The NFL Draft is six hours away and you need to be able to competently discuss this tonight over text or Twitter with your friends, or whatever guy is next to you at the bar when you dip in and out of the draft -- and bowls of wings -- between periods of tonight's Penguins game.
But you haven't studied!
Like in junior high when you had a seventh period English quiz on Ahab's motivation in Moby Dick and you didn't get past "Call me Ishmael."
You need to cram, and fast. But panic not -- presenting Blog 'N' Gold Cliff's Notes guide to the 2013 NFL Draft.
First, a couple of broad strokes -- for the first time since probably Dubya's first term, the Steelers do not need to draft an offensive lineman. They have a bunch of good young ones. You'll sound like a piker if you say this. Outside Linebacker, Wide Receiver, Safety. That's what the Steelers most desperately need.
Also, don't call the draft a crap-shoot. This is the annual career fair for a billion dollar industry that does research, testing and background checks that would be the envy of the NSA, all to see how a few hundred 22-year old often emotionally immature human specimens will respond to the physical and psychological stresses of untold fame and fortune in a complicated job that requires them to maim each other on a regular basis ... So uh, yeah, then again maybe it is a crap-shoot.
Using the choicest of draft cliches, here are a bunch of players to keep an eye on tonight and through the weekend. (And if you want an amusing list of draft night archetypes, check this out.)
THE NEED: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia.
Mock after mock after mock has the Steelers taking Jones, and it makes perfect sense – a grade A prospect to replace James Harrison in the marquee position in the 3-4 zone blitz scheme. And most importantly, Ed Bouchette says he’s the guy. He’s usually right.
Jones himself says so too.
But, a little devil’s advocate -- is this to high for the position? Consider: Greg Lloyd, fifth round; Jason Gildon: third round; Joey Porter, third round; James Harrison, undrafted.
Historically, this defense creates stars at ROLB as much as they create themselves. Plus if it finally clicks for 2010 second round pick Jason Worilds, then what?
THE SAFE PICK: Kenny Vaccaro, S Texas.
Time to get used to this uncomfortable idea: Troy Polamalu's days are numbered.
The 2013 season could very likely be the Polynesian Samson’s swan song in Pittsburgh, after which he’ll ascend into football heaven, trumpeted by angels, lifted into the sky on a giant Head & Shoulders bottle, while he mercifully unshackles the souls of Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco, his two most frequent torment-ees.
And his buddy Ryan Clark, a.k.a. one of the Steelers best free-agent pickups of the last decade might ride off with him, his motor-mouth sure to make him a good NFL analyst.
THE GIFT: Any one of these three guys ...
That would be Ziggy Ansah, Dion Jordan or Barkevious Mingo. All would be ideal fits to replace James Harrison, all are consistently rated higher than Jones, and all are almost certain to be gone before Pittsburgh is on the clock. Different mocks have different combinations of them going anywhere from 2 to 15.
Personally, I’m pulling for Barkevious, for two reasons: his name sounds like a modifier for a wily canine and for a Heinz Field full of Seinfeld-ian “Maybe the Mingo ate your baby!” signs.
None of these guys should be available. And consider that last year, David DeCastro fell into the Steelers lap at no. 24, after universally being pegged as a top 15 pick. Similarly, in 2005 Heath Miller dropped all the way to 30 for the Steelers to grab despite being projected to go much higher.
In the immortal words of Lloyd Christmas:
THE BE(A)ST AVAILABLE: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame.
Call this kid Gronk with a brain.
Our own Gerry Dulac was the first media-type to publicly champion this choice and – at least initially – it sounded nuts. But the Roger Sterling of the PG sports department was on to something as more and more national experts put Eifert in black and gold.
At 6’6/251 he’d be a huge target for Big Ben and would fit perfectly into Todd Haley’s offense. His is consistently compared to the Patriots’ Pro Bowl meathead Rob Gronkowski, though presumably he’s much, much smarter – after all he did go to Notre Dame. (emphasis and sarcasm mine)
Problem is, he’s become a draft darling of late and with the Jets now holding two spots above the Steelers, they might take him at no. 13. If only they could find a quarterback to throw the ball to him.
THE BIG UPSIDE/A PROJECT: Cordarelle Patterson, WR Tennessee.
The greatest draftisms ever, the ying and yang of draft days clichés, the Big Upside Guy is always termed as such because he is a raw talent that needs a ton of polish – and therefore is A Project – and could just as easily be a total catastrophe. Jamian Stephens, for instance, had a big upside – and backside – and was a project.
But Patterson is considered to be the best raw talent of just a so-so receivers crop and has dazzled his way to being a consensus first-round pick despite have only one season of Division I football under his belt – he was a Juco transfer to the Vols.
In ESPN the Magazine, KC Joyner compared his Juco film to Randy Moss at Marshall; conversely Todd McShay said Patterson may disappears for most of a game, but that when he does something good it will “blow your mind” – sounds a lot like a guy who recently left town for Miami.
THE REACH/VALUE PICK: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama.
Lacy was the stud runner of a national champion and may go on to have a fine NFL career, but being the best running back in this year’s class is like being the tallest midget – and that’s why none may go in the first round, especially not at no. 17, where he'd be a reach.
But take him in the second round, and all of a sudden he’s a terrific choice. Fantastic value. I can hear Mike Mayock saying it now in that Philly accent (or Kiper in his Baltimore, hon, patios). The same goes for Montee Ball from Wisconsin or Le'Veon Bell from Michigan State. Great second round options. Just ask the experts.
Consider also the Steelers track record of picking running backs in the first round since the merger, not named Franco Harris: Walter Abercrombie, Tim Worley, Rashard Mendenhall. Underachiever, flat-out bust, underachiever. Now consider Jerome Bettis, Willie Parker and Barry Foster. Acquired via trade, UFA and a fifth-round pick, they are the Steelers second, third and seventh all-time leading rushers.
THE SLEEPER: Michael Mauti, LB, Penn State.
If we’re counting a sleeper pick as any player taken in rounds four and up, the Steelers have done alright in the past few years – Antonio Brown is the top receiver, Cortez Allen will start at corner and Kelvin Beachum will push the starters ahead of him.
So let’s go with Mauti – a likely third-rounder before his knee injury – as a poor man’s Sean Lee at a position the Steelers can use some depth and young blood. His intensity is e was the unquestioned leader of the Nittany Lions last year – as thankless a job as any player could get in college football in 2012.
THE LUXURY PICK: None.
No chance. Not when you’re coming off of 8-8 and have more holes than a block of Emmentaler and less cap space for free agents than Luke Ravenstahl had on that secret ATM card. This draft has an urgency not felt since 2004 – which yielded Ben Roethlisberger and Max Starks.
Some more names to remember: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State; Elam, SS, Florida; Mauti Te’o (like you’d forget that one); Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International; Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee; Bjeorn Werner, DE, Florida State.