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Old 01-26-2009, 10:02 AM   #1
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Default Why We Don't Need to Spend High Draft Picks on the DL

For those who don't believe that a good position coach can make a world of difference to a team, here's a great piece about the Steeler's DL coach.

I'll highlight some choice bits below, but one thing that leaps out is this passage, about how the Steeler's built their line without using high draft choices:

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Mitchell, a voracious reader of history who collects fine wine, artwork and vintage jazz music, has managed to get quality results with an assemblage of undrafted free agents and low-round draft picks. Of his top six linemen, only one — Casey Hampton, the starting nose tackle — was drafted before the fourth round, and two were not drafted at all.
Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing:

Football Pioneer Builds Big Men for Steelers
By SEAN D. HAMILL

PITTSBURGH — John Mitchell, the Steelers’ defensive line coach, will say again and again that he is no hero, no great man and certainly not worthy of mention as a figure of the civil rights era.

Those who know him, who know what it took to become the first African-American to play football at the University of Alabama, will say he is all of that.

“He had to be pretty strong just to walk in not knowing what was going to happen when he got there,” said Jeff Beard, who played on Alabama’s defensive line with Mitchell in 1971. “And I guess the way integration had gone in Alabama, he would have had a right to be reluctant.”

It was just a little more than seven years after Gov. George C. Wallace stood in a schoolhouse doorway in an attempt to prevent the university’s integration.

Mitchell, who attended segregated schools as a child in Mobile, Ala., said, “When I saw what Wallace did, it made me want to go there even more because I wanted to prove to myself that I was worthy of going to that state institution.”

Mitchell did that and more as a 6-foot-3, 230-pound defensive end who became an all-American, and he has continued to prove himself throughout 36 years of coaching college and professional football with lessons learned, more often than not, in Alabama.

In Pittsburgh tradition, the Steelers’ defense has made all the difference in the team’s march to the Super Bowl. While the Steelers’ linebackers have been the stars, Mitchell’s selfless linemen have added to his reputation.

“When I wonder how good a coach a guy is, I watch his players, watch how they play, watch how they respond to adversity, watch what they do, watch how they play technique wise,” said Clarence Brooks, the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive line coach, whose team lost to the Steelers in the American Football Conference championship game on Sunday.

“And forever his guys are always sound technique wise, always play very hard, look like they’re disciplined in drills.”

It has been that way for virtually every year in his 15-year run with the team. That longevity is a rarity in the N.F.L., and it has made him the dean of Steelers coaches.

Mitchell, a voracious reader of history who collects fine wine, artwork and vintage jazz music, has managed to get quality results with an assemblage of undrafted free agents and low-round draft picks. Of his top six linemen, only one — Casey Hampton, the starting nose tackle — was drafted before the fourth round, and two were not drafted at all.

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said that when he took the job two years ago, it was that ability that led him to add assistant head coach to Mitchell’s title.

“John takes a great deal of pride in what he does, the performance of his men, the development of his men,” Tomlin said. “I wanted him to have that same kind of ownership over this football team, and the growth and development of young players.”

Mitchell’s players say it is his attention to detail and an ability to find ways to motivate them that has made him so good at what he does. It is an approach that, as his players know all too well, comes straight from his mentor, Bear Bryant.

“When they come in as young guys, rookies, first-year guys, he’s able to break them down and kind of break them away from what they did when they were in college,” said the backup nose tackle Chris Hoke, who was a raw, undrafted rookie when he joined the team in 2001.

“His technique is really getting on you and being critical of and paying attention to all the little details,” Hoke said. “Because if you don’t do the little things, they turn into big things. And when situations come up, I think he looks back to, what would Coach Bryant do? And then he moves forward.”

He differs from his mentor in one critical way. While Bryant was respected by his players, he was distant from them personally while they were on the team. The 57-year-old Mitchell, who is married but does not have children, is famously involved with his.

“One thing about him is he treats us like his sons,” said Deshea Townsend, the Steelers’ longtime starting right cornerback. “He teaches us about a lot of things. He teaches us about art. He teaches us about wine, even taking us to wine tastings. He does a lot off the field to try to stimulate us and try to make us better people.”

Part of that approach is pragmatic, Mitchell said. “You find out what’s important to these guys, and once you do that, it makes your job as a coach easier.”

But it also is simply who Mitchell is, and all a part of the same personality that made it seem easy to become the first African-American player to take the field for Alabama, then become Alabama’s first African-American team captain and first African-American assistant coach.

“I care for my players,” he said. “They’re not only good football players, they’re good people. With my guys I don’t have to yell. I don’t use profanity with them. They’re men, and that’s how I treat them. I respect them, they respect me.”

