Wexell: Daily Draft Report '06

Steel City Insider's Jim Wexell logs in with his daily draft report, which airs on Fox Sports Radio 970 every weekday at 7:57 a.m., 11:57 a.m. and 5:57 p.m. Keep up with this year's NFL Draft prospects, and which players might interest the Steelers, here at SteelCityInsider.com.

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MONDAY, APRIL 3

Jai Lewis has finally been beaten on the basketball court, but might be in Pittsburgh today playing football.

The 6-foot-7, 275-pound George Mason center is being looked at as a football player -- a tight end or a defensive end -- and the Steelers are interested. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported two weeks ago that the Steelers had invited Lewis to the South Side for a workout when his season ended.

Lewis last played football at Aberdeen High School in Maryland. He was recruited by Virginia Tech, but his low SAT score forced him to prep school where he focused on basketball.

George Mason coach Jim Larranaga calls Lewis "the most unique athlete I've ever been around." But can he take a hit over the middle?

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



FRIDAY, MARCH 31

Perhaps the Dave Wannstedt apologists in the media have a point about his dreadful first season. Perhaps he didn't have the right players to fit his schemes. But wouldn't it have been asking too much to move Charles Spencer from tackle to guard?

Spencer was a stud as a pulling guard at the Senior Bowl, and now he's considered a mid second-round draft pick. That's about as high as a player at that position can grade out. And Spencer's stock is only rising.

After weighing 352 at the combine, Spencer showed up for a workout with the 49ers last week at 337. He's big and can move and has all the promise of an NFL road-grader.

Pitt should've used him as such in their so-called power running schemes, but I'm sure someone in the media will offer up an excuse.

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



THURSDAY, MARCH 30

The Steelers are spending plenty of time working out safeties this off-season. They love Donte Whitner of Ohio State and Jason Allen of Tennessee, but that was before Ryan Clark came along.

A better option would be USC's king-sized Darnell Bing, who wrote in his online journal that the Steelers are "very interested."

Bing replaced Troy Polamalu as the USC strong safety, but his ball skills make him a natural in the middle of the Steelers' base three-deep zone.

The Steelers traded up for Polamalu in the first round in 2003. Trading up in the second round to draft Bing this year has a certain symmetry to it.

He's 6-2, 227 and will run his 40 on Sunday. Check out SteelCityInsider.com for the results.

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



WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29

In the last six drafts, the Steelers have picked, arguably, the top-rated player at his position. That case can be made for receiver Plax Burress, nose tackle Casey Hampton, guard Kendall Simmons, safety Troy Polamalu, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and tight end Heath Miller.

It could happen again if Ohio State center Nick Mangold falls to pick 32.

Jeff Hartings's contract restructuring tell us this is his last season. And Chukky Okobi hasn't proven anything yet. But do you keep three centers on the roster for the sake of Mangold's development?

So the question becomes: Could Mangold back up at guard? At his size – a mere 6-3½, 300 – perhaps not for any length of time, but considering how well Mangold plays center, he might be worth the risk.

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



TUESDAY, MARCH 28

Verron Haynes fills a hole on the depth chart and saves the Steelers from further investigation into the character of USC tailback LenDale White.

White's running style fits the Steelers, who'd like a big back to complement Willie Parker. White is a 240-pounder who runs between the tackles and has enough pop to go the distance – kind of like a young Jerome Bettis. A better comparison would be Natrone Means.

But White's lifestyle doesn't fit the Steelers. It's the character questions that are causing scouts problems. He's one of the party guys from America's favorite party team. White once faked a suicide leap off a building to throw a charge into his teammates.

White's stock has fallen to where the Steelers must take a serious look, but Haynes makes it a moot point.

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



MONDAY, MARCH 27

You want to dismiss the rumors about Eric Moulds. Why would the Steelers want a 33-year-old malcontent with slipping stats?

But look at who was throwing him the ball at Buffalo. And look at the upcoming draft class. Ugh.

The Steelers' one gaping hole is receiver. They have two with any real experience, and a potential third, Quincy Morgan, still can't pass a physical.

The draft prospects are said to be the worst in a quarter of a century: Those who can catch can't run and those who can run can't catch. And the guy rated in your drafting zone is 5-foot-8. Big Ben went to the front office to make a case for his college favorite, but Martin Nance has had a dreadful post-season.

Does anyone have Moulds's phone number?

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



FRIDAY, MARCH 24

We've been talking about the more overrated draft prospects this week, so why stop now? The subject today is an overrated Pac-10 player: Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (Ha-LOTE-ee NAH-ta).

At 6-4, 338 pounds, the guy's a monster who commands double teams – until he wears down. Some are projecting him as a nose tackle for the Cleveland Browns' new 3-4 defense, but Ngata doesn't play near low enough to handle that job. He's had problems with injuries throughout his college career because of it, and he has a rep for taking plays off to boot.

He looks like former Steelers nose tackle Gabe Rivera, but Rivera had short legs and could get low. Ngata can't play low, and if the Browns draft him before Brodrick Bunkley, someone's head should roll.

