Piecing together the draft

Kevin Colbert and Bill Cowher held their pre-draft press conference on Monday, as the Pittsburgh Steelers put the finishing touches on preparations for selecting the 2004 rookie class. No one expects Pittsburgh to tip their hand ahead of time, but now there are plenty of clues as to whom the Steelers are targeting.

Kevin Colbert all but ruled out a trade up in the first round, but he left the door wide open for a trade down, "Being where we are at 11, we are real sure that there are 11 good players. So we don't have to go up to get a good player. Somebody is going to be there for us. But if somebody is real interested in coming up to that spot, then we have to be open and say wait a minute, we can get whatever picks we are going to get, and still get somebody, but obviously not the same quality that you get at 11, but at least down to 20 or whatever."

Colbert indicated that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be comfortable trading down as far as the 24th or 25th pick in the draft, noting that the crop drops off significantly after that. Still, the cream of the crop may "stretch" all the way "down to 15."

Essentially, the top tier of talent goes 15 players deep and first-round designation extends to about pick 25. As for the second tier of talent, Colbert offered, "I think the depth is good enough that you could get some starters out of the second round. Now, they might not be starters in year one or two, but these are some of the kids that maybe have not played and still have a lot of upside to them. Really you can stretch it on down to the third round. There is quality depth there. They may not be front liners, but all the starters in the league don't have to be first rounders."

Colbert was talking specifically about cornerbacks in this case, leading to speculation that the Steelers are leaning towards that direction in the second round. Pittsburgh could also farm a late second round or early third round pick, taking advantage of some of the deeper positions in the draft.

I suspect that the Steelers are keen on doing just that, fueling their interest in trading down in the first round, even if that might drop them out of the top tier of players.

With that in mind, I've built a draft board for the Pittsburgh Steelers. We've been tracking all the player visits and consulting various value boards to come up with 5 players for each draft slot through the Steelers' first pick in the 6th round. Really, anything after Day 1 is a crapshoot, but we have a deep list of names associated with the Steelers over the last few months.

Why 5 players? Colbert made that clear during the press conference, "As I have always said we would like to have five guys we are looking at each pick."

At pick 1.11, the candidates must qualify as top tier and we imagine, as Colbert stated, that this list is at least 11 players deep (perhaps 15). Our short list: TE Kellen Winslow, QB Philip Rivers, CB DeAngelo Hall, DE Will Smith, and QB Ben Roethlisberger.

Conceivably, all 5 players could be off the board when the Steelers pick, but that should leave some other player in their top 11 available. There is no rush to trade down and no reason to trade up.

What if S Sean Taylor starts to fall? Taylor's head for the game is in serious question of late, but his athleticism is undeniable. The Steelers are likely less interested in Taylor than some of the teams picking after them. At this point, talk of trading down heats up, particularly if the favored five are off the board.

Rumors have the Patriots hot for Taylor and they now have RB Corey Dillon. New England could offer their remaining second round pick (2.63) in order to move up and grab Taylor, the Steelers landing pick 1.21 in the bargain.

Which players might the Steelers target at 1.21?

We see OT Shawn Andrews, QB J.P. Losman, WR Lee Evans, OLB Jason Babin, and CB Dunta Robinson. Either Robinson or Andrews could be considered in the top tier stretch to 15, but both players would provide excellent trade down value. None of these players (all of them brought in for a visit) will drop to the Steelers in the second round.

At 2.44, the targets appear to be either cornerbacks or wide receivers: WR Keary Colbert, CB Ricardo Colclough, CB Ahmad Carroll, CB Joey Thomas, and CB Chris Gamble. Gamble may seem a bit low here, but Colbert and company seem to have him as a second round value.

"They may not be front liners, but all the starters in the league don't have to be first rounders. This year, it is unusual for that position [cornerback]. With that position, you are usually searching for guys, for whatever reason. It has been helped by some of the underclassmen that have come out. A kid like Chris Gamble, just to point out, he is a junior but technically as a corner, he has only played a year and a half because he spent so much time on offense last year. He is by far not a finished product. Those are some of the things we are seeing," Colbert said during the press conference.

WR Rashaun Woods is another consideration, but we feel he will not fall far enough, even with such a deep class. He might be another possibility if the Steelers trade down in round 1.

At 3.75, we see the main target as OLB. Cowher hinted during the press conference that the draft would decide Jason Gildon's fate. The Steelers need depth besides Alonzo Jackson, who had a less than promising rookie campaign. The defensive line and tight end are other considerations.

Our fabulous five in the third round: OLB Shaun Phillips, DE/DT Tim Anderson, OLB Travis LaBoy, TE Kris Wilson, and OLB Bobby McCray.

After Day 1, the list of targets gets hard to figure out. We're guessing offensive tackle in round 4 and also in round 6. Round 5 reveals a bunch of prospects that would help round out the depth chart on defense.

4.107: OT Stacy Andrews, OT Max Starks, OT Adrian Jones, OT Sean Bubin, and OT/TE Jason Peters.

5.145: OLB Reggie Torbor, CB Keiwan Ratliff, NT Chad Lavalais, OLB Bo Schobel, and OLB Nathaniel Adibi.

6.177: OT Kirk Chambers, OT Carlos Joseph, OT Bo Lacy, DT Eric Taylor, and DB Jernaro Gilford.

There's likely a number of players missing from this board, which will shift as targeted positions disappear from the board or are addressed in various rounds. Still, the needs are fairly clear, no matter how much smoke has been blown. 6-10 makes the holes very difficult to hide.

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