Former scout talks draft with Steelers Nation

SCI and Steelers Nation peppered veteran NFL talent evaluator Tom Marino with our questions about the Steelers' needs and the available draft prospects who may provide the answers. As anticipated, Marino pulled no punches. The transcript of our chat follows:

STEELERS DRAFT CHAT with TOM MARINO

Cobra39 - On safety - what's your opinion of Tyrell Johnson from Arkansas State?
TomMarino - Johnson from Arkansas is a four year regular (experienced) with a lot of smarts. He runs very well and looked like a better zone than man cover guy (slot receiver) well.
TomMarino - His first season at free.
steelmann58 - jim does tom feel we might draft a RB?
steelmann58 - maybe a Jerome Fenton
TomMarino - I like Fenton, excellent zone running fullback and one back.
BlitzburghGator - Hester could be Mike Alstott without the fumbling problem. I'd be thrilled if we got him.
TomMarino - I'll go one better than Hester who I like. At the LSU workout a young man who was thrown out of school for cheating (Steve Korte), the son of a former Arkansas All American OC of the same name had one of the best workouts in the country and might be a better fit. He's bigger, faster and catches better. That being said, he hasn't pissed a drop as a college player.
steelmann58 - I was surprised to see Clady falling
TomMarino - Clady is not very strong, will have to re-do his body over the next two years. He is a good player who prepares himself well. Two scouts from different teams told me the management was turned off by him in the interview. Doesn't come from much, mother has passed and dad works as a custodian, lives in a rough part of LA. I kind of liked him.
steelmann58 - thanks Tom.
steelmann58 - so Groves is smokescreen Tom?
jimwexell - Tom likes Groves for the Steelers. I'm the one claiming smokescreen. I like Branden Albert, but it doesn't look like he'll be there. I like Jonathan Stewart instead.
steelmann58 - jim stewart could be interesting since his injury
ChristopherWallace - Speaking of Stewart - Tom what is your opinion of the guy? How is he in shortyardage/goaline situations?
Cobra39 - Jim, I agree on Stewart, he'll be avail now due to the injury. Heck of a compliment for Willie. Do you think he would be returning kicks
jimwexell - Stewart led the nation in KR average as a true freshman. It's the ideal spot for him to start. But now I'm giving away tomorrow's story. Tom told me about some very interesting big backs, so let's save that for tomorrow. I'm kind of interested in 3-4 defensive ends and a free safety right now.
RISteel - Wex Stewart in the first and Sweed in the 2nd? Awfully offensive for you
jimwexell - Yes, I caught myself this afternoon thinking that. I'd really love to see a smothering defense.
RISteel - You're like all of us, we want it all...70's rehashed ;)
gamba13 - smokescreen to create trade interest? if so, wouldn't a team who wants groves be more inclined to trade with someone ahead of us?
jimwexell - Gamba, that's what I mean. He'd like to see someone trade up ahead of him for a guy he doesn't want. That's just my theory and the rumors I'm hearing. Tomlin probably liked what he did to the Jets with Revis last year. That's probably why he was shouting for "Q" at his pro day. He knew it would make the news. But that's not the only reason I'm saying it's a smokescreen.
WISteeler - Tom, is Dennis Dixon worth a late round pick for the Steelers? Can he be a successful QB in the NFL?
TomMarino - I don't think Dixon can spin the ball worth a shit. All little short stuff. Thin legs and is under contract to the Braves
SteelerDawg74 - Jim do you think we will draft a CB this year. What's the deal with McFadden. Is this a make it or break it year for him? Is the team down on Anthony Smith … Have they lost confidence in him?
jimwexell - Dawg, questions about Anthony Smith and McFadden really can't be answered right now. They haven't played a down since you last watched. I don't know -- and we've talked about this a bunch -- but I don't know if they're down on McFadden as much as Deshea has played so well. Anthony Smith? I mean, you tell me.
SteelerDawg74 - Thanks Jim, I think they both have the talent they just need to get there heads on straight, big camp for both of those guys
Cobra39 - Ok - lets talk DE's - you know my position on Merling. I also like Langford in 2 or Jones and Thompson in 3. Would Thompson have to be a hybrid player in your opinion
steelmann58 - what about Bryant or Laws
SteelerDawg74 - I love Red Bryant
Cobra39 - I don't see Bryant adding anything other than a gap plugger. I'm ok with that, but prefer someone who can rush the passer. Draft a gap plugger in round 4 like Dykes, Powell, etc
SteelerDawg74 - Cobra, I love Bryant's explosiveness off the snap
jimwexell - Bryant has lost 30 pounds since the end of the season and ran a 4.88 at his pro day.
