Wexells' Value Board: 2005 NFL Draft DB's

Steelers coach Bill Cowher was asked whether he looks at his defense as the top-ranked unit in the league or the unit that couldn't stop New England in the AFC title game.

"I don't know if I look at either" Cowher said. "I look at each position: defensive line, linebacker, secondary."

Well, the linemen and linebackers all return, including four Pro Bowlers. Those areas aren't concerns.

That leaves the secondary, the one that was scorched by Tom Brady, Deion Branch and the Patriots. It seems to be the area Cowher wants fixed.

"Willie (Williams) played solid for us last year, but Willie's getting up there," Cowher said. "Deshea (Townsend) is a good veteran guy, but that doesn't mean we're not going to took at that position."

Williams will turn 35 before the end of the season. Townsend is playing in the final year of his contract. So is Chris Hope. The young free safety played poorly against New England and was re-signed for only one year.

If Cowher wants to add two new defensive backs, it's the year for it. This crop of cornerbacks is immense, and varied.

If the Steelers still cherish the big, physical corner who'll support the run, chuck at the line and in general intimidate, they're available, and at bargain rates.

The craze now, after the emphasis on calling illegal contact last year, is cover corners with ball skills.

Of the big and physical corners, the Steelers would be able to draft a Corey Webster (6-0 1/8, 199, 4.5 campus) of LSU, or a Marlin Jackson (6-0 5/8, 198, 4.59) of Michigan, or a Ronald Bartell (6-1¼, 211, 4.37) of Howard in the first or second rounds.

An even bigger corner, the Blount-sized Brandon Browner (6-3½, 221, 4.6) of Oregon State, can be had in the third round.

But if the release of Chad Scott was any indication, the Steelers' way may be changing. Perhaps they're joining the "ball-skills" race.

Webster, in fact, has the best statistics. In four years, he intercepted 16 passes and broke up 51 others. But he had a sluggish senior season.

The next-best ball stats belong to Justin Miller (5-9¾, 201, 4.44) of Clemson. He had 13 interceptions and 31 passes defensed in his career. He's also the best kick returner in the draft. However, Miller, who'd already been answering questions about his character, was arrested last Saturday night after cops had to come back to his campus party a second time.

The only other viable candidate for the Steelers at pick 30, aside from safety Brodney Pool (6-1, 207, 4.5 campus) of Oklahoma, is Michigan's Jackson, who also struggled last year.


Second Round - Stanley Wilson (5-11¾, 185, 4.4) of Stanford visited the Steelers, as did Maryland corner Domonique Foxworth (5-11 1/8, 184, 4.4). Both are sprinters and cover corners, but both lack ball skills. Wilson is the son of Stanley Wilson, the infamous ex-Bengal who's serving the sixth year of a 22-year jail sentence for a third-strike burglary in California.

Second Round - Stanford Routt (6-1½, 193, 4.36) of Houston is a fast-rising prospect because of his size and speed.

Third Round -- Ellis Hobbs (5-9, 192, 4.5) of Iowa State is small, but tough. His college coach called him the best punt-team gunner he's ever seen. Hobbs also intercepted 9 passes and made 205 career tackles.

Some of the many other mid-round gems at cornerback include Darrent Williams (5-8 5/8, 176, 4.29) of Oklahoma State and Eric King (5-8½, 189, 4.5) of Wake Forest.

Fourth Round - Kelvin Hayden (5-10 3/8, 197, 4.48) was Illinois' leading receiver as a first-year junior and leading interceptor as a senior. The Steelers are interested in this potential free safety.


Jackson led Sharon to the 2000 PIAA Class AA semifinals, where it lost to Aliquippa. He started Michigan's sixth game as a freshman and his career peaked as a sophomore. He was moved to free safety and then back again as he struggled. He's a high second-round consideration, and could even slip into the first round.

Of course, Adam "Pac Man" Jones (5-9½, 187, 4.3 campus) of West Virginia is a top-10 prospect. Jones was raised by his grandmother in Atlanta.

Daven Holly (5-10 3/8, 192, 4.41) went to Cincinnati by way of Clairton. He switched from receiver to cornerback as a college sophomore and became second-team All-Conference USA by his senior year. He's raw, but timed at 4.3 at his pro day and will be drafted late.

Patrick Body (6-1 5/8, 192, 4.4 campus) led Pittsburgh Schenley High School to its only City League title in 55 years. He was also part of Schenley's 70-0 loss to Erie Prep in the state playoffs. Body is considered one of the best athletes in the draft. The Toledo safety had a vertical jump of 43 inches at his pro day, where he also worked out at wide receiver for Steelers scouts.

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