Yet Another Post About Coby Fleener

Well, I tried to warn you in the post title, so if you clicked on it, I have no sympathy for you. Besides, if you follow me on Twitter or have been a long time reader of this site, you know how I love to press buttons.

One last warning, if you don\’t want to hear about how Stanford tight end Coby Fleener could end up as the Pittsburgh Steelers first overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft, please close out your browser now.

OK, for those that decided to read on, here we go.

Let me start off by saying that I am not related to Fleener and earn no money by considering him a first round selection of the Steelers. I am fully aware that including him as possible target in round one is against the grain. I am fully aware that Fleener was not one of the pre draft visitors that the Steelers had in, but a source did inform me that they did meet with him at the combine in February.

The months leading up to the draft for me are full of watching tape and doing detective work. When you throw in a new offensive coordinator into the picture like Todd Haley, it makes the detective work even more of a challenge. I look at needs, I read ton of scouting reports and I study the draft history of General Manager Kevin Colbert over and over.

Now the easy thing to do in relation to mocking the Steelers first overall pick is to go with the consensus and although I know several of you will say you are not in that category, the truth is that Dont\’a Hightower is the overwhelming selection of many, and with good reason. The Steelers have a big question mark at the BUCK linebacker spot now that veteran James Farrior has been released. Currently the Steelers have Larry Foote and Stevenson Sylvester as the obvious players next in line to assume that role. Foote, who I think played well last season, is not a long term solution and the jury is still out on Sylvester as to whether he can be a BUCK or is merely just a backup MACK. It really is hard to say with him having just 70 plus snaps on tape in two seasons.

Farrior did not just age overnight. The Steelers had to know that 2011 was likely to be his last season and it takes time to groom an heir apparent. Something tells me they have more faith in Sylvester than many of us do. Hightower is a playmaker and I will give him that, but I worry that he just is not a three down linebacker in a 3-4 defense at the next level. His lateral movement and ability to drop scare me. As turned off as many of you are with Fleener, the same goes with me in regards to Hightower. Could he indeed be the pick? Absolutely he could and I do not discount him as a legitimate option. I am just not as high on him as others on when you look at players that could be on the board when the Steelers pick.

Let\’s look at a few other players that could be on the board when the Steelers pick. I am not enthralled with Cordy Glenn, Mike Adams and Jonathan Martin the more tape I watch on them. Gun to my head I would take Adams of the group. I fail to see the value in round one with either of the three and I feel it would be a “settle for” type of pick. Keep in mind that the Steelers have not drafted a tackle in the first round since Colbert arrived and I will also take this opportunity to remind you that a “true inside linebacker” has not been drafted in the first round by the Steelers in the Super Bowl era. Spare me the Lawrence Timmons talk as that has been discussed to death in the comments of previous post. If you consider him a “true inside linebacker”, then that means the total stands at one. This is just a little of the evidence that I talked about earlier in this post that I use in my decision making process. Sure each draft can be dissected as to why a tackle or inside linebacker was not drafted, but the fact remains that there hasn\’t since Colbert arrived. Each draft is its own animal plain and simple.

So now that I have cleared the tackles out, and I should note that I do not think Bobbie Massie is a first round talent, what do we have left? Dontari Poe? Could he fall to 24? I am not ready to rule that out as a possibility and if it does, I think Poe could indeed be a likely candidate to be the pick. Yes, even over Fleener. While I have shared my concerns about Poe over the months, I admit that he is raw. Very raw. He is also young and that is a major plus for him to go along with the fact that the Steelers do need a young nose tackle to groom. The grooming would take a while, but if anyone could whip him into a two-gap nose tackle, defensive line coach John Mitchell would be that person. Poe did not stick out on tape in the three games that I watched of him, but I do not discount that he has the tools and the build. With all of that being said, I think another team will draft him ahead of the 24th pick.

What about guard? Should David DeCastro drop, and I just do not see that happening, someone might rupture an Achilles on the way to run up the draft card. I have long had a draft crush on him, but have pretty much accepted for some time now that he would not be on the board at 24 and I do not think the Steelers would move up to get him. If he falls, great, he is the pick, same as with Poe. Kevin Zeitler you say? While I admit he looks promising, I do not see him as a round one talent. Round 2? Absolutely, but I figure his true draft stock lays around the top of the second round, in the first eight picks. Would I be crushed if he is the pick at 1:24? No, but I will feel that it is a reach. Good solid guard, but not a great solid guard. No other guard warrants being in the talk here in my opinion, so basically I have ruled out the Steelers drafting an offensive lineman in round one completely based on my film study.

