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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Steelers 2012 Draft Analysis

Published May 17, 2012
Total Draft Value Chart Points (9 selections):  1351.6

#24-1        David DeCastro      OG      Stanford      rJunior
(740 pts)       6045    316#       5.43 (4.56 ~ 7.30)       34 ~ 29½” ~ 8’-2”       32¾” ~ 10”        DOB:  1-11-90

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

1-Year Update:

Draft Day Analysis:

The selection of David DeCastro at pick #24 in the 2012 draft is the best first round selection by the Steelers organization since Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.  It also earns my highest grade possible for a draft selection.

There are eerie similarities of this selection to our 1998 pick of Alan Faneca (pick #26) down to size (almost exactly the same), class (both redshirt juniors), pedigree and fall on draft day.  I remember that April 25th well when Mel Kiper exclaimed how much of a steal Alan Faneca was and had he stayed in school another year would likely have been a top-10 pick (back then, that was pretty much the extent of finding out info about players).

The DeCastro pick is as much a steal as Faneca and expectations for his career will compare to that of the 10-year pro bowl, future hall of famer.  I have never scouted a better guard prospect since 2006 when I started my own “draft boards”.  DeCastro has elite fundementals as a run blocker, almost effortlessly walling off defenders with his quick feet and hand use.  He is not a mauling, lock on-and-drive type lineman.  He is a technician that “beats players to the spot” and almost magically appears in the way of defenders as they attempt to close running holes.  This elite footwork also allows for seamless second level blocking at times.

When I watched DeCastro’s tape, I thought this is the tape every high school level lineman should watch.  It was that good.

If there is a negative to DeCastro’s game (and this is a stretch), it is his pass blocking is adequate.  DeCastro is not a tackle moved inside to guard that has arm length and a background in blocking in space.  He does not pass protect like a tackle as a result.  He is much better when using his smarts and quick feet and teamwork as effective ways to prevent sacks.  In fact, despite this being a concern on tape, DeCastro only allowed one sack (as a freshman) during his entire college career.

As I write this a week later, I still can’t believe DeCastro fell to the Steelers at #24.  Post draft rumors have stated we had a trade-up deal in place with the Jets (#16) had both Irvin and Coples been available.  Kevin Colbert stated DeCastro was a player graded as a possible trade-up target.

This was just one of those drafts where the players that fell happened to be very highly rated on the Steelers board and fit need.  Not only was DeCastro available but Dont’a Hightower, the inside linebacker from Alabama, sat on the board as well.  Linebacker coach Keith Butler is on record being in the draft room pushing for Hightower.  Colbert also said two other round 1 targets were available as well (likely Kevin Zeitler and maybe Cordy Glenn).

I had targeted Hightower early in the draft process as my favorite and likely choice at pick #24.  But not in any of my wildest dreams would DeCastro still be available.  I fully endorse this selection and look forward to his long career as a Steeler.

Other Options:              Dont’a Hightower, LB (Alabama)
                                    Kevin Zeitler, OG (Wisconsin)

#56-2        Mike Adams      OT      Ohio State      Senior   
(340 pts)       6070     323#       5.40 (4.95 ~ 7.94)        21 ~ 28½” ~ 8’-4”        34” ~ 10⅞”        DOB:   3/10/90

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

1-Year Update:

Draft Day Analysis:

In every draft it seems round 2 presents the most surprises and shocks.  Many touted first rounders fall and a host of surprise, mid-round graded players get selected, often in surprising order.  Round 2 has always seemingly been a boom/bust round as there are as many flops as stars.  And no round seems to offer fans more “what if” scenarios three or four years down the road.

The Mike Adams selection falls into the “surpise” faller category and offers the Steelers unique upside but also potentially little return.

From a talent perspective, Mike Adams has late 1st round skills at the offensive tackle position (both left and right).  He has great size and length, decent “bubble” and body shape, and adequate footwork.  He reminds me a lot of Marcus McNeill, the 2006 second rounder of San Diego.  Adams doesn’t have the most elite intangibles, however, and this is what contributed to his fall on draft day (similar to how medical issues pushed McNeill down draft boards).

On-the-field, Adams doesn’t play with high intensity or “killer instinct” like some offensive lineman.  He can be passive at times to the point of being labeled “soft”.  I’m not as critical of this quality as some and think tackles can be technical in attitude and still succeed.  If they get the job done, sometimes that passive attitude can piss opponents off.

Off-the-field, Adams was part of the “Tattoo-gate” probe at OSU that resulted in a five game suspension.  More damning, however, was Adams failed drug test at the combine (for marijuana) and his denial during interviews that he used/uses drugs.  It was this dishonesty that had Adams completely off the Steelers draft board in March.

