Stillers 2000 Post-Draft Analysis
Overview: This appears to be a solid draft at first glance. Of course, it'll be months to guage just how decent this draft was, and in reality a couple years to fully determine its impact on this football team. Here's my player-by-player look and comments. I've also added comments from Pro Football Weekly (PFW) as applicable. The grade I've given is based on my subjective opinion of a melding of value at that pick; need; impact; and future contributions.
WR (6-5 3/8, 233, 4.6e), Michigan St. Drafted Pick 8, Round 1, Overall 8
This came as no surprise. My mock draft weeks ago had us taking Burress. Cowher's meeting with Plex went quite well, and Bill seemingly had no problems with his attitude. (Hey, if Bill can tolerate Troy Edwards' King-Kong sized attitude, he can tolerate anyone's.) Burress gives this midget receiving corps something desperately lacking since Yancy Pigpen's departure -- SIZE. His size and long arms should immensely help snare some of the scattershot throws by Stewart. I believe some of the rap about his hands was partially due to the hand injury he had early in his senior season, which obviously hindered him quite a bit. He even wore a cast in 1 game.
Says PFW:Tremendous high school football and basketball player. Was the Virginia state champion in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles. Enrolled in 1997 but had to sit out the entire season for academic reasons. Started every game in '98 and '99. Caught 65 passes for 1,013 yards and eight touchdowns in '98. Caught 53-957-9 in 11 regular-season games in '99 and then caught 13-185-3 in the Citrus Bowl vs. Florida. Positives: Rare size. Outstanding athletic ability. Creates instant matchup problems with his size and athleticism. Good hands, balance and excellent body control. Can make the acrobatic, circus catches. Plays big in big games. Caught 10-255-3 vs. Michigan and 13-185-3 vs. Florida this past season. Negatives: Poor practice habits. Has good hands but has a lot of concentration lapses that lead to dropped passes. Is not a disciplined route runner and does a lot of freelancing. Does not have a big-league work ethic at this point. Knows how gifted he is and takes advantage of it. As a result, he can create some internal problems. May have gotten a little too heavy.
Summary: Has the ability to be a lottery-type selection, but his intangibles and immaturity make him somewhat risky as a top pick.
Unlike Kevein Gaypride, I'm already frothing at the chance to use this man in the red zone. However, here's what the dimwitted Gaypride had to say in Sunday's TR:
"The selection of 6-foot-5 wide receiver Plaxico Burress in the first round prompted some people to misjudge one benefit Burress could bring to the team. When the offense moves inside the opponent's 10-yard line, it seems that the quarterbacks need only to lob the ball up in the air and Burress will soar over any cornerback for a touchdown.
Steelers offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said it won't be that easy. "That is kind of old school," Gilbride said. "If people played you man-to-man, it would be good, but no one plays you man down there. Everyone plays you zone. You have the corner rolled up and the safety over the top."
It's easy to beat one cornerback - not as easy to beat a cornerback and a bigger safety. When Gilbride was offensive coordinator in Houston, he was able to use such a play with 6-2 Oilers wide receiver Haywood Jeffires, who ended up catching 50 touchdown passes in 10 years.
"We used to throw eight or nine touchdown passes (inside the 10) with Jeffires, but now, (defenses) don't cooperate."
I'm sorry, Kevin, but I've seen WAY too much man-to-man used down in the end zone when offenses have the ball around the 10-yard line. I have no idea what Gaypride has been doing the past several years, but there simply isn't the read-and-react time available to be playing strictly zone underneath the shadow of your own goalposts. Plus, if a defense truly is shading a zone-man over to help a cover-CB, then Gayrpride SHOULD be taking advantage of this overplay by shooting a receiver into the vacated spot. People wonder why I despise Gaypride so much�.it's bullshit like this, folks. We've drafted Burress specifically because of his size, but within hours of the draft, Gaypride is already pooh-poohing using the guy's height to his advantage, MONTHS before he guy ever puts on a full set of pads. I can see it now�.it'll be 3d and goal from the 9, and rather than throwing a jump-ball to Burress in the end zone, Gaypride will order a 2-yeard hitch or a WR Screen, and ask Burress to shake and bake his way past 6 defenders to get to the goal line. Thank you, Kevin Gaypride�. Grade: A
OT (6-4 7/8, 320, 5.33) AZ St. Drafted Pick 7, Round 2, Overall 38
Although I'm not overly fond of spending high 1st and 2d round picks on no-impact offensive linemen, this appears to be a solid pick. Smitty, unlike STIFFS like Chris "The Turnstile" Conrad, actually played in a REAL conference against first-rate competition. Smitty is regarded as a better pass blocker than run blocker. It's unlikely he'll get any playing time at all in '00, but he could easily be in the mix to fight for a starting job in '01. Grade: B.