What about safety Mark Barron, cornerback Stephon Gilmore or outside linebacker/defensive end Nick Perry? Barron has some medical concerns, but I think he certainly could be an option if he drops. The need for depth at safety is there for sure, but I just don\’t think he drops that far. He is at the top of another week safety class in my opinion and thus another team will likely snatch him. I also like Gilmore, but feel he too will be off the board. I also may have more confidence in the secondary the Steelers already have heading into the season than most reading this post and in my opinion they would sell the pick should he fall. The same goes with Barron, although the temptation and positional value with him may be too hard for Colbert to pass up. Perry? To me I think he is a pure 4-3 defensive end pass rusher and think it is mighty risky to project him as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the Steelers 3-4 defense. He is very talented and I would be surprised if he fell that far. The Steelers had him in for a visit, so I suppose he could be considered a legitimate option. I think he is another player a few teams might be willing to trade up for should he fall to 24.

Wide receiver you say? While Stephen Hill and Kendall Wright both have strong qualities to go along with splashy tape, I truly believe there is great talent to be had later on the draft as far as the wide receiver position goes. Let\’s just say that even though there are a few question marks in regards to the long term future of Mike Wallace, I would be pretty shocked if the Steelers drafted a wide receiver in the first round. They kicked the tires of Hill, but perhaps that was in case he fell and they wanted to look like they had some interest in him. Don\’t you just love speculation?

What about if outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw falls? I could certainly see him being the Steelers pick before I could see Hightower. The Steelers brass have been all over the Alabama pro days and maybe he is the one that they have had their eyes on the most. In my opinion he is better suited as a 4-3 defensive end at the next level, but that is just my tape assessment. I am not ready to rule him out completely, but would bet against him dropping, as well as being the pick if he did.

So where does that leave me based on my above assessments? Fleener of course. Is Heath Miller done in my opinion? No, he still has a few good years left in him and one of his strength is of course his ability to block and that is something that he does way, way better than Fleener does. The Steelers however need to save the mileage on Miller and can\’t keep rolling him out season after season for 1,000 plus snaps. Haley spoke very highly of Miller during his introductory press conference and you can bet Miller will likely be used more in the passing game in 2012. What is behind Miller? I have covered this in previous post, but will recap. Leonard Pope is a fall back body that knows the Haley system. The Steelers also only have $25,000 invested in him and that means that they are not afraid to add better talent should the opportunity present itself. Weslye Saunders is facing a four game suspension to start the season and the Steelers will not be afraid to add an upgrade over him in addition. The Steelers brought in 4 tight ends for pre draft visits, so that tells you something. If they were so comfortable with Pope and Saunders, why would tight end even be on the shopping list? Yes I know, Fleener did not visit. Perhaps they know all they need to know about him already. Cameron Heyward did not make a pre draft visit last year either and they picked him in the first round. Make of that what you will. What happens if Miller were to go down with an injury of some sorts? Are they ready to hang their hopes on Pope and Saunders? I don\’t believe so.

Haley had a fascination with Tony Moeaki back in 2010 with the Kansas City Chiefs and they traded up in the third round to draft him. Moeaki likely would have been drafted in the first two rounds had he not had the medical red flags associated with him. Since he was drafted Haley was quoted as saying in regards to the versatility of Moeaki prior to the start of the 2011 season and Haley said, “I wasn’t ever worried about the pass game side of Tony. As we evaluated him, it was clear he was a pretty good receiver, had real good feel, good hands. The things with him were just staying healthy and how he would hold up in the run game. He’s one of those guys that’s got very good feel, football feel, run and pass. So, when you possess that and then you have some skill and talent, you have a chance. Like I said, he’s playing catch-up right now. He’s got a ways to go. I don’t think that he’s where he was when the year ended last year, but he’s making progress here. And I wouldn’t expect him to be, really, for how the year has gone. He’s making progress, and he does. He’s another guy on what’s becoming a better list of versatile guys that give you versatility as an offense. You’ve seen us split him out, you’ve seen him in the slot, you’ve seen him in the backfield. Those are good things because now you’ve got a chance to create matchups, either for him or other players.” Haley was also quoted that same month by Peter King as saying in regards to Moeaki, “You can make Moeaki whatever. You can make him Wes Welker if you want.”