Mike Adams, a lifelong Steelers fan, then did something unprecedented; he specifically called the Steelers (no other teams), and requested a face-to-face interview with Colbert, Tomlin and Art Rooney to try and mend his status on the Steelers board.  The Steelers complied and used Adams as one of their 30 allowed draft visits.  There they worked him out and questioned him again about his lying and off field transgressions.

It was this meeting that placed Adams back on the Steelers board.  And high enough that they selected him with the 56th pick of the 2012 draft.  If Adams commits to the Steelers, he could become our starting left tackle for a long time (Tomlin has already stated Adams will take all reps this fall at left tackle).  If Adams falls back into his pot-smoking, lackadaisical ways, he likely has a short leash with the team and will find a quick exit.

Considering the talent on the board, I am fine with this selection.  It may seem uncharacteristically boom/bust for the Steelers, but they have done this before at this stage of the draft (Marvel Smith, Alonzo Jackson, Limas Sweed and Jason Worilds come to mind).  Only time will tell how the gamble will pay off.  Adams progression could be very similar to another Buckeye, Santonio Holmes, where he will contribute a lot this rookie contract but might never be a long-term “Steelers” type of player.

My other highest rated players available are listed below, although I would have selected Adams as well.

Other Options:           Mohammed Sanu, WR (Rutgers)
                                 Josh Robinson, CB (Central Florida)
                                 Bobby Massie, OT (Mississippi)
                                 Brandon Thompson/Josh Chapman/Alameda Ta’amu, NT’s
                                 Kelechi Osemele, OT/OG (Iowa State)
                                 Brandon Boykin, CB (Georgia)

#86-3        Sean Spence      LB      Miami (FL)      Senior
(160 pts)       5113 ~ 231#       4.71 (4.28 ~ 7.08)       12 ~ 33½” ~ 9’-11”       31½” ~ 9¼”       DOB:  6/7/90

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

1-Year Update:

Draft Day Analysis:

I will be completely honest and admit that immediately after being drafted, I hated this selection.  I categorized it on message boards as “another Bruce Davis” and panned the idea of fitting a smaller, WILL linebacker (12 reps!!!) into the Steelers scheme.  The selection felt very “forced” to me to address the linebacker position and I didn’t think the players available at linebacker matched this spot in the draft.

No other selection in this draft is causing as much discourse or discussion than Sean Spence.  This is because no other selection generates more questions than answers like Sean Spence.

Sean Spence is an excellent college linebacker.  When you watch tape, he jumps off the reel with his speed and involvement in plays.  He literally is everywhere.  Combine that with top-notch intangibles and natural leadership qualities and you can see why some considered him to be one of the top run-and-hit prospects in the draft.  If you go just on tape and college production, Spence is your type of prospect.

But we all know there is another side to the scouting coin and that is the dreaded “measurables”.  On that front, Sean Spence doesn’t pass muster and raises considerable concerns about his ability to transition into the NFL game and particularly the Steelers 3-4 defensive system.

Spence is undersized.  While his play speed and movement is exceptional, he did not test well in the 40-yard dash or agility drills.  His bench press lifts were terrible (and maybe effected by a lingering shoulder injury).  And his jump numbers look pedestrian.

I just don’t know if Spence has the ability to overcome these types of shortcomings physically at the next level.  He has never done well “engaged” with defenders.  He needs clean fronts to run and make plays.  To attempt to put him into our 3-4 alignment at either inside position seems questionable.  He just won’t stay clean enough or have enough room to work play-to-play.

So that brings us to the question, “Was Sean Spence drafted to play a different style of linebacker than we’re accustomed to in Pittsburgh?”   And the answer to that is we really don’t know yet.  Spence certainly has some ability to be a “roaming” defender like Lebeau sometimes uses.  And in nickel and dime packages, Spence likely makes for a better choice than Larry Foote or a traditional “Buck” linebacker.  Some even suggest Spence might get looks as a 3rd safety type player in the box (similar to how Polamalu plays at times).

One thing I do know is Sean Spence will do well on special teams and not fail so miserably as to not find a roster opening on that front (like Bruce Davis did).  But whether Spence becomes a contributor on the defense, even in substitution packages, is unknown.

When considering other options, the first is to look at other, potential inside linebackers.  The player that most jumps out as me and seems a better fit for our system is Ronnell Lewis who played a hybrid linebacker/defensive end position at Oklahoma.  Lewis is much bigger prospect that would fit as an inside, “Buck” type player and still have pass rush moves to allow inside blitzes.  Lewis is a more immediate upgrade to Larry Foote in my opinion (i.e. more size and athleticism).  Also in the mix of this style of player are Nigel Bradham (picked #105) or Keenan Robinson (pick #119) or James-Michael Johnson (pick #120) but the 3rd round was too high to go that route.

