Monday, March 2, 2009

Free Agency: Nasty Nate in Nashville

As was expected by many, Nasty Nate has gone by the wayside in Free Agency. Washington signed a 6-year $27 million contract ($4.5 million per year) with the Tennessee Titans.

Basically, this is a carbon-copy of the Randle El situation, so it shouldn't surprise anyone. Our #3 receiver gets offered around $4 million a year (something a #3 is not worth by any means) to go elsewhere and be a #2. Nate's athleticism and speed have been pumped up recently, but let's not forget that, while he made some big catches for us, he did have some troubles hanging on to the ball at times.

Is he worth $4.5 million a year? Personally, I don't think so. However, on a team like Tennessee that lacks receivers, he will definitely be the #2 behind Justin Gage.

Limas Sweed moves up the depth chart to the #3 spot. Sweed had some trouble hanging on to the ball last year, but I'm looking for him to come out with a great off-season and emerge as a threat next year.

With the loss of Washington, the Steelers may now look for a receiver in the early-to-mid rounds of the draft. They definitely will not take a receiver in the first round, but they could take one as early as the 3rd.

The way we see it, here are the Steelers team needs: OL, DL, CB, WR (CB is on the list because we are assuming that Bryant McFadden will also leave via Free Agency -- he is visiting Arizona today)

Here's a look at some Wide Receiver prospects that fit the Steelers mold and will likely fall to the later rounds (click on player names for ESPN Draft Profile):

Brian Robiskie (Ohio State)

Neither the biggest, strongest, or fastest receiver in the class, "Robo" developed the type of skills that could make him a Hines Ward-esque player in the pros. He has good hands and isn't afraid to go over the middle to make plays.

Jarett Dillard (Rice)

Dillard, not Crabtree, was the NCAA leader in all major receiving categories last year (receptions, yards, touchdowns). Dillard's production can not be questioned, but at 5'10" he lacks the size and speed of some of the other receivers in this class. However, as a possession receiver out of the slot, he could thrive.

Ramses Barden (Cal-Poly)

The tallest receiver in this draft class at 6-6 is also the top prospect out of a non D-1 school. Barden has been compared to Randy Moss in his leaping ability, but since he is not from a large school he may fall farther down the draft board than his skills might indicate. If the Steelers pick him, that would give them two tall receivers (in Sweed and Barden), plus reliable targets in Holmes and Ward.

Deon Butler (Penn State)

Of the big three receivers Penn State boasted for the past four years, Butler was the most productive. He ran a blazing sub-4.4 at the combine and looks to be one of the fastest receivers in the draft. He has the ability to get open and run by defensive backs, but his lack of size makes him more reliant on his speed than taller receivers.

Austin Collie (BYU)

If there was one receiver that stood out to me during the bowl season, it was Austin Collie. Even though BYU lost their game, Collie, BYU's career leader in receiving, had a stellar game. Collie has sure hands across the middle. He also threw some wicked blocks that would remind anyone of good ol' 86. At 6'1" he has solid size and can take a punch as well as he can deliver it. He has the grit and the hands to be the next Hines Ward.

Pat White (West Virginia)

If we draft him, the pick would just scream "Antwaan Randle El" all over again. White has the speed and the hands to develop into a good receiver, but I have to think with the lack of QB depth in this draft, there is going to be a team out there willing to take a shot on him as a quarterback. However, if he falls into the 3rd round, the Steelers may snatch him up and turn him into another Randel El.

Others worthy of consideration:
  • Quan Cosby (Texas)
  • Mohamed Massaquoi (Georgia)
  • Jordan Norwood (Penn State)
  • Brian Hartline (Ohio State)

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