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



THURSDAY, MARCH 23

Yesterday I ripped on Manny Lawson. Today it's Michael Huff's turn.

You've heard of Huff. He's the safety from Texas every draft expert is raving about. But I'll bet you've never seen much of Huff.

Oh, there was the horse-collar tackle in the Rose Bowl that set the TV boobs bobbing, but that was typical of Huff, who tackles like Chris Hope – everything's high.

Huff bounced off several tackles in the Rose Bowl, and when he jumped on a pile on fourth-and-2, he was credited with tackling LenDale White.

If you watched Huff against Ohio State, you saw the same thing: nothing. And with his poor angles and overaggressiveness, Huff almost cost Texas against Texas A&M.

Unless Huff proves he can play cornerback, he's not the top 15 player everyone's making him out to be.

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



WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22

When Parys Haralson talked about track men trying to play football last week, he must've been talking about Manny Lawson.

The 6-5½, 243-pound defensive end from N.C. State ran a 4.4 40 at the combine and had the best 3-cone time of linemen. He's become quite the rage among draftniks looking for a 3-4 outside linebacker.

I disagree.

Yes, Lawson's too light to play defensive end in a 4-3, but that doesn't mean he's a 3-4 outside linebacker. While Lawson runs like Jesse Owens on a track, he plays like Alonzo Jackson on a field. The guy just can't flip his hips.

So the next time you read about Lawson and how such a speedball could be ignored by scouts, there's a reason.

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



TUESDAY, MARCH 21

Another one of my favorite defensive prospects worked out at Tennessee's Pro Day last week: Parys Haralson is a small defensive end who not only can stand up at the point of attack, he has the hips to drop into coverage as a linebacker.

That makes Haralson a 3-4 tweener, and word is he can be had in the second round.

Haralson is 6-1, 253 pounds. He ran a 4.8 40 but was not disappointed.

"I play football," he said. "I don't know how much of this stuff shows what kind of football player you are. You hope they turn on the tape and watch how I play. I don't run track."

Amen to that. Haralson is a football player, and some lucky team will wait till the second, maybe third, round to find that out.

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



MONDAY, MARCH 20

Draft Daddy.com calls him the best special-teamer in the nation. Michael Robinson calls him a "freak of nature." Bill Cowher was at Penn State's Pro Day and he watched Ethan Kilmer steal the show.

Kilmer didn't play in high school, and he ran track at Shippensburg. At the urging of friends, Kilmer transferred to Penn State, where he became a special-teams demon while backing up at safety and receiver. In the Orange Bowl, Kilmer caught 6 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.

At his Pro Day, the 5-11, 205-pounder ran a 4.35 40 and jumped out of the gym. He also benched 225 19 times, or one more than Tamba Hali.

Ethan Kilmer of Penn State is a sleeper to watch on the second day of the draft.

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



FRIDAY, MARCH 17

Charles Spencer and Josh Lay are the marquee players at Pitt's Pro Day today, but also in attendance will be an interesting late-round prospect who didn't play for the Panthers.

Jeff Mroz, the 6-foot-5 quarterback from Greensburg, comes out of Yale as a sleeper at the position. The Dallas Cowboys have already worked him out, and today the rest of the scouts get an up-close look.

Mroz threw for 22 touchdowns and nearly 2,500 yards last season at Yale, where he was considered the best pocket passer in the Ivy League. He's big, has a strong arm and, we're guessing, is pretty smart. At least he was all that at Greensburg Central Catholic. Now he has a legitimate chance to find his way to a pro camp.

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



THURSDAY, MARCH 16

Today's the day the Penn State kids will work out ... at last.

The secretive Penn State program guards its players with an unhealthy zeal, and their near boycott of combine workouts – on a fast surface by the way – only brought up more questions than answers.

So Tamba Hali, Matt Rice, Michael Robinson, Alan Zemaitis and Anwar Phillips have only one chance to prove their athletic ability to NFL scouts.

Safeties Calvin Lowry and Chris Harrell did work out at Indy, so you like them for their intelligence alone.

Of course, if Hali, Robinson, Zemaitis and Phillips run close to what they've shown on film, all will be forgotten. Zemaitis, a corner, is of particular interest to a team looking for a sleeper at safety.

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



WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15

We in cyberspace only know him as Adam, but he's cracked the NFL's secret formula for awarding compensatory picks. In six years of work, Adam has predicted the exact picks for an average of 27 of 32 teams. That's good enough to quiet the doubters.

The key, he says, is not so much playing time and post-season honors, as the NFL would have us believe; it's the departed free agent's contract.

So Adam has deduced that the losses of Kendrell Bell, Plaxico Burress, Oliver Ross and Keydrick Vincent, when matched against the signing of Cedrick Wilson, will result in the NFL awarding the Steelers two extra fourth-round picks and an extra fifth-round pick. He believes one of the fourth-rounders could in fact be a third-rounder when the announcement is made in a few weeks.

