Wexell: Daily 2004 NFL Draft Blog

<b>Saturday - April 24, 2004</b> <p>Up until this point it's all been conjecture, but here's the plan for the first round of this weekend's draft:

The Steelers will take the quarterback who falls to them. And if both Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger are off the board, they'll take cornerback Dunta Robinson or trade down for tackle Shawn Andrews if the value's right.

The prediction here is Roethlisberger will slip to the Steelers.

In the second round, following their M.O. of taking productive, big-school players, the Steelers will take Oklahoma cornerback Derrick Strait.

Late word is Bill Cowher wants a running back, so Tulane's Mewelde Moore is the third-round pick, followed by Kansas' tight-end-turned-tackle Adrian Jones in the fourth.

Now, if the Steelers are left with Robinson in the first round, the second pick could be a receiver or Florida State bulldozer Greg Jones.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.


Thursday - April 22, 2004

Producer Bob McLaughlin suggested a customized draft to suit fans, but it's not a stretch to imagine the Steelers will comply. Start with quarterback Phillip Rivers. In the second round, cornerback Ahmad "Batman" Carroll has 4.3 speed and a great nickname.

Tackles aren't sexy enough, so in the third we'll take the acrobatic star of the Rose Bowl, wide receiver Keary Colbert. We can make a tackle out of 340-pound tight end Jason Peters in the fourth, and take our tight end in the fifth - Pitt's Kris Wilson. Let's fill that hole at outside linebacker by trading two of the sixth round picks up for Auburn's Reggie Torbor. Pitt tailback Brandon Miree stands out at the bottom of the sixth and nose tackle Booger Kennedy rounds it out in the seventh.

We'll return to reality tomorrow.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Wednesday - April 21, 2004

The Steelers will have more competition this draft for parts to their 3-4 defensive puzzle.

The Patriots, Ravens and Texans already use the 3-4, and teams contemplating the move are the Raiders, Cowboys, Jets and Chargers. They'll make it tough for the Steelers, who need a fourth outside backer to fill a depth chart that ends with Alonzo Jackson.

So if you want a defensive end who's able to cover backs, move him up a round on your value board.

Will Smith is the cream of the "tweener" crop, but my favorite mid-rounder is Auburn's Reggie Torbor.

As for down linemen, there's not a big need, but the Steelers have shown plenty of interest in Ohio State's Tim Anderson. They should realize, though, that Anderson won't last till the fourth. Not with the competition out there.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Tuesday - April 20, 2004

The Steelers have picked 11th only once, and did a pretty good job.

In 1992, Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe teamed up for the first time and took right tackle Leon Searcy.

The Steelers have had even better luck with pick No. 44. Anthony Washington, Class of '81, didn't amount to much, but '88's Dermontti Dawson is headed for the Hall of Fame and '93's Chad Brown is enjoying an outstanding career.

In fact, the last eight 44th picks have fared pretty well, starting with Tory James. He was followed by Sam Madison, Patrick Surtain, Jimmy Kleinsasser, Chad Clifton, Kris Jenkins, LeCharles Bentley and Taylor Jacobs.

Notice the fine cornerbacks on that list.

If the Steelers have learned anything from history, they might want to stay put in the second round.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Monday - April 19, 2004

The QBs often tied to the Steelers are Phillip Rivers and J.P. Losman. Rivers is the next Bernie Kosar and Losman the next Bubby Brister.

But look between Bernie and Bubby and you might find Neil O'Donnell, otherwise known as Matt Schaub.

Since the Steelers don't normally troll for quarterbacks in the first round, and they haven't been able to uncover one in the late rounds, they should return to their comfort zone, which has been the second and third rounds.

O'Donnell was a third-rounder in 1990 out of Maryland. Schaub, from Virginia, is a couple inches taller and probably carries a second-round grade.

So here's the deal: Trade down in the first with the DB-hungry Saints for an extra second. Draft Shawn Andrews, Ricardo Colclough and Schaub. That meets needs and lands the quarterback of the future.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Friday - April 16, 2004

Every year they say they've learned their lesson about 40 times. Last year, Anquan Boldin fell to the second round because of a 4.7 40, but he became Rookie of the Year.