Now of course the Chiefs had a bigger need at tight end when they drafted Moeaki, than the Steelers have right now, but Fleener, who I consider a first round talent, presents great positional value at 24 and he would be a great player to spell Miller in his rookie season that Haley could move around in the offense quite a bit to present matchup challenges. He would contribute his rookie season and I believe his blocking can improve as well at the next level. Will he ever be as good of blocker as Miller? I would be foolish to even consider trying to sell anyone on that, but what he adds in versatility makes up for it in my opinion.

Now based on the above you can clearly see my reasoning as to why Fleener has been in my recent mock drafts as of late. It does not mean that I value him over a player like DeCastro, Poe, Barron, Gilmore or perhaps even Upshaw, I am just trying to take a realistic approach as to who will be on the board when the Steelers pick. Fault me if you will for not being as enamored as most are with Adams, Glenn, Zeitler or Hightower, but I call them as I see them on tape.

Will Fleener be the pick if the others I have rated higher are off the board? The odds are probably against it for sure, but something tells me the Steelers have legitimate interest in Fleener and that he is indeed on their round one board. We don\’t have long to wait to find out the answer and I am running out of time to shove more Fleener post down your throats as well. Lucky you and I know you can\’t wait for the pick to be anyone other than Fleener so you can tell me I was wrong. The odds are in your favor that you will get that opportunity.

Why oh why did you read this? I tried to warn you all.

  • you need to post the espn video on Fleener, the sport- science report!

  • kyle

    I’ll lay out my counterargument yet again:

    As to him being first round talent (and a value pick at 24 for that matter) he was catching passes from the most highly touted QB recruit in over a decade. He played on a college team with garbage wideouts and two of their OL will probably be drafted in the first round this year. His production is padded and he never had to block. You say you believe his blocking can improve but based on what?

    As to his contributions his rookie year, he is a pure pass-catching tight end coming to a team with 3 or 4 players who should definitely get the ball before he does. Fleener spelling Miller doesn’t seem to be much more of a contribution than a 2-down ILB.

    I’m not hell and highwater against the kid. I don’t think he’s great. If the Steelers pick him and he is great, I’ll be thrilled to be wrong. My main concern is that at no point before the combine did any of the “draftniks” talk about a first round TE. On the contrary, the talk was how this is such a poor TE class. Then, as if by magic, after the combine and his pro day, Fleener is a mid-first round pick. He doesn’t seem like a good value at 1.24.

    Thanks for laying it out more logically than most. I can’t wait for next Thursday.

  • John B.

    i’d like to see Hightower or Fleener…maybe even Barron (although i doubt he’d be ready by Denver).
    i’d really like to get Poe just cause i think we can groom him well to play the next level.
    Im not so sure what Ed Bouchette sees in Cordy Glenn, but thats his main pic.

    And Heath Miller doesnt have to be on his way out for Fleener to join. For every Gronk, you need a Hernandez.


    Anyone who has not yet listened to your Terrible Podcast with Dave’Te Thomas needs to and hear what he has to say about Fleener. I know you don’t think Brockers makes it to 1.24 like he does, but if Fleener and Brockers are both available, who would you pick and who do you think the Steelers would take?

  • Eric87

    yea saw the sports science on Fleener and the kid looks like a beast. Would love to see him and Miller in 2 TE sets.

  • Great point about the pre-combine TE rankings. From what I recall, Both Orson Charles and Dwayne Allen where both rated higher, at the time.

  • I won’t complain if Fleener is the first pick. That said, if the Steelers are in a situation where both Fleener and Stephen Hill are staring them in the face, I think they take Hill over Fleener. The Steelers have never had a problem using a first round pick on a WR, and Hill would provide a great insurance policy, in case Wallace leaves the team next year.