Another option, and one I wanted, was to address the nose tackle position now.  At pick #86, many of my 2nd tier nose tackle prospects were still on the board.  This included the falling Brandon Thompson (Clemson), Alameda Ta’amu (Washington) and Josh Chapman (Alabama).  My favorite for our defense has always been Chapman as he is very similar to a young Casey Hampton.  But his recently torn ACL is cause for concern.  And with all three available, maybe waiting another round was possible.

At the time however, I wanted to select a nose tackle and Josh Chapman was my choice.  I’m willing to live with that decision and see what happens down the line with his career in Indianapolis.

Other Options:           Josh Chapman, NT (Alabama)
                                 Ronnell Lewis, LB (Oklahoma)
                                 Alameda Ta’amu, NT (Washington)
                                 Brandon Boykin, CB (Georgia)


Washington Redskins trade the #109 (76 pts.) pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for the #119 (56 pts.) and #193 (15.2 pts.) selections.

The Steelers made a good trade (versus the trade value chart) to move up 10 spots in the 4th round.  With four 7th round selections remaining (three of which can’t be traded) this seems like a decent move to guarantee getting a player you want.

#109-4      Alameda Ta’amu      NT      Washington      Senior
(76 pts)          6024 ~ 348#        5.37 (4.72 ~ 7.52)       35 ~ 26” ~ 8’-7”       32” ~ 9¾”           DOB:  8-23-90

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

1-Year Update:

Draft Day Analysis & Grade:

Alameda Ta’amu is a very good selection for the Steelers.  He fills a huge need on the team and was one of the few legitimate nose tackle type players in this draft and one I had targeted for possible selection early in the evaluation process.

Ta’amu is a mountain of a man, playing at upwards of 375 lbs. during parts of his college career.  While these weight fluctuations could be cause for concern down the line (Mike Tomlin has shown little patience for players with weight issues, i.e. Hampton and Starks), the benefit is getting a naturally huge and strong player to anchor the inside of our line for years to come.

Ta’amu shows decent leverage and pad level and has an exceptional motor inside.  He is not a gifted pass rusher, but that has never been an important characteristic for the nose tackle position.  He can and will however demand double team attention and collapse/anchor the line of scrimmage.  And Ta’amu appears to be a selfless and good teammate that will understand his role.

Overall, there are few negatives to report about this selection at this point in the draft.  I’m surprised Ta’amu lasted into the fourth round as I thought he had enough lateral quickness to get some interest from 4-3 teams as well as those running a 3-4.  That didn’t happen and his slight fall helped get him into range for a trade-up and draft scenario.

I am on record as liking Josh Chapman as a better nose tackle prospect though it is a very slight difference and am still excited to get a player of Ta’amu’s skill.  I had both players ranked almost identical on my Big Board heading into the draft and would have given either pick the same grade.

Having selected Chapman over Ta’amu in round 3, I obviously would have gone a different direction here and find Ronnell Lewis still on the board at pick #119 without trading up.  We will see if the combination of Chapman/Lewis/6th round pick ends up better than Spence/Ta’amu in the coming years.  In hindsight, I am actually pretty content with both options and am still excited for Ta’amu’s future with the Steelers.

Other Options:              Josh Chapman, NT (Alabama)
                                    Ronnell Lewis, LB (Oklahoma)
                                    Brandon Boykin, CB (Georgia)

#159-5      Chris Rainey       RB       Florida       rSenior
(27.6 pts)      5083 ~ 180#       4.35 (3.93 ~ 6.50)       16 ~ 36½” ~ 10’-0”       30¾” ~ 9½”       DOB: 5-2-88

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

1-Year Update:

Draft Day Analysis & Grade:

Chris Rainey was a very surprising pick to me when I was watching the draft.  After filling most of our needs with the first four selections, I didn’t really know where the Steelers were going to head next and a lot of options remained on the board.

When you watch Chris Rainey highlights, it is hard not to like the selection.  He is as electrifying as any college prospect and had numerous big plays for the Florida Gators.  He is noticeably quicker than everyone else on the field and shows surprising toughness between the tackles on occasional runs.  He makes plays on special teams, runs, screens and pass receptions.  He lines up a numerous spots in the Gator offense and was much more a workhorse for them than his 5’-8”, 180 lbs size would lead you to believe (over 200 touches as a senior).

If Rainey can maintain that type of quickness edge in the NFL, he will have an immediate impact getting 10 touches a game.

The problem will be keeping Rainey out of the trainer’s room and healthy enough to play.  Rainey has had numerous, minor injuries during his college career, including ankle, knee, hip and shoulder problems that have kept him off the field or knocked him out of games.  It’s a big issue with this prospect that no highlight reel will really change and likely the sole reason for his drop into the 5th round.

