The Pittsburgh Steelers are just a few days from the 2013 NFL Draft, but whom they are planning to select is still very much a mystery. And at times when people talk about the draft they only speak in terms of the first round. I accept that the 1st round is vital, but some positions, in particular the running back position is one that can be addressed beyond the 1st round; well beyond and have success.
Last season, the Steelers thought they had drafted their answer for a speedy running back/wide receiver type of player in Chris Rainey. However, one arrest later and Rainey is gone and that need is unmet. The guy I would love to see the Steelers take a shot on to fill that role, and one that would likely not require a draft pick earlier than the 6th round is Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb.
McCalebb is built for speed. He’s a little slight at 168lbs on his 5-10 frame, but there might not be a more explosive back in the country. He gets to full speed in a just a few steps and working on the perimeter he’s lightning. Much of his production is mired by a bad season by the Tigers, but upon closer study there are some things that I really like.
First is his ability to catch the football out of the backfield. He’s a natural pass catcher, runs nice routes and does a very good job setting up his blockers on screen passes. Obviously, McCalebb isn’t going to pound the football between the tackles, but the Steelers already have the backs for that. But in specialty packages, jet sweeps, plays where he can get on the edge I have no doubt he can be formidable 8-12 snaps a game. McCalebb is quick feet, excellent moves in space and the ability to run away from any tackler, even one who believes he has an angle on him.
There are a lot of things that can be coached in the NFL, but true 4.3 speeds and quickness cannot. A player like McCalebb just needs to be put on a roster that can teach him the skills he needs and put him in a position to be successful without adding too much risk for injury. When you figure in just how little risk there is in drafting a player late in the draft, it makes sense to use those late picks on the most outstanding players physically you can find.