Says PFW:Fourth-year junior who declared for the draft. Redshirted in 1996. Started seven of the 10 games he played in in '97, including the last five. Starting left tackle in '98 and '99. All-Pacific-10 in '99, when, according to his coaches' stats, he had no assignment errors or penalties and only allowed one sack. Positives: Nice size. Steady. Coaches call him the best athlete on the offensive line and, at times in '98, he looked like it. Has shown good balance, body control and feet in the past. Can pull on the counter trey. Does not get flagged very often. Looked like he could be special at times in '98. Negatives: Despite all the coaches' grades and his awards in '99, he did not appear to play that well and looked less athletic and physical than he had in the past. Played too upright. Rarely played with good knee bend. Seemed slow to redirect at times and had a very hard time adjusting to the inside rush, especially when the defensive linemen started wide and countered back inside. Summary: An enigma. Looked like he might develop into a very good player and first-round pick as a third-year sophomore in '98, but he did not look nearly as good in the '99 tapes I saw and seemed to be less athletic. Teams need to check to see if he had any hidden injuries or problems and then work him out this spring. If he regains his '98 form, he could be a late No. 1 or No. 2, but off last season alone, I would not take him that high.
DL (6-1, 270, 5.25) Mississippi Drafted Pick 10, Round 3, Overall 72.
Like the Shields and Porter picks last year, this is a sheer unknown to me and a player who truly is a tweener and a real question mark. It's fairly apparent that the team envisions him to be a NT. Part of the reports on him indicate that he can do the job -- mainly, he has explosive quickness off the snap. Unlike Staat, he's not too tall and should be able to get some leverage. On the other hand, PFW's comments are of grave concern -- "Gets bounced around a lot"; " Has to play in a one-gap, gap-shooting type of defense to be effective." Clearly, playing NT in the 3-4 requires a man to AVOID getting bounced around, and he won't be able to "shoot the gap" unless during an obvious pass down. I'm not too concerned about his smallish weight of 270 --- if Bill Cohwer has shown anything, it's that he has the remarkable ability of piling weight ON TO players, whether it be Bettis, Kirkland, or Fat Steed. If Clancy can hang out with Bettis, or eat some of Kirkland's mama's biscuits, he should easily pile on another 15-20 pounds. Grade: B-.
Says PFW: Was an instant-impact player at Ole Miss in 1998, as he had 55 tackles and 15 tackles for loss during the regular season and seven stops, including four for loss, to earn Defensive Player of the Game honors in the Independence Bowl. Played very well in the first half of the '99 season before spraining his ankle. Hardly played in Games 7-9 and was not 100 percent at the end of the season. Still won Associated Press second-team All-Southeastern Conference honors and finished the season with 49 tackles, a team-high 18 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Positives: A top competitor with a high-revving motor. A good athlete who is very quick and sudden. Is much more quick than fast and has top initial quickness. Has learned how to use his hands. Can be very disruptive inside. Negatives: Is not a big man. Gets bounced around a lot. Has just marginal size for a defensive lineman. Does not have the speed to be a linebacker and in fact lacks the 40 speed for a defensive lineman. Has to play in a one-gap, gap-shooting type of defense to be effective. Summary: Could be a good player in the right defense but will not be a fit for everyone.
CB (5-9 7/8, 188, 4.49-4.61) Pitt Drafted Pick 15, Round 3, Overall 77.
Being a loyal Panther fan, I was obviously pleased with this pick, but Panther Pride aside, I think Poteat can be a solid asset to this team. He is a solid athlete who has a nose for the football and always seems to be in the thick of things. He should easily provide immediate help in the nickel defense, and could possibly push Jason Simmons to the unemployment line. Additionally, Poteat should provide a tremendous boost to our sorry, feeble kick-return. game. No longer will we have to be stuck with Will "The Tiptoer" Jackwell dance his way to the 23 and then dive to the turf before the wedge hits him. This pick helps our depth; provides a possible down-the-road starter; and provides immediate help for a terribly weak special teams return game. It's hard to ask for much more in the 3rd round. Grade: B+.
