to-back (and put House in for Marcus Cannon), but I would not have risked waiting on cornerbacks like that real-time.

As with later round picks, I also have my differences - especially with position and where I think competition on the roster is more needed (NT and S).  I have consistently emphasized these positions often the last couple of seasons.  My draft also fails to really provide more depth at DE, which could be a risk (but I didn’t know Aaron Smith was still hobbled either).

Overall, I think the 2010 short term goals are primarily if we see snaps from Heyward early, Gilbert flashed starting ability somewhere on the right side and fits embraces the "Florida" them with Pouncey/Starks, and Curtis Brown quickly passes Gay and Mundy for snaps in our nickel defense personnel (let’s say by mid-season).

What could turn this draft from good to very good this season is if Cortez Allen or Chris Carter flash real NFL starting talent.  We all know those selections need time and work, but if we can see the tip of the iceberg at some point then this draft class has a lot of potential.  However if Allen fails to beat out Lewis or Carter doesn’t impress enough to keep nine linebackers and both are cut, I would be disappointed with those selections.

Long term, where Curtis Brown and Marcus Gilbert end up could be the deciding factor.  Does Curtis Brown develop into anything more than a #3 CB?  Does Gilbert not only win time on the offensive line but excel and improve the group?  Based on Colbert's track record, we all know Heyward will contribute.  It's what the draft offers after that.

The nightmare scenario is the only real player we find is Cameron Heyward.  If Gilbert looks just like all of our other late round right-side linemen, if Brown looks just like William Gay, if Allen/Carter fail to make the roster, then this draft starts to look pretty bleak.

I don’t think that’s the case and see a relatively solid draft just with little upside that reminds me a bit of 2009.  That year Wallace surprised and hopefully someone from this draft will do the same.  This unknown is what makes this process so much fun.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Undrafted Free Agents (2011)

This space is reserved for my analysis of undrafted free agent, which haven't been signed due to the lockout.     

1-Year Update:

Initial Analysis & Grade:                  

Other Options:        Duenta Williams, SS (North Carolina)
                              Steven Friday, OLB (Virginia Tech)
                              Joe Lefeged, SS (Rutgers)
                              Ricardo Lockette, WR (Fort Valley St.)
                              Ian Williams, NT/DT (Notre Dame)
                              Brandon Baire, DE/DT (Oregon)
                              Anthony Gray, NT (Southern Mississippi)
                              Dane Sanzenbacher, WR (Ohio St.)
                              Derrick Locke, RB (Kentucky)   
                              Adrian Moten, LB (Maryland)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Baron Batch

#232-7      Baron Batch     RB     Texas Tech     rSenior
(2 pts)            5095 ~ 207#         4.50                24 ~ 39” ~ 10’-6”                 ” ~ ”                        DOB: 

Initial Grade (Value):          C                            Initial Grade (Potential/Fit/Need):          C

Draft Day Analysis:

I don’t really know how serious to take this selection.  From a paper standpoint, the selection of Bach makes sense.  He’s a very similar player to Mewelde Moore and is ahead of the curve for pass offenses, protection schemes and catching the ball.  He also looks like he could contribute on special teams.

But Batch is also a fairly mediocre talent being ranked the #36 RB in this class by NFL Draft Scout and a non-invite to the combine.  This isn’t a talent like Jonathan Dwyer that dropped.  This is a legit 7th round talent that fits what we could need or provide pressure to negotiations with Moore and his agent.

How deep is our running back position really?  Do we need depth on the practice squad for this type of player?

I don’t think this is the direction I would have gone, but it’s not the worst pick I’ve ever seen either.

I just caution we can’t assume Batch is a lock for the team or is the guaranteed replacement for Moore like some believe.

Again, my list of alternatives starts with a long list of safeties (Williams, McDaniel, Lefeged) all of whom I would have drafted ahead of Batch to provide competition to both Will Allen and Ryan Mundy in special teams and backup safety.  Deunta Williams in particular I think was worth a draft selection as he was a very productive player before a broken leg sidelined him last season.