The Rainey selection is as boom/bust as it gets for this reason.  If he can stay healthy, he’s an NFL quality player and will make plays as a specialist.  If he can’t, he will fade into history as just another 5th rounder.  Only time will tell which player the Steelers get.

I like the Rainey selection quite a bit because I like risk taking in the later rounds of the draft.  I had other players higher rated, even at the running back position, but I can see the appeal and fit Rainey gives the Steelers and new offensive coordinator, Todd Haley.

As you get later in the draft, obviously the options and opinions increase.  Players of interest still on my board included Cyrus Gray (RB), Markelle Martin (FS) George Iloka (SS), Billy Winn (DT/DE), Alphonso Denard (CB), Cam Johnson (OLB/DE), Scott Solomon (OLB/DE), Marvin Jones (WR), Juron Criner (WR) and yes, even Vontaze Burfict (LB).  Some of these prospects have off-the-field flags.  Others are just eye-of-the-beholder differences.

With so many late round picks available, I’m not sure this is the one I’d change for the Steelers (and I still have a 6th rounder left in my draft scenario).  The Rainey pick and its potential is really growing on me, even if my mind tells me he’s going to get hurt.  I might kick myself if Cyrus Gray becomes a decent back in the league (I see a lot of similarities of Gray to players like Ryan Williams, David Wilson or Demarco Murray), but let’s endorse this pick and say Colbert/Tomlin convinced me to see their side of the selection in the War Room.

Other Options:              Cyrus Gray, RB (Texas A&M)
                                    Markelle Martin, S (Oklahoma St.)
                                    Alphonso Denard, CB (Nebraska)

#193-6      TRADED

I only list the traded selection to discuss the available players at this point in the draft and who I would have selected (having not traded up in round 4).

I doubt the Steelers had him on their board, but I’m going to pull the trigger on Alphonso Denard, CB, from Nebraska.  Having had a recent arrest for third-degree felony assault of a police officer leading up the draft is a major red flag and for all I know, other flags in his past exist.  But if I am drafting based on shear talent and have this 6th rounder as a throw-away, I’m fine taking the risk on Denard.

Other Options:              Alphonso Denard, CB (Nebraska)
                                    Marvin McNutt, WR (Iowa)
                                    Tommy Streeter, WR (Miami)
                                    Brandon Washington, G (Miami)
                                          Scott Solomon, OLB (Rice)
                                          Kheeston Randell, DT/DE (Texas)

#231-7      Toney Clemons      WR      Colorado       Senior
(2 pts)            6021 ~ 210#       4.40 (4.33 ~ 6.93)       11 ~ 36” ~ 10’-8”       31⅝” ~ 9⅜”       DOB:  10-11-88

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

1-Year Grade:                    

1-Year Update:

Draft Day Analysis:

Toney Clemons was not on my draft board (it’s hard to get everyone and I only list about 250 prospects).  Doing research on him, he should have been.  Not many players have his height and speed gifts and I can see the interest of the Steelers front office.  Clemons is also a local resident, being born and raised in New Kensington, PA and was a highly touted recruit in high school (#12 wide receiver in the country).  Clemons was also one of the 30 pre-draft prospect visits to the facility (a theme you’ll see with our 7th round selections).

Clemons offers a lot to the Steelers roster as well, immediately becoming the tallest receiver on the roster and offering nice potential as a kick returner.  If Clemons can show decent capabilities on the punt coverage unit, there is a very decent opportunity for him to earn a roster spot as the teams #5 wide receiver (which is currently very wide open).

For that reason, I consider this a very good draft selection as there is a clear path for him to succeed and make his mark in the organization.  Clemons has clear NFL talent.  He has a roster spot that is “winnable” if he works and he provides unique skills to the roster both short and long term.

I wish I could say that about some of Colbert’s other late round selections.

The only negative really worth discussing is the fact Clemons had some minor issues in high school and his transfer from Michigan to Colorado was a bit ugly.  You hope bringing him home, back to his high school friendships, doesn’t also bring back that immaturity.  And maybe even more concerning is whether he can separate himself from those numerous friends and family enough to become a professional football player.  Now that he’s a Steeler, he will be getting lots of people pulling at him and demanding his attention.  How he handles that could make or break his career just as much as his physical gifts.

In general, I’m happy with the selection.  He fits the profile of what we need on the roster at wide receiver and offers NFL caliber physical traits.  Again, this is a pick I will defer to Colbert/Tomlin and trust they did their homework on his mental makeup.