Despite the racial animus that defined Alabama in the early 1960s, Mitchell said that after he transferred in, from Eastern Arizona Junior College, there was never any conflict or protest over his presence at the university or on the team in 1971 or 1972, an experience he and others credit to Bryant.

“Coach Bryant pretty much decided what went on with the football team, and everyone respected that,” said Bobby Stanford, a linebacker on those Alabama teams and Mitchell’s good friend and campus roommate.

Mitchell acknowledged catching his share of stares as he and his white teammates strolled into town together and into Tuscaloosa’s stores and restaurants. But, he said, “To most of them, I was an athlete first, and that’s all that mattered.”

Such experiences proved culturally important, said John David Briley, a political science professor at East Tennessee State and author of the book “Career in Crisis: Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant and the 1971 Season of Change.”

“The people were ready for it,” he said. “But integrating the football team made it that much easier. John clearly had a role in the civil rights movement.”

By the time Mitchell became an assistant at Alabama after playing for two seasons, a third of the team’s starters were African-American.

Though progress came swiftly, Mitchell, who has never been shy about voicing his opinion, sees more work that needs to be done.

He and many other Alabama alumni have bristled because none of the eight men who succeeded Bryant were African-American. And despite his stellar résumé, Mitchell has never been asked to interview.

“At first it hurt because they hired some people I thought I was better qualified,” he said. “I thought my résumé was better. But now, you know, I’m happy. The Rooneys treated me like part of their family. I work with Dick LeBeau. I’ve got a Super Bowl ring. We’re back in the Super Bowl. What more could you ask for?”

He intends to retire in four or five years — “When this current group of guys with the Steelers leave, I’m going with them,” he said — and he and his wife, Joyce, plan to move back to Birmingham, where he can finally use the four Alabama game tickets he never gave up, and enjoy the results of his pioneering efforts.

“I’m going to drive down there to Tuscaloosa, watch them play, sit in the stands, eat a hot dog, yell and scream,” he said. “It will be great.”
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:11 AM   #2
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That would be a great thing, if we only had that defensive line coach. Unfortunately we don't, we have a guy who makes 1st round picks play well, so that is what we need to do.

That is like saying we can retire at age 52 because Bill Gates did, unfortunately we can't all be independently wealthy and afford to retire at 52. The same way not all teams have coaches who are good enough to make late round picks into stars. Some have to keep working to 65, some have to draft talented defensive linemen.

Try again.
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:13 AM   #3
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Well...ya maybe, but it helps selecting at the very least one D-lineman with a high pick.


Casey Hampton NFL Draft: 2001 / Round: 1 / Pick: 19

You need the talent at right spots.
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:19 AM   #4
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:28 AM   #5
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We needed to hear he went to segregated schools why? What does that have to do with low round/FA 3-4 defensive linemen?


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Old 01-26-2009, 10:31 AM   #6
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But I thought we had to lose games because the only way we could get good picks is to draft in the top five?

This is a good example of why its about having a good draft not the "highest" draft.

HEAV is right about needing to hit with your first rounders. Teams like the Patriots and Steelers use their first round picks on the big boys up front and they rarely bust on them.
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:51 AM   #7
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What the Broncos could use the most is a playmaker on defense regardless of position.
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Old 01-26-2009, 11:27 AM   #8
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We needed to hear he went to segregated schools why? What does that have to do with low round/FA 3-4 defensive linemen?


Talk about missing the point.
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Old 01-26-2009, 11:33 AM   #9
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We are doomed
QFT

Either way I think were ****ed
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Old 01-26-2009, 11:42 AM   #10
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Talk about missing the point.

So throw in pointless PR bs because he was the first black player at Alabama. Good for him. What does that have to do with his job now?


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Old 01-26-2009, 12:13 PM   #11
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The point of the matter is this. You don't "HAVE" draft any position in the first round. If there was a blueprint, diagram, etc of how to get the best players from the draft everyone would use it. There are many issues that you have to look at when scouting a player, and even more when trying to translate that players talent into on the field success. How many players can you think of that we should've taken but didn't? Or players that we got, that teams would've loved to have? If we knew who were going to be great and who were going to be nothing, we would really have something. Me, personally, I prefer production to potential. I would love to see us draft players that flat out got it done in College, but even that is no sure shot. TD had a very poor college career, and Tom Brady was a nobody. So go figure.
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Old 01-26-2009, 12:22 PM   #12
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But I thought we had to lose games because the only way we could get good picks is to draft in the top five?

This is a good example of why its about having a good draft not the "highest" draft.

HEAV is right about needing to hit with your first rounders. Teams like the Patriots and Steelers use their first round picks on the big boys up front and they rarely bust on them.

Ravens also have landed some solid first day defensive players.

