Stillers 2001 Post-Draft Report
First, I�ll present my thoughts on this draft. Then, further down below, I�ve included the pre-draft notes from Pro Football Weekly on each of our new draft picks.
The pick of DT Casey Hampton in round 1 may have been a "need reach"; only time will tell. Cowher�s refusal to move away from the 3-4 defense made it fairly mandatory that we draft a run-plugging DT, and while Hampton fits the bill, we may have gotten more value and impact in the 1st round by selecting a CB. Obviously, the pick of Hampton means that Kimo will move over to DE, and Aaron Smith will likely start at the other DE.
I liked the Bell pick in round 2. We had to trade up in order to get this slot -- a rarity in Stiller circles -- and I think it was worth it. Bell gives us flexibility because he appears to have the hitting, quickness, and instincts to play at both ILB and OLB, a la Chad Brown. If Bell comes on in �01, I�ll gladly wave goodbye to Gildon and insert Bell as the starting LOLB in �02.
As you know, we had no 3rd round draft pick.
The pick of OT Mathias Nkwenti of Temple was a bit of a surprise in round 4. The guy does have some potential and upside, and O-line coach Grimm thinks this guy supposedly has the best feet of any lineman in the draft. Still, if there�s one thing the Stillers have proven that they are incapable of, it�s grooming offensive lineman who arrive at Latrobe as raw and green rookies. Witness Wiggins, JaLame, and Piss Conrad of prior drafts.
OG Chukky Okobi from Purdue was selected in round 5. He�s another semi-strange pick. It�s debatable whether he can overcome his short arms, which typically are a severe detriment to blocking at the pro level. Obviously, if this guy turns out to be a flop, I�ll quickly refer to him as Chubby Adobe, as in "chubby in stature" and "possessing feet made out of adobe bricks".
DE Rodney Bailey was taken in round 6-a. He seems to be another Kevin Henry -- too small in stature (280 lbs.) to do much in the 3-4 defense. Probably will get cut, or at best toil as a benchwarmer for a year or two. Of course, if he can bulk up and not lose quickness in the process, he could contribute.
LB Rodger Knight was picked in 6-b. Another guy who is too small and slow to do much at all. With Bell and Mike Jones joining Fiala, I highly doubt this guy will survive the cuts.
WR Chris Taylor was our final draft pick. This is an intriguing pick, because Taylor supposedly has a nice burst of speed, and might be able to help out on kickoff return chores. For a 7th round pick, I thought this was good value and a good "risk" (not that there�s much, if any, risk in Round 7) as far as taking a chance on a guy who might turn out to be helpful.
Overall, this was an ok draft. I thought that with the selection of Bell, the team was finally making a commitment to upgrading team speed, which has regressed to the point of being sickeningly comical. But aside from the Taylor pick, the rest of the draft did nothing to address team speed. Hampton will obviously be counted upon to come into camp, ready and raring to seize the starting NT job from Day One. If he doesn�t, or the coaching staff plays these juvenilish little games about "he hasn�t yet mastered the schemes, blah blah blah", then this was a hideously wasted pick. I can�t expect Bell to beat out Mike Jones at ILB, but I would like Bell to be groomed and used to give Jones & Gildon a breather from time to time, as well as occasionally used as a multi-purpose blitzer/cover-man in the nickel package & dime package. Of course, as in any draft, the real results of how well we did, won�t be known for at least two seasons. Every staff in the NFL gloats and praises these draftees as though they will all be future all-stars and highly productive studs.
Here are the PFW write-ups on each Stiller draft pick:
Round #1 Casey Hampton, DT, Texas
PFW (Pro Football Weekly) Notes: Had a tough childhood but managed to survive it and make something special of himself. Played in every game as a true freshman in 1996 and started the last six regular-season games and the Fiesta Bowl at nose tackle. Tore his anterior cruciate ligament vs. Rice in the third game of the '97 season, had major knee surgery and got a medical redshirt. Came back to start 12 games in '98. Won All-America honors in '99, despite playing with a hernia. Had off-season surgery to correct the problem and missed spring ball. Returned in the fall and won All-Big 12 and All-America honors, as well as the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year award. Hampton had 71 tackles, seven tackles for loss and one sack in '96; 13 tackles before he was hurt in '97; 60 tackles, eight tackles for loss and two sacks in '98; a team-high 101 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and three sacks in '99; and 78-18-31/2 in 2000. Positives: Great football character. Will play hurt. Self-starter. Always plays hard. Even when he is nearing empty, he will still continue to play hard. Leader. Pushes his underachieving teammates, such as Shaun Rogers. Very wide and thick build. Has tremendous lower- body strength, power and explosion and is strong in the upper body. Can play over the center, over the guard or in the gap. Has quick, strong, vice-like hands and uses them well. Very tough to block on running plays and can really clog up the middle. Negatives: Lacks height and may be a little too heavy. Looks a little tight in the hips at times and is not a really gifted athlete. Will never be a top pass rusher, despite the fact he is very tenacious, because of his height and lack of great long speed. May be close to as good as he can be. Summary: A true overachiever with a great motor. Can be a top run- stuffer in the middle of the line. But what you see is what you get, and he will not be another Warren Sapp or La'Roi Glover when it comes to rushing the quarterback. That said, he does have Sapp's leadership and Glover's love of the game and motor
#2 Kendrell Bell, LB, Georgia
PFW Notes: Transfer from Middle Georgia College. Did not start until the sixth game of the 1999 season yet still won second-team All- Southeastern Conference honors. Finished the year with 61 tackles, five sacks, five tackles for loss and three interceptions. Also played a key role in blocking five kicks. Was suspended for one game at the start of 2000 season for using a school long-distance code to make unauthorized calls, but he came back to start from Game two on at middle linebacker. Had 92 tackles, five for loss, two sacks and an interception. Positives: Excellent athlete. Very quick and has excellent closing speed. Also is an explosive hitter. Effective blitzer coming off the edge. Very tough and intense. Loves to play. Big-play maker and a kick-blocker. Seems to get better in every game he plays in. Has a big upside. Negatives: Does not always play under control. Will often take bad angles to the ball. Overreacts way too often. Does not have a good feel for zone pass defense. Does not catch the ball that well. Summary: May need time and reps, but he can be an impact player if and when his skills and instincts catch up with the rest of his game.
