Friday, May 9, 2014

Steelers Draft Ryan Shazier In First, Miss Out On Biggest Need

"You never pass up a quality player with the hope that you are going to get someone else in the sixth round." - GM Kevin Colbert

Yet, that is essentially what they did. More on that in a bit.

In Thursday night's first round of the NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted linebacker Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State. 

Shazier was definitely a great player in college. The 2013 First-Team All-American is credited with 259 tackles, 40.5 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles over the past two seasons. Shazier is a game changer and a playmaker from his linebacker position. Exactly what Colbert likes about him. Not surprising after visiting his Pro Day and bringing him in for an official visit. -

"You need speed in secondary and linebacker. He can make plays laterally and we are super excited. ... Each and every year his production increased. His biggest asset is speed. This guy can flat-out run."

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin echoed Colbert's words more succinctly at the post-selection press conference: "The young man has no holes. ... What we needed was a defensive playmaker and he fits the bill." 

Shazier played at both inside and outside linebacker positions, depending on their alignment, although the majority of the time he was the WILL (weakside) linebacker. So he definitely fills needs. - 

Two of those needs, as Colbert alluded to, are playmaking ability and speed. The former was touched on, but the speed aspect is summed up thusly: when asked at what speed did they clock him, Tomlin quipped, "Fast."

His "unofficial" speed at his Ohio St. Pro Day was 4.36 in the 40-yard dash. Colbert also pointed out that Shazier's "burst is unique."

Filling such needs spells the end for Vince Williams as a starter. He may have gotten better as the season went along, but that isn't enough when it was basically an improve my from nauseatingly bad to mediocre. I like Williams as a backup, but not at all as a starter. Enter Shazier. 

Shazier will play the MACK in the Steelers 3-4 alignment, moving Timmons to the BUCK. 

If Shazier turns out to be good, even great, that's wonderful. But the secondary is just bad, plain and simple. A second tier rookie won't help. The Steelers should've taken Darqueze Dennard when they had him in their sights. 

With five CBs taken in first round, the talent pool for what the Steelers want at CB is diluted. These are the best of what remains, with the first three of them being ones who fit the Steelers and their needs at the position. 

Phillip Gaines, Rice - 6'0", 193 LBs, 4.38/40 - Size, speed and length. When we first wrote about him, we erred in saying that "he could be a steal in the later rounds." After deeper research, we realize how incorrect that was and believe he could be a perfect choice at pick No. 46. In many ways, he is another Ike Taylor or Cortez Allen. He and Tez could be one half of a lockdown secondary. 

Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska - 6'2 1/2", 218 LBs, 4.61/40 - He isn't as fast as some, but uses his length well and also has tremendous instincts and anticipation. He is a mauling, bump-and-run guy who can also play off. A former WR and almost a safety, he is very position - and scheme-specific, which means, if he doesn't pan out at CB, the Steelers would have a fallback plan. If he plays CB he really is a LCB, i.e. who lines up on the Z WR. This will allow him to play an off-man technique which seems to be his best technique. Which, Tez being the No. 1 CB, should work out just fine. 

Keith McGill, Utah - 6'3", 211 LBs, 4.51/40 (2nd-3rd round) - At the Senior Bowl, Mayock said that McGill reminded him of the Seahawks' corners. High praise. Has only one full season under his belt, but made the most of that time with an interception and 12 pass defenses. Has also played safety. (See Jean-Baptiste) 

Best of the rest through the 4th round:

Marcus Roberson, Florida - 6'0", 191 LBs, 4.61/40 (2nd round) - While not as explosive or fast as others, he has good size and versatility, can play both on the outside (is used to being on an island) and in the slot, has an great motor and also plays the run very well.

Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida - 5'11 1/2", 190 LBs, 4.61/40 (2nd-3rd round) - Very athletic, good size for a cornerback with great hips and agility - can turn and run on a dime and is also exceptional in tight coverage. The only two issues may be his ability to play the run and his hands. The former is a must for Steelers CBs, as they are expected to help in run support (see Colbert's quote above). Purifoy may have had only two interceptions and 11 passes defended in his career, one college season for a typical defensive back, but that could be because of the fact that quarterbacks didn't throw his way a lot.

Pierre Desir, Lindenwood - 6'1", 198 LBs, 4.59/40 (3rd- 4th round) - Because of being from a small school, Desir proved that he could do well against a higher level of competition by playing (well) in the both the East-West Shrine game and the Senior Bowl. He intercepted 13 passes in two seasons at Division II's Lindenwood University (Missouri) despite the word being that, like Purifoy, quarterbacks seldom threw his way. Desir projects as a starter on either side, but especially at LCB against the Z WR. His outstanding short-area quickness and speed make him a natural in that off man technique. Very few WRs will outrun him in those first 15-20 yards at LCB. 

Also availabe are Lamarcus Joyner (5'8", 185 LBs) of Florida State and Jaylen Watkins (6'0", 195 LBs) of Florida.