By Christopher DiMarino
What an exciting time of the year right? Hockey playoffs are underway! No, everyone is excited because the draft is right around the corner. I am facilitating my excitement by looking further into the draft prospects. I just released my first mock draft and think it was well received. A lot of fans brought up a point that I was being optimistic that certain players would drop to where I had them. That is the hardest thing to predict in a mock draft, especially because it affects the rest of your draft.
I\'ve just begun looking into Mychal Kendricks and how his stock has been rising. A lot of the information that I looked at had him jumping from an early 3rd rounder, to a mid-late 2nd. My line of thought was that an undersized linebacker might get snubbed a little and present great value near the end of the second round. But enough of my self justification, to the point of this article. I was reading the comments to my mock draft stating that he is more of a mid 2nd rounder when I saw the yard barker link on Steelers Depot. It said mock draft so I figured I\'d take a look. To my surprise, the player that I was just trying to justify to myself as dropping a few spots was slated as the Steelers first round selection!
I\'ve been looking into the first round in particular a lot over the last month. I proposed Coby Fleener based on the fact that I think a first round pick should be a player of a certain quality. Where logic said Cordy Glenn or Mike Adams at OT and even Dont\'a Hightower, I thought why take a player that isn\'t going to excel as a Steeler. Dave has been thorough in pointing out how unlikely a trade down is both because of the Steelers failure to regularly do so and limited amount of potential trade partners. The Fleener effect (as I like to call it) began because even though the Steelers are a Best Player Available team, it makes more sense to take a player that you have a better feeling about, then blindly grabbing a highly ranked talent.
The question then became, if the Steelers won\'t trade down, what does a player have to do to raise his stock? I can really see Fleener going to the New York Giants at 1.32 if the Steelers don\'t want him, so an 8 position jump isn\'t too much of a stretch. But to see Kendricks jump almost 2 rounds? I want to take his miracle juice and give it to some prospects I like. At the top of that list actually isn\'t Fleener. It\'s Kevin Zeitler. The guy just seems like such a solid guard. Good size, great experience, a natural guard, good combine measureables; I can go on all day. Zeitler used the combine to jump from a late 2nd round guy to an early to mid 2nd guy.
I don\'t want readers to think that I\'m bashing Kendricks. In fact, I entrusted the 2nd round pick of my mock draft to him. I think that his affinity as a coverage and athleticism type ILB suits the new NFL more than Hightower. As a pure choice between the two, I can see how someone might pick Kendricks. I think Hightower\'s experience can\'t be overlooked, and he would make a great player, but the potential of what the Steelers can do with two fast middle linebackers intrigues me.
So, I guess my question to all those readers who didn\'t think Fleener was worth drafting 8 spots ahead of projections even though he has undeniable skill because it was not a position of need is, how far would the Steelers reach to draft a lower projected player who has all the makings of a great Steeler and fits the biggest position of need? I would not imagine in a million years that Kendricks is the first round pick on April 26th. Part of that logic stems from why I just can\'t sell myself on Hightower at that spot. I think that they have to address a position of need that they can\'t get in the rest of the draft. And while there are several good looking 2nd and even 3rd round guard prospects, my mock taught us of the domino effect in this draft. Take a good looking tight end here, linebacker there and safety over there and then before you know it you\'re drawing for your two biggest positions of need from a limited pool. So I ask the question again, what needs to happen for the Steelers to draft Zeitler at 1.24 on April 26th?