Other Options:               Deunta Williams, SS (UNC)
                                    Joe Lefeged, S (Rutgers)
                                    DeAndre McDaniels, SS (Clemson)
                                    Steven Friday, OLB (Virginia Tech)
                                    Ian Williams, NT (Notre Dame)

Keith Williams

#196-6      Keith Williams     OG     Nebraska      rSenior
(14 pts)          6042 ~ 318#         5.28                23 ~ 24½” ~ 7’-9”                32⅜” ~ 10”           DOB: 

Initial Grade (Value):          D                            Initial Grade (Potential/Fit/Need):          D
Draft Day Analysis:

This is my least favorite draft selection of the year.  I am just so tired of the same slow-footed, unathletic tackle/guard prospects we seem to bring in every year now.  Whether we talk about Kraig Urbik or Ramon Foster or Chris Scott or Cameron Stephenson or Darnell Stapleton or AQ Shipley or Marven Philip, it’s just a solid list of offensive line prospect you can’t get excited about because there is so little potential in the player.

They are all exactly what you think they are.  And we are 2-3 deep right now on the roster with exactly the same type player and talent.

What might frustrate me the most is the comparisons of Keith Williams down the line vs. Marcus Cannon.  Williams obviously isn’t going to play this year.  If he makes the team at all, he’s going to red-shirt and see little (if any) time on the active roster.  If you wanted another guard in this draft (after getting Gilbert), why not find a way to get Cannon and put him on IR for his rookie season?

Is it really THAT important a rookie go through the abbreviated camp (because of the lockout) vs. being placed on IR while he recovers from a very non-lethal form of cancer?  Isn’t the risk/reward of a guy most consider a day-1 talent vs. Williams (who everyone pigeon holed as a later round or undrafted player) worth it sometimes?

There were even other prospects at other position that I consider much better talent/risk selections.  Someone like Jerrell Powe might be highly needed if we don’t re-sign Chris Hoke at nose tackle.  Isn’t it time we started grooming someone for that position?  Every year we pass on that position and it’s going to bite us soon.

A strong case can also be made for the athletic tight end, Virgil Green from Nevada.  This team appears to have some room for competition at the #3 TE or H-Back position.  Maybe someone with a bit more speed and athleticism would be good for Arians’ offense.

Even the list of safeties looks tempting:  Tyler Sash (Iowa), Deunta Williams (UNC), DeAndre McDaniel (Clemson) or Joe Lefeged (Rutgers)

Overall, I just see no upside or reason for this selection.  Not when you look at his talent level, who we have on the roster, what else was available and what other positions of need could be open on the roster.

Other Options:              Jerrell Powe, NT (Mississippi)
                                    Virgil Green, TE (Nevada)
                                    Deunta Williams, SS (UNC)

Chris Carter

#162-5      Chris Carter     OLB/DE     Fresno State     Senior
(27.6 pts)      6011 ~ 248#         4.58                27 ~ 36” ~ 9’-6”                   33” ~ 9¼”              DOB:  4-6-89

Initial Grade (Value):          A                            Initial Grade (Potential/Fit/Need):          C+

Draft Day Analysis & Grade:

Chris Carter was a surprise value selection in round five that I am extremely happy the Steelers pulled the trigger on.  I had him ranked a solid 3rd round prospect and think he is equivalent to 4th round value draftees like Eric Norwood, Thaddeus Gibson and O’Brian Schoolfield from last season.

Carter is the perfect “Steelers” find and again proves we know how to scout and evaluate the linebacker position for our system (not counting Bruce Davis).  It is the bread and butter of the Colbert and Company evaluation process.

Carter looks to have exceptional burst and a solid 72 on Kirwin’s Explosion Index.  He obviously will need adjustment to zone coverages and working in space, but if we can keep the roster spot Gibson had a while for Carter, I would expect an opportunity to contribute on special teams and graduate into a potential backup.

Another great positive about Carter is his intelligence.  He comes from a stable home, has a brother who plays for UCLA and studied philosophy and pre-law.  He was also tutored by Willie McGinnest during the pre-draft workout phase to help him transition to OLB and those drills.

I can’t really think of a negative about this selection except when considering the context of how we handled Thaddeus Gibson last season.  Obviously, if we had kept Gibson instead keeping the injured Aaron Smith on the 53-man roster, this selection in unneeded.  So in some respects we used a 4th round selection on an OLB, only to lose him to an error in judgment, then used a 5th round selection this season to replace that same OLB on the roster.

Not really the ideal way to build a roster or use resources.

