I recently took part in a cooperative mock draft at Next Season Sports with other NFL bloggers. The bloggers ranged from newspaper reporters to well established fan site writers. In the mock draft I selected center Alex Mack from the University of California. Below is the explanation of my pick.
Ah, it is good to be the king, especially when you are a king that likes not spending money on early draft picks. The 2009 draft class is not one of the better ones of recent, but is high in value talent to match the Steelers needs. The Steelers will go into the 2009 NFL draft with two glaring needs, offensive line help and defensive line help. It is no secret that the 2008 offensive line was patch worked together. The Steelers lost right guard Kendall Simmons to a torn Achilles and tackle Marvel Smith had back issues all year long. Smith is an unrestricted free agent and likely will not be brought back and tackle Max Starks, guard Chris Kemoeatu, tackle Willie Colon and tackle Trai Essex are also all free agents as well. The Steelers will do everything in their power to either tag Starks or sign him to a new deal before the February 27th deadline. Starting center Justin Hartwig is 30 years old and is an injury concern going forward. On the defensive line, all top five defensive linemen are all in their 30s with two of them — nose tackle Casey Hampton and defensive end Brett Keisel entering the final year of their contracts. The Steelers will not participate in the signing of any high priced free agents on either side of the line and will likely address both positions thoroughly throughout the draft.
With most of the defensive line talent already off the board, along with the top offensive tackles, the Steelers select center Alex Mack from the University of California with the 32nd pick of the 2009 NFL draft. Mack weighed in at the Senior Bowl at 312 pounds and stood 6 foot 4 and 1 eighth. Mack had a good Senior Bowl showing and was one of the few offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl to hold his own against Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji. Mack is the epitamy of what the Steelers look for in centers, tall, large biceps with a solid lower body. Mack can get to the second level of blocking with ease and is an effective trap blocker. Mack has also shown great early ability in screen blocking as well. Mack most resembles Minnesota Vikings long time center Matt Birk in his playing style and ability and could prove to anchor the offensive line for the Steelers for many years to come.
Some other players the Steelers would consider at this spot are defensive end Tyson Jackson from LSU, tackle Phil Loadholt from Oklahoma or cornerback Alphonso Smith from Wake Forest, but the lure of a 10 year pro in Mack makes him hard to pass up at this spot.