In my opinion Denver has to land B.J. RAJI in round one or Ron Brace in round two.

One of the two big BC boys to anchor the nose tackle spot.
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Old 01-26-2009, 12:38 PM   #13
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The point of the matter is this. You don't "HAVE" draft any position in the first round. If there was a blueprint, diagram, etc of how to get the best players from the draft everyone would use it. There are many issues that you have to look at when scouting a player, and even more when trying to translate that players talent into on the field success. How many players can you think of that we should've taken but didn't? Or players that we got, that teams would've loved to have? If we knew who were going to be great and who were going to be nothing, we would really have something. Me, personally, I prefer production to potential. I would love to see us draft players that flat out got it done in College, but even that is no sure shot. TD had a very poor college career, and Tom Brady was a nobody. So go figure.
That is not accurate, Brady started 25 games for Michigan, winning 20 and set a school record for most attempts and completions in his first year as a starter. He was all big-10 honorable mention twice, and put 370 yards and 4 TD on Alabama in the Orange Bowl in his senior year when he was also a team captain.

The argument that you don't have to draft defensive linemen early to have success if quite flawed, it is based on one team. I give you the Patriots as a counter argument, all of their starters are 1st round picks. So there you go, you have to spend 1st round picks on defensive linemen.

Fact is that if you have a good positional coach who can mold young players into solid performers then you don't have to get players who are highly ranked. The same is true for Bobby Turner, he has made several low ranked players into stars, the same is true for Dennison.

The problem is that we don't have the Steelers defensive line coach, so we can't use their strategy, we have to use one that fits our coaches.
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Old 01-26-2009, 12:42 PM   #14
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Teams like the Patriots and Steelers use their first round picks on the big boys up front and they rarely bust on them.
Steelers recent 1st rounders:
08 - Mendenhall, RB
07 - Timmons, LB
06 - Holmes - WR
05 - Miller, TE
04- Big Ben, QB
03 - Polamalu - S
02- Simmons - OG

Interesting that a team known for its D only drafted 2 D players in the past 7 years in round 1.
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Old 01-26-2009, 12:45 PM   #15
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The point of the matter is this. You don't "HAVE" draft any position in the first round. If there was a blueprint, diagram, etc of how to get the best players from the draft everyone would use it. There are many issues that you have to look at when scouting a player, and even more when trying to translate that players talent into on the field success. How many players can you think of that we should've taken but didn't? Or players that we got, that teams would've loved to have? If we knew who were going to be great and who were going to be nothing, we would really have something. Me, personally, I prefer production to potential. I would love to see us draft players that flat out got it done in College, but even that is no sure shot. TD had a very poor college career, and Tom Brady was a nobody. So go figure.
I read an interesting stat the other day. Every year since 2000 (or something), the Pats have drafted two players from the Senior Bowl. That seems pretty smart to me -- get mature, experienced players who are playing at the top level and can contribute immediately. I hope McDaniels brings some of that approach here. Much preferable to the "but he's got upside" flameouts we've had with projects like Moss
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Old 01-26-2009, 12:49 PM   #16
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Ravens also have landed some solid first day defensive players.

In my opinion Denver has to land B.J. RAJI in round one or Ron Brace in round two.

One of the two big BC boys to anchor the nose tackle spot.
Taking an NT in round 1 scares me. I'd much rather grab a player who can be an immediate and vocal leader, and who can infuse a new personality in the defense. That likely means a LB like one of the two USC boys. Then grab an NT in 2 or 3.
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Old 01-26-2009, 12:54 PM   #17
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Steelers recent 1st rounders:
08 - Mendenhall, RB
07 - Timmons, LB
06 - Holmes - WR
05 - Miller, TE
04- Big Ben, QB
03 - Polamalu - S
02- Simmons - OG

Interesting that a team known for its D only drafted 2 D players in the past 7 years in round 1.
That's a good point. They did get their two team leaders in the first round, though.

My point is that the Steelers frequently draft in the 20's and rarely get and higher than the teens and manage to find key players for their team.
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Old 01-26-2009, 12:58 PM   #18
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That is not accurate, Brady started 25 games for Michigan, winning 20 and set a school record for most attempts and completions in his first year as a starter. He was all big-10 honorable mention twice, and put 370 yards and 4 TD on Alabama in the Orange Bowl in his senior year when he was also a team captain.

The argument that you don't have to draft defensive linemen early to have success if quite flawed, it is based on one team. I give you the Patriots as a counter argument, all of their starters are 1st round picks. So there you go, you have to spend 1st round picks on defensive linemen.

Fact is that if you have a good positional coach who can mold young players into solid performers then you don't have to get players who are highly ranked. The same is true for Bobby Turner, he has made several low ranked players into stars, the same is true for Dennison.

