Time to Put the Money Down

Jim Wexell posts his annual odds on the Steelers' first draft pick. Even though he tried his best, his suspects are not unusual.

Well, I've tried. I've really tried to find someone aside from Brandon Harris, Aaron Williams, Cameron Heyward or Derek Sherrod. That's the group that took up residence as mock-draft fixtures around pick 31 at the start of draft season.

I've tried to squeeze Rahim Moore, Curtis Brown, Lance Kendricks, Ryan Williams and Kenrick Ellis – anyone else – into the 31st slot because a draft writer is supposed to stand out from the crowd.

But to no avail. None of the others have passed the muster.

So it's back to the core group of Harris, Williams, Heyward and Sherrod. But I do so after a mighty attempt at cutting each from the picture: Harris was too small; Williams was too tall; Heyward couldn't stop the run; Sherrod couldn't start the run.

But I found each of the perceived flaws to be negligible. I'll explain as I post my annual odds on the Steelers' first pick in the upcoming draft.

* Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, TempleI keep waiting for interest in this guy to fade as leaks of expected "bad tape" emerge on a junior who was a bit of a surprise as an early draft entrant. I mean, I watched him against Penn State and was hardly impressed. But the Steelers, among others, were very impressed with Wilkerson at the combine. They had him in for a visit and believe he's not only the perfect size to play DE in their 3-4, but that he has the perfect temperament. He's also 21, the right age for the Steelers. The problem is that everyone else seems to like him as much as they do – 15-1.

* Orlando Franklin, T/G, MiamiSloppy pass protector reminds me of Keydrick Vincent in that he's mistake-prone but strong and violent and needs to move inside to guard. Franklin can't be any worse than Chris Kemoeatu, though, so I'll go against my instincts and leave Franklin in this group based of need, availability and the fact his style suits the Steelers – 10-1.

* Derek Sherrod, LT, Mississippi StateHe's been ranked so low in the first round for so long that I just figured there was something wrong with him that I wasn't seeing. OK, so he plays with too much finesse in the run game, but he's a classic pass-blocking pro left tackle. D'Brickashaw Ferguson Lite would certainly be cause for celebration should he fall to pick 31. I know all the mocks say it's possible, however my odds are inflated by the fact that tackle-starved Baltimore and Chicago are picking just ahead of the Steelers. But as the Queen of England once said, "Let them eat Nate Solder!" Or something like that – 8-1.

* Aaron Williams, CB/S, TexasOne of the best minds in the Steelers' front office (who's not connected to the draft in any way and can therefore give his opinion) has been telling reporters of his disdain for players from the Texas program. I get that. And I get that this answer man worries about Williams not being able to play CB after he grows out of his nickel-back role, that he'll be some kind of half-assed safety instead. I get all of that. But then I see Williams being interviewed and I sense a winner who'll fit right into the Steelers' locker room. We already knew he had the size, speed and ball skills, so I dare the 30 other teams to let him fall to the Steelers. The kid's an athlete and a winner and an organizational prototype who can help them this year – 6-1.

* Brandon Harris, CB, Miami – Same problem as Williams in that the Steelers might be drafting a mere nickel back in the first round, but Harris, at 5-9½, doesn't come close to fitting the Steelers' prototype. But, again, I like this guy's make-up, and in my opinion that make-up is a bit closer to what Mike Tomlin likes in an athlete. Harris is also more likely to be available at pick 31 because of his short stature. Still, he's a coach's son with fluid hips and great ball skills, and again he'd help the Steelers right away as a nickel and a gunner. For all the negative things I've said about Harris since he was exposed by Michael Floyd, his personality really struck a chord with me – 4-1.

* Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio StateI watched Wisconsin run all over Heyward last season as it appeared he was having trouble attempting to stack and shed as a 3-4 defensive end. It's rare that colleges employ this alignment, particularly with such small linebackers as the ones at OSU. I watched Iowa do the same thing to Heyward and I asked him about it at the combine. He, of course, said he had no such problems playing the "5 technique," so when the rankings came out and Heyward was consistently placed at the bottom of the first round I just assumed he had trouble stopping the run in general. But the Steelers believe the advanced techniques were coached poorly (or without experience) and they feel Heyward's an ideal 3-4 DE prospect. For the Steelers to be in position to draft Heyward, they probably need someone to draft medical reject Adrian Clayborn (a DE in the Ziggy Hood mold), and they probably need the Ravens to draft an OT instead of the 3-4 DE they really don't need opposite Haloti Ngata. I'm thinking the odds of that happening are pretty good, or – 3-1.

* Field – You won't get rich here but for all of the fans of Solder, Mark Ingram, Ras-I Dowling, Danny Watkins, Kyle Rudolph, Phil Taylor or Jonathan Baldwin, this is all you get. Of course, there's always the possibility the Steelers could trade down for one of my aforementioned favorites such as Kendricks or Brown. That would be sweet irony and make for a not-so-bitter payout – 2-1.


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