Tony Pauline breaks down the draft

I spoke at length with TFY's Draft Preview's Tony Pauline about the upcoming draft. Here's a transcript of our chat. <br><br><b> DL: </b> What do you see as the top position in this draft?

TP: Wide receiver, hands down. This is on of the best wide receiver drafts on paper in the past 20 years.

DL: After the personal workouts, a lot of people have moved Roy Williams ahead of Larry Fitzgerald on their boards. Do you see it that way?

TP: I think that's kind of crazy. All those people who moved Williams ahead of Fitzgerald must be people who don't pay attention. People seem shocked Roy Williams ran a 4.41 40. He ran a 4.45 40 last spring and you're surprised that now that he's training for it he runs a 4.41? Williams disappears in big games and has had nagging injuries. He's a good player, but he's not Fitzgerald.

DL: Who are some of the guys who weren't there before but have moved up a lot?

TP: I think you have to look at Will Smith and DeAngelo Hall. I think Hall has moved up into the top 9 to 13 picks. And Will Smith has top-10 talent. A lot of people would be surprised if he went that high, but he's a guy who gives good effort and you can just do so many different things with him.

DL: So you think he's a guy who could play outside linebacker in a 3-4? You think he can drop into coverage.

TP: Absolutely. He's a guy that if you run a lot of zone blitzes, he'll be great. He shows solid skills dropping into coverage.

DL: What about some of the other tweener ends in this draft? I like Issac Hilton from Hampton. Is he a guy you feel could make the transition from end to outside linebacker in a 3-4?

TP: Athletically, yes. Mentally, you don't know. I saw Hilton in his first game last year against Villanova and he didn't always play to his ability. Physically, he's a guy you would think would make a seamless transition because of his outstanding speed.

DL: Could he at least help as a situational pass rusher right away?

TP: He should be able to do that in a 4-3.

DL: What about the corner class. You mentioned DeAngelo Hall. Has Dunta Robinson established himself as the second corner?

TP: Robinson will either be the first or second corner taken. (Robinson) has much better cover skills than Hall, but he doesn't have the pure explosion that Hall does. Hall also offers skills as a return man. I doubt he lasts past Buffalo.

DL: How would they compare to the top two corners taken last year (Terrance Newman and Marcus Trufant)?

TP: I guess you would say they're greener than Newman and Trufant. Newman and Trufant were less inclined to make mistakes. But with Hall and Robinson, you're going to have some growing pains.

DL: On the offensive line, we know Gallery is a top pick and Shawn Andrews will be a first rounder now that he's gotten his weight under control. Who goes after them?

TP: Vernon Carey should be third. He was a dominant right tackle at Miami his junior season and then got moved out of position as a senior to guard. He was a nice guard, but not as good as he was at tackle. But if he does go in the first round, it will be because some team is filling a need.

DL: After those guys, though, you can pretty much throw a blanket over the next four or five guys from what I've seen. Who do you have next?

TP: (Jacob) Rogers is solid, but not spectacular. I like Adrian Jones from Kansas maybe a little more than other guys. He was a tight end for three years and then had an outstanding combine this year.

DL: But this isn't a very good offensive line crop.

TP: It's terrible. It's probably five or six deep at tackle, there are two guards and one center who will be guys who might contribute as rookies. That's why I said if Carey goes in the first round, it's because a team is drafting him because of a need.

DL: You mentioned tight end, what do you think of Kris Wilson from Pitt? Is he a guy who will go on the first day?

TP: I like Kris Wilson. He's a guy who for whatever reasons got lost a little bit this year. He's got great speed and very good hands.

DL: But is he a guy who can hold up as an NFL blocker?

TP: No, but it's not because of a lack of effort. He's a pass-catching tight end. Any team that brings him in is doing so to have him do that. He's going to create mismatches for a defense because he's too fast for a linebacker to cover and he'll beat down cornerbacks who try to cover him. He's a legitimate first-day guy.

DL: What about all this hype about another Pitt guy, Shawntae Spencer?

TP: Let me ask you this, what do you know about him. Do you know how big he really is, because I've seen different numbers.

DL: I've seen him at the Steelers cafeteria because they share that with Pitt. He's rail thin.

TP: But is he as tall as they list him as?

DL: I'm just under 6-1 and he's not quite as tall as me, but it's tough to tell.

TP: He's a guy who flashes some ability, but he just doesn't make plays. Now I see guys have him going in the first round and it just doesn't make any sense to me. There's no Charles Woodson or Shawn Springs in this draft, but it's very deep at cornerback. From the middle of the first round down through the third round, there are a lot of good guys who will be solid starters. Derek Straight is a very good cornerback who probably slips to the third round in this draft. Keiwan Ratliff of Florida is a guy who caught everything thrown his way during his career, but he's probably the 10th-best prospect this year. And you're telling me Shawntae Spencer is going to go in the first round? This is a guy who wasn't even invited to the combine. I just don't see that happening.

DL: What about the quarterbacks? I know there's the top three and then a dropoff. Do you see the top three going in the top-10 picks?

TP: I don't think Rivers will go in the top 10. The earliest he goes is at 11 to Pittsburgh.

DL: So you don't believe the smoke coming out of San Diego that they want to trade down and take him?

TP: We reported that first at the combine that San Diego liked Rivers. But San Diego wants to trade down into the middle of the first round and take him. Really, when you look at the top seven players in this draft, they're all better prospects than Phillip Rivers.

DL: Do you consider Losman close to Rivers in talent?

TP: That's comparing apples to oranges. Rivers is a more mature version of Cade McNown. Any team that drafts him is going to have to design an offense around him. If they take him and try to change him to fit their offense, that's probably not going to work. With Rivers, you're getting a guy who's pretty accurate and can come in and probably play well for a number of years. But because of that throwing motion, he's going to get some balls batted down and he doesn't have the strongest arm.

DL: Comparing him to Cade McNown, that's pretty harsh.

TP: I said he's a more mature Cade McNown. That's a difference. But I don't like Rivers that much. I could see him becoming a productive quarterback, but I could also see him becoming a bust. There's some uncertainty there, unlike Manning and Roethlisberger

DL: What about Losman? A lot of teams have been turned off by him.

TP: He has skills. If he can learn to throw the out, he could be a good quarterback.

DL: The Steelers took care of a pressing need at running by signing Duce Staley. That's probably a pretty good thing because there are some question marks after Steven Jackson in this class, right?

TP: Kevin Jones is still a good back. I know he ran in the 4.6s, but he plays faster than that. But there are a lot of question marks. Which Chris Perry are you getting, the one who was great as a senior, or the one who earlier in his career was as consistent as the weather? Greg Jones just isn't healthy, so you don't know what you're getting there. That really was a Jamal Lewis-type of injury. To me, Michael Turner is a guy who would fit the Steelers offense who they might get in the third round. But he's something of an enigma. He looks fast on film, but he was slow at the Senior Bowl. But he's a big back with some speed who kind of fits that Steelers offense.

DL: What about mid-round guys like Mewelde Moore or Julius Jones?

TP: Mewelde Moore is more of a third-down back. A team that takes him is going to use him out the backfield because he's just not fast enough through the hole to be a betwee-the-tackles runner. Jones is a good player who had an excellent senior season. But he's also a guy who has had some durability problems during his career. He's missed some games because of little injuries. But he's a guy who could be a home run in the draft if he gets that under control.

Steel City Insider Top Stories