Supplemental draft may interest Steelers

Just like New Year's Eve, the April draft is Amateur Night. The hardcore football fan looks for something more challenging, like the supplemental draft. Blogger Ryan Wilson wonders if the Steelers are interested in the top prize.

In terms of depth, I think we all can agree that the linebacker position is at the top of the To Do list for the Pittsburgh Steelers going forward. James Farrior is 31 years old and he seems to be slowing; Joey Porter may want a new deal and he and Clark Haggans are both 29; Larry Foote is a nice complement but you don't build a linebacking corps around him; and Rian Wallace and Andre Frazier are unproven.

But at this point, what could Colbert and Company do?

Well, there's one more option: the supplemental draft.

Here's a quick review. According to NFL.com's Gil Brandt:

This years' supplemental draft is tentatively scheduled for July 13. ... Draft order is determined by a weighted system that is divided into three groupings. First come the teams that had six or fewer wins last season, followed by non-playoff teams that had more than six wins, followed by the 12 playoff teams.
It's also worth noting that any draft picks used during the supplemental draft are forfeited in the 2007 April draft.

Last year, only one player was selected via the supplemental draft. The Dolphins used a fifth-round pick on DT Manuel Wright, whom head coach Nick Saban later brought to tears during a training camp dressing down. (I'm no expert, but I'm guessing that crying at work is frowned upon in most professions that don't involve eating onions.)

This year, LB Ahmad Brooks has a real chance of being a "first day pick." Okay, the whole draft is only a one-day affair, but Brooks could be gone before the fourth round. He was a freshman All-American at the University of Virginia but after a series of on-field injuries and off-field incidents -- including ultimately being dismissed from the team this spring -- Brooks will now attempt the same route to the NFL as LB Brian Bosworth (1987), QB Timm Rosenbach (1989), QB Steve Walsh (1989), Duke QB Dave Brown (1992) and DT Jamal Williams (1998).

There are reports that the 49ers are very interested in Brooks, and more speculatively, the Patriots and Dolphins might also get in the mix. And given the Steelers have never taken a player via the supplemental draft, it's probably safe to assume nothing will change this time around, but we can still talk about it.

What do we know? Well, according to Brooks's agent, here are his measurables (and yes, given the source, they should be taken with a very large grain of salt):

As of June 7, his weight was 264 -- he has a target weight of 265 for the workout -- and ran a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash.
Those numbers will certainly get your attention. But just like the super model hanging out at the bar all by herself on a Tuesday afternoon getting sloshed, you're pretty sure something's not right. Red flags should immediately go up … and for most of us they do. For the others – say, Matt Millen in football and Jason Allen Alexander in life – things are a little more muddled.

There aren't many certainties in life, but here are two: Football players who seem too good to be true usually are; smoking hot girls don't hang out by themselves, no matter what time it is. It's like that scene in Beautiful Girls when Kev asks Stinky if his cousin, played by Uma Thurman, has a boyfriend. Stinky's response? "Look at her, numbnuts? Girls like that are born with boyfriends."

Same goes for future Pro Bowl linebackers – the great ones are taken in April. In Brooks's case, he's got a lot of personal baggage that comes along with all that physical talent, and sometimes it gets in the way of his on-field performance. In general, I consider myself very open-minded about most things, but I have very little patience for knuckleheads masquerading as football players.

As I see it, these knuckleheads come in two forms: First, there are the guys who have run-ins with the law but still perform at a very high level on Sundays. Then there are those who, for the most part, stay out of trouble but are only in the league for the paycheck, not because they aspire to be great football players.

Chris Henry, Odell Thurman and Ray Lewis fall into the first group. These dudes could have their own Cops marathon, but I don't think anybody would question their desire to compete on game days. Then there are guys like Johnathan Sullivan and Ricky Williams, players with seemingly unlimited upside who, at times, show only a passing interest in being dominant football players.

The Browns' William Green is the penultimate example; he falls into both categories. Lawrence Phillips is the ultimate example, but he's so far out there that he deserves his own, completely insane category. The guy tried to run over – with a stolen car, mind you – some kids after a pickup football game.

I tend to think Brooks falls in with Sullivan and Williams. He's a gifted athlete who's had a few scrapes with the authorities, but the big question surrounds his desire to play professional football. And "desire to play professional football" shouldn't be confused with "desire to get paid a crapload of money." Yeah, we all want to get paid, but given Brooks's past actions, it's not clear he's willing to make the commitment necessary to be a great NFL linebacker. And I'm not saying he has to be great to justify his salary or his draft status, I'm saying he has to have the work ethic of a great player, and whatever happens, happens.

For the most part, the Steelers shy away from such guys. And, no, Plaxico Burress or Santonio Holmes don't qualify. For me, the trade-off between talent and disruptiveness never seems worth the risk. Sure, the Bengals got a second-round talent in A.J. Nicholson but big whoop – he could be making license plates for the next few seasons. Wouldn't it be interesting if the Bengals used a supplemental draft pick to take Brooks as insurance against Nicholson landing in the clink?

The bottom line is that everybody makes mistakes. If you're the Steelers, the question becomes: Is a player worth the gamble? History says no, and things have worked out pretty well. Of course, if the team loses a couple of linebackers to injuries or old-age, I suspect opinions may change.


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