Other Options:        Antonio Allen, S (South Carolina)
                              Vontaze Burfict, ILB (Arizona State)
#240-7      David Paulson      TE      Oregon      rSenior
(2 pts)            6031 ~ 246#       4.62 (4.25 ~ 7.09)       21 ~ 33” ~ 9’-5”       32¾” ~ 10⅛”       DOB:  2-22-89

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

1-Year Grade:                    

1-Year Update:

Draft Day Analysis:

David Paulson was another pre draft prospect visit to the Steelers and obviously they liked what they saw and selected him with the #240 pick in the draft, using the first of three compensatory, 7th round selections.

Paulson is a decent tight end prospect.  He was never that highly touted or rated and this seems to be the correct position in the draft to get him (7th/UFA).  Paulson was a good high school player (Auburn, Washington) and was rated by most major prospect ranking services (3 stars from Rivals).  He has always been a bit more receiver than blocker and was used as an H-back/split-end in the Oregon system more so than a traditional in-line tight end.  His transition to a more complete tight end will take both time and NFL weight training.

Unlike the Clemons selection, I don’t see a real opportunity for Paulson to make the roster unless he greatly exceeds reasonable expectations.  I would think the newly acquired Leonard Pope (who will have Haley’s support) and established David Johnson (who will have Colbert/Tomlin’s support) are far ahead of Paulson on the depth chart.  And Wesley Saunders looks like the long term project after he comes off his four game suspension (he showed flashes in games last season).  It seems to me if Paulson sticks at all it will peak as a member of the 2012 practice squad.

For these reasons, I would not have selected Paulson and went a different direction.  Looking at the big board, the player that catches my eye at a position of opportunity is Antonio Allen, the strong safety from South Carolina.  Allen was a much higher graded prospect through high school and college and plays at a position that will compete with Will Allen and Da’mon Cromartie-Smith.  Allen is also a decent special teamer and could compete on that front as well.

Other Options:              Antonio Allen, SS (South Carolina)
                                    Vontaze Burfict, ILB (Arizona State)
#246-7      Terence Frederick       CB       Texas A&M       rSenior
(2 pts)            5096 ~ 187#       4.43 (4.03 ~ 6.59)       16 ~ 35” ~ 10’-1”       31⅛” ~ 9⅛”       DOB:  2-10-90

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

1-Year Grade:                    

1-Year Update:

Draft Day Analysis:

The Terence Frederick pick offers a unique look into the inconsistencies and unknowns of the draft process looking from the outside (i.e. the fans).

The Texas A&M Aggies had three different “draftable” talents at cornerback this year.

Coryell Judie was the star of the program.  He was their clear #1 corner, had the toughest assignments and generated the biggest plays.  Scouts had him rated from the 3rd round to the 6th round.  He had size (5’-11½”, 195 lbs), decent speed (4.50) and great ball skills.  A hamstring injury his senior season however caused a bit of a fall in his career development, but he appeared healthy for the spring combine and workouts.

Frederick was the Aggies #2 corner.  He is undersized and was often targeted in the passing game.  He put up good quantity stats, including tackles for loss and sacks in the Aggies aggressive scheme.  He offers good athleticism, change of direction and speed, but looks poor technically on the field and needs more coaching to cleanup his footwork in coverage.

Finally there was the backup, Lionel Smith, who got limited reps and snaps (more when Judie got hurt this past year).  Smith is not a draftable player based on tape, but opened eyes with elite workout numbers at his pro day (he ran a 4.44) combined with nice size (almost 6’-0”), length and jump numbers.  “In shorts”, Smith surpassed both Judie and Frederick in the evaluation process.

So here the Steelers sit at pick #246 and all three players are available and all represent similar plusses and minuses of MANY prospects at this stage of the draft.  This is also where limited information (particularly off-the-field and what the college coaches say) really hurts the novice’s ability to understand evaluation process.

Judie seems the clear choice, right?  He’s much higher rated and if he was the #1 guy in college (over Frederick), how could Frederick possibly be better?  Frederick was never more than a #2 CB in college, in a pass happy conference, for a bad defense.  Frederick appeared to be used more on the line of scrimmage and slot and made more plays behind the line of scrimmage but in coverage, he’s not even close to the same talent level as Judie.

If my area scout came to me and said Frederick is a better prospect than Judie, I’d probably fire him.  Or I’d question the criteria used in making that decision (and maybe that’s the issue).

Frederick is a shorter version of William Gay; a player that will be in the right position, make solid tackles, blitz effectively and gain the trust of coaches.  But he will ALWAYS be a liability in coverage.  And this is even if he can make the team as a special teamer this year (his size might prevent that).  That’s Frederick’s ceiling as a professional cornerback.

I just have a hard time understanding the logic of some selections and this is one of them.  It’s not that I like another prospect better, but that most see a better prospect at the same position, on the same team.

So is the obvious answer correct?  Did the Steelers out-think themselves?  Trying to be too clever?  I don’t know.  Maybe they know something I don’t.

