Wish list as Draft-Day Eve approaches

Most of these names won't appear on the Steelers' value board tomorrow, but Jim Wexell gives them their due as some of his favorite NFL draft prospects.

He made the first snap of the game, and seconds later the first pancake. It was a reverse by Derrick Williams and Penn State center A.Q. Shipley came around end and caught an unsuspecting Fili Moala just right, and knocked him on his seat.

Shipley helped Moala up, patted him on the backside, and whispered in his ear.

What did he say?

"I told him I'm going to be here all day," Shipley would say later.

And he was. Moala was just one of the highly touted USC defenders to meet the Penn State co-captain that day. Shipley buried Kaluka Maiava on a screen, and did the same to Rey Maualuga. Shipley got out in front of another screen and blocked Brian Cushing in the throat with his forearm and drove him out of the play. Clay Matthews was pancaked by Shipley on another reverse and Maualuga was stuffed on a blitz. The Penn State touchdown via the QB draw? All Shipley.

He got out to the second level, led blitzes, uprooted pro prospects and finished his blocks as nastily as anyone could.

"It probably was the best game of my career," Shipley admitted at the combine.

But it was Shipley's peak. A scout confided that he'd given Shipley a free-agent grade. "Someone will fall in love with him and take him in the fifth," the scout allowed.

Yes, he'd seen the Rose Bowl, but said Shipley is "too short with short arms and can only play one position."

So much for my sleeper pick. Shipley's one of my favorite players in this draft, but you won't see him on tomorrow's value board because smarter people have told me facts. So here are more of the players to whom I took a liking this past college season, and who probably won't end up on the "intellectualized" pre-draft value board:

* Eric Wood G/C – I finally finished the Senior Bowl and saw another play from Wood that got me all worked up. On Pat White's long touchdown pass, Wood grabbed hold of Mitch King and shook him like the guy was trying to steal food from Wood's daughter. After Wood was done with King, he threw him to the ground before running upfield to celebrate the TD. Can pull, pass block, uproot Raji, play four positions, and he does it all with a nasty, nasty disposition. Hopefully: 1st round.

* Hakeem Nicks WR – I've raved about this guy all draft season and yet only saw him play one game. But that masterpiece against WVU, and that catch behind his back, is memory burn. North Carolina coach Butch Davis keeps trying to tell people that Nicks is one of the smartest WRs he's ever coached, but people only want to hear about the 14 pounds Nicks gained after injuring his hamstring at the combine. Hopefully: 1st round.

* Jairus Byrd CB – Gill Byrd's son played only three years at Oregon but intercepted 17 passes and knocked away 19 last season to lead the nation. But he's not that fast. He's more of a zone corner, or future free safety, but I love his strength, instincts and ball skills. He's also fast enough to return punts effectively. Just a good football player. Hopefully: 3rd round.

* Scott McKillop ILB – During Pitt's bowl game, as Wannstedt, Cavanaugh and Stull performed their usual comedic skit on offense, McKillop turned in a legendary performance against Oregon State. He's quicker than I thought, and his interception in the end zone saved the game … for a while. I came away wondering if I'd ever seen a linebacker with better instincts. Hopefully: 4th round.

* Rashad Johnson FS – This guy set the defense for Alabama and he strikes me as a Ryan Clark clone. Johnson was a walk-on, like Clark at LSU, but he's made more of a mark in the SEC with his hands, savvy and converted-cornerback cover skills. Hopefully: 4th round.

* Mohamed Massaquoi WR – Fans want to call this Georgia receiver the next Fred Gibson because he's tall and lacks explosiveness. But scouts like him because he does the small and difficult things. For instance, against Florida, in another Matthew Stafford gag game, Massaquoi ran down two long interceptions to make tackles; one was 100 yards from the opposite sideline. He tackled the DB at the 1 and forced a fumble out of bounds to mimic Ben Watson's tackle of Champ Bailey a few NFL playoffs ago. Hopefully: 4th round.

* Chase Coffman TE – I know the Steelers need a blocking tight end, and I know they won't draft one who never lines up in-line, but Coffman reminds me too much of Heath Miller to leave off this list. He's so tough over the middle and with great size and hands. And I really think he's tough enough to block if asked. Hopefully: 4th round.

* Garrett Reynolds, Andrew Gardner, Ryan Stancheck OTs – These guys are the reason there's no need to draft Phil Loadholt, Eben Britton, William Beatty or Jamon Meredith on the first day. Classic right tackles. Hopefully: 6th round.

* Phillip Hunt OLB/DE – This guy's too short, too stiff to drop into coverage, and lacks instincts, but his 34.5 sacks the last four years at Houston led the nation. I watched Air Force befuddle him with the option during a bowl game, and was reminded of James Harrison at his first Steelers camp. So, the draft experts have forgotten all about this powerful pass rusher … much like they did seven years ago with Harrison. Hopefully: 6th round.

* Asaph Schwapp FB – Notre Dame didn't have much, but it had a fullback who'd put his helmet in your gut and drive you into the end zone bleachers. At his Pro Day, Schwapp was a weightlifting star, prompting Charlie Weis to gush about his lead blocker. But the Steelers are looking at pass-catching fullbacks again. Too bad. Hopefully: 7th round.


Steel City Insider Top Stories