But I still have pretty high hopes for Carter making the team and maybe providing some solid depth at the OLB for years to come.

Other Options:              Demarcus Love, OT (Arkansas)
                                    Quan Sturdivant, ILB (UNC)
                                    Byron Stingily, OT (Louisville)

Cortez Allen

#128-4      Cortez Allen     CB     The Citadel     Senior
(44 pts)          6012 ~ 197#         4.51                18 ~ 35½” ~ 10’-9”             32¼” ~ 8⅝”          DOB:  10-29-88

Initial Grade (Value):          D                            Initial Grade (Potential/Fit/Need):       C

Draft Day Analysis & Grade:

There is a lot to like about Cortez Allen the player, but I think selecting him this high in the draft is a stretch.  In many publications, Allen just started emerging as a draftable prospect.  He only started playing football as a senior in high school, was never recruited (having already committed to the Citadel) and really was a “walk-on” type player for the Bulldogs.  Remember Citadel is division I-AA football program as well so the level of competition he’s seen is low.

Obviously when you talk about a graduated prospect from a Military Academy you are getting high character and work ethic and Allen fits this profile to a tee.  He’s a hard worker and should blend in with our team great.  But he is a project, outside the numbers cornerback that does not have elite speed for the position.

The tough part of grading this selection is the fact if we had selected Allen in the 6th round (for example), I would have really liked the pick.  But in this case, considering the other choices available, I am not as excited about the selection.

The big question mark to me is the comparison of Allen vs. Davon House, the speedy cornerback from New Mexico State.  Considering House’s resume (very good press corner with 11 career INT’s and 3 TD’s), his,speed and size, I think he is a better prospect pretty much across the board.  The only unknown is off-the-field and character concerns.  But at pick #128 after having select three pretty clean character players, the risk/reward of House (even with hypothetical character issues) is justifiable.

So as much as I like Allen, I am frustrated with this selection.  And find it hard to believe Allen will EVER be or produce more on the field than House in Green Bay (who was selected three picks later).

Another option that should also be mentioned is Marcus Cannon, the monster offensive tackle/guard prospect from TCU that was a solid 2nd rounder before pre-draft physicals discovered Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  Cannon’s diagnosis and talent could have been a steal if he becomes 100% healthy for the 2012 season.  Again, another decent team (New England) selected him as a risk/reward prospect.

Other Options:              Davon House, CB (New Mexico State)
                                    Marcus Cannon, OG/OT (TCU)
                                    Brandon Burton, CB (Utah)

Curtis Brown

#95-3        Curtis Brown     CB     Texas     Senior
(120 pts)       5115 ~ 185#         4.51                10 ~ 39½” ~ 10’-8”              32½” ~ 9½”          DOB:  9/24/88

Initial Grade (Value):          B+                          Initial Grade (Potential/Fit/Need):       B

Draft Day Analysis:

I should probably be more excited about this selection than I am.  I had Curtis Brown ranked a fairly solid mid-to-late 2nd round prospect and we pick him up close to pick #100.  That’s good value in my book and he is definitely a player at a need position.

The issue with Brown is I see a high-floor, low-ceiling player and that theme is starting to dominate my opinion of this draft class.

What Curtis Brown offers is solidification of the nickel cornerback position on this team sooner rather than later.  Of all Brown’s talents, his ability to play the slot and variety of zone coverages seems his greatest asset.  He might finally cure our struggles in nickel defenses that we saw as Gay, Burnett and Mundy got abused vs. 4-wide offenses.

What Curtis Brown doesn’t offer is a real potential to become a #1 CB.  His footwork and top-notch speed just don’t seem to be there to ever take that leap.  In fact, he might not even become a good #2.  He could be a GREAT #3, but not quite have all the tools you look for if he stuck outside one-on-one.  Maybe I’m wrong on this (I hope) and maybe he can excel at nickel duties early and show me something I don’t currently see when/if he gets promoted higher on the depth chart and moves outside the numbers.  William Gay never made that transition and it ruined his career.

As far as options, the debate is really more about eye-of-the-beholder differences.  I would have much preferred an outside the numbers, speed cornerback like Davon House.  Curtis Marsh was another player in this mold that went 3 spots ahead of us to Philadelphia.  But I understand exactly what the Steelers were thinking with this selection and despite being somewhat conservative, he does offer the more immediate return on investment.  Maybe after being burned a bit by Keenan Lewis (who I would classify as a project “outside the numbers” cornerback), this pick in understandable.

