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Draft King Analysis

June 10, 2008
Lou Pickney,

Reader feedback is always welcomed here at Send your thoughts to me at

Coming soon to Draft King: previews of some of the top-touted players who could potentially be high draft picks in the 2009 NFL Draft.

From: Parsa Fattahi
Date: Sat, May 17, 2008 at 6:46 PM
Subject: 2009 Mock Draft

I know itís early but how does Oher drop to the 22nd pick? Do you know something I donít? Just curious.

Lou: Michael Oher's story is nothing short of amazing, and if will be interesting to see how his senior year at Ole Miss plays out under Houston Nutt. If you aren't familiar with the incredible journey that lead Oher to Ole Miss (and even organized football), read this.

Michael Oher
Michael Oher is a talented offensive tackle. (Icon SMI)
I've seen a couple of early mock drafts that have Oher at #1 overall, but the odds of that happening are very slim. We saw an offensive tackle go first overall in the 2008 Draft (Jake Long), but Long was an all-around great prospect who gave up only one sack in his final three seasons, and that was to the #6 overall pick in the '08 Draft, Vernon Gholston.

I won't argue Oher's pass-blocking skills. To be sure, he is very gifted at protecting the quarterback, but there are some things he needs to improve upon. Returning to college was likely a wise move for Oher, who declared for the '08 Draft before deciding to return to Ole Miss for his senior year.

The question at this point is this: Is Oher a strong enough all-around prospect to go higher than SEC junior offensive tackles Andre Smith (Alabama) and Ciron Black (LSU), or other highly touted offensive linemen such as Oregon's Max Unger and Oklahoma's Duke Robinson? We shall see. But, at this point, I feel comfortable with Oher in a mid-to-late first round slot. Should he show improved skill at run blocking this season, he could end up as the top offensive tackle to go in the 2009 NFL Draft.

From: John Dirda
Date: Tue, May 27, 2008 at 7:11 PM
Subject: Steelers Draft

Hey Lou this is John from Hawaii, I loved the skill players the Steelers took in the first and second rounds, but what really disturbs me is that they did nothing to address the O-Line, D-Line, or Corners. What kind of grade do you give the Steelers this year, and how do you think they will fare without addressing several key needs?

Lou: As I've mentioned before, I refuse to grade drafts right away. In my estimation, you need at least three years to even reach a preliminary analysis, and realistically more like five years to fully sort out the successes and failures of a given draft.

So, with that in mind, I won't grade the Steelers for their 2008 Draft. But, to be sure, I was impressed with their first two selections.

Hines Ward
Hines Ward is Pittsburgh's all-time touchdown receptions leader. (Icon SMI)

Pittsburgh's pair of day one picks were rather high-profile names: Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall at #23 (right after Dallas passed on him in favor of Arkansas RB Felix Jones) and Texas WR Limas Sweed at #53 overall. Pittsburgh taking Mendenhall didn't surprise me; while Willie Parker has been a great surprise for the Steelers, his injury last year left the Steelers relying on Najeh Davenport as the primary RB in crucial situations.

Davenport isn't terrible, as his 124 yard performance against the Rams in Week 16 revealed, but against good defenses he crumbled: 27 yards on 12 carries at Baltimore in Week 17, then an appalling 16 carry, 25 yard rushing performance in Pittsburgh's home playoff loss to Jacksonville.

As for Willie Parker, his yards per carry average has dropped in each of his four seasons with Pittsburgh and he turns 28 in November. Parker is under contract through 2009, though if Mendenhall has a strong rookie campaign, the Steelers could potentially cut Parker this time next year and avoid paying his $3.35 million base salary for 2009.

With Sweed, he missed the bulk of the 2007 season at the University of Texas with a broken wrist. But he was a part of the Longhorns' 2005 BCS Title team, and he should be able to work into the mix with Pittsburgh's receiving corps. Moreover, he's 6'4", which is likely pleasing to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. Hines Ward is 32, and he is slated to make $4.7 million this year and $5.8 million in 2009, the final year of his deal with the Steelers.

Time will tell if Pittsburgh should have done more to bolster its offensive line. The Steelers kept offensive tackle Max Starks via the free agent transition tag but lost acclaimed offensive guard Alan Faneca to the New York Jets. The Steelers used a fourth-round pick on Texas OT Tony Hills, so it's not as if the position was entirely ignored. We'll see soon enough how the Pittsburgh offensive line holds up this season.


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