Cobra39 - Understand what he's done since the season ended, I just didn't see him making a lot of plays this season. Maybe because they play 3-4 correct
TomMarino - I thought Bryant was a straight line player who got his pads up. I'll sent you my report on him
ChristopherWallace - Speaking of DL - what about Jason Jones as a Steelers prospect?
TomMarino - A big, tough, strong inside guy who played hard, but consistently got his pads up working inside. Is stout and difficult to move around, but did not protect his legs or get over trash effectively. Got some inside push as a bull rusher, but lacks counter skills and change of direction. Gave up far too much blocking surface and has had some lower body injuries which need to be considered. Best suited to play tackle in a 3-4 look. Makes your team, but has limitations.
ChristopherWallace - Tom - what do you think about Marcus Harrison? Is he a prospect you can be relied on if drafted?
TomMarino - Harrison is a very good player. Outstanding run stopper who played well just five months post opp. Off the field he has had some issues (trying to be nice)
jimwexell - Harrison looks like a 3-4 end, but as you say, the off-field issues. Anything worse than pot-smoking?
TomMarino - Very talented run stopper. Loved his pad level when meeting blocks and overall leverage. Stout at the point (can dominate). Could play both spots inside. Played the entire 07 season with a recently repaired ACL. Not what I would consider a top pass rusher (power moves only) but does get some inside push. Some off the field concerns will need to be addressed, but this is a very good football player who has not reached his full potential. Draft consideration 2 - 3
nathanas85 - Tom, do you think Aqib Talib will play corner in the NFL or is he more of a safety?
TomMarino - Talib is the best zone corner in the draft. He has very good instincts and ball skills. I send along his report.
TomMarino - Talented shutdown corner with a world of ability. Like his size, zone awareness and ball skill. Is field fast, has excellent feet, plant and drive skills, with rare ball awareness. Sorts it out very quickly, has wideout hands and has outstanding match up possibilities on the outside. Good but not an exceptional tackler. Has some off the field concerns, but this is the real deal.
SteelerDawg74 - How much will talib's stock drop Tom?
jimwexell - Steelers won't take a guy with three blown tests. Nice knowing you Aqib. P.S. Was your momma smoking weed when she forgot to put a U in your first name?
muleFunk - Still do know how these weed smokers are playing as good as they do.
nathanas85 - Maybe the Steelers can pay Aqib's bonus in Mary Jane?
Cobra39 - Does the D Line coach have ultimate say in who they draft. I believe he's their longest tenured coach.
SteelerDawg74 - John Mitchell Cobra, heck of a ballplayer in his own right at Alabama
jimwexell - No. Mike Tomlin has the most say. It depends on Mitchell's track record, but he most certainly has his say. Remember, Dick Hoak couldn't get Michael Turner instead of Nathaniel Adibi and Hoak was there before Cowher was born.
steelmann58 - jim does Arians have a big say
jimwexell - And yes Arians has a big say, but again it all goes into Colbert's melting pot and, the early picks at least, must be approved by Tomlin.
BlitzburghGator - Tom, do you think there is any chance of one of any of these players falling to #23 in the first round? ... Derrick Harvey, Chris Williams, or Brandon Albert?
TomMarino - Albert is said to be going to KC at five to play left offensive tackle. Don't agree since he has only played three games at tackle.
Cobra39 - Tom, in the kickoff report you mentioned Merling would be there, and his ultimate position is 34 end. He seems like a perfect fit, come in and pass rush initially and bulk up along the way. He's already competent against the run.
TomMarino - I like Merling and agree with you that he will eventually will be used as an inside rusher in nickel once he gets stronger. One other thing a friend told me on Monday that he has also tested positive at least two times at Clemson.
phillysteelfan - My lord. Merling?
phillysteelfan - Merling's a pot smoker also?
TomMarino - Don't know what he tested positive for.
ChristopherWallace - Tom - what do you think about James Bell from UNLV - and do you think he could evolve into a good "Buck" ILB for the Steelers?
TomMarino - I like Bell, but understand he did not workout very good
TomMarino - Bell's report:
TomMarino - Explosive hitter who plays hard and fast. Can leverage, play off and runs to the ball. Excellent speed and backside effort (motor runs on high all of the time. A big hitter (people go backwards on contact). Top teams potential at the professional level. Felt he was marginal in pass coverage (tends to play straight legged -limited reaction). Sustained an MCL injury in Senior Bowl. Late 2nd to top of 3rd draft potential.
ChristopherWallace - I would like Bell in the 2nd to replace Farrior in '09.
