Don't Count On The 'Fallers'

With the help of Pro Football Weekly, publisher Jim Wexell continues to whittle down the potential Steelers draft prospects.

Everyone's favorite magazine, Pro Football Weekly, just released its first mock draft of 2011. Analyst Nolan Nawrocki, dubbed the "King of the Mock Draft" in promotional copy, has the Steelers selecting Mississippi State LT Derek Sherrod at pick 31.

Most fans would be accepting of Sherrod, and he makes sense. But I wouldn't be doing handstands about it.

Sherrod's a terrific pass-blocker, but he's a finesse player who couldn't play another position. That's something the Steelers would find problematic after dealing with Tony Hills the last four years.

Left tackles are hard to find, yes, but what makes a prospect such as, say, Gabe Carimi more valuable is that if he misses at left tackle, he could play right tackle or guard. That wouldn't be the case for Sherrod.

But it's not the mock draft I'm interested in today. No, I am looking at Nawrocki's overall rankings. He released them to me, but asked that I only take bits and pieces from it, since it won't be released until the draft book comes out next month.

At 31 in the rankings is Cam Newton. Of course, the Steelers won't take Newton, nor will he be available since quarterbacks are usually overdrafted.

Nawrocki ranks Sherrod at No. 30 and tight end Lance Kendricks at 29. The latter is a bit of a surprise. The Steelers are certainly interested in Kendricks, but I assumed they viewed him as a second-rounder. The first round would seem to be too high for any tight end with Heath Miller still in his physical prime.

In the spots following 31, Nawrocki ranks defensive linemen Christian Ballard and Muhammad Wilkerson at 32 and 33. Those are yawners for sure, but nowhere in his top 50 does Nawrocki list my preference to either of those two, Cameron Heyward.

Not that the Steelers are in dire need of a defensive lineman anyway, with Aaron Smith vowing to come back strong and Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood coming off of their best seasons.

Defensive line would be a nice fallback if the Steelers don't want to draft a finesse offensive lineman or a slacker guard-tackle such as Orlando Franklin.

And defensive backs? Well, Nawrocki's rankings have the same gaping hole at the position that I encountered while trying to squeeze one into the bottom of the first round.

Wide receiver? Well, there's Titus Young at No. 35. But he's the same guy they drafted twice last season, and it's unlikely the Steelers feel the need to draft another smurfy receiver.

Again, it appears that the only hope for an exciting draft pick by the Steelers would be for someone to fall unexpectedly to them. But my research shows that once a player Nawrocki ranks in the top 21 starts to fall, they may as well just keep on a-falling.

I researched the top 21 only because it's 10 above the Steelers' spot at 31. But here are the "fallers" from Nawrocki's pre-draft rankings since he assumed the analyst's job at Pro Football Weekly in 2004:


-Sergio Kindle; fell from 11 to 43; missed season with a fractured skull after falling down two flights of stairs.

-Jimmy Clausen; 15 to 48; finished last in NFL passer rating after 10 starts.


-Everette Brown; 14 to 43; three starts and six sacks in two years.

-Rey Maualuga; 15 to 38; 30 starts, two sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles.

-Beanie Wells; 20 to 31; two starts, 1190 rushing yards.


-Phillip Merling; 17 to 32; four starts in three years.

-Limas Sweed; 19 to 53; no starts, seven receptions in three years.

-Calais Campbell; 21 to 50; 30 starts, 13 sacks.


-Alan Branch; 6 to 33; three starts, four sacks in four years.

-Greg Olsen; 20 to 31; 62 starts, 194 receptions.


-LenDale White; 14 to 45; 628 yards rushing, one suspension, one arrest, one team jinx.

-Mathias Kiwanuka; 18 to 32; only one season with 16 starts, seven starts last two years because of injury.

-Jimmy Williams; 21 to 37; out of football.


-Khalif Barnes; 15 to 52; went to Oakland two years ago and has started only five games for the Raiders.

-Brodney Pool; 20 to 34; left Cleveland for the Jets last year and started 12 games.

2004 (None)

You'll find a handful of starters in there, but no stars. The only player in the group to come as close to the Pro Bowl as second alternate is Olson.

Apparently, if they're falling, they're falling for a reason, so that should erase the following Top 21 players from Steelers consideration: Brandon Harris, Anthony Castonzo, Gabe Carimi and Mike Pouncey.

That leaves a rare few who can both fill a Steelers need and provide value, and that's if Aaron Williams, Nate Solder and Sherrod fall just a bit.

Maybe drafting a tight end in the first round wouldn't be such a bad idea after all.

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