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



TUESDAY, MARCH 14

The loss of Antwaan Randle El left the Steelers with three receivers on their depth chart, and one didn't catch a regular-season pass. They also lost their targeted free agent when Andre Davis signed with the Bills.

That leaves the draft. Considering the Steelers' interest in Davis, we can deduce they're looking for speed instead of size. The speed merchants are Ohio State's Santonio Holmes, Florida's Chad Jackson and Miami's Sinorice Moss.

Of the three, Moss should be there at pick 32. The younger brother of Santana Moss has performed like him lately. Moss ran past Tye Hill to make a great touchdown catch in the Senior Bowl, and in workouts ran a 4.38 40 with a 42-inch vertical jump. That could make the 5-foot-8 smurf a first-rounder.

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



MONDAY, MARCH 13

Poor Vince Young. He scored a 6 on his Wonderlic test, but he was a victim.

Let's see, there's the culturally biased intelligence test, there's the poorly worded intelligence test, and there was the media informant who showed little regard for the word student in student-athlete.

College football was in an uproar, so the NFL gave Young another chance.

Poor Vince Young. But here's what really matters: Young pouted during the firestorm, and his withdrawal from football society is what bothered scouts most. A leader is supposed to cope with adversity, and leadership is the primary attribute in NFL quarterbacks.

Vince Young doesn't look like a leader. He looks like a Baltimore Raven. That's where personnel men figure he's headed. Poor Vince Young.

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



FRIDAY, MARCH 10

West Virginia went 11-1 last year, and they did it without much help from their seniors.

The Mountaineers are working out for scouts today, but it doesn't appear as if any of them are first-day prospects. Safety Jahmile Addae (juh-mall ah-DIE) and cornerback Dee McCann were the only combine invitees. Addae is a big hitter and McCann's a physical cover man, but both are second-day prospects.

Late-round prospects are big right tackle Garin Justice, active nose tackle Ernest Hunter and heady strong safety Mike Lorello. All three are considered to be sleepers with a solid chance to make rosters.

So it doesn't appear as if West Virginia's Pro Day will attract the crowd it has in the recent past, but look out next year. And the year after. And so on.

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



THURSDAY, MARCH 9

The Steelers are in Columbus today looking over one of the best draft classes in college football. We talked about their interest in Donte Whitner, and Nick Mangold is the right guy to continue the Steelers' tradition at center. But the most interesting Ohio Stater is outside linebacker Bobby Carpenter.

Carpenter broke his fibula against Michigan and couldn't work out at the combine. But he checked in at 6-2½, 256 and knocked everyone out in his interviews. Personnel men rave that Carpenter is a sure-fire future captain.

Bill Cowher has never drafted a linebacker in the first round, and, really, Carpenter would be the team's sixth backer, at best, next season. But they shouldn't pass on a great player who could fall their way because of an injury. That's how they landed Heath Miller.

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



WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8

Linebacker is the heart and soul of the Steelers' 3-4 defense, but as per the Bill Cowher-era norm they won't be skimming from the top of this year's deep crop.

This year's class of linebackers, according to Kevin Colbert, is "strong at the top, and strong in the middle."

So with other needs to fill, the middle rounds would appear to be the Steelers' target area once again.

A player to watch is N.C. State third-year junior Stephen Tulloch (TULL-uck). He weighed into the combine at 5-11, 241 and ran a 4.9 40. That pedestrian number will allow him to drop, but Tulloch can play. He led the Wolfpack with 150 tackles and won the Car Care Bowl MVP on the strength of three sacks.

If not Tulloch, there are plenty like him this year.

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



TUESDAY, MARCH 7

One publication lists Ohio State safety Donte Whitner as the draft's No. 70 prospect. Yesterday, we named him No. 32 and a favorite to land with the Steelers. Why?

Well, the Steelers like him, for one. The 20-year-old is 5-10, 204 pounds and ran a 4.40 40 at the combine, where expert analyst Mike Mayock had him ranked as the draft's top safety ahead of Jason Allen, Ko Simpson and Darnell Bing.

Whitner was the nation's top-ranked cornerback coming out of Cleveland's Glenville High, but moved to strong safety, where last year, as a true junior, he was third on the team in tackles and showed he could cover, tackle and blitz. Last week he showed he could run … fast. What's not to like?

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



MONDAY, MARCH 6

Last week's combine kicked off the start of the 2006 draft season and the Super Bowl champion Steelers are picking 32nd. Here are their first-pick contenders prior to the start of free agency:

The Steelers will most likely need a free safety. Donte Whitner of Ohio State had a great combine and, after splitting time as a corner, proved to be a wrap-up tackler at safety last season. We haven't seen that here since Darren Perry.

At center, scouts say Ohio State's Nick Mangold is the best prospect in years. He just might become the next in the Steelers' long, great line at the position.

And since team depth is thin and draft depth is deep, let's throw Maryland inside backer D'Qwell Jackson in there as a longshot.

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


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