PFW Says:Signed with Pittsburgh in 1995 but spent that year at Maine Central Institute getting ready for college. Played on both sides of the ball and on special teams as a freshman in '96. Carried 20 times for 88 yards, caught two passes for six yards, returned 17 kickoffs for 445 yards and three punts for 18 yards and had seven tackles. Started four times at cornerback in '97 and had 28 tackles and one interception. Also returned 21 kickoffs for 438 yards and six punts for 43 yards. Started the first 10 games in '98 before missing the finale vs. West Virginia with an injury. Ended the year with 57 tackles, eight passes broken up and six interceptions. Also returned 36 kickoffs for 764 yards and 16 punts for 131 yards. In 11 games as a senior, had 44-9-3 as a cornerback. Also returned 17 kickoffs for 401 yards and 19 punts for 307 yards and a touchdown. Was ranked seventh in the nation with a 16.2-yard punt-return average. Ran the 40 in less than 4.5 seconds at Pittsburgh but was in the 4.6 range at the Combine.
Positives: An excellent athlete who is versatile. Can fill in on offense at running back and also plays cornerback and returns kicks and punts. Has excellent, quick feet and good cover skills. Has a burst to the ball and enough speed to run deep. Very effective in bump-and-run, press coverage. Has good hands and is a dangerous return man who has improved in that area. Negatives: A little bit smaller than scouts would like. Has good but not great playing speed and just average 40 speed if you go off his Combine numbers. An inconsistent run-support player. Does not always show great ball awareness. Has not played much man-off coverage or zone and has never been taxed mentally. Summary: Has the athleticism and overall tools to be a good press corner on the next level. But I don't know how he would adjust if he went to a team such as Atlanta that plays a lot of man-off and zone coverages.
WR (6-3, 217, 4.7e) UCLA Drafted Pick 9, Round 4, Overall 103.
This is one of those picks that enraged me and then later somewhat pleased me. I first, I was outraged -- and still am a bit -- that we did not select LB Brandon Short with this pick. The last time I checked, we run a 3-4 defense that relies on LINEBACKERS, and we have only 2 backup LBs on the roster -- '99 7th rounder Chad Kelsay and John Fiala. I find it outrageous that a team so intent on running the 3-4 defense, where the PREMIUM is on LINEBACKERS, would shy away from a studly, NFL-caliber LB in Short. My wrath aside, I'm fairly pleased with the Farmer pick. What I like most about Farmer are things like "tireless energy", which is helpful when you have a coach like Bill Cowher, who has no interest in grooming or pushing players to be the best they can be. Farmer is a crafty receiver with good hands. It's entirely possible he could assume some H-back type chores in Gaypride's offense, although we really have NO IDEA what Gaypride's current offense IS, except being a grab-bag offense with no coherent coordination whatsoever. Using Farmer as an H-back, instead of slowpoke Breuner or Witmann, does make tremendous sense and could be quite useful. At any rate, this pick means that either Will Jackwell or Malcolm Johnson will be sent packing at the end of camp. Grade: B+.
PFW Says:Father, George Farmer, played football and basketball at UCLA and played for the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. Danny came to UCLA as a walk-on and earned a football scholarship after redshirting in 1995. Like his father, he also is a two-sport athlete, though Danny's second sport is volleyball. In '96, Farmer started only one game but led the team in receiving, catching 31 passes for 524 yards and four touchdowns. Caught 41-649-3 in '97, 58-1,274-9 in '98 and 29-573-3 in '99, when he was bothered by injuries. Missed two games with a high-ankle sprain suffered during the preseason, and then, just when he was rounding into shape in October, he pulled a groin that kept him out of one game and affected him until late in the year. Positives: Top competitor. Loves to play sports and to compete. Tireless energy. Exceptional size and natural pass-catching skills. Excellent ball athlete with outstanding hand-eye coordination. Has large, soft hands. Adjusts to the ball very well. Jumps well and knows how to use his size, long arms and jumping ability to create mismatches. Very crafty and instinctive. Really stands out vs. zone coverage. Reads zones well and knows where the soft spots are. Has a knack for deceiving defenders and getting behind them. Averaged 22 yards per catch in '98 and almost 20 yards per reception in '99. Good position-type blocker. Negatives: Lacks great speed and is not superquick. May have some trouble beating good man-on-man coverage on the next level. Did not look explosive in '99, but that may have been caused by his injuries. Summary: Should be a very solid possession-plus type of receiver on the next level. May grow into a pass-catching H-back or even a Shannon Sharpe-type tight end in time.
