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The Steelers pick of Georgia OLB jarvis Jones in Round 1 of the NFL draft certainly didn't come as a huge surprise (by the way, check out that mock. That guy crushed it through about the first 19 picks). Jones was very productive in college and fits a need for a team that decided to cut ties with James Harrison and can't be completely sold on Jason Worilds. I thought Jones or Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro would be the pick and when New Orleans took Vaccaro at 15 and Buffalo surprised everyone with E.J. Manuel at 16, the Steelers couldn't get the card up to the podium fast enough. Kevin Colbert joined me on our Draft Coverage show on 970 ESPN shortly after the pick and was smiling ear-to-ear. He felt Jones was one of the 6-8 elite players in this draft and hadn't originally thought the Steelers would ever have the opportunity to get him. In his mind Jones' slow 40 time acutally benefitted the Steelers and caused Colbert to set up a meeting through Jones' agent right then and there. Interesting back story and for the second year in a row the Steelers get exactly the guy the wanted.
What's next? The positions of need that stand out for me are WR, RB and safety. Interesting news broke this morning former Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw has been medically cleared to resume all football activities after having surgery on his foot in the offseason. The Steelers have had Bradshaw in for a visit, but don't have the cap room at the moment to sign him to a deal. They will when Willie Colon's money becomes available in June, but Bradshaw figures to be signed by then. Nothing is going to happen today, but if the Steelers don't come away with a back by tonight, I would expect them to focus on getting a deal done with Bradshaw ASAP.
No backs were taken in Round 1 for the first time since 1963. Alabama running back Eddie Lacy stands out to me as the clear number one back in this draft, but is unlikely he will fall to the Steelers at 48. He likely goes to the Bengals at 37 or the Jets at 39. If he gets past there it could get interesting, but other teams may trade up to take him. If Lacy is on the board at 48 it is a no-brainer for the Steelers, but I don't see it happening.
Here's what I do see.
There are a ton of good wideouts still available. Tavon Austin and DeAndre Hopkins, my two favorites, are off the board along with Cordarrelle Patterson, but still leaves plenty of talented players that would be good value at 48. Keenan Allen of Cal is the highest ranked of the players still left and I think he'll go early in round 2 as will Justin Hunter of Tennessee. But I think Robert Woods of USC could still be on the board. If Lacy is gone, I grab Woods with my second-rounder.
If I get Woods, in the third round at pick 79 I'm hoping that UCLA RB Jonathan Franklin is still around. Other guys I would target with that pick include West Virginia WR Steadman Bailey if the Steelers don't get a WR in Round 2. Some other names to watch at those positions include RBs Joseph Randle and Christine Michael (3rd round) and my personal favorite Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore is coming of his second serious knee injury. If the Steelers haven't picked a RB by the 4th round and he is there at 115, I would jump at the opportunity. Unfortunately I think they would have to take him in round 3 to get him. A safety to watch for in the 3rd round would be Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas who the team had in for a pre-draft visit.
Projection: Round 2 Robert Woods WR, USC. Round 3 Jonathan Franklin RB, UCLA
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
2013 Mock Draft
They call these mock drafts because anyone who does one should be mocked. So here you go. Geno Smith will go in Round 1, but I haven’t projected him. There will be a bunch of trades tonight, so this will be out the window in about 30 seconds.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan. Flip a coin between he and Joeckel. Hearing Chiefs assistants have taken a shine to Eric.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Luke Joeckel, OT Texas A&M. Dion Jordan is an option here, but can’t pass on Luke.
3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT Florida. Good pick, bad team. They’ll also have the first pick in 2014.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dion Jordan, OLB Oregon. Played for Chip Kelly in college. Would love to see them take Tavon Austin.
5. Detroit Lions: Ziggy Ansah, DE/OLB BYU. Lane Johnson a real possibility here.
6. Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner, CB Alabama. Browns are going to trade back. And I think Lane Johnson goes to SD here. Milliner paired with Joe Hayden is a nice tandem for Browns.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Chance Warmack, G Alabama. First guard taken in the top ten since 1997.
8. Buffalo Bills: Tavon Auston, WR West Virginia. Hate to see him go here, but the most exciting player in the draft.
9. NY Jets: Barkevious Mingo, OLB LSU. This will be the Steelers pick if he happens to drop. He won’t.
10. Tennessee Titans: Jonathan Cooper, G North Carolina. And the second guard in the top 10.
11. San Diego Chargers: Lane Johnson, OT Oklahoma. No chance he lasts until 11 now. Hottest name on the board. I think SD trades up to get him. If someone else doesn’t do it first. May be the best of the three OTs.
