How bad is the first round?

In the first part of his pre-draft prediction columns, Jim Wexell reports on what he would do this weekend if he were in the Steelers' shoes.

TiVo's getting the blame for this one. Technology is doing me in.

Let me explain.

Take a mock draft, any mock draft. I'll use Scout.com's for this little illustration. Now, right off the bat I'm taking the quarterbacks off the list. One, the Pittsburgh Steelers won't pick them, and, two, I just don't like them. Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Jay Cutler – you can have all of them.

So we begin with 29 players. Let's, just for fun, cut the two most overrated players: Michael Huff and Haloti Ngata. They might become Ronnie Lott and Joe Greene for all I know, but to me they look like Quentin Jammer and Taasi Faumui.

I'll let Michael Jammer stick around, but Ngata? Nada.

I'm definitely throwing Jimmy Williams out -- skinny, mouthy, cantstandza .

Kamerion Wimbley and Manny Lawson are gone. Draftniks dream of these players because of their workout numbers, but I've seen them play. TiVo, remember? Later.

Down to 25. … Winston Justice pulled a toy gun on a friend and before that he propositioned a prostitute. I'm 46 and I haven't done that. Don't have the nerve. Wouldn't know where to start. He was what? 19? Seeya.

Chad Jackson is gone. I watched him the other night and was moved to remember Wayne Capers. Bye.

Tye Hill and Kelly Jennings are little cover corners. Don't need them.

Mathias Kiwanuka – I am not spelling that name in every practice report, so he goes. Besides, he's a 4-3 defensive end who's having a lousy post-season.

What are we down to? OK, 20. … Eric Winston, the big left tackle, played like damaged goods last year, so, you know, he might be, um, damaged goods. Thomas Howard, yikes. Scout.com has him going to the Bengals. Maybe I'll leave him around just so they can have him, but, seriously, this body beautiful is still looking to make his first play. Leonard Pope is too tall. He's Bennie Cunningham and gets cut below the knees all over the field. Mercedes Lewis? No. Why waste a first-round pick on him or Pope when you can get a fine tight end on the second day. Laurence Maroney hasn't thrown a block all year. Buh-bye.

When can I stop cutting? I've found only 15 players I like for crying out loud.

It's TiVo. I'm not old and cranky, it's just that I've seen too much. They all become so average after awhile. But by the same token, TiVo has helped me find the third-rounders who are just as good as the first-rounders. I've learned that Parys Haralson, while not as fast as a Lawson, is twice as mean. I want a mean linebacker, please.

So since we can find just as much talent in the second, third and fourth rounds, let's play the cards we're dealt. Let's forget about those 15 first-rounders, and let's, for a minute, forget we have 10 picks coming into the draft. I realize this roster doesn't have 10 openings, but let's add to those 10 picks by trading out of the first round, and then deal back up in our preferred rounds. Let's turn those 12, 13 picks into eight solid football players:

In the second round, I'm going with Oregon wide receiver Demetrius Williams and LSU right tackle Andrew Whitworth.

Williams is built like John Stallworth and has the same sneaky deep speed. He's smart, tough and can catch. As for Whitworth, I want to light a fire over on my right side. I want to make sure Max Starks goes out into the desert this summer, with his big, fat Super Bowl ring, and works his tail off. And I want to make sure Trai Essex still isn't partying in Miami after a rookie season that seemed -- seemed -- to go his way. With Marvel Smith always hurting, I am a tad concerned about the tackles on this team.

With the first third-round pick I'll take free safety Danieal Manning of Abilene Christian. I saw him in the Shrine game. He's Donte Whitner without the big-school pedigree. Good value, and a return man to boot.

In the third round, I'm drafting the aforementioned Haralson because on Sunday all the good, little linebackers should be in church.

With the first day complete, the Steelers still need a tight end, running back, quarterback and an inside linebacker. Let's go with 5-foot-8 RB Leon Washington and massive G-T-TE Guy Wimper in the fourth. If the second-round pick doesn't motivate Starks, Essex and Kendall Simmons, this one might.

The fifth-round quarterback is Bruce Gradkowski of Toledo; not because he's local but because he has the temperament, arm, feet and savvy to be Ben's backup for the next 10 years. Heck, he's already bald. He was born to be a backup quarterback.

The sixth? Josh Lay of Pitt or Justin Phenizee of Oregon. I've seen them. I've seen them all. And I have to tell you, it's not a pretty sight.

JIM WEXELL'S PREFERRED DRAFT

2A. Demetrius Williams, WR, Oregon

2B. Andrew Whitworth, OT, LSU

3A. Danieal Manning, FS/KR, Abilene Christian

3B. Parys Haralson, DE-OLB, Tennessee

4A. Guy Wimper, OT-OG-TE, East Carolina

4B. Leon Washington, RB, Florida State

5. Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Toledo

6. Josh Lay, CB, Pitt

(Tomorrow, we'll change up a little bit and use logic, intelligence and coherency in predicting how the Steelers will approach the draft.)


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