As for whom I’d pick, since I drafted Denard in round 6 that eliminates my need for another cornerback.  So this is where I finally pull the trigger on Vontaze Burfict.  Yes, Burfict is the poster child of how to screw up the draft process.  He buried his coaching staff.  He showed up out-of-shape.  He blamed everyone but himself in interviews.  He tested poorly in every drill known to man.

But when you watch Burfict on tape, especially his 2010 season, there wasn’t a more violent middle linebacker in the game.  He attacked the line of scrimmage and ball carriers noticeably more aggressively than other prospects.  He blew up lead blockers.  As a critic of Dennis Erickson, his coach at Arizona State, maybe Burfict never was given the right surroundings (Erickson was fired after the 2011 season).  And he is a huge risk of being a bad apple.  But using a 7th round pick on a player of that caliber (on the field) seems worth it.  This is particularly true when I think there are talent openings coming up at inside linebacker (both Foote and Sylvester’s contracts expire in 2012).

I just have a feeling we’ll look back at this draft class and Burfict will still be in the league getting tackles and making plays for someone 3-4 years from now.

Other Options:              Vontaze Burfict, LB (Arizona St.)
                                    See Undrafted List Below

#248-7      Kelvin Beachum       OG/OT       SMU       rSenior
(2 pts)            6027 ~ 303#       5.44 (4.80 ~ 7.79)       19 ~ 28½” ~ 8’-5”      33¼” ~ 9¾”       DOB:  6-8-89

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

1-Year Grade:                    

1-Year Update:

Draft Day Analysis:

Like former 7th round selections, Clemons and Paulson, Kelvin Beachum was brought in for a pre draft visit a couple weeks prior to the draft.  His interview and work out paid off by being the Steelers final selection of the 2012 NFL draft.

Beachum is an interesting selection because he is a shift away from other recent late round offensive line selections.  In the past (see Keith Williams, Chris Scott and Ramon Foster), the emphasis of the pick seemed to be on size/pedigree at the expense of footwork and athleticism.  That does not describe Kelvin Beachum.  If anything, Beachum is undersized and will likely have to shift inside to guard from the left tackle position he played at college.  This experience at left tackle shows up in his workouts, where he shows nice “dancing bear” qualities and ability to block on two levels.  Maybe it’s his young appearance, but I also think Beachum is a bit underdeveloped as well.  He looks a little soft around the middle and could use NFL weight training and diet.

I don’t exactly know where Beachum fits on the roster and he is likely to only make it to the practice squad (in a good scenario), but this shift away from slow footed 325 pounders is a positive to me.  And if it’s due to Bruce Arians’ departure and the arrival of Todd Haley, all the better.

I don’t expect much from this pick, but he’s a nice kid and I’m glad we’re the team to give him a shot.  I actually rated Beachum as a 6th round value.  But reality says he’s at least a year (maybe two) away from NFL caliber play and we might have to wait a while to see the fruits of our labor.

I do question the Beachum pick in comparison to a couple other tackle/guard prospects.  The first is James Brown, OT/OG from Troy.  Brown is an identical small school left tackle that will likely move inside to guard and take a few years to develop, but Brown seemed to get considerably more props from the drafnik community (NFL Draft Scout had him projected as a 3rd/4th rounder).  Brown also is a bit more developed physically and might be tall/long enough to play tackle in a pinch (not sure Beachum will ever be able to play tackle at under 6’-3” and 33¼” arms).  The other guard prospect of note is local Pitt product Lucas Nix.  Nix was likewise highly rated by both National Football Post and NFL Draft Scout (4th round).  Nix also was a pre draft visit (local student athletes don’t count against the 30 allowed).  While I think Nix is more suited to a zone blocking scheme that skirts the edges of legality (think of the old Bronco teams), it will be interesting to see if either Brown or Nix finds success in the NFL for a comparison to the Beachum selection.

While I’m not as critical of this pick as some others, I would have gone a different direction.  If only because I see no way Beachum makes the roster after the DeCosta and Adams selections and think he was drafted specifically for the practice squad.  That’s not my thing.

You’ll see a long list of draftable options when we discuss the undrafted free agent class below, but the one player on that list I think wasn’t coming to Pittsburgh (not versus the New York Giants) in the undrafted class market was New Jersey high school star, Joe Martinek, a running back/fullback from Rutgers.

Martinek reminds me of a bigger Danny Woodhead and I think could challenge either David Johnson or John Clay on the roster.  Martinek is the kind of try-hard athlete (he ran a 4.50 at 225 lbs. and was a state champion in the javelin and New Jersey’s all time leading high school rusher) with the pedigree of success that could become one of those fan favorite, media darlings in the right circumstance.  He has top notch character and work ethic.  And his change or direction numbers are excellent (he’s just a naturally successful athlete throughout his life).  If we really intend on transitioning the offense away from Arians towards Haley, giving him more H-back/TE/RB options to play with seems like a good idea.