Cobra39 - Tom - another intriguing prospect is Jeremy Thompson - Can he play 34 DE or is he a situational passrusher/OLB
TomMarino - Thompson is a steady mid round guy. Will send you his report
TomMarino - three year starter predominately on the right side. Has the quickness you look for when engaging blocker defending the run, but I also thought he got his pads up, thus negating his power. Didn't always finish or chase backside. Has potential as a pass rusher (good hand use, stride length and closing speed, but unless he beat people off the go, lacks the necessary body strength to defeat big people at this time
SteelerDawg74 - Tom is there any way that us guys that attend College games on a regular basis can help you out in your talent evals. I go to all of the UGA home games
phillysteelfan - Tom. What's your opinion on Kevin Smith? I think he's got a chance to be the best back in the draft.
TomMarino - The best back in the draft wears # 5 and plays for Arkansas, but I do like Smith. Saw him in his first game of 07 take one 80 yards for 6
nathanas85 - Tom, say Steelers go defense in round one. In Round two the Steelers are looking at the offensive line, what would be a bigger need, OT or OG? And who may be available at pick no.53?
Cobra39 - Tom - there seems to be a lot of really athletic mid-round OLBers -- Kehl, Guyton, Keglar etc. Pittsburgh could afford to address LBer a little later
TomMarino - They could. Really like the BYU guy
TomMarino - Didn't really like Guyton. report to follow
TomMarino - Has good size (is rocked up but also appeared to rather tight through his hips and legs. Not aware and was inconsistent in his angles to the boundary. Questionable instincts. Best suited to play over a TE "Sam" and as a special team player. A lot of thing
ChristopherWallace - Tom - what do you think about Marcus Thomas
TomMarino - I saw Thomas just once (UTEP) RB?
TomMarino - Thought he was a straight line guy who played better as a frosh then he did as a senior
phillysteelfan - I'm going to repeat Nathan's question about best O-linemen available for Steelers 2nd round (pick 53)?
TomMarino - Let me give you a slight reach at 53.....
TomMarino - Brandon Keith from Northern Iowa
TomMarino - outstanding physical skills and a pro body (long arms and thick all over), but is just not very tough nor was he physical in his play. Very talented athlete with every conceivable physical gift, but should have been far more dominant in his overall play. Loved his feet, can pull, lead, and adjust on the move, but he just wasn't a consistent finisher. Needs to drop some body weight and improve stamina.
TomMarino - Started out at Oklahoma. Check out these numbers
TomMarino - 6052v 345v 5.01v
phillysteelfan - Extremely interesting on Keith. Unfortunately I never saw him play. The not very tough nor physical definitely scares me though. Steelers need to get back to physical play
steelfan1971 - Is Brian Johnston out of Gardener Webb a prospect the Steelers should be looking at, and is he at all similar to Aaron Smith when he was coming out of Northern Colorado?
TomMarino - Brian Johnston is a tough small college player. report to follow
TomMarino - A 4 year regular who certainly was a good player, but is going to have to improve hand use, and ability to shed, to be a difference maker. A former linebacker. Showed a marginal ability to get over trash and get to the football. As a pass rusher, played with power, but doesn't have a real plan after his initial engagement. Is an effort guy, but I just don't see any special skills. Possible late round selection, but is more likely a priority free agent prospect.
Cobra39 - Tom - any opinions on mid-round Guards like McGlynn and Zuttah transitioning. Is Zuttah more of just an athlete or do his skills project - he had a hell of a combine
TomMarino - A lot of people really like Zuttah. Might be a center. Smart and strong
TomMarino - I like McGlynn. Much better at OG then OT
gothamsteeler - tom, what do you think about mayo? i hear steelers very interested
TomMarino - Mayo is going to be a very good player. Excellent in coverage. Needs to get stronger
nathanas85 - Tom, what are your thoughts on Eddie Royal?
TomMarino - I like him but you wake up tomorrow, he's still a little shit
TomMarino - Little man, who was both quick and fast. Has good hands but likes the ball in on his body whenever possible. Has small hands and a short receiving radius. Has the quicks and feet to avoid the hold up, but was more effective lining up in the slot. Can track down the field, but doesn't offer the QB much in the way of a target. Questionable to win in traffic. Adept KO and punt returner; catches well, hits the crease and goes. Courage and judgment. Round 3 - 4.
muleFunk - Hell can we buy a kick returner ?
jimwexell - Fellas, I'm gonna check out. Tom, thanks a million. You're the best thing this network has going. Take care, friend.
Cobra39 - This was great guys --thanks Wex for making it happen
TomMarino - Guys I have to run and do a radio show in Denver. Really loved it
TomMarino - I also think Jim is the absolute best guy at scout
TomMarino - What are the Red Sox doing before I go??? Please give me some good news
SteelerDawg74 - Detroit is beating the Red Sox 4-2
Cobra39 - Great Job Tom
phillysteelfan - thanks a bunch Tom
nathanas85 - thanks Tom
muleFunk - Peace


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