Other Options:           Davon House, CB (New Mexico St.)
                                 Marcus Cannon, OT/OG (TCU)

Marcus Gilbert

#63-2        Marcus Gilbert     OT/OG     Florida     rSenior   
(276 pts)       6061     330#      5.41        30 ~ 30½” ~ 8’-2”       33½” ~ 9¾”       DOB:   2/15/88

Initial Grade (Value):          C                            Initial Grade (Potential/Fit/Need):       B

Draft Day Analysis:

I will be honest and say Marcus Gilbert was not on my radar for being this high a draft choice.  I considered him a very good right-side only prospect, but thought (and still think) he is a “typical” offensive line prospect - the kind of talent you often see year-in, year-out in every draft class.  But as I re-scouted him (more closely this time), I might have been mistaken in my original analysis and now consider him a solid 3rd round grade and a slightly above average selection for the #63 pick overall.

Gilbert’s positives are he is an NFL ready offensive lineman.  He has NFL strength.  He fits with the “Florida University” theme we now have with Starks and Pouncey (and if Pouncey continues to develop into the leader of the line, Gilbert will likely fit very well).  He has the experience to compete at both RG and RT almost immediately in our system (both positions of need).  In many respects, Gilbert “looks the part” and passes the eye-ball test.

The negatives are he simply will never be a top-10 caliber LT player and I question the “value” of using the #63 pick overall for what I consider a right-sided only player.  Is he any better or worse than Willie Colon (pick #131)?  Is the solution to the RG position to just spend more on the position after Kraig Urbik (pick #79) failed?

For all the reasons I grade the Cameron Heyward selection high (getting that caliber/position at pick #31), I am struggling to highly grade this selection.

However, despite all this, Marcus Gilbert is growing on me as our pick.  For starters, there aren’t a lot of other choices that really jumped out at me.  I had CB’s Curtis Marsh and Curtis Brown as 2nd prospects and Justin Houston (DE/OLB), Martez Wilson (ILB) and Leonard Hankerson (WR) were highly touted by some, but none of those jumped out at me as value players or perfect fits for our system/needs; at least not a lot more than Gilbert.

Lastly, maybe overspending on the RG position to fix that spot once and for all is okay.  Watching Stapleton, Essex, Urbik and Foster struggle over the past few years has been maddening.  And watching those players being asked to do things in Arians’ system they can’t possibly do even more so.

If the front office and coaching staff think Gilbert is the guy to finally fix that spot once and for all, I’ll give them leeway one more time to try, pinning my hopes Sean Kugler’s input will help.  If this pick fails to the level of Kraig Urbik or Bruce Davis however, my criticism will be stronger than ever.

Other Options:            Davon House, CB (New Mexico St.)
                                 Justin Houston, OLB (Georgia)        
                                 Curtis Brown, CB (Texas)
                                 Curtis Marsh, CB (Utah State)
                                 Martez Wilson, ILB (Illinois)

Cameron Heyward

#31-1        Cameron Heyward     DE     Ohio State     Senior
(600 pts)       6045   294#      4.95      DNP ~ 35” ~ DNP      34¼” ~ 10⅛”       DOB:  5-6-89

Initial Grade (Value):          B+                          Initial Grade (Potential/Fit/Need):       B

Draft Day Analysis:

Cameron Heyward is a very solid and safe selection for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He is an outstanding 5-technique defensive end prospect for the 3-4 system run here and has all the natural ability and work ethic to be an outstanding complement to Ziggy Hood at the right defensive end position (eventually displacing Brett Keisel, who will be 33 this September).

Heyward is the son of former University of Pittsburgh great Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, who personally is one of my favorite Panthers ever.  And I’m glad to see us get the high-character player like Heyward in the Steelers family.  He is a natural fit here from a leadership/character perspective.