Other Options:              Joe Martinek, FB/RB (Rutgers)
                                    James Brown, OT/OG (Troy)
                                    Michael Brewster, C/G (Ohio State)
                                    Lucas Nix, G (Pittsburgh)


Brandon Lindsey, OLB (Pittsburgh)
Robert Golden, DB (Arizona)
Drew Butler, P (Georgia)
Marquis Maze, WR (Alabama)
Adrien Robinson, OLB (Temple)
Grant Ressel, K (Missouri)
Ryan Lee, OG (Furman)
Terry Carter, CB (Louisiana Tech)
Connor Dixon, WR (Duquesne)
Ike Igbinosun, DE (S. Connecticut St.)
Jake Stoller, DE (Yale)

1-Year Update:

Draft Day Analysis:             

The league expansion of the roster to 90 during this time of year allowed for a rather large class of undrafted free agents to get their shots at training camps.  Even after selecting nine players, the Steelers brought in eleven undrafted players (and an additional one, Desmond Stapleton, failed his medical).

This will create quite the camp battle and many of the players above are no different in talent level than the 7th rounders listed in much more detail above.  Here’s a quick rundown of the players and some notes of interest:

Brandon Lindsey and Adrian Robinson are both raw pass rush specialists born and bred in Pennsylvania (Aliquippa and Harrisburg respectfully). I watched some film on both and had them on my big board.  I liked Lindsey much better as a pass rusher as he was much more physical and violent at the point of attack while Robinson avoided contact at times.  But I think Robinson might have the edge on special teams.  There is an opportunity to be a practice squad OLB project and possibly even make the roster in case of injury.  The depth chart ahead of them isn’t significant (Harrison, Woodley, Worilds & Carter).

Wes Bunting over at National Football Post likes Robert Golden the best of our undrafted bunch and thinks he has decent ability to play as a big zone corner or deep safety.  His strength is coming downhill on balls thrown in front of him.

Marquis Maze is the smallest player on the roster (under 5’-8”) but could become an interesting slot receiver and special teamer.  He has solid intangibles and held his own during a career at powerhouse Alabama in the SEC.  I don’t think the NFL stage is too big for him.

Both kick specialists could have opportunities based on the average ability of the incumbents, although as of this writing, Grant Russel appears off the roster (and another kicker has been given a try out).  Drew Butler is the son of form Bears kicker, Kevin Butler and had very good hang-time/averages in college.  He’s got a real shot versus Kapinos.

Ike Igbinosun and Jake Stoller are interesting DE projects.  Both have very decent KEI’s for the position (24-38”-9’7” and 30-31½”-8’-10” respectfully).  Those both pass the 70 KEI “check” that you like to see to be NFL ready in the trenches.  While I can’t find arm length on either prospect, both are over 6’-3” and around 290 lbs.  Both seem more suited for RDE (where Keisel and Heyward play), but with some coaching either could stick as a practice squad, injury replacement, rotational player.

Ryan Lee, the offensive lineman from Furman, is more of a swing guard/center and will compete with the entrenched Doug Legursky on the roster.  He’s unlikely to beat Legursky out, but is a needed body in camp.  Note I would have really preferred Michael Brewster in this spot instead (I really thought of drafting him), but he made the wiser choice in signing back home with Jacksonville to back up the aging Brad Meester.

Terry Carter is another undersized cornerback (5’-10”, 184 lbs) that is a step slower the two other undersized cornerback on the roster (Frederick and Walter McFadden).  For what we’re asking these guys to do, maybe top-end speed won’t matter though and Carter has to find a way to draw attention away from those guys and make an impression.

Finally, Conner Dixon, is an interesting story.  Dixon is a local kid (South Park, PA) that played quarterback and started his college career at Michigan State.  He transferred to Duquesne after his redshirt freshman year and played quarterback for the Dukes, however a shoulder injury abbreviated both his sophomore and junior season.  The shoulder injury was so serious that during that junior season he started taking reps and playing receiver.  His redshirt senior season (2010) he started every game at receiver.  He was then given an unusual 6th year of eligibility for 2011 and really performed well (40 catches and 16 touchdowns) as a deep, redzone threat.  Dixon is a tall, thin target (6’-4”, 200 lbs) that is a big long shot for the roster.  But it’s probably a dream come true to just suit up at camp for the kid.

Overall, I think this is a decent free agent class.  The sheer number of late round guys (4 7th rounders and 11 UFA’s) will probably mean one surprise name will emerge from the group and stick on the roster.  I do question some of the players selected over those below but many times players that “fall” on draft day have injury or medical issues that are unknown to the public.  Only time will tell if some below become NFL caliber players.