OLB (6-3, 251, 4.98) CSU Drafted Pick 8, Round 5, Overall 137
As you can see, I list this man as an "OLB", that than "DL" like you'll see in many web sites and newspapers. There's no sense pussyfooting around --- there's NO WAY this man can play DL at 251 pounds in the NFL. He'll be an OLB project, much the way fellow CSU alum Joey Porter was last year. Like the Porter pick, this pick is a bit baffling and confusing because of the transplanting from DL to OLB. He does seem to possess good pass-rush skills off the edge, and has a "non-stop motor and is always hustling and chasing" traits totally unknown to Carla Emmons. Unlike many folks, I don't get all worry-warted over pass-coverage of a young LB --- there's DBs on the roster paid to do most of that, and men like Kevin Green did very little coverage work yet still had good seasons with the Stillers. On the other hand, comments like "Haggans gets muscled and mauled and gives too much ground when he is blocked by a big man� May not have enough power to go with his quickness when rushing. As a result, if a tackle can get his hands on him and stay square, Haggans generally will really struggle to get free.." Cripes, this sounds EXACTLY like Carla Emmons and Jason Gildong. We finally got rid of Femmons; we sure don't need a replica. My other gripe with Haggans is his slowpoke speed, which will do very little to help our plodding, stumbling coverage teams. Grade: C.
PFW Says:. Played in every game in '96 and wound up the season as a starter. Started every game the past three years. Defensive MVP of the '97 Western Athletic Conference championship game. All-Mountain West Conference honoree at defensive end in '99. Had 43 tackles, 10 stops for loss and three sacks in '96; 66-16-11 in '97; 66-14-11 in '98; and 87-14-8 in '99. Positives: Quick, tough, aggressive and mobile. More quick than fast. Very quick over the first 10 yards. Productive pass rusher who can turn in to the quarterback. Has lateral quickness and agility. A non-stop-motor guy who is always hustling and chasing. Negatives: An undersized defensive end who has trouble holding his weight as is. Due to his lack of heft, Haggans gets muscled and mauled and gives too much ground when he is blocked by a big man. May not have enough power to go with his quickness when rushing. As a result, if a tackle can get his hands on him and stay square, Haggans generally will really struggle to get free. Could be a tweener since he lacks size as an end and may not have the instincts, speed or experience to move to linebacker. Did not look good when he worked out as a linebacker at the Combine. Summary: A good, productive football player who lacks size and does not have great speed.
QB (6-1 1/2, 227, 4.58) Tennessee Drafted Pick 34, Round 5, Overall 163.
This likely is the most intriguing pick of our draft. Once Pennington was bypassed, is seemed unlike the team would look at any QBs, instead allowing Graham and Stewart to fight for the starting job, and allow Wright to groom as the future QB. Then again, in the past 3 drafts, the team has taken flyers on low round QBs like Mike Quinn, Pete Gonzalez, and Anthony Wright, and all 3 times the low draftee made the roster as a rookie. Wright will obviously be on the bubble at camp, though, if the team likes him as much as they claim to, Wright should retain his roster spot unless he falters badly. Of course, if the team truly is throwing down the gauntlet of competition between Stewart and Graham, and if the team truly wants to get this offense in synch well before Halloween, then there shouldn't be a whole lot of PT divvied out to Wright and Martin. In fact, it says here that having 4 QBs in camp -- when we're not even sure if we have even ONE who is worth a tinker's damn --- is a foolish and unnecessary distraction that will ultimately steal scarce, valuable reps from the 2 men fighting for the starting job. I like Martin and think he has some potential, but we simply had too many glaring needs, especially at LB and FB -- positions that ALSO help immensely on special teams --- to be dabbling around with another project at QB. Grade: C-.
PFW says:Full name is Tamaurice Nigel Martin. Backed up Peyton Manning as a true freshman in 1996 and as a sophomore in '97. Took over as the starter in '98 and led the Vols to the national championship. Had an up-and-down senior year but played most of the year with a bad throwing shoulder and other injuries that may have sidelined a quarterback who wasn't as tough. Slightly separated his right shoulder in September in the first quarter of the annual Florida-Tennessee war. Then injured his throwing hand a few weeks later in the Georgia game. Completed 2 of 4 passes for 24 yards as a freshman, 6-12-87 with one touchdown and one interception in '97, 153-267-2,164-19-6 in '98 and 165-305-2,317-12-9 in '99. Also had 103 carries for 287 yards and seven TDs in '98 and 81-317-9 in '99. Positives: Has overcome a lot to get where he is. Mother was still in high school when he was born. Lost 12 friends to violence, illness and accidents while he was growing up. Shows a lot of courage and character, much like the Titans' Steve McNair on and off the field. Good person with good character. Well-liked by his teammates. Exceptional athlete and competitor who is fearless and daring with his body. Very strong for a quarterback. Has bench-pressed over 400 pounds. Good runner who can run for positive yardage and make big plays with his feet. Has a strong to very strong arm and can throw every kind of pass. Has a good, quick release and generally throws a nice, tight spiral. Often does a nice job of throwing slants and in-type routes. Could get much better with experience. Did something not even the great Peyton Manning could do at Tennessee -- won a national championship. Negatives: On the short side. Lacks accuracy throwing and does not have a really good feel for the passing game. Does not do a good job of throwing outs and passes toward the sidelines. Will need a lot of reps before he is ready to play. Does not adjust well to things on the field he has not seen or had happen before. Let Florida time his cadence and never adjusted. Has a hard time finding second and third receivers and at times leads you to wonder how well he sees the field. Did not have a good senior year, although there were mitigating circumstances. First, he lost the man who taught him the position when David Cutcliffe went to Mississippi, and then he was held back by injuries. Summary: Is the most physically gifted quarterback in the draft, a willing worker, a team player and a good person. However, he must develop a much better feel for the passing game and become a much more accurate and consistent passer if he is to start on the next level.