(no 3rd round pick)
#4 Mathias Nkwenti, OT, Temple
PFW Notes: Was born in Cameroon, Africa. High school weight man who did not play organized football until he was a junior in high school. Enrolled as a defensive lineman in 1996 and redshirted. Had 17 stops and a sack in '97. Had 19 tackles and three sacks in '98. Had three stops in '99, when he missed over seven games with a shoulder injury. Moved to offensive tackle in 2000 and started at strong-side tackle. Ran about 5.6 at the Combine, but he was just jogging through it due to an injury. Positives: Very good athlete for an offensive lineman. Has a 35-inch vertical jump and is very quick in the agility drills. Mobile and powerful for size. Runs well. Has quick feet and can bend his knees. Showed really good improvement after moving to offense. Negatives: Lacks ideal size for an NFL tackle, although he figures to get somewhat heavier. Very green and raw. Part prospect but also part project. Tends to play too upright. Seems to let up a bit at times. Inexperience will really hurt him at times.
#5 Chukky Okobi, OG, Purdue
PFW Notes: Redshirted in 1996. Started every game at right guard in '97. Coaches' second-team All-Big Ten guard in '98. Tore his left biceps muscle before the start of the '99 season, but he returned to start. Started every game in 2000 and played center the second half of the year. Positives: Broad, wide, smart and tough. Can play center or right guard. Very big and powerful lower body. Squats over 700 pounds. Can play with leverage. Negatives: Lacks height. Short and has short arms. Will struggle to adjust when blocking on the second level. Summary: Fine college player, but being short with short arms will really hurt his chances in the NFL. May need to learn to deep snap to make an NFL team.
#6a Rodney Bailey, DE, Ohio State
PFW Notes: Former high school All-American. Played in every game as a true freshman in 1997, although he did not turn 18 until after the season started. Started four games and ended the year with 19 tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks. Started every game in '98 and had 11 tackles for loss and six sacks. Played in every game in '99, starting games 1-5 and 9. Finished with 23 tackles, five tackles for loss and one sack. In 2000, Bailey had 31-13-8. Positives: Made his senior year his best. Plays hard and competes well. Has good quickness off the ball. Above-average balance. Negatives: Lacks big-time speed and pass-rush ability. Is not powerful enough to play inside and is not nearly as fast as teams would like an end to be. Summary: Good effort player with enough ability to compete for a job in the NFL.
#6b Roger Knight, LB, Wisconsin
PFW Notes: Born in Jamaica and grew up in New York City. Had 12 tackles as a freshman in 1997. Slowed by injuries in 1998, costing him a chance to start on a regular basis. Had one start and played in half of Wisconsin's games, making nine tackles. Started six times at inside 'backer and twice at outside linebacker in 1999 and ended the year with 61 tackles, his first sack and his only interception. Started every game at either inside or outside linebacker in 2000. Was second on the team with 87 tackles. Had seven tackles for loss, four sacks and two passes broken up. Positives: Versatile and tough. Very well-built. Powerful and thick lower body. Has improved instincts and is seeing things faster now. Really came on as a senior. Can and has played inside and outside. Plays quicker than his time. Negatives: Very average size-speed ratio. Is not nearly as big as you would like and does not have very good stopwatch or long speed. Lack of size really hurts him at the point of attack. A little limited in terms of pure athleticism, which causes him to miss some open-field tackles. Summary: Could make an NFL team if he shows he can be a good special- teams player and cuts down on his missed tackles.
#7 Chris Taylor, WR, Texas A & M
PFW Notes: Four-sport athlete in high school who qualified for the state championship in the 100 meters. Has run in the mid 4.3s on a fast indoor surface. Also played baseball, basketball and football, where he was a quarterback and defensive back who also spent time at receiver and running back. Moved to receiver as a true freshman at A&M, started once and caught three passes for 29 yards. Also returned six punts for 68 yards and six kickoffs for 83 yards. Caught 15-306 and two touchdowns, returned 37 punts 285-0 and six kickoffs 162-0 in '98. Team's top pass catcher in '99, when he caught 33-591-4, returned 16 punts for 103 yards and five kickoffs 105. Started seven times in 2000 and had 32-390-1 and 17 punts for 129-0. Positives: Good athlete. Has deep speed. Will show a burst of speed after the catch at times. Can return kickoffs and punts and run with the ball after the catch. Potential gamebreaker if he learns how to really utilize his speed on the football field. Negatives: Average size. Very small hands. Is not a really precise route-runner and drops too many balls. More fast than quick and rarely plays to timed speed. Does not do a lot to stand out as a returner. Summary: Has a chance because of his speed and athletic ability, but he has not had a lot of production or big plays.