  • SteelersDepot

    If he falls and that is a big if, you can take him and try to find a spot for him. Can he play nose & 2 gap down the road or is he a 3 & 5 tech DT prospect only? Worry about his size (height) and being able to stay low as a NT in 2 gap. I would sell the pick myself. I love Dave-Te’ but cant see him falling.

  • Jprankster2005

    Dave, I was a big fan of Fleener getting picked in first round for a while then just last week… I watched Egnew a little more and think he will do better and be in a later round….. Do you like Fleener better than Egnew with there all around game……. And I also like Chapman and hope they snag him up in 2nd round because I don’t think he will be there when they pick in 3rd round unless of course they trade out of or down in first or second to get more picks…. So my second question would u take Chapman in 2nd round so u don’t have to pray he falls in 3rd or do u like a totally diferent NT better…. Because If it wasn’t for Chapman injury I think he would be the best NT in the draft and a possible top ten pick……. So I hope they can get Chapman and Egnew and a late round WR and possibly go with LB from Boston College if he would happen to fall to us but don’t see it, Or go OL in 1st if Barron,Luke ain’t there….. I don’t think Hightower should be number 1 pick…… Just curious if you like Fleeners all over game more than Egnew and if there’s any chance Champan could get drafted in 2nd round… Thanks….. And to throw it out there if Fleener indead where to get picked in first round it wouldn’t bother me a bit, We need help for Miller and gotta to get it……….

  • Dan

    For the Steelers, TE is mostly a blocking position. I’ve been hearing “This is the year we throw to the TE” for a dozen years and maybe this really will be, but I haven’t heard much positive about Fleener’s blocking ability. Perhaps he’s coachable in this area, but it certainly would be a suprise to me. I think he’s somewhat of a reach at 24th overall, unless you really have a suitable system for him. I say 8% chance Fleener is the pick.

    PS – I did just see a mock that has us picking OG Siliatolu…I guess one man’s reach is another man’s pick.

  • Treybrooks

    great article. Very clever.

  • james

    Don’t fret. We’ll find out who it is in 7 days.

  • Davis

    I don’t think people understand the matchup nightmares Fleener would cause for other teams. With Wallace stretching the field as well as Brown and Sanders, you think Coby Fleener is a threat in the middle of the field?? YES. And by the way, Fleener ran a 4.50 40 at Stanford’s pro day. Watch out.

  • Bleebo77

    A couple “sleeper” positions for Round 1 are CB and DE/OLB. At CB, Gilmore and Kirkpatrick are likely gone by 1.24, but maybe not. Jenkins is the real wild card. He has top 15 talent, but he’s got character issues. I’ve seen him in mocks from the first round to the bottom of the 2nd. The cupboard isn’t bare for the Steelers @ CB, but adding someone after the loss of Gay wouldn’t hurt. Re: DE/OLB, there seems to be a cluster of players who grade out as late first/early second prospects: Upshaw, C. Jones, L. David, McClellin, and Mercilus. I’ve even seen Derek Wolfe in some first round mocks. 1.24 might be high for some of those guys, and the Steelers never reach in Round 1, but I wonder if they’d snag someone from that group that they really like.

  • FrankieCC

    I agree on Fleener. I really think he could be the pick. I’m sure the Steelers have been enamored with the dbl TE sets that NE uses, and now you have Todd Haley coming in. I posted about Fleener being the possible pick on another Steelers site only to have everyone shoot it down. Having Fleener and Miller would open up so many lanes and more single coverage for Wallace and Brown. I am not sold on Hightower at all. While i love his mentality n explosion, he reminds me too much of Kirkland in his later years. I cant see him covering quick RBs or even TEs, not to mention he would only be a 2 down player. I would take Upshaw over him anyday. Upshaw reminds me sooo much of James Harrison, and the fact that Jason Worilds hasn’t really shown much, i wouldn’t be too upset if we took n OLB……..with that said, hopefully one of the top OGs fall to are 2nd round pick, and if we could land Chapman in the 3rd, we would have the makings of a really good draft class.

