There is a great debate among the draft pundit community. It centers on the draft philosophy of the 32 NFL franchises. When it comes to selecting players, most fall on one side of the discussion or the other. A team should either draft for “need” meaning taking a player that can help your team in the most expedited way possible, or you draft best player available, or “BPA” as it’s called. This concept involves drafting the highest player on your board when your pick comes up, because you either have so many needs it won’t matter, or your team has no significant needs and therefore won’t need them to play right away.
I have always felt like teams at the top of the order in the first round draft both every year. They are at the top of the round because they are bad, so there must be multiple needs, but for the most part they still draft the best player they can. Then you bounce to the end of the round and you have those teams that typically don’t have a lot of glaring needs and often times they do draft the best player available.
But in the middle, I would argue it’s almost always need based. I’m talking about the 12 or 14 teams in the center of the round. They are usually a player or 2 away from making a push, and so they might pass over a higher rated player at a position that isn’t a high priority to a better impact player for their team. This is also the area where you see lots of trades. And this is where the Pittsburgh Steelers are sitting this year. And given their needs there are really 2 players I can realistically see them making a trade up to get.
The first is Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. Vaccaro have become a favorite among NFL draft analysts because he has an excellent body of work. Not a tremendous athlete in terms of triangle numbers, Vaccaro is more of a film guy. He’s hyper-aggressive, intimidating in the run and pass game, and brings a physical nature to a defense. He was a leader on the Longhorns defense and many weeks their best player. He very much fits what the Steelers like to do with their safeties, asking them to come up hard and support the run, and play the deep middle in coverage, laying hits of receivers. Most have Vaccaro coming off the board in the top 15, so the Steelers would only need a small jump up if he is the player they covet.
The second prospect is Florida State defensive end Tank Carradine. Carradine has been off the radar for the past few months as he was recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered late in the college football season. This caused him to move down on most boards simply because no one could be sure how ready if at all he’d be for 2013. But as of the NFL scouting combine Carradine looks to be well on his way toward being training camp ready. And assuming he is, he is almost a lock for a top 10 pick. Carradine’s mix of size and explosiveness are unmatched in this draft, especially for a man his size. He’s a tremendous pass rusher who can stick his foot in the ground and dip that shoulder and just bury offensive players. His pass rush moves are the best of any of the rushers in this draft and his productivity cannot be denied. As far as his draft stock, some still consider him a late 1st, early 2nd round pick, but personally I think he’s going to check out medically before the draft to a great enough degree that some team in the top 10 or 12 picks is going to take a shot on him.
These are not only 2 of the best players in this draft, but at the top of their positional rankings as well. Making a small trade to go up and get either would satisfy those who want a need filled, as well as those who clamor for BPA. They are aggressive, hard-nosed and physical, just how the Steelers want their defensive players.