12. Miami Dolphins: DJ Fluker, OT Alabama. Screaming up draft boards. Big help for Ryan Tannehill.
13. New York Jets (from Tampa Bay): Tyler Eifert. Another guy that people have fallen in love with. Now just find the QB to get him the ball.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT Missouri. Rock star athlete.
15. New Orleans Saints: Star Lotulelei, DT Utah. He was Mel Kiper’s projected number one pick the day after the draft last year.
16. St. Louis Rams: Kenny Vaccaro, S Texas. This makes the Steelers pick a lot easier. I put Steelers wish list as Mingo and then coin flip between Jarvis Jones & Vaccaro.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones, OLB Georgia. Production vs Measurables. Steelers love him. A huge pick for Kevin Colbert. Needs to hit on this one.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sylvester Williams, DT North Carolina. Jerry Jones won’t be happy that Vaccaro is off the board, but this is a solid pick.
19. New York Giants: Justin Pugh, OT Syracuse. Straight off Mike Mayock’s mock. I don’t know anything about Pugh. I’m assuming Mayock and the Giants do.
20. Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree, ILB Georgia. Bears hope he becomes the next Brian Urlacher.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Jonathan Cyprien, S Florida International. Bengals went corner in last year’s first round, this year they go DB again. Another kid who may rise up the board tonight and be gone by this pick.
22. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Tennessee. Sam Bradford needs weapons. Patterson is one of the biggest wild cards in the draft. The Rams roll the dice.
23. Minnesota Vikings: DeAndre Hopkins, WR Clemson. A couple of the WRs are going to fall and there is very little consensus on who goes where. Hopkins is #2 for me behind Austin. I actually think the Vikes may move up. Steelers at 17?
24. Indianapolis Colts: Xavier Rhodes, CB Florida State. Big. Press. Corner. What’s not to like.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Manti Te’o, LB Notre Dame. I would take Arthur Brown. Hearing Vikings love Te’o.
26. Green Bay Packers: Eddie Lacy, RB Alabama. If he doesn’t go here he falls into the second round. The Packers have a need. He fits.
27. Houston Texans: Keenan Allen, WR California. Early on, was seen as top wideout in the draft. Not explosive, but paired with Andre Johnson will excel.
28. Denver Broncos: Tank Carradine, DE Florida State. Another guy with mixed reviews because of torn ACL. Better than his teammate Bjoern Werner.
29. New England Patriots: D.J. Hayden, CB Houston. The Pats would like to go WR here but can’t pass on a guy who may be the best CB in the draft.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Desmond Trufant, CB Washington. Wanted Hayden. May ultimately trade up for Eifert. Lots of options.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams, DT Alabama. Poached this pick from Greg Cosell. Not projected to go this high, but a good fit for SF.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Arthur Brown, LB Kansas St. Two year captain at KSU, takesover for Ray Lewis. May end up being the steal of the round.
Steelers wish list: WR second round Robert Woods, USC. RB in round three Jonathan Franklin, UCLA. If they get an extra pick between 70-100 I’d love to see them take Marcus Lattimore, RB South Carolina.
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Phil Borque didn't mince words on my show yesterday. He made his views on Bruins broadcaster Jack Edwards and Ottawa Sun beat writer Don Brennan very clear. He was fired up. You can hear it all podcast right here.
I posted the link earlier to Greg Cosell's last mock draft earlier today. Make sure you tune this afternoon as he'll join me at 5. Also, Matt Williamson will join at 5:30 and we'll replay the Colbert/Tomlin presser at 6:30. Catch the best draft talk on The David Todd Show 4-7 pm.
Greg Cossel of NFL Films is one of the best analysts around. He approaches his Mock Draft differently than most, so read the open, but he has the Steelers with a very surprising first round choice.
It was an emotional night last night in Boston. The National Anthem was pretty fantastic.
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The Pirates are 6-7 through their first 13 games. They currently rank 11th in the NL in R/G at 3.33. Their OPS is an abysmal .573, 14th in the NL and their OPS+ is 62. They are 13th in ISO, 13th in OBP and 14th in SLG. Things have improved after a horrific first week, but overall the Pirates bats are off to another slow start.
