Let History Be The Guide At Offensive Tackle

One draftnik's choice at pick 31 should sound alarm bells for Steelers fans who'd prefer their team look at the historical facts.

I was tooling around the message board the other day when I came across a comment that contained everything I look for in a first-round rant.

It was lucid and to the point and exploded out of its break. It was written in response to the mock draft pick assigned to the Steelers by ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

With the 31st pick of the draft, McShay has the Steelers drafting Miami OT-OG Orlando Franklin. And the response I stole to stand for all Steelers fans is this:

"Did we learn nothing with Pouncey? As soon as we take a guy who can move and plays with some hustle and aggressiveness, he becomes an instant legend. Now we're going back to some big, dumb ox?"

A big, dumb ox. That's what I thought as I watched Franklin the last two years at Miami.

And here's what I thought when I watched him play against Pitt in prime time this past season: The Steelers will draft him.

I tried to look away the rest of the season and into the combine. I tried to tell myself that, "No, the Steelers won't draft a massive, underachieving, lumbering left tackle because of size, experience, pedigree and versatility, will they?"

Franklin is the guy who just might scare me the most among the prospects coagulating around pick 31 on analysts' lists these days. And when Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert showed up at the Miami Pro Day last week, my fears worsened.

But it was my only conclusion because the Steelers aren't going to draft a 5-9 cornerback (Brandon Harris) in the first round, are they? Nor will they choose a 4-3 defensive end (Allen Bailey), will they? But would they take a massive mauler who can play four positions adequately but none of them particularly well?

Oh, man, I think we all know the answer to that.

Franklin is the prototype for what most Steelers fans fear in a first-round pick, particularly when they can get another of the maulers (i.e. inconsistent fat asses) in later rounds. Marcus Cannon, James Brewer, Joseph Barksdale, Chris Hairston, and DeMarcus Love all come to mind.

Certainly I'd have no problem with Derek Sherrod if he fell to pick 31. He's a pass-blocker whose knock is that he's not particularly brutish in the run game. But he won't fall that far. In fact, tackles with first-round skills rarely fall that far, and if they do they enjoy limited success.

Since the NFL and AFL merged their drafts in 1967, 17 offensive tackles have been drafted with picks 28-32. Those 17 players went on to average 47.6 starts, or nearly three full seasons, apiece. This despite the fact that high draft picks always receive a complete and patient look from their organizations.

Of those 17 tackles, only one, Tre Johnson, made the Pro Bowl, and Johnson did it only once in his 9-year career – as a reserve guard following the 1999 season.

The phenomenon can partially be explained by the Steelers' drafting of Jamain Stephens 29th in 1996: They were a good team looking to hit a home run with someone who was more weights and measures than player.

Certainly there are other logical conclusions to be drawn, but the point is that history should be recognized.

Maybe Orlando Franklin can become Harvey Salem or Bubba Paris and provide the Steelers with 100-plus starts in his career. But those types can just as easily be found in the second round, after the team has already drafted someone who can take the ball and score, or stop an opponent from doing likewise.

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