The guy dropping off the charts this year is Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones.

At his first workout, Jones averaged 4.63 on three runs. We don't know what his demanding father had to say, but scouts noticed a flaw in Jones' starting technique. He apparently picked up his hand before moving his feet.

A few weeks later, Jones ran again. He weighed in at 225 pounds and ran his 40s in 4.55 and 4.57. Better, but not the Kevin Jones who's never been caught behind on the field, either. That's the Kevin Jones teams should remember going into this draft.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Thursday - April 15, 2004

Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams, Rashaun Woods, Mike Williams, Reggie Williams, Michael Clayton, Lee Evans, Michael Jenkins.

Too bad this crop of receivers wasn't available in the '99 draft. Instead of replacing Troy Edwards with Plaxico Burress the following year, the Steelers would've drafted Chad Pennington.

So they still need the young quarterback, and they'll need a replacement for Burress soon.

Yes, this'll be Burress' last year in Pittsburgh. The Steelers certainly won't reward him with an extension this year. If he plays well enough to deserve a new contract next year, someone else will overpay.

Let the search begin now. My favorite is Woods. Or how about Keary Colbert later in the day? You'll never go wrong with a playmaker, even if he has to wait a year.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Wednesday - April 14, 2004

Here we are, looking at tight ends to fill the Steelers' most glaring hole, only because this year's crop of tackles is considered the leanest in years.

Robert Gallery, of course, is out of reach. Shawn Andrews isn't worthy of the 11th pick. Guard Justin Smiley could play tackle but will be gone by the end of the first round. So will Jacob Rogers. That leaves Vernon Carey, and he won't make it to pick 44. Nat Dorsey is overweight and has a bum shoulder. Kelly Butler is soft.

That leaves the converted tight ends and third-round prospect Travelle Wharton, who has the biggest set of man-boobs since Tony Mandarich left Michigan State.

Little wonder the focus here is on the next Larry Brown. It's either that or more of the Big O.

Oh, no.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Tuesday - April 13, 2004

Jason Peters isn't the only college tight end who'll play tackle in the pros. Of course, top-rated tackle Robert Gallery is a former tight end, but there's another one, and Adrian Jones has a much better chance of landing in Pittsburgh.

Jones played right tackle at Kansas as a 280-pound senior, and then showed up at the combine weighing 296. He ran the 40 in 4.9 seconds.

Said one scout: "He still looks like a tight end in some ways, but that's not all bad since he moves really nicely. He could use some more weight but with his body type, that'll come."

Now, the Steelers wouldn't pick Adrian Jones early. Heck, they once drafted a tight end out of Kansas in the fifth round. They moved Larry Brown to right tackle and won a few Super Bowls.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Monday - April 12, 2004

If you can't draft Shawn Andrews, draft his brother. If you can't draft his brother, draft his best friend.

He's Jason Peters, the 6-4 ½, 336-pound tight end from Arkansas. Scouts feel Peters is the sleeper right tackle of the draft, however, he has some problems and they appear to be great.

Peters had a Wonderlic score of 9 and played the part two years ago. He was suspended for a game after being cited for public urination. Five months later he was suspended for spring ball after missing a court appearance. Further investigation revealed Peters had blown off four different court dates a total of eight times for 11 driving offenses.

Andrews swears Peters is a good guy. And with that size and a 4.9 40 time, you want to believe him.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Friday - April 9, 2004

Before the usual sludge in the daily paper confuses the story, know that wide receiver Lee Evans is a good guy. His friends might call him a great guy.

Evans was busted for pot two years ago. It wasn't his. He said it was.

"It was my car; I was driving, so I'm going to take the fall for it," Evans told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel after submitting to and passing a urine test.

Is Evans a bad guy for hanging with dope smokers? That's debatable. What's not is that he stood up and took the fall like a man. That shows tremendous character.

The Steelers must agree. They invited the Wisconsin speedster in for a visit yesterday. They obviously don't hold his medical history against him either. Evans tore an ACL two years ago and has come all the way back.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Thursday - April 8, 2004

Shawn Andrews just won't go away. You want to write off the right tackle from Arkansas as the next Aaron Gibson, but the Steelers had him in for a visit this week.

