Talent pool running deep
prospects to appear at the draft Thursday night, this one in Philadelphia. He attends many of those pro days colleges hold for scouts in March and April on their campuses. He has noted for years how Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert attend many of them and used one instance this year to make his point.
“Tomlin works his tailend off,” Brandt said. “Not only is he every place, he’s very, very friendly and good with people. They said he was at Tennessee and that quarterback Joshua Dobbs started his own script by throwing four 40-yard fly routes and ended the script doing that.
“By the end, Tomlin said, ‘Who is this guy?’
“The guy put on a show that is unbelievable.”
In other words, his pro day workout was better than what he showed while playing at Tennessee, even though he was second team all-SEC. It remains to be seen if it helped lift him from a late-round prospect.
Still, scouts must evaluate and the consensus for this draft has it as good and deep, especially at cornerback, safety, tight end, wide receiver, running back and “edge” rusher, all good news for the Steelers. It’s not so strong in the offensive line, the interior defensive line or quarterback. And while it is a strong draft overall, there is little agreement at the top.
“I’ve never seen a draft like this,’’ said Brandt, who has worked nearly 60 of them. “Is there a consensus for the No. 2 pick in the draft? There really isn’t a No. 1.”
But Brandt is bullish on the overall talent throughout. He ranks 150 prospects in order, or well into four rounds.
“All 150 of them are guys I think if not injured can make it and contribute.
“Just think about this for a second: Tight ends, we could possibly have three drafted in the first round. It’s been since 2006 that we had two. There were 21 cornerbacks at the Combine who were 6-foot tall or more. We could conceivably have two safeties in the top five, four safeties in the first round.”
Tom Donahoe, who headed the Steelers personnel department before Kevin Colbert, agrees with Brandt about the overall talent in this draft.
“There are some really good and deep positions and other positions that are paper thin,” said Donahoe, now a senior personnel executive with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“There probably is going to be a run on some players like the cornerback position. Quarterback is probably a mixed bag; there are some guys people like and other teams don’t like any of them, so that will be interesting to see. They generally get overdrafted.”
Another interesting position is that of outside linebackers. Most scouts believe there is good depth at edge rusher. But for teams playing a 3-4 like the Steelers, those edge rushers mostly played down as defensive ends in college and must be projected to play standing up as an outside linebacker.
“The outside linebacker in our defense is probably the most difficult [to find], because 80-90 percent of them don’t play on their feet in college,’’ Colbert said. “And we have to try to project whether a guy can stand up and do the extra things beyond pass rushing that he’s going to be required to do in our defense. So the potential for error at the outside linebacker position is really greater than any other position, because most of the time it is a projection.” The Steelers’ need for a better pass rush is well known, and stated on the record by president Art Rooney II. In the past, they’ve found those defensive ends in later rounds and it took time for them to develop into linebackers. They tried a different approach with Jarvis Jones (2013) and Bud Dupree (2015), who played outside linebacker in college and were thrown right into the mix as rookies.
Either way, it is a gamble, not a science. And there’s a lot of money that goes into that pot.