Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Will Ike stay or will Ike go?
By Mike Batista
It's hard to say right now whether Steelers free agent cornerback Ike Taylor will take his "swagger" elsewhere.
The Pittsburgh Tribune Review says that Taylor is as good as gone, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette, the dean of Steelers scribes, isn't so sure.
Either way, cornerback needs to be a high priority in the draft for the Steelers.
Because he's currently unsigned, the Steelers seem to be entering the draft as if Taylor is not part of the team.
Without Taylor, the knee-jerk reaction might be to trade up in the first round to land an elite cornerback like Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara, both likely top-10 picks. But the Steelers don't operate that way, nor should they in this case.
To trade into the top 10, the Steelers would have to sacrifice a lot of picks in this draft and probably next year's draft. That wouldn't be a good idea, because this team isn't getting any younger. Without a lot of new blood coming in, the Steelers might be OK at cornerback with an Amukamara or Peterson, but areas of need will sprout up everywhere else as players age and their skills decline.
If anything, the Steelers should trade out of the first round. They enter this draft with the standard stock of one pick in each of the seven rounds. Trading out of the first round will give them a couple of extra picks. That would help combat the team's aging process and increase the Steelers' chances of landing that hidden gem.
The other reason the Steelers should trade out of their No. 31 pick in the first round is because the players I'd like to see them get either will be gone by the time they pick or aren't worth a first-round pick and would be a better value in the second and third round.
According to the value chart for trading NFL draft picks, the 31st pick can get the Steelers an early second round pick and an early fourth-round pick. Or a mid-second round and a mid-third round pick.
Besides cornerback, the Steelers also are needy on the offensive and defensive lines. Here's a look at six players in each of those areas who might be available when the Steelers pick. USA Today and Scott Wright's Draft Countdown were used for research.
Curtis Brown, Texas, 6-0, 185: Not very strong and not a good tackler. But an intriguing prospect because of his skills on special teams coverage. He shouldn't be taken before the third round, and even then I'd be more comfortable picking him only if the Steelers had extra second and third round picks. Definitely shouldn't be their prize cornerback pick of the draft. THUMBS DOWN
Brandon Burton, Utah, 6-0, 190: Lacks ball skills. Getting a good cornerback is difficult. Getting a cornerback who's so good that he doesn't need ball skills, like Ike Taylor, is even more difficult. What are the chances the Steelers will be able to pull that off twice? THUMBS DOWN
Ras-I Dowling, Virginia, 6-1, 198: His stock has fallen because of injuries that wiped out most of his 2010 season. But he's got size and ball skills and he likes to hit. He might have been a first-round pick before the injuries, but if he's available at the end of the second round, or if the Steelers can trade up to the middle or early second round, they should take him. THUMBS UP
Brandon Harris, Miami, 5-10, 191: Too small, iffy tackler and got burned in the Sun Bowl against Notre Dame. THUMBS DOWN
Davon House, New Mexico State, 6-1, 200: There is a small-school risk here, but this guy has good ball skills and good return skills after making the interception. Good value at the end of the second round. THUMBS UP
Aaron Williams, Texas, 6-0, 204: The mock draft community seems to have anointed Williams as the Steelers' pick. But I don't think he'd be a good fit. He seems to be more of a safety than a cornerback. THUMBS DOWN
Marcus Cannon, TCU, 6-5, 358: Likely to end up as a guard in the NFL. Too many holes in his game. Not enough of a mean streak. THUMBS DOWN
Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin, 6-7, 314: Probably won't be there at No. 31, but Rashard Mendenhall fell about 10 picks in 2008, so you never know. Successor to Joe Thomas at left tackle with the Badgers, and says he can play left tackle in the NFL. Doesn't lack for confidence or intelligence. THUMBS UP
James Carpenter, Alabama, 6-4, 321: Could be heir apparent to Flozell Adams at right tackle. A second or third rounder. THUMBS UP
Orlando Franklin, Miami, 6-6, 316: Mel Kiper had him going to the Steelers in the first round at one point. Could be guard or right tackle in NFL. But his knee is a concern and he might lack intelligence for the game. THUMBS DOWN
Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State, 6-5, 321: Left tackle potential, but not a good enough run blocker. THUMBS DOWN
Nate Solder, Colorado, 6-8, 319: Another guy who might be off the board by the time the Steelers pick at 31. Tallest of the top 15 offensive tackles at 6-8, and the only one to run the 40 in less than five seconds (4.96). Has the potential to play the all-important "Blind Side" left tackle position. THUMBS UP
Marvin Austin, North Carolina, 6-2, 309: Character issues. Suspended for 2010 season after accepting gifts from an agent. THUMBS DOWN
Kendrick Ellis, Hampton, 6-5, 346: Character issues. Supposedly kicked off team at South Carolina because of failed drug tests. THUMBS DOWN
Cameron Heyward, Ohio State, 6-5, 294: Son of Craig "Ironhead" Heyward. Versatile defensive end who can rush the passer and stop the run. THUMBS UP
Stephen Paea, Oregon State, 6-1, 303: Natural run stopper. Not sure if he projects as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, but it would be worth a shot. The Steelers need a successor to Casey Hampton at some point. Not worth the 31st pick, but if he's there in the second round, the Steelers should take him. THUMBS UP
Phil Taylor, Baylor, 6-3, 334: A natural nose tackle, but he's another one with character issues. Got kicked off team at Penn State. THUMBS DOWN
Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple, 6-4, 315: Might be more of a defensive end in the NFL. Also might be a bit of a project, but worth the risk. THUMBS UP