The former 400-pounder had nasal surgery after the combine and is down to 345 and has maintained his strength.

There's a lot to like about him. He's the only player in SEC history to be named first-team All-America as a sophomore. And you love the way he manhandled the great LSU defensive line last season. He's a road-grader deluxe.

But nose polyps can grow back, and you have to worry about his pass-blocking skills, as well as his reputation for laziness. If anything, trade down to take him, or take his brother Stacy, an athletic-but-raw 350-pounder, in the fifth round.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Wednesday - April 7, 2004

Draft expert Rick "Goose" Gosselin, of the Dallas Morning News, relayed the truth the other day when he wrote: "Give me the best corner every year out of the small Louisiana directional schools, and I'll give you a good NFL secondary."

We like Ike Taylor out of Louisiana-Lafayette, right? His ex-teammate, Charles Tillman, was an all-rookie corner last year for the Bears.

There are a few available this year, too. Six-foot corner Chris Thompson of Nicholls State has great athletic ability and was a team captain. He's also blocked 12 kicks in three seasons.

An even better prospect is Keith Smith of McNeese State. We talked about prospect Ricardo Coclough yesterday, and Smith ranks right behind him, along with another small-school corner, Joey Thomas of Montana State. But we don't want to leave Louisiana do we?

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Tuesday - April 6, 2004

Say the Steelers have a chance to draft Ben Roethlisberger. Sure, they'd take him. But they'd need a cornerback in the second round. It explains why they're bringing Ricardo Colclough (COKE-lee) of Tusculum in for a visit this week.

They say Tusculum, a Division II school in eastern Tennessee, can only be pronounced by a native, so please excuse, but Colclough is the best of a bunch of small-school cornerbacks slotted for the middle of the second round.

At 5-10 ¾, 186, he's the exact size of Dunta Robinson, just as physical and only a half step slower. Colclough was offered scholarships by the likes of Florida State and Georgia, but needed junior college because of poor grades. He went on to intercept 11 passes last year at Tusculum and capped his season with a great showing in the Senior Bowl.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Monday - April 5, 2004

Busts anyone?

Shawn Andrews has potential. So does Chris Gamble. Marquise Hill of LSU and Karlos Dansby of Auburn have the look. For my money, the biggest bust of the draft will be Tulane quarterback J.P. Losman (pronounced LAHS-man), who's often been compared to Brett Favre.

To those analysts, Losman threw the best deep outs at the combine, has a gun-slinging style and really helped himself by showing a live arm with excellent feet.

Losman has also been compared to Jeff George. After one interview, Losman was called abrasive and egotistical. Another said: "He's inconsistent and sloppy in his mechanics, does not want those around him to be successful and does not understand the meaning of team play. The kid has coach-killer written all over him."

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Friday - April 2, 2004

The economics of the game call for it. So does their draft position. Now league rules are making it imperative the Steelers draft a cornerback early.

At the league meetings this week, owners were apprised the illegal contact rule will become a point of emphasis for the 2004 season.

Fueled by New England's blatant mauling of Indianapolis receivers during the last playoffs, coaches are being warned that defensive contact after five yards will be called early and we presume often. That wonderful let-em-play attitude is gone with the wind.

What does that mean for the Steelers? It means they can't possibly live with Chad Scott much longer at cornerback. It furthers the argument they'll have to draft a cornerback no later than the second round, and most likely in the first.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Thursday - April 1, 2004

Larry Fitzgerald wasn't the only impressive player at Pitt's pro day last week. Cornerback Shawntae Spencer, 6-foot, 176, ran a 4.4 40 and a 3.9 short shuttle.

Spencer was a sleeper coming into the workout and those numbers didn't scare off his supporters. One of them is NFL safety Corey Chavous, a self-styled draft expert who chatted up Spencer in a recent interview.

When asked about sleepers, Chavous said, "Shawntae Spencer … is definitely my No. 1 sleeper. I like his size and the fact he gets in and out of breaks really quick. He's very efficient with his footwork and is very tough."