DL (6-4 1/4, 286, 5.15) Duke Drafted Pick 7, Round 6, Overall 173.
This was a rather wasteful pick that should provide little more than blocking-dummy duty at training camp. There's not much worthwhile about this stiff, and it'll be a sheer surprise if he last past the 1st 2 weeks of camp. Grade: C.
PFW Says:Chris was a football and basketball player in high school. Enrolled at Duke in 1995 weighing 230 pounds and redshirted that year. Became a starter five games into the '97 season and started from that point on. Had 53 tackles, including 11 for loss, and eight sacks in '96; 74-17-6 in '97; 47-14 1/2-4 in '98; and 57-14-2 last year. Positives: Smart. Durable. Has good intangibles and works hard. Has some quickness and tenacity. Has played well in the past. Came on after a slow start in '99. May have had his best game vs. North Carolina State. Negatives: Lacks the size, bulk strength and power scouts look for in a tackle. Does not have the niftiness and upfield acceleration scouts want in an end. Has a hard time coming off blocks. His sack total went down in each of his four college seasons. Summary: Needs to play as he did vs. N.C. State if he is to compete for a job on the next level.
TE (6-3 1/4, 247, 4.78) Kent Drafted Pick 38, Round 6, Overall 204
Another low draftee who likely will only be fodder for training camp drills. He's pretty fast, but because he can't block worth a lick and is seen as an H-back, this has "Gaypride" written all over it. Grade: C.
PFW Says:CFL prospect from Toronto. Came to Kent in 1995 and redshirted. Got his first start and first catch (for nine yards) in '96. Started in '97, when he caught 19 passes for 382 yards and four touchdowns. Played in every game but started just three in '98, catching 19-260-2. Came into his own in '99, when he caught 47-654-7. Positives: Quick, fast and mobile. Above-average to good athlete. Has the speed to get down the field. Generally will catch the ball pretty well. Negatives: Finesse-type player who lacks playing strength. Does not drive anyone off the ball when he blocks. Has to be an H-back. Summary: Could catch on as a pass-catching type of H-back for the right team.
It's readily apparent that Kevin Gaypride had enormous input in on this draft. From Burress, to Smith, to Farmer, to Martin, to Gavadza, these are all offensive players who seem to fit the Gilbride mold. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, on a team that employs a 3-4 defense, there seemed to be a total lack of input and "pull" by new DC Tim Lewis. Hell's fire -- HOW MANY defensive linemen are we going to bring to camp?? 12? 17? 23? Even if Fat Steed gets cut on June 1st, we still have: Chris Sullivan, Kimo V.O., Kevin Henry, Mike Vrabel, Jeremy Faat, Anthony Smith, and rookies Clancy and Combs. This is simply an asinine case of overkill on a position that, by the Stillers' design and INSISTENCE upon using the 3-4 defense, is not terribly important anyway. Why go out and spend MILLIONS on Sullie and Kimo, and then follow it up by spending a 3rd round pick on another DT ??? The LINEBACKERS, which are more required in sheer number AND in terms of impact, are far more critical, especially when you look at special teams, yet only one was selected, and in round 5 at that. To me, this sours what was otherwise a fairly solid draft. We are one injury --- just a small knee sprain or shoulder separation to Kirkland or Holmes --- away from total DISASTER.
The follow on questions, especially with Burress, are: WHEN will he be signed and report to camp? And, WHEN will Bill Cowhead, the rookie despiser that he is, ALLOW Burress to start?? At this time last year, it was all but assured that Edwards would come in and start from day one, but due to his not knowing the offense in 3 different languages, he was not allowed to start until Hawkins got injured and no other veteran was available to start. Burress could very well rot under the imbecilic coaching decisions of Field Goal Bill and Kevin Gaypride.
At any rate, let's get fired up for mini-camp and training camp!!
The Still Mill