The Danny Watkins Fascination

If you’ve been paying attention to the endless stream of mock drafts floating around the Internet over the past couple of months there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled across one that featured the Steelers using their first-round pick on Baylor guard Danny Watkins. We’ve talked about this quite a bit, and as long as it keeps coming up we’ll continue to laugh at it. The latest expert to send Watkins in Pittsburgh’s direction: Mel Kiper’s arch-nemesis at ESPN, Todd McShay.

Said McShay (it’s an Insider article behind their pay wall): What do you think the Las Vegas odds would have been at the start of the 2010 season that Baylor would have back-to-back picks in the first round? In all seriousness, Watkins is solid in pass protection and as a run blocker and brings a nasty disposition to the table. He would be a nice fit next to 2010 first-rounder and Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey. The Steelers could also opt for a cornerback like Williams or Harris, but the interior offensive line is Pittsburgh’s top need.

I’m guessing the odds of Baylor players going back-to-back (he has the Jets taking defensive tackle Phil Taylor with the pick just before the Steelers) in the first round are better than that of the Steelers using their top pick on a 26-year-old (who will turn 27 during the season) guard.

For one, here’s a quick look at the age of every Steelers first round draft pick since 2000 during their rookie season:

Maurkice Pouncey (21), Ziggy Hood (22), Rashard Mendenhall (21), Lawrence Timmons (21), Santonio Holmes (22), Heath Miller (22), Ben Roethlisberger (22), Troy Polamalu (22), Kendall Simmons (23), Casey Hampton (23), Plaxico Burress (22).

Since Mike Tomlin has been the Steelers’ head coach the first-round picks have consistently been on the lower side of 22. All young. All athletic. All with rather large upside. I’m not saying that Watkins can’t possibly get any better than he already is — he has, after all, only played football for three years — but how much upside does he really have at this point?

If he were to join the Steelers roster for the 2011 season he would be older than the following the players on the day he arrived, before he suited up for one practice: Dennis Dixon, Jonathan Dwyer, Rashard Mendenhall, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, David Johnson, Doug Legursky, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, Chris Scott, Ziggy Hood, Steve McClendon, Stevenson Sylvester, Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds, Crezdon Butler, William Gay, Keenan Lewis, Ryan Mundy.

He would also be older than Limas Sweed, Ra’shon Harris and Tyler Grisham, and within weeks of Tony Hills and Isaac Redman. Needless to say, that’s a large chunk of the roster and practice squad.

I suppose it’s possible the Steelers could value Watkins and be willing to overlook his age, but it would represent quite a shift in drafting strategy (at least as far as the first round is concerned).

I’m betting against it.

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  • Canadian Steeler

    If we can get Harris in the first, I actually don’t mind the idea of Watkins in the second. I know it’s way less likely he’s available then, but I’ve seen some mocks with him going to the Packers right after us. He’s going to step in at either guard spot right away, and he’ll probably be better there than any other lineman we would pick at 63 (for the next 2-3 years anyways, before Potsie/Big Snack/Hines retire).

  • Anonymous

    I think the reasoning behind the Watkins selections is simple. The opposite end of the spectrum from a best player available strategy is a fill biggest current need strategy. The Steelers biggest current need is (arguably) guard. So the Steelers strategy must therefore pick the best guard available when they select. Pouncey will be gone Watkins is the next best.

    Now I don’t think the Steelers will use that strategy. You can argue that corner or OT are bigger needs. And you could also make a case for another player being better than Watkins. But the reasoning is all sound. I don’t think it’s a good prediction because that’s not the way the Steelers have drafted in the past, but it’s not crazy talk either.

  • Ted

    We are not going to take a 26-year-old guard with a second-round grade by most in the first round based on the astute drafting philosophy and history of Colbert’s drafts. We like upside and even though this guy has a lot, he is still at an age when a majority of pro football players’ careers end.

    CB is a bigger need for the short-term and long-term, and OT is probably a bigger need for 2012. Yes, RG has been our line’s weakness for nearly a decade. But we did go to 3 Super Bowls in the last 6 years with subpar RGs (Simmons, Stapleton and Foster), and I thought Foster was the best of the bunch by the time each SB came around in those seasons. Plus, we went 14-5 last year with three different starting RGs. Finally, there is quality talent to be found at RG in rounds 2-3 and maybe even round 4 in this draft. The fall-off at CB, OT and DE is much more precipitous after round No. 2. However, I do like Kiper’s latest Steelers’ mock draft, especially round No. 2, which would be a steal:

    1. Aaron Williams CB Texas
    2. Ben Ijalana OT Villanova
    3. Austin Pettis WR Boise St.

    While I do not think we should receiver in the first four rounds and Pettis has no separation speed whatsoever, he is what JJ wants in this draft if we take a WR – a big, tough, possession, slot WR who can eventually replace Ward. My point, however, is that we have 8 solid WRs in camp for next season (Wallace, Ward, Sanders, Brown, Randle El, Battle, Sweed, Grisham), with the top six all signed through at least 2012. Finally, if you are looking for a possession No. 3 WR to replace Ward, you can get one through the draft or FA after he retires. That is not as hard to find as a No. 1 WR.

    • Ted

      In contrast, I do not like McShay’s draft at all. In addition to Watkins’ age and position for the first round, Patrick often played too much soft coverage and was inconsistent at Louisville, with some off-field character problems early in his career. If you can’t be a shutdown corner in the Big East, how are you going to do in the NFL?

      Stocker is solid, but we seems to be more interested in hybrid TE/FBs for this draft like Kendricks and Williams than a pure TE like Stocker. I doubt he is sitll there at the end of round No. 3 because this draft is so weak for pure TEs, but also why would we take Stocker now? Unless there is an agreement that grants FA to 4th- and 5th-year players before 2011, we will have Spaeth back next year. And even if there is such an agreement, I do not think anyone else is going to give him starter’s money and we can have him back for a Tuman-type No. 2 deal if we so desire. Give me Kiper’s draft and I will be a happy man after the first two days of the draft, with no major complaints about any of those three picks. But I would complain about round No. 1 in McShay’s, not be excited about round No. 2 but admit we had to take a CB at that spot, and believe we had greater areas of immediate and future need than taking a TE in a very weak TE draft in round No. 3.

  • Dr Obvious

    The only way I see the Steelers taking Watkins is if they use their second round pick on him. Even then, I don’t see it.

  • Anonymous

    I would think that a twenty-seven year old guard with only three years’ experience would last into the third round, no matter how good he appears. Maybe not until the Steelers’ pick, but they could get him by trading up or down. (Of course I probably know less about the draft than anyone who hangs out here.)

  • Elegrese

    Jeeze….you talk about them like they are grocery items. Too old, not fresh enough, lost flavor.

    • Anonymous

      I didn’t completely read the label, but I think I saw a hundred pack at Costco of some kinda guard. I assume it was filled with offensive linemen.