I received an email today from a reader who asked why I ignored Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler as a potential first round pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night. The question caught me just at the right time as I had just finished re-watching the Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin pre draft conference from Monday as well as the sit down with Colbert today on Steelers Live at 4.
You should be warned that I am feeling very euphoric today and this post will likely not translate my full thoughts correctly, but many of you are pretty used to that by now.
Let me start off by saying that I have not ignored Zeitler, as much as I am having problems slotting him. Is he the 2nd, 3rd or 4th guard in this class and is he a late 1st or early 2nd round grade? In my opinion it is easier to separate the top defensive players at individual positions than it is interior linemen and I think the top four or so after David DeCastro are tightly grouped together. Some of them have more versatility associated with them like Cordy Glenn and Brandon Brooks, while others will strictly be guards at the next level.
Several of my favorite talking head talent evaluators are Michael Lombardi, Charley Casserly and Greg Cosell. Both Lombardi and Casserly have worked in NFL organizations before, while Cosell is the master of game tape breakdown. All of their resumes speak loudly in my opinion. In the final mock drafts of each they all have Zeitler near the bottom of round one, with Cosell specifically having the Steelers selecting him.
When you go back to one of the several quotes that Colbert made on Monday and reiterated again on Wednesday in regard to need, he said, "Need is not a good word, It\'s want. We want players." Now one could twist that quote a few ways if one really wanted to and that is a specialty of mine. Is he implying that the word need is a synonym for want in his world? Yes I know, I am dissecting it way too much, but it was so profoundly stated that how could you not try to find an answer to that riddle that likely isn\'t a riddle at all. If you understand what I mean by that last sentence, you likely ain\'t right, much like me. I always try to over-analyze everything as it helps with my multiple afflictions, so please forgive me if I lost you already.
The Steelers certainly need a top rated guard early on in this draft, or as Colbert could be thinking, the Steelers want a top rated guard early on in this draft. He of course could care less about where you, I, Lombardi, Casserly and Cosell grade the top rated guards. He wants a top rated guard in the first two rounds, or is it needs a top rated guard in the first two rounds? Really it could be both. Looking at the top rated guards, while leaving out the perceived round grade, Zeitler matches everything required to be a Steeler on the surface. He is a move guard that has impeccable character, is very competitive and reportedly has great work habits. He reportedly scored a 33 on his Wonderlic test, so there is no question that he is a bright kid. Does he have his technical warts on tape? Absolutely, but so do the other top rated guards in this class.
I have mentioned several times about the positional value that Colbert desires in the draft with some regard to need, or is it want. If Colbert has Zeitler rated as the second best guard in the class behind DeCastro, that would mean the Zeitler positional value in his eyes is superb. Now I think it would be safe to say that it is highly unlikely that Zeitler makes it back around to the Steelers in round two. It is not impossible mind you, just highly improbable. This plays into his round grade that I have struggled with as it relates to him. I had that same type of struggle with tackle Marcus Gilbert last year, along with several other draftniks. I had Gilbert graded as a late third round tackle and had the Steelers selecting him there. Is it safe to say that Colbert wanted Gilbert in round two along with needing him? Could be. Would Gilbert have lasted another whole round? We will never get the answer to that question, but Colbert wanted Gilbert in round two and he got him. End of story.
Today Colbert looked mighty relaxed in his interview with Bob Labriola and Mike Prisuta. He looked very sure and confident as if he had already made the first round pick and got the player he both wanted and needed. Now of course he should be projecting that image as the Steelers GM, and as I said earlier in this post, I love to over-analyze everything.
With all of the above said let me end by reiterating that I have not ignored Zeitler in my mock draft process of educated guessing the Steelers first round pick. What I have likely ignored is the difference between need and want as it relates to the Steelers and round grades. Zeitler is a top guard in this class and it would now not surprise me at all if he is the player that Colbert both wants AND needs in the first round.
Should Zeitler not be the pick, then it is back to drawing board for me to figure out how need means want, or how want means need. It also could mean that I need to stop trying to find the answer to a riddle that really isn\'t riddle at all. It\'s just the way Colbert and the Steelers approach the draft. He might also have just wanted and needed another player other than Zeitler.
God help you if you understood this post and keep an open mind to Zeitler being the pick at 24. I want and need you to do that.