The books on the 2013 NFL draft opened seconds after the ink dried on the 2012 edition. As early as September pro football sites were alive with mock draft after mock draft. And as we sit in eager anticipation only eleven days until a new crop of stars enter into the league, the mock drafts have reached fever pitch. I believe Don Banks has just completed his mock draft 11,000.0, Mike Mayock is prepping his vocal chords and Mel Kiper Jr. is carefully crafting his hair into place. Heck, even my local butcher has his mock draft taped to the inside of his store window (for the record he has the Jets trading up to #1 and grabbing Geno Smith). I’ll wait a week to post my own mock draft, but I will offer this piece of advice: the Steelers cannot draft Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro with their first pick. Cannot, should not, better not.
To anyone who follows the Steelers it goes without saying that this is by far the most important draft of the Tomlin/Colbert era. While Steeler fans have grown accustomed to the annual parade of star players leave via the greener pastures of free agency, this year seems especially painful. True, Mike Wallace was gone the minute the regular season ended and there was no way a player in a need position like Keenan Lewis was going to hang around Steel town for his payday. However, what is most alarming is the lack of playmakers on both sides of the ball. While Wallace may have been a one trick pony, that trick could be pretty explosive and that threat will be hard to replace. Nobody will miss RB Rashard Mendenhall but his release leaves a group of young, unproven backs vying for the starting role. And reliable TE Heath Miller more than likely will miss the start of the regular season after injuring his knee. Even with the team retaining WR Emmanuel Sanders for this season (and surely watch him depart after it ends), there is a sudden and scary dearth of playmakers on offense.
While defense has been and will be what the Steelers hang their hats on, that unit too is lacking in the typical pass rushing threat from its outside linebacker spot. From Mike Merriweather to Greg Lloyd and Kevin Green to Jason Gildon and Joey Porter on to James Harrison and Lamar Woodley, the Steelers have always been able to field bookend linebackers who can strike fear into opposing quaterbacks. Woodley was a huge disappointment in 2012 and fans can only hope that his lack of performance an anomaly. However, number 56 will not have Harrison on the other side to occupy blockers to allow him to do his thing. I’m not convinced Jason Worilds can be that guy on the other side yet, although the Steelers brass seems to think he can be. It’s an area for serious concern.
Having poured over mock draft after mock draft (including SI’s Don Banks), the one name I’ve seen attached to the Steelers a great deal has been Vaccaro. Now I don’t dislike Vaccaro as a player, but if the team wants to address its safety needs, I say wait a round or two and grab DB DJ Swearinger of South Carolina, who plays with similar equal ferocity as Vaccaro. Safety is just not a position the team needs to address in the first round.Sorry Don and all you other mockers, Vaccaro is just not a smart choice.
With no real running back worthy of the eighteenth pick (and with the Mendenhall misfire still fresh), that’s a position the Steelers can wait to address later (hello Stepfan Taylor). While an OLB stud like BYU’s Ziggy Ansah or Georgia’s Jarvis Jones would be nice, I say the Steelers should be looking towards ole’ rocky top and grab Tennessee WR Cordalle Patterson. Yes, he’s a one year wonder and was shut down by Alabama, but wasn’t everyone? There are concerns about Patterson’s understanding of route running and offense but the big play ability is there. And other than some fears regarding football IQ there are no character red flags to warrant serious hesitation. While there are no safe picks or sure-fire bets, sometimes a player and a need line up nicely which is the case with Patterson and the Steelers.
For Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin, the 2013 draft has to be about not only talent, but character. They cannot afford risks nor watch as past 1st rounders like Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward have virtually zero impact. For the GM and coach their seats should be warm and rightly so. Wasting a pick on Vaccaro would make those seats a little hotter.
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