Odds Breakdown On 14-Horse Field

Jim Wexell horses around with the wide-open draft field staring the Steelers in the face on Thursday night.

Initially I thought that the near-collision of the NFL draft and the Kentucky Derby was the only good thing about this late draft date, because those are the two most intricate and enjoyable events to handicap in sports.

As Papa Wallenda reportedly said, "Life is on the wire. The rest is just waiting."

But, alas, instead of "Rounders" I've watched "The Big Lebowski" again and I've let my lawn slide and have to write two columns in one day and am being forced to choose only one handicap on this first Saturday in May.

Of course, it's the NFL, which puts food on my table.

So without further bloviation, or adieu, I present my annual odds for the Steelers' first-round pick this year:

* Louis Nix 20-1: I only listed him in case he's the last option of a trade-down group. The Steelers certainly wouldn't draft a NT and suddenly move Steve McLendon to end. That would be a great big-picture option, but I can't see the Steelers running with that plan right now.

* Stephon Tuitt 18-1: This guy just bores the bejeebus out of me. Yes, the Steelers need a defensive end, and yes boring is what they seem to like from their DEs in their scheme, but not with another first-round pick. That should be reserved for a guy who blows things up, like ...

* Ra'shede Hageman 15-1: This is the guy I would consider as my heavy strong-side anchor with mashing potential opposite weak-side playmaker Cameron Heyward. But only if the team psychologist says Hageman can survive the horrifying upbringing two losers have bequeathed this poor child. And you see my odds.

* Anthony Barr 13-1: Sure, I complained about his inconsistent season, but that was when people were calling him a top-five talent, not when it was possible he could slide to pick 15. What an athlete! Would the Steelers admit last year's OLB wasn't as great a pick as they thought while they were sprinting to the podium? Probably not.

* Brandin Cooks 12-1: If any team should draft Antonio Brown II it would be the team that has Antonio Brown I, no? Well, he's on this board for his return skills. Of course, the Steelers might already have Antonio Brown III in Markus Wheaton, so enough smurfs already.

* Calvin Pryor 10-1: The Steelers have five safeties, yet still had Pryor in for a visit and not HaHa. That fits right in with Mike Tomlin's past draft-day desires of "run-and-hit" specialists.

* Ryan Shazier 9-1: Same thing with Pryor, except Shazier -- who looks more like a 4-3 will than a mike -- plays a position of need here. His instincts seemed off at Ohio State, but his burst on film was supported by a 4.3 40. Yes, it was on the ultra-fast Ohio State track, but 4.3 run-and-hit says Tomlin, and Ohio State says Dick LeBeau, and Shazier's character says Steelers. The odds seem a little short, but only because I fear someone uses this good logic and takes a big swing at me.

* Justin Gilbert 8-1: Doesn't tackle like a Steelers DB, but has the size and speed and also returns kicks. Sucker bet, in my opinion.

* Kelvin Benjamin, Eric Ebron 7-1: Both guys would present schematic mismatches and both guys drop the ball too much. Ebron has these long odds because he might not make it to pick 15; Benjamin because he's not a tight end in a WR-saturated market.

* C.J. Mosley 6-1: This quiet leader could fill a troubled buck LB position for the next decade. He can cover and he can stuff the run and he's likely to be there. But this team has a bigger need for playmakers, and playmakers need to be picked in the middle of the first round.

* Kyle Fuller 5-1: My favorite cornerback would be your favorite cornerback if you turned on the Virginia Tech-Alabama game. Can cover, WRs don't separate on him out of breaks, anticipates routes, can tackle, great bloodlines, great character. I would pick him. My perception is the Steelers don't like him as much as I do.

* Odell Beckham 4-1: The most polished and NFL-ready receiver in the draft has 4.3+ speed, great hands, character, and return skills. I want to see the tape LSU reportedly shows incoming coaches of the endless acrobatic catches made by Beckham and teammate Jarvis Landry during practices and of course games.

* Darqueze Dennard 3-1: I want to discount him because he lacks off-coverage skills, and the main Steeler dudes don't abide that in a cornerback. But at Michigan State, Dennnard's press man skills put the cherry on top of its cover-3 zone. That's where the Steelers have evolved with Ike Taylor, and Ike turns 34 tomorrow. Happy birthday, Ike. Here's your replacement.

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