Now, we've seen Spencer give up some big plays, and he wasn't invited to the combine, but you have to believe some team will take a chance on him in the middle rounds.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Wednesday - March 31, 2004

Seattle drafted cornerback Marcus Trufant 11th last year and he started every game. It's unlikely DeAngelo Hall or Dunta Robinson are polished enough to step into the Steelers' lineup like that, but their potential can't be overlooked as explained in yesterday's segment on the exploding cornerback market.

The Steelers need a dime back and eventual replacement for Chad Scott, but which to take?

Hall's 5-10, 197 and Robinson's 5-11, 186. Both run 4.3 40s and both are cat-quick in the short shuttle. Hall's the better playmaker; Robinson, a converted safety, is more physical. Both are raw in coverage but have great upside.

Hall's return skills will have more appeal to others, so the bet here is that Dunta Robinson will be the Steelers' pick.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Tuesday - March 30, 2004

Cornerbacks have become so valuable these days, the Steelers couldn't even meet with second-tier guys like David Barrett, Fernando Bryant or Reggie Howard. All three were scheduled to visit but all were snatched up in the first week of free agency.

Twelve corners have changed teams for a combined $212 million in contracts. They were given $63 million in bonus money, and be certain none of the 12 is a young Rod Woodson.

It's a seller's market at the position and that transfers to the draft. At pick No. 11, the Steelers can't be looking at the old-school value board, not when a Jason Webster commands a 7 million dollar signing bonus.

No, the Steelers aren't picking too high for corners such as DeAngelo Hall or Dunta (pronounced DONE-tay) Robinson. Not the way the market has exploded.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Monday - March 29, 2004

Please excuse last week's false alarm since Bill Cowher is obviously taking more campus visits than usual this draft season. In addition to visiting Ohio State, the Steelers coach has watched pro days at Florida, Florida State, Virginia Tech and N.C. State.

His visit with 255-pound tailback Greg Jones was most interesting. Cowher spoke with Jones on the field after he ran his 40. The media of course reported it and quoted Cowher extensively afterward. You've probably seen at least one story on the Internet about how the Steelers and big backs are a perfect match.

The word that came to my mind was smokescreen. The Steelers aren't going to spend a high draft pick on a running back, not with their hole at right tackle and their paper-thin defensive depth chart.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Friday - March 26, 2004

With outstanding receivers such as Rashaun Woods and Mike Jenkins being slotted for the top of the second round, it's possible that none of the top three or even five teams will draft Pitt's Larry Fitzgerald in the first round. It just wouldn't make sense.

Of course, Fitz's sub-4.5 40 this week relieved doubts about his speed. Those arose after Miami put the clamps on him late last season. What scouts are finding out, instead, is that Fitzgerald missed Kris Wilson that night.

A very effective blocking tight end, Wilson was needed to help with a blitzing Miami defense. Wilson wasn't able to split the deep seems that had opened up the field all season for Fitzgerald.

We're not saying Fitzgerald isn't special. We're just reiterating that Wilson will be a mid-round steal.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Thursday - March 25, 2004

You've heard it said that quarterbacks can be found anywhere, and it's idiotic.

Quarterback is the most important position in sports, but it's being scouted all wrong. More importance is given to physical tools as opposed to savvy, leadership and field vision. Those brainy types are considered late-round gambles, and HEY no wonder winners are found late.

It's the scouting that's wrong, not the position, and it's the reason Phillip Rivers will be shortchanged this spring. No one can read a field like Rivers, but he can't run or throw with the big boys.

It's time that changes. It's time to measure the brain instead of the arm. It's time for the Steelers to break the mold and take Rivers 11th … unless Ben Roethlisberger falls to them.

DOH!

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Wednesday - March 24, 2004

On Monday we learned about Bill Cowher's visit to Ohio State. That's a draft clue. This might be another one: Dan Rooney has been raving about Cowher's coaching ability at every turn of a microphone and twist of a notepad.

Does that mean an extension's coming? Isn't this the time Rooney normally extends his coach? When he has two years left on his contract?

That lack of an extension thus far has kept draftniks from committing to quarterback as the Steelers' first pick. But wouldn't an extension right here, right now, sort of give that away?

Knowing that Rooney fully supports his coach, I'm expecting that extension…on or about the time they draft their quarterback of the future.

