'06 NFL Draft Watch: Pittsburgh

Dave Wannstedt now begins his college coaching career at Pittsburgh after an unceremonious parting of the ways with Walt Harris. The team offers several solid skill players, a top linebacker and once again one of the nations best wide receivers.

The Panthers have been known for putting quality receivers into the NFL draft and Greg Lee is the next in line. A natural receiver in all aspects, Lee displays outstanding concentration and easily makes the reception with defenders draped on him. A solid route runner, he comes back to the pass out of breaks and adjusts well to the errant throw, using his frame to protect the ball. Displaying an outstanding burst of acceleration Lee effortlessly makes the difficult reception downfield. Displaying both technique and strength getting off jams at the line of scrimmage, he possesses a sense of timing and outstanding football instincts. Sized well, Lee plays a fast game and is an outstanding prospect going forward. The team offers a pair of prospects in the backfield starting with Raymond Kirkley. A powerful ball carrier with the ability to break tackles and run over opponents, Kirkley is tough to knock off his feet and picks up a lot of yardage off initial contact. Displaying the speed to get around tackle, he is also a patient runner who waits for blocks to develop and displays the ability to make defenders miss in a small area. Not overly elusive Kirkley does not have the ability to create if nothings available and must pick up his blocking tenacity significantly. A good senior campaign coupled with solid workout in the post season could push him into the first day. Versatile Tim Murphy is a solid short yardage running back that can also be used as a lead blocker. A powerful little fireplug, Murphy breaks tackles on the inside yet displays the speed and agility to cut the corner. Wedging through the small creases in the defense, he displays good footwork in a small area as well as a burst of speed. Running with authority through the hole, Murphy is also a solid receiver out of the backfield. Like Kirkley, the draft grade for Murphy relies on a solid senior campaign followed by good postseason workouts. Quarterback Tyler Palko is a solid short yardage passer with a live arm and the ability to thread a needle. Accurate between the numbers, he leads receivers over the middle of the field and possesses a quick release. Sensing the rush, Palko steps up to avoid defenders and also has the ability to pick up yardage with his legs. Palko does not drive the deep throw and forces the ball into coverage and occasion. He must round out his entire game before being considered a complete prospect. Finally senior tight end Eric Gill is an adequate pass catcher yet marginal blocker with limited upside for the next level.

Defensively there is a potential star in linebacker H.B. Blades. An explosive athlete, Blades is a solid run defender who also makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. Strong at the point, Blades is also effective in pass coverage and displays top sideline-to-sideline range. A little short, Blades may only fit certain schemes at the next level but is a solid prospect for the future. Safety Tez Morris consistently puts himself in a position to make positive plays and is a heady defensive back with solid sideline-to-sideline range. Taking good angles to play, Morris possesses an excellent burst of speed and displays a good degree of suddenness. Effective in both run defense and pass coverage, he is undersized by NFL standards yet may fit some zone systems. Finally cornerback Josh Lay has flashed ability yet needs to put a complete game together.

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