(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)