Well, it's a good theory anyway.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Tuesday - March 23, 2004

Just as the picture was clearing, a new contender emerged for pick No. 11. Ohio State defensive end Will Smith has moved into position after a superb Pro Day workout. It confirmed the playing speed Smith shows on tape.

Smith dropped 8 pounds to weigh in at 267 and ran 40s of 4.58 and 4.62. He benched two-and-a-quarter 30 times and had a vertical jump of 38.5. Those numbers only support Smith's production as Ohio State's best defender the last three years.

Smith could be the pass rusher the Steelers so desperately need. He played end, tackle and dropped as a linebacker at Ohio State, indicating that he could be the outside linebacker of the Steelers' future, and not a bad nickel end in the meantime.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Monday - March 22, 2004

Bill Cowher doesn't attend all of the Pro Day workouts, or even some of them, but in past years he's gone to see Plaxico Burress, Casey Hampton, Kendall Simmons and Troy Polamalu. Detect a trend?

On March 12, Cowher went to Ohio State to watch these candidates:

Free safety Will Allen ran a 4.5-plus 40.

Cornerback Chris Gamble disappointed with a 4.55 on the quick track.

Mike Jenkins, a 6-4½ wide receiver, ran a sub 4.4.

Defensive end Will Smith weighed in at 267 and ran a sub 4.6.

Three hundred pound D-tackle Tim Anderson ran a 5-flat. He and tight end Ben Hartsock have interested the Steelers all along as mid-rounders.

But the new heavyweight contender is Smith. We'll have more on him tomorrow. With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Friday - March 19, 2004

The most athletically gifted quarterback in this year's draft is Miami of Ohio's Ben Roethlisberger.

That's right. Miami of Ohio.

More times than not, stars at small schools are there after transferring from a bigger school, but Roethlisberger ended up at the MAC school because he has character.

Let me explain.

An obvious quarterback candidate in high school, Big Ben bided his time behind the coach's son until his senior season. Before playing a down, Roethlisberger showed up at Miami's summer camp and was so impressive the host school offered him a scholarship on the spot. During his senior season, the first-year passer impressed the big boys, but Roethlisberger told Ohio State and Michigan he was a man of his word. He stayed in the MAC, and now he's the man of the hour.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Thursday - March 18, 2004

Have you seen the film clip flying around the Internet of running back Greg Jones? Oh, my. The forearm shiver he dealt a North Carolina linebacker is reminiscent of his cousin, Smokin' Joe Frazier. And the way Jones ran over Miami safety Sean Taylor makes you wonder which player is the top-10 prospect and which is the second-rounder.

A 255-pounder from Florida State, Jones is the second rounder only because a serious knee injury cut short his junior season. Jones came back last year a shadow of his former self - until recently.

Yes, he has trouble catching passes, and he's considered tough to coach, but the guy looked like Earl Campbell when he flattened Taylor in the Orange Bowl, and his two long runs in the Senior Bowl certainly opened some eyes over on the South Side.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Wednesday - March 17, 2004

Richard Dent, the great pass-rusher for the '85 Bears, weighed only 235 pounds in college when Bears doctors noticed his mangled teeth. They took a flyer on him in the seventh round, had his mouth fixed so he could eat and the rest is history.

We might apply lesson conversely to Arkansas right tackle Shawn Andrews. He's a great prospect who allowed his weight to creep past 400 pounds last season. The Steelers have learned that Andrews has nose polyps. He hadn't been able to work out, even sleep, because of breathing problems. It explained Andrews' weight gain, and why he flunked out of school and missed his team's bowl game.

The big guy underwent an operation recently and will workout March 24. He won't show enough for consideration at pick 11, but could be a find later on.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Tuesday - March 16, 2004

Let's pretend Bill Cowher isn't Chad Scott's biggest fan. Let's pretend that Scott's outta here. The Steelers would then need a cornerback in the first round.

The problem, though, is finding value. The guy some consider worthy at pick 11 is Ohio State's Chris Gamble. He's fast and he's tall. But he can't tackle, nor has he played very well. Pick 11 is no place for mere potential.

DeAngelo Hall might be the guy, but he's small. Dunta Robinson is another projection. Will Poole was booted out of Boston College for stealing. Derrick Strait is a zone corner with limited speed. Anyone else?

