The Stillers �Still� a Couple
And so another Stillers draft goes into the books. I doubt I could do a better player-by-player breakdown than Haven�s, and if you haven�t read it, I suggest you do. What I�d like to concentrate on is one player, whom I�ll get to shortly.
The Stillers started off day one with a bang � thanks to the stupidity of both Seattle and Cincinnati � by snagging super-stud OL David DeCastro. I hadn�t even considered DeCastroas an option, as I never figured he�d fall into the 20s. (Most boards had him ranked the top guard, and one ranked him the third highest player overall.) With DeCastro still there at #24, the Stillers vaulted over Dont�a Hightower on their way to the commissioner�s podium � leaving no doubt which player they truly coveted.
How lucky were the Stillers here? I�ll leave that to the Walter Football�s site to sum things up:
24. David DeCastro, G, Stanford: A+ Grade
Unbelievable. The Steelers somehow land a guy who could be the top guard in the NFL over the next decade. David DeCastro could have gone as high as No. 11. It's really amazing how smart organizations like Pittsburgh can take advantage of dumb teams making stupid decisions year after year. This is the best pick of the 2012 NFL Draft thus far.
UPDATE: The Stillers may have gotten even luckier than we�d thought. Sources report the team had a deal in place with the Jets to move up to the 16th spot, and take DeCastro. The Jets pulled out of the supposed deal, however � yet DeCastro lasted to the 24th pick anyway.
As I commented in my pre-draft, the Stillers had needs at OL, DL and LB. They satisfied the first with DeCastro and Mike Adams, who�s got first-round skills and sixth-round smarts. If Adams stays straight, he too becomes a massive steal. In the fourth round the Stillers stole Ta�amu, the big d-lineman from Washington. Like Adams, he was once considered a first-rounder.
So that leaves LB � can�t fix everything with one draft, right? I�m not so sure. The pick that intrigued me most was � believe it or not --Sean Spence. When the Stillers took Spence I scratched my head along with most other fans, but then I remembered a couple Miami of FL games I�d seen. Watching Spence�s highlight reel, I saw more of what I remembered: a guy who knifed through blocks, always seemed to find the ball carrier and always made the sure tackle.
At 5-11, 235, Spence seems undersized � until you remember that the current Stillers LB terror is just an inch taller. Spence does what the current LB candidate, Sylvester, doesn�t: read, react and shed. Not only that, I think Spence will be able to handle both the Mack and Buck spots.
But here�s a key: Spence�s ability to move in space suits him to match up with the new breed of tight ends. I believe the Stillers had this in mind when they drafted him.
Of the two Alabama LB�s taken, I thought Upshaw was the better player (and was sorry to see him taken by the Ravens). If Upshaw is the poor man�s James Harrison, then Sean Spence is the poor man�s Courtney Upshaw. Some wonder how Spence will fit into a 3-4 (just as they do with Upshaw) and the answer is simple: he�s capable of playing both Mack and Buck spots. That�s what all the people assuming he�ll be Timmons�s back-up are missing; don�t be surprised if Spence contends for the other inside spot.
Spence will bring a lot of energy to a group that�s been lethargic for the last few years. �Farrior Barrier� � meet the �Spence Fence.�Talk about size and stopwatch speed all you want � the dude can flat out play.
Another first-round talent with a free-agent head: Chris Rainey (aka �Darren Sproles Jr.�). I�ve said before that the Stillers desperately need some speed at RB. Rainey delivers at a blazing 4.37 pace. Not only that, but Rainey can split out wide � something that will play into the new Haley offense. Part of the Stillers red-zone problems came because they rarely took the easy yards off dumps to the back; Ben always seemed to look to the WRs and TE. Rainey not only provides the home-run threat as a back, but also can catch. He�s the perfect change of pace for Redman and/or Mendenhall. Let�s just hope his police record stays perfect, too.
I�ll close by quickly mentioning Toney Clemons, the 7th-rounder from Colorado and the Pittsburgh area�s Valley High School. Clemon�s speed gives him a shot to make the team, and join what could be the most formidable group of WRs in the game with Wallace, Brown and Cotchery.
I�ll close with a quick look at the other North teams� drafts:
BALTIMORE: As I said I regretted seeing Courtney Upshaw fall to the Ravens in round two, though I was glad to see them drop out of round one like pouting babies when New England grabbed Hightower. Upshaw will be pressed into service with the injury to bigmouth Suggs. I thought they reached with Osemele, as the loss of Ben Grubbs at G may have made them a bit desperate. All in all a decent crop, though not as good as last year�s.
CINCINNATI: As with Upshaw, I hated seeing the Bungals land DL Devon Still, a player I wished had still been around in round 2 for the Stillers. Thank God, though, they passed on DeCastro in favor of Dre Kirkpatrick, who�ll be a project at CB. I believe Cincy also whiffed taking guard Kevin Zeitler over Cordy Glenn. Mohamed Sanu from Rutgers has solid NFL WR potential and is a big-time value pick. If not for the Kirkpatrick brain cramp, I�d give the Bungals pretty fair marks.
CLEVELAND: You can always depend on the Brownies to provide draft-day laughs: this time they unnecessarily swap spots with Minnesota to get Richardson, then spend another first-rounder on some QB who�s ready to collect Social Security. Cleveland panicked when the Titans snagged Kendall Wright, and wound up picking Brandon Weeden (as in �you must have been smoking weeden to have taken him this high.�) Nothing wrong with gambling a bit on a QB, but I doubt any other teams would have drafted him til about halfway through the second round � earliest. The Browns also needed WRs, and with three nice prospects available, they then took� a tackle. Suffice it to say, the mistakes were piling up by the Lake.
Speaking of the Devil�
In my pre-draft I talked about what I call the �new tight end,� exemplified by Vernon Davis and Rob Gronkowski. These players, as much big WRsas TEs, represent a future trend of offense in the NFL. As I mentioned in the commentary:
Davis, along with Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, represent what I call the �new tight end.� The new tight end is a match-up nightmare: too big for safeties, too fast for linebackers. Graham notched a whopping 1,300+ yards, and 13.2 YPC most receivers would envy. Gronkowski led a Patriots receiving corps without the benefit of a true WR deep threat.
Yesterday a story ran about the Colts possibly going to a three-tight-end offense, quoting new coach Chuck Pagano:
�It is a match-up nightmare,� Pagano said Saturday, via comments circulated by the team. �Coming off of the AFC Championship game, nobody knew better than the Ravens going into that game with the two guys [Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez] that [the Patriots] have. It is across the league. You can see it more and more every year.
�You can choose to put a defensive back on them, and they will be undersized, they will get outmuscled and they will get �big-boyed� for the ball. Then you can put a safety or a linebacker on them and they can�t run with them. So we feel like the two guys that we added, and Dominique [Jones] is a physical presence, that guy is 260 pounds and moving around really well. It is a match-up nightmare for any defense.�
The Colts, of course, drafted Stanford�s Coby Fleener, the latest �new tight end� to come out of college. They also drafted Dwayne Allen, meaning they spent both a second and third round pick on the position. Look for even more teams to copy this approach, particularly if this experiment works out in Indy.