The problem is that we don't have the Steelers defensive line coach, so we can't use their strategy, we have to use one that fits our coaches.
When I say nobody, I mean he was an afterthought. We need to find a star with that first pick. That is the plain truth. If we get a star LB in the first and a DL in the second, would that bother anyone? No. No one complains about the Eddie Royale pick, even though it wasn't at a need position. I want an impact player with that pick.
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Old 01-26-2009, 01:02 PM   #19
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That's a good point. They did get their two team leaders in the first round, though.

My point is that the Steelers frequently draft in the 20's and rarely get and higher than the teens and manage to find key players for their team.
No doubt - and part of that is having a consistent coaching staff, not just HC, and knowing what players fit their system. I think the Steelers have done the best job in their consistency of drafts.
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Old 01-26-2009, 01:04 PM   #20
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I wouldn't mind seeing them trade down a few spots to pick up something later
They need to draft someone who can contribute immediately on defense regardless of position
No reaches based on "potential"
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Old 01-26-2009, 01:05 PM   #21
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REY REY,, you can't get a better impact player than that. Then next year we'll go after Mays. Screw the DL position in round 1. BJ won't make nearly the same amount of impact as Rey Rey would (I have nothing to back that up with, just my own personal hunch. I'm just sick of watching every other team have a impact/maniac, i.e Ed reed, Ray Lewis, Urlacher, AJ Hawk, Troy Polamalu, Bob Sanders) We have Champ, but we need a maniac like James Harrison or even Shawn Merriman as Much as I hate to admit it.

Sorry if this is a lame argument, I'm a little tired today
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Old 01-26-2009, 01:15 PM   #22
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When I say nobody, I mean he was an afterthought. We need to find a star with that first pick. That is the plain truth. If we get a star LB in the first and a DL in the second, would that bother anyone? No. No one complains about the Eddie Royal pick, even though it wasn't at a need position. I want an impact player with that pick.
WR was a need position last year. You always need to find a star with the 1st round pick, you have the choice of enough players who will be stars. If you look at the last 10 years, only about 60% of the 1st round players turn into good NFL players, so it is very important to be above that curve.

Here is my thinking about DL, you need the DL to be good, if you have a bad defensive line you will give up points and yards through the air and on the ground no matter how good your linebackers or defensive backs are. If you look at the good defenses in the league the common denominator is good defensive lines: Tennessee, Giants, Ravens, Steelers, Patriots...
If you draft a LB you can expect some production right away. If you draft a CB or S you can expect good production a year or two down the line. With DL that is a little different, it can often take 3 years before you get the production you want. So it seems to make sense to draft DL, then a year later draft secondary and then a year after that draft LB, that way you can have solid production from all positions. If you do it the other way around you get solid LB play in year 1 and 2, then you get LB play and secondary play in year 3 and 4, and your LBs will be free agents and want to leave because they get hung out to dry, before your defensive line starts performing and you will be knocked back a couple of years.

We need a couple of players who work, lunchpailers, players who make the players around them better. That is what the defensive line does. If we wait to get those players, we will be waiting a long time for success.
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Old 01-26-2009, 01:16 PM   #23
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I read an interesting stat the other day. Every year since 2000 (or something), the Pats have drafted two players from the Senior Bowl. That seems pretty smart to me -- get mature, experienced players who are playing at the top level and can contribute immediately. I hope McDaniels brings some of that approach here. Much preferable to the "but he's got upside" flameouts we've had with projects like Moss
That IS interesting! I have never heard that one. You know, that is the best post you've ever made. And you are absolutely right. Even if they are not flashy, they tend to make immediate impacts for them.
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Old 01-26-2009, 01:57 PM   #24
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Here's an idea, lets have some scientist breed an offspring of Ed Reed/Jackie Joyner Kersey Kid draft him out fo the test tube, then do the same thing with Lawrence Taylor/Liz Diesel and draft him out of the test tube.

Here's a question, what combo of past or present male/female athletes would make the best bronco
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Old 01-26-2009, 02:09 PM   #25
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Most of the top 3-4 defenses have a high-round stud at NT: Casey Hampton, Haloti Ngata, Vince Wilfork - those guys were all first round picks. After that its a mixed bag - a few stars here and there, but some journeymen too.

I hate to sound wishy-washy, but its a mixture of the two - talent and coaching: bad coaching squanders talent, but even the best coach can't polish a turd - you don't need three of four pro-bowlers, but you do need one or two...

IF we go 3-4 (and that's still an IF in my book) we will have to draft a NT in the first our second round, no question. After that we can play around with what we have and see what happens. Decent coaching will be required, and could make something out of the D-line talent we've drafted in the past.
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