I think you're getting my point.

Get used to the guy with the X on his back and streamers out his butt. Chad Scott will be around for awhile.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Monday - March 15, 2004

The Steelers could rue the day they passed on a home-run hitter like Kevin Jones. But because of the signing of Duce Staley, they'll only be looking at backs in the mid to late rounds.

West Virginia's Quincy Wilson heads my list, and I still like Pitt's Brandon Miree. Adimchinobe Echemandu of Cal will be a nightmare for the media, but before breaking his fibula Adam Alphabet ran for more than 100 yards against USC, the only back to do so in the last 25 games.

But the guy who could be the best fit for the Steelers is Tennessee fullback Troy Fleming, who is the second all-time leading rusher in high school history. He was recruited as a tailback, runs a 4.4 40 and still has dreams of playing tailback. He could be a nice swingman.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

Friday - March 12, 2004

Rod Rutherford showed surprising accuracy; Kris Wilson ran precise routes; and Lousaka Polite shared the fastest 40 time among fullbacks. But the best combine performance by a local prospect was turned in by Penn State kicker David Kimball, who was dubbed one of five "draft risers" by expert Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.

Kimball made all three of his field-goal attempts from 50 yards, reportedly "with room to spare." All but a few of his kickoffs reached the end zone, and in spite of making only 2 of 5 field-goal attempts as Penn State's back-up last season, the State College native and former Parade All-America was the only kicker at the combine to make all 15 of his attempts. Some now think he'll be the only kicker drafted.

With your NFL draft report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

THURSDAY - March 11, 2004

Several mock drafts have Ohio State defensive end Will Smith in the vicinity of pick 11, where the Steelers will be drafting. But what about the guy who put the clamps on Smith in the 2002 title game?

Miami right tackle Vernon Carey capped a great junior season with the best performance of any Hurricane lineman against Ohio State. But Carey, a 6-4, 332-pounder, was moved to guard as a senior so that the five best Miami linemen could start. Carey didn't like the move and then injured his ankle. As a result, he's now considered a second-round guard.

Scouts would be advised to re-visit the tapes from Carey's junior season when one writer called him the strongest run blocker he'd ever seen and hailed his precise footwork in pass pro. Sounds like a hidden gem to me.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

WEDNESDAY - March 10, 2004

Today the Steelers are going down south a ways to work out the biggest quarterback in college football. The "Hefty Lefty", Jared Lorenzen of Kentucky, is having his pro day and scouts are advised to keep their extremities away from the big boy because he's pretty hungry these days.

Weighing in at 288 to cheers at the combine, Lorenzen is down from an in-season playing weight that exceeded 300 pounds. But the 6-3¼ "Round Mound of Touchdown" carried his weight well. In three starting seasons, he completed 57 percent of his passes with 58 TDs and only 20 picks. At the combine, he impressed with a very strong and accurate arm. If he gets that body fat below its current 22 percent, Lorenzen could go from late-round pick to the biggest quarterback in NFL history.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

TUESDAY - March 9, 2004

Nowadays, Clancy can't even sing, but Kendrick Clancy IS the Steelers' back-up nose tackle and he's hit the open market.

Anyone care? Well, the Steelers should. Even though Clancy hasn't started a game, he's served well as Casey Hampton's back-up, and if Casey continues to balloon, as his selection to last month's Pro Bowl may foreshadow, finding a back-up is imperative. That's why I'd like to see the Steelers use a late-round pick on North Texas fireplug Brandon "Booger" Kennedy.

He's only 5-9, and was snubbed by the combine, but he had 18 career sacks and was the player most responsible for North Texas finishing 11th in the nation against the run.

Remember the last Mean Green defender the Steelers drafted? Yeah, Mean Joe Greene wasn't too bad, was he?

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

MONDAY - March 8, 2004

Say both Grade A running backs are taken before the Steelers pick. Then what?

Well, the value board says go D-lineman, and the beauty of it for Steelers fans is that three players - Tommie Harris, Kenechi Udeze and Vince Wilfork - have the ability to not only play D-end in a 3-4, but excel.

It's a great spot for the Steelers, but do they need a 3-4 end?