**Starling Marte. The hype around Marte peaked last July when it was endlessly debated whether the Pirates were waiting too long to recall their one uber-hitting-prospect as the team plummeted from playoff contention. Ultimately Marte slashed 257/.300/.437 in 47 games and had little impact positively or negatively as the Pirates fell from the race.
However, that experience clearly benefitted the now 24-year-old outfielder. He flew a bit under the radar in spring training, but has opened the season as the Pirates most productive hitter. He currently has a nine-game hitting streak and multiple hits in eight of those nine games. On the season he’s slashed .370/.404/.519 in 57 PAs. The K/BB ratio of 14/2 bears watching, as does an unsustainable BABip of .487, but a BB% north of 5-6% should lead to an OBP above .330 and the foundation of a successful rookie campaign. Flashes of power like the towering home run Sunday suggest this will be Marte’s only season in the top spot in the order.
**Travis Snider. Inexplicably benched the first few games of the season due to Gaby Sanchez’s hot spring and Clint Hurdle’s gut, Snider is finally getting regular at bats against RH pitching. .296/.387/.407, OPS+ 124 in 27 ABs certainly qualifies as SSS (as do virtually all of the numbers cited here), but that would be more-than-acceptable production from the OF acquired at the trade deadline last season for former number one pick Brad Lincoln.
The big question around Snider is whether he has gap power, 9.0% career XBH% vs. MLB avg 7.7%, or whether that will eventually translate into more traditional corner OF power for the 25-year-old. The Pirates need to get Snider 300 at bats in the first half and decide what they have. Snider needs to show better pitch recognition, particularly on breaking balls if he is going to be a consistently successful ML hitter.
(Aside: Why does any pitcher ever throw Garrett Jones fastballs away? Every player has hot/cold zones, but missing there on Jones is massively high risk.)
**Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez numbers last year through 13 games: .067/.097/.267 for an OPS of .363. Through 13 this year: .073/.174/.073 for and OPS of .247. (h/t David Manel). A couple of early home runs last year have essentially turned into walks this year and we’re looking at another horrific start through the first two weeks.
The larger problem is again, how bad Alvarez’s approach looks. While it certainly appears that Pedro gets more than his share of tough called strikes, he doesn’t appear comfortable in the box. His 0-14, 9K, 1BB line against LHPs continues to suggest his career .608 OPS and 43% K-rate is no fluke. Regardless, the Pirates still have no choice but to run him out there virtually every day and hope that he follows last year’s pattern of massive slumps with scorching, team-carrying hot streaks. But the start of the season has not been encouraging.
Neil Walker. Walker had his first XBH of the year last night, a HR, raising his slugging % to .298. The positive is Walker has hit a lot of balls hard early in the season as indicated by a LD% of 28% vs. MLB avg. of 19% and a career 21% avg. The negative is his splits are terrible. In 14 ABs as a RHB he has 1 hit and 1 BB. He has a career .670 OPS from the RH side which is serviceable, but he slumped to .602 last year in 138 PAs, so it is something to continue to monitor.
Walker is no longer young at age 27. This is a big year for him. I have constantly advocated the Pirates going year-to-year with him contractually. This could benefit him immensely as salaries continue to spiral higher due to an influx in television revenue, but only if he produces. Coming off a back injury late last year, the Pirates desperately need his bat. Walker probably doesn’t qualify as “bad” vs. the starts of some others, but he is being counted on more than most.
(Aside: I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see all four starting infield positions being manned by different personnel on Opening Day next year. Walker could well move to third with Alvarez moving across the diamond to first. Barmes is likely gone and Jones, regardless of production, will be a trade or non-tender candidate.)
Clint Barmes/Russel Martin. Will Neal Huntington ever hit on a free agent position player? Russel Martin through 40 PAs .086/.200/.143 .343 OPS, -1 OPS+. Clint Barmes through 36 PAs .121/.171/.182 .353 OPS, -1 OPS+.
Silver linings? Martin continues to draw walks at a very solid rate. His OBP was .100 points higher than his BA last year and is .093 higher in almost 4,000 career PAs. Both players continue to be very solid defensively despite their lack of offensive production, but both need to get their OBP above .300. Martin will eventually do that if for no other reason than plate discipline. Barmes has a 5.2% career BB%, so he needs to start hitting like he did in Aug-Sept of last year.
Up Next: Part 2, Pitching
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images