Ask Wex

It's April – or Draft Month, as the old Romans liked to call it – so let's take some questions about the annual college lottery as they pertain to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mule Funk: Explain the philosophy or preference of drafting juniors in recent drafts.

They've drafted only two juniors in the last four years, but there was a run of five consecutive juniors drafted from 2004 to 2008.

However, Kevin Colbert's draft resume shows a mixed bag. In the first rounds of 13 drafts, the Steelers have selected five without any remaining eligibility (Cameron Heyward, Ziggy Hood, Troy Polamalu, Kendall Simmons, Casey Hampton), four redshirt juniors (David DeCastro, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, Ben Roethlisberger) and four true juniors (Maurkice Pouncey, Rashard Mendenhall, Lawrence Timmons and Plaxico Burress.)

Asked to explain his philosophy on this matter last draft season, Colbert said he has none.

Blount47: Are the Steelers holding onto their $2+ million of cap room due to their hopes of signing a free-agent running back AFTER the draft, assuming that Ahmad Bradshaw does not sign, and (still one question) might the Steelers trade for a running back? Thanks!

I always doubt that they'll trade, but funny things do happen, such as the trade for Bryant McFadden (and the pick that netted Antonio Brown) in 2010.

As for saving the money, they're scheduled to look at a broken down offensive lineman soon, so at this time of year – as I illustrated in some Daily Buzz research – look for them to sign awful players* just before the draft in order to shorten their needs list.

As for Bradshaw, it seems as if he has his head on straight and sees that Pittsburgh would work for him, so I expect both sides to be patient and mature enough to work out a deal when each is at full strength.

[* Note the sarcasm (that really isn't).]

Steelmann58: Been trying to pin you for a response; what position do you feel the Steelers will double up on?

My gut instinct says safety, since there's such depth at that position. And before you try to pin me down on specifics, it's all about value. I love the consensus top three, I also really like the top ballhawking free safety, Phillip Thomas, and I understand why they would be interested in a student of the game such as T.J. McDonald, who tested better than he ran on the field. I also know they like Rontez Miles of Cal PA, as I've been writing ad nauseum since January. But even though Miles has a big ol' Steelers logo tattooed on his shoulder, other teams seem to like him, too, so he's not going as late as many message-board participants seem to think.

Shotime: How likely is it that the first-round pick will be an "upside" pick? Put another way, what's the chance the front office goes with a home run at 17 as opposed to a sharp single to center (or even a double)?

Since there's no immediate hole to fill, I see them taking the big-picture approach and drafting the best long-range prospect, but not just because of "upside" but because they want to bring him in as a valued athlete.

That short, compact, Bill Madlock-type swing often nets home runs to go along with a .300 career average.

cnoll: Given the Steelers' lack of quality depth at WR, S, and OL, in what order would you rank the following players (in terms of appeal to the Steelers) if he were to be available at pick No. 17: Tavon Austin, Kenny Vaccaro, Chance Warmack/Jonathan Cooper? And if I'm not pushing my luck by asking a second question, why? Thanks in advance.

Follow-up questions such as yours are more than welcome. I was merely trying to weed out the ballhogs who tire me out with 12 questions at a time.

The key to your question is "in terms of appeal to the Steelers" because they seem to think that possessing awful offensive linemen are just fine and that their crisis on the depth chart is no crisis, just an opportunity for some fine young free agent like Jonathan Scott or Antoine Caldwell to spit, choke and puke for a year or two before they are discarded (along with the franchise QB, at this point I suppose). So I'll cross off the linemen and list Austin first, but he'll be long gone. People who've scouted him are too smart to be fooled by his size. That makes me believe Kenny Vaccaro is the winner by default … as we watch Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper play in 10 straight Pro Bowls apiece.

jbwal27: You are the decision maker for the No. 17 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. The following candidates remain at the top of the board, in no particular order: Chance Warmack, Jonathan Cooper, D.J. Fluker, Tavon Austin, Keenan Allen, Tyler Eifert, Kenny Vaccaro, Xavier Rhodes, and Jarvis Jones. Who would you choose, if any, and why?

I will put them in this order: Warmack, Cooper, Austin, Allen, Vaccaro, Rhodes, Eifert, Fluker and Jones. I've flip-flopped on Warmack and Cooper all draft season, but really think Warmack's power and disposition are more valuable than Cooper's move skills (besides, was anyone else worried about the size of Cooper's breasts at his pro day?)

Matt6999: I would like to know if watching guys like Timmons, Heyward, Hood, Worilds, etc. sit the bench for years and years has impacted how they rank their Board? In other words, does drafting a guy to sit for years behind a pro bowler with a premium pick still sound like a good idea?

Absolutely. Draft your future captain in the first round today. As much as I poke fun at the way they've gone about drafting offensive linemen, their record speaks for itself.

bjrieken: How about Xavier Rhodes as the next Carnell Lake? I know Carnell Lake was a one-of-a-kind talent with his ability to play at a pro bowl level at both safety and cornerback. Do you think Xavier has the ability to be a very good player at both positions also? With Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark at the ends of their careers, it sure would be nice to have a player with this versatility. Plus we have the man to teach him.

I was putting together in my mind a list of clichés that sportswriters use when asked to compare a prospect to an all-time great, but that last sentence really struck a chord. Great point. And I love Xavier Rhodes. Don't question my manhood when I say I have never seen a CB with such a big ass and thick thighs. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Florida game when they avoided his side the entire first half, but on the first plays of the second half came at him with a reverse and then a bubble screen, and he blew up both plays. Both may even have been turnovers. I don't want to rule him out of becoming a great safety who can double as a cover corner, even though I know I should. But I won't. Plus, the Steelers have the man to teach him.

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