  • TrueSteelerForLife

    I was very impressed with the last podcast, although I couldn’t agree with everything your guest had to say. I emailed him for his scouting list, but haven’t had the chance to check my email yet. Dave do you see Zebrie Sanders a 7th rounder, I thought 4th at the latest. Also I would like to know how you feel about the linebacker he mentioned from NC State.
    PS I really wouldn’t mind Fleener and at this point would take him over Glen, I hate Adams, I would take him over Martin and maybe even Poe (love Chapman), but I would rather move back to say 27 from the Pats and maybe get a third and give them a six?, something. I just still see Fleener available all the way up to 31/32

  • Vincent

    Dave, first and foremost, I don’t think anyone should be questioning your logic; last year you played the part of Nostradamus with your draft predictions. Here are my 2 (maybe 3) cents. Though Tomlin has come out and said that Arians’ exit and Haley’s hiring was all his doing, there has to remain some question as to how much influence Mr. Rooney had in the whole process. That being said, with the lingering “potential” Rooney influence hovering about, there is something to be said about Mr. Rooney’s previous comments about committing to the run that may (emphasis on may) impact the draft. Am I one to think that the new OC is going to impact the draft selections for the Steelers in 2012, of course. But to the extent that the Steelers grab a blocking deficient tight end? I’m having difficulty seeing it. The Rooney influence has to be weighed here in my humble opinion and especially for a first round pick. Now, you may say “what would you suggest in the first round that would adhere to the Mr. Rooney’s penchant for the run game?” And my response would be thus: I ain’t saying that round one has to be a run game oriented selection, what I’m saying is I can’t see a second tight end (specifically a receiving tight end) taking precedent when such a luxury selection goes entirely against the grain of the Rooney philosophy. That being said, your guess is 3 – 19 times better than mine as to who they select.

  • SteelersDepot

    I wanted people to understand my reasoning. Am I married to the pick in my final mock? We shall see, but this post was merely to spell out my reasoning and to continue to drive several of my readers bonkers in addition. I will not likely hit the first three picks like I did last year as long as I live. As I stated in the post, the odds are pretty much against me that Fleener will be the pick.


    The perfect counterpoint, Kyle, and you bring up many points that are easy to overlook.

  • mokhkw

    I think we’ll see a lot more 2 TE sets in the NFL; The Patriots & to a lesser extent the Ravens have shown what a match-up issue they cause as most teams don’t have 2 Safeties which excel in pass coverage or a Derrick Brooks type LB who can cover a TE.

    Speaking of Brooks, that’s who I’d be more likely to compare Timmons to – a Tampa-2 OLB rather than a “true” MLB.

    I wouldn’t discount the Steelers trading up a few spots & selecting Stephon Gilmore or Dre Kirkpatrick at CB in this Draft. I understand the Steelers Staff is high on Curtis Brown & Cortez Allen but it would be hard to pass on either if available @ 20 ( which I think they will be if the Cowboys pass on CB @14.)

    If Janoris Jenkins wasn’t such a head-case I’m sure he’d be in the mix as well.

  • Nolrog

    Of course your not married to the pick. You’re pushing buttons just like you said. When you do your final mock next week, I bet you’re back to a more traditional pick (Hightower or Poe most likely.)

    Fleener may be a good tight end, but our holes at nose and OL (and MILB to a lesser extent) are significant. We don’t have the luxury of purely going BPA (and if we do, it better be for an all-pro player.). We need to plug those holes or we’ll watch another year of QB pressure struggles on both sides.

  • Andrea

    Fleener is wonderful …

  • Dmncwelsh7

    I’m a big fan of Fleener and would not be disappointed in the least if he were the pick. However as you went through the names of other options you left out one who should be mentioned. LB Shea McClellin. Can play inside or outside, stout against the run, excellent pass rusher and can play in coverage. His stock is now in 1st round. Packers and Pats both like him a ton. Far better choice than Hightower at LB because of his versatility.

  • Harold

    Dave. What is the possibility that the Colts would want to trade up to 1.24 to draft Fleener?

  • SteelersDepot

    not sure, but I am not ready to rule it out as a possibility.

  • Jason White

    I think if they take Fleener it might not be a bad idea to find a trade partner and move back in the first round and pick up an extra 3rd round pick in the process. Personally I want Hightower or Poe cause I think with his physical intangibles he can be coached into a dominant nose tackle. He has a quality character the Steelers covet. But i must say I like the thought of Fleener and what Haley could do with him.