Kimo von Oelhoffen is off his best season but he's 33. Rodney Bailey and Brett Keisel are solid backups, but why settle for solid when so much more can be accomplished?

Now, acquiring a back AND a stud d-end is also possible. Recently released veteran Marcellus Wiley is a failed 4-3 end who's the perfect 3-4 prospect. Unfortunately, it's the Ravens who are showing the interest right now.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

FRIDAY - March 5, 2004
The Steelers need a running back and like everyone else have Steven Jackson and Kevin Jones at the top of the list.

Which one's better?

"Depends on which one fits your team's style," one scout told me.

That would seem to indicate that Jackson, the bigger back with 4.4 speed, would fit the Steelers better than Jones, a 220-pounder with 4.3 speed.

Jackson runs inside better, is a proven pass catcher and is a better blocker than Jones.

The Steelers also like character and Jackson has it. The son of a Marine Viet Nam vet, not to mention a lifetime fan of the Steelers, Jackson was an honor student in high school and is on track to graduate with a degree in architecture. He'll receive an honorary degree next fall in Pittsburgh if he can design the Steelers a running game.

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

THURSDAY March 4, 2004
Bill Cowher was asked to explain his big smile at the combine.

"So many good players at positions of need," said Cowher, a combine winner as opposed to Jamal Lewis' coach, Brian Billick.

Combine winner? Dunta Robinson, a corner the Steelers liked going in ran a 4.3 40.

Loser? DeAngelo Hall, who allegedly ran a 4.1 on Tech's quick track last year, proved human at 4.3.

Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork of Miami showed off his 25-pound weight loss. He was a winner.

Hampton D-end Isaac Hilton piddled his pants waiting in a line. He was a loser.

Rashaun Woods, Tatum Bell, Robert Gallery -- winners.

Philip Rivers? "He's living off the Senior Bowl," said one scout. "(Not working out) was a big mistake on his part."

With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

WEDNESDAY March 3, 2004
"After watching him fight the ball in practice all week, and struggle to get separation, we wonder how he's going to make an NFL roster." That was one scout's unflattering report on Pitt tight end Kris Wilson after the Senior Bowl. But Wilson rebounded at the Indy combine. Only two tight ends benched better and only one of the tested tight ends ran better than Wilson's 4.56 40. His work on the field was summarized in this report: "Wilson ran solid routes, displayed a sense of timing and the ability to get downfield…(he) may have now secured a spot in the draft's first day." At 6-1 7/8, 248, he was still the smallest tight end at the combine, but evidently his workouts have caught up to the game tapes of the playmaker we'd spent a season watching. With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

TUESDAY March 2, 2004
Please, no more e-mails. That was no mistake in yesterday's report. Eli Manning, whom I'd labeled an 8-1 dark horse to land with the Steelers, could indeed slip to pick No. 11 for these reasons: 1. Teams, such as the Bengals, realize the days of keeping big-buck quarterbacks on the bench are over; 2. Last week's inclusion of USC wide receiver Mike Williams has burst the seams on what had already been an outstanding top 10; and 3. Nobody in the top 10 is in dire need of a quarterback. If one wants an expensive upgrade, there's Ben Roethlisberger, who just might be a better prospect than Manning. Would the Steelers bite? Now there's where the odds drop off a bit. They don't have much of a future at the position, but the depth chart's full. With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.

MONDAY March 1, 2004
With the combine over, we've recalculated the odds for the Steelers' choice at pick No. 11. Steven Jackson didn't work in Indy, but he entrenched himself as the even-money favorite since the Redskins no longer need a running back. Now the only team picking in front of the Steelers that might need a back is the Lions, and Va. Tech home-run hitter Kevin Jones would be the better fit there. We'll make Jones the second betting choice at 2-1, followed by his teammate, DeAngelo Hall, at 4-1. Tackle Shawn Andrews offered up a pretty good excuse for his end-of-season woes and returned to the hunt at 5-1. A couple of 8-1 darkhorses are quarterback Eli Manning and USC defensive end Kenechi Udeze (kun-EE-chee oo-DEZ-zay). My favorite long shot is Miami right tackle Vernon Carey at 15-1. With your NFL Draft Report, I'm Jim Wexell for Fox Sports Radio 970.


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