Other Options:        Coryell Judie, CB (Texas A&M)
                              Vontaze Burfict, LB (Arizona State)
                              Michael Brewster, C/G (Ohio State)
                              James Brown, OT/OG (Troy)
                              Lucas Nix, G (Pittsburgh)
                              Chris Polk, RB (Washington)
                              Brandon Bolden, RB (Mississippi)
                              Chris Owusu, WR (Stanford)
                              Johnson Bademosi, DB (Stanford)
                              Duke Ihenacho, SS (San Jose State)
                              Joe Martinek, FB/RB (Rutgers)
                              Garrett Celek, TE (Michigan St.)
                              Marcus Forston, DT (Miami)

OVERALL 2011 DRAFT GRADE (INITIAL):                      3.81 GPA (A-)

OVERALL 2011 DRAFT GRADE (1-YEAR):                     

1-Year Update:

Analysis & Comments:

Thanks to the strength and A+ grade for the David DeCastro selection, the 2012 NFL draft for the Steelers earns the highest GPA I’ve given any draft class I’ve written about.  But even after that selection, the Steelers did very well getting some interesting pieces for the coaches to work with moving forward.  If Spence and Rainey find unconventional roles and can somehow contribute over their rookie contracts to the defense and offense respectfully, this could be a very special class of players.

Even in the worst of cases, I see a starting guard (DeCastro), tackle (Adams) and rotation nose tackle (Ta’amu) all contributing significant snaps and starts for the Steelers over their careers.  That’s a nice foundation of interior players to build around this decade and really helps fix some of the depth and injury issues we’ve experienced in the trenches of late.

In my opinion, only the contributions of Spence and Rainey are wildcards and will determine how positive this draft will be in the minds of fans.

If we realistically consider the 7th rounders in the undrafted free agent group, I am curious to see if a player or two (out of 15) can emerge and make the roster or contribute.  Even finding an improved punter might be a plus to this class.

For the record, here are my selections as I made them in real time during the draft (or deferring to the Steelers in some situations):

1-24            David DeCastro, OG (Stanford)
2-56            Mike Adams, OT (Ohio St.)
3-86            Josh Chapman, NT (Alabama)
4-119          Ronnell Lewis, LB (Oklahoma)
5-159          Chris Rainey, RB/RS (Florida)
6-193          Alphonso Denard, CB (Nebraska)
7-231          Toney Clemons, WR (Colorado)
7-240          Antonio Allen, S (South Carolina)
7-246          Vontaze Burfict, LB (Arizona St.)
7-248          Joe Martinek, FB/RB (Rutgers)

Obviously the differences start with how I look at the linebacker position.  I still value the size/blitzing ability over run-and-hit/coverage ability.  Keith Butler’s interest in the 265 lbs. Dont’a Hightower proves to me some in the building agree.  I think Mike Tomlin is influencing the draft process and that is certainly in his right as head coach.  I just hope it works on the field.  I have argued these past couple of weeks that even future hall-of-famer Derrick Brooks might not have been a good fit inside for Lebeau’s defense and Spence reminds me a LOT of a young Brooks (remember, Tomlin coached on Tampa Bay back in their super bowl season).  Doesn’t make Spence a bad player, just a questionable fit.

After my disagreement with the Spence selection, the issues I have with the seventh rounders are minor at best.  I am really just splitting hairs and selecting players I liked during the draft process and think have easier routes to making the Steelers roster than those selected by Colbert and Co.  And I certainly understand the team’s decision to pass completely on someone like Burfict.  I fully admit I’m stubbornly supporting Burfict more than he deserves.

The selection of Frederick over Judie still baffles me a bit and I can only explain that through an unknown off-the-field or personality issue.  But there were better CB prospects other than Judie as well.  I just don’t know the benefit of the undersized Frederick in our system as he reminds me too much of Gay, Burnett, Madison and Townsend from our history.  I guess if Gay and Townsend found success (if you call it that), then so could Frederick.

Again, I don’t want my opinions of the 7th round to cloud how good I think the meat of this draft is.  At the time of their selections, I was extremely happy with the DeCastro, Adams, Ta’amu and Rainey picks.  And I think all five (Spence too) make the 2012 roster.  That’s an exceptional draft, in any season.  And when you compare these players to others taken in years past in similar rounds it’s not a close comparison (Ta’amu vs. Hills/Sepulveda, Rainey vs. Dixon/Davis/Stephenson/Burnett/Scott).

Maybe the history of our 4th and 5th rounder should temper my enthusiasm, but I just think Ta’amu and Rainey are NFL players much more so than some drafted years past.  And I’m anxious to see this entire class contribute to our long term success as an organization.  We’ll see if they live up to my high expectations.

Go Steelers!!!!