Heyward is recovering from “Tommy John” elbow surgery this off-season, so he could not complete some of the strength tests this off-season and he will need work to regain his core upper body strength 100% (and make it NFL caliber).  But as with all Steelers rookies, there is little demand to play 100% of snaps this season but rather learn the defense and contribute in a rotational role with Keisel/Smith/Hood.  Heyward does appear on tape to exhibit all the traits of a solid 5-technique lineman.  He has a great bubble, holds his base well, is tall with long arms and sheds blocks extremely well with good arm/hand action in the trenches.  In many respects I actually consider him a better 5-technique prospect than Ziggy Hood and more comparable to a Tyson Jackson (who Kansas City selected with the #3 overall pick in 2009).

It is this type of “value drafting” that makes me like this selection.  In many years a 5-technique DE of this caliber might be a mid-round selection (or higher) and the Steelers grab him at pick #31.  Those small, incremental bargains allow the Steelers to stay competitive in the overall talent “game” in the salary cap, draft-building era.  I see no reason to doubt or question how this pick will end up.  Heyward will likely be here for years, contribute, and do much of the dirty work our defensive line is forced to do.

As for other options, there was talent available at other positions of need.  Derek Sherrod is a very talented offensive tackle prospect that reminded me a lot of Marvel Smith.  He was an experienced, SEC performer I thought easily could have been groomed to be an outstanding Steelers-type left tackle while Max Starks plays out his contract.  And the offensive line group remains a sore-spot as far as overall talent on the team.

The other positional grouping needing upgrade (based on our Super Bowl performance especially) was the defensive backfield.  And two solid late-first/early-second round talents were available in Ras-I Dowling and Aaron Williams.  Dowling was a fan favorite and appeared to be devalued due to his senior injury while Williams appeared to be ahead on most Big Boards and was heavily scouted (at Texas) by our staff.  Of the two, I preferred Dowling (in fact, I had hoped for much of the off-season he would be available with our 2nd round pick), but he climbed fast the last month of the draft process and was selected by Bill Belichick at pick #33.  In fact, on a side note, New England has now selected one of my favorite CB’s each draft the last three seasons (Darius Butler in ’09, Devin McCourty in ’10 and now Dowling).

Considering the recent news Aaron Smith is still not 100% recovered from his bicep tear (I believe the same arm he tore a tricep a few years ago) and despite the fact I had Derek Sherrod a higher graded player, I am fine with this selection.  If I was in the war room, I would have argued for Sherrod, but likely could have easily been persuaded to Heyward.

Other Options:              Derek Sherrod, OT (Mississippi)
                                    Ras-I Dowling, CB (Virginia)
                                    Aaron Williams, CB (Texas)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Steelers 2011 Draft - Preface

I have been creating "draft analysis" for the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2006 with the format staying relatively the same year-in, year-out.  Over the next week, I will be posting a grade and commentary for each of the Steelers draft selections.

It is my hope to grade picks after 1-year, 3-years and 5-years as well (these time-frames are subject to change) and will try to catch up with 2006-2010 draft analysis updates and link to them in this blog as well.

In general I assign two grades for each selection.  The first grade is for "Value" which I define as not only how that player was viewed by the general draftnik community prior to the draft but also how that player's skills and rating compare at his position to previous draft classes.  The second grade is for "Potential/Fit/Need".  This is a catch-all grade that tries to grade the upside of the player and how he fits with the Steelers roster needs and scheme.

I weight each grade for each pick based on the "Draft Value Chart" (the trade chart used to trade draft picks created by the Cowboys in the 1960's).  The numerical value of grades is similar to what you had in school:

A+ = 4.5
A = 4.0
A- = 3.67
B+ = 3.33
B = 3.0
B- = 2.67
C+ = 2.33
C = 2.0
C- = 1.67
D+ = 1.33
D = 1.0
D- = .67
F = 0.0

The overall draft grade point average is thus using the following formula:
∑ (Draft Value Chart * Grades) / 2 * Total Draft Value Chart of All Picks

Overall, it's pretty straight forward and I think represents a relatively clean method of formulating a draft opinion.  Eventually, I want to grade drafts at the 5-year point based on the value of the players' 2nd contract as I think how a player evolves contractually is actually the most accurate method of knowing the players' worth both to his team and the rest of the league.  Unfortunately, the recent 2010 labor rules and now the 2011 lock-out has thrown a kink into the 2nd contracts of many 2006 and 2007 players.  It will work it self out soon I hope, and we can really analyze both the Steelers draft and the draft class overall in a new way.