Analyzing 20 years of Colbert drafts: 2005-09 ☕


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Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

As we saw in the previous installment of this series, Kevin Colbert was instrumental in helping the Steelers build toward their first Super Bowl win since 1980 with his draft classes from 2000-2004.

While there were some key players from the Tom Donahoe days still around on those teams to be sure -- Alan Faneca, Joey Porter, Aaron Smith and Hines Ward among them -- the bulk of that 2005 roster was brought in by Colbert.

But, as we also will see in Part 2 of this series, winning comes at a cost. Whereas in Colbert's first four years, the Steelers' average drafting position in the first round was 15.6 -- including a trade up to get Troy Polamalu and a trade back for Casey Hampton -- in the next five-year period of his tenure, that average draft spot rose to 25th.

Such is the cost of success in the NFL. And even that average draft spot was affected by a trade up from 32 to 25 in 2006 to acquire Santonio Holmes.

There also tend to be fewer available roster spots for many of the later round draft picks, as we'll start to see when we dig deep into the drafts from 2005-2009. But you'll take that tradeoff when you pick up a couple of Super Bowl wins, right?

Today, a look at that second five-year period in Colbert's 20-year tenure:


Round 1, Heath Miller, TE, Virginia; Round 2, Bryant McFadden, CB, Florida State; Round 3, Trai Essex, OT, Northwestern; Round 4, Fred Gibson, WR, Georgia; Round 5, Rian Wallace, LB, Temple; Round 6, Chris Kemoeatu, G, Utah; Round 7, Shaun Nua, DE, BYU; Round 7, Noah Herron, RB, Northwestern

Best Pick: Miller -- Did you know Miller ranks ninth all-time for receptions among tight ends with 592? Miller was a key component on two Super Bowl winners and another team that reached the championship game. McFadden, Essex and Kemoeatu also played a lot of games and made a lot of starts for the Steelers, but Miller stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Best Value: Kemoeatu -- Kemoeatu in the sixth round wound up being a solid pick. Yes, he wasn't the most agile guard in the league, but he was a road grader. He blew a key block in the team's Super Bowl loss to the Packers, but when you get a four-year starter in the sixth round, that's a win.

Worst Pick: Gibson -- A big, lanky receiver, Gibson was signed to a three-year, $1.22-million contract that included a signing bonus of nearly $300,000. He was cut at the end of training camp. After bouncing around with a couple of other teams in training camp in the years following, Gibson eventually signed in the NBA D-League in 2008, averaging 7.3 points per game.

Overall Grade: B


Round 1, Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State; Round 3, Anthony Smith, S, Syracuse; Round 3, Willie Reid, WR, Florida State; Round 4, Willie Colon, OT, Hofstra; Round 4, Orien Harris, DE, Miami (Fla.); Round 5, Omar Jacobs, QB, Bowling Green; Round 5, Charles Davis, TE, Purdue; Round 6, Marvin Phillip, C, California; Round 7, Cedric Humes, RB, Virginia Tech

Best Pick: Holmes -- Holmes could be difficult. But the catch the Super Bowl MVP made to beat the Cardinals made up for a lot of that. Eventually, though, Holmes wore out his welcome with the Steelers, getting traded to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick. He caught 235 passes for a little more than 3,800 yards and 20 touchdowns in four seasons with the Steelers. He also has cleaned up his act and now serves as an ambassador for the team, showing people can grow.

Best Value: Colon -- Colon started 62 games, mostly at right tackle, in six seasons for the Steelers before finishing his career with the Jets. He is the best of a pretty forgettable bunch in this draft, as the Steelers were deep and talented in Bill Cowher's final season.

Worst Pick: Reid -- The Steelers gave up a third-round pick to get Holmes, then traded back with the Vikings in the second round to get back into the third round, taking Smith and Reid. Smith at least started 14 games over three seasons with the Steelers, intercepting four passes. He also famously ticked off Tom Brady before the Steelers got their butts kicked in New England in 2007. But Reid? He lasted just two seasons, appearing in seven career games and making four receptions. That's not third-round material at all. Considering there were 13 players taken after both of those two who made the Pro Bowl at least once in their career, that's not good.

Overall Grade: C-


Round 1, Lawrence Timmons, LB, Florida State; Round 2, LaMarr Woodley, LB, Michigan; Round 3, Matt Spaeth, TE, Minnesota; Round 4, Daniel Sepulveda, P, Baylor; Round 4, Ryan McBean, DE, Oklahoma State; Round 5, Cameron Stephenson, G, Rutgers; Round 5, William Gay, CB, Louisville; Round 7, Dallas Baker, WR, Florida

Best pick: Timmons -- We could have gone with Woodley here, as well, but Timmons had the better career despite Woodley putting up 44 sacks in his first four seasons as a starter. Both were good. But Timmons lasted 10 seasons, nine of which he spent roaming the middle of the defense. This was the first year of Colbert working with Mike Tomlin and this was a solid effort.

Best Value: Gay -- Getting a starting cornerback in the fifth round was a solid pickup. Gay never missed a game in his entire career, which is amazing in itself, appearing in 176 games in an 11-year career, all but one of which was spent with the Steelers. He also returned five of his career 13 interceptions for touchdowns.

Worst Pick: Sepulveda -- This might be splitting hairs since Sepulveda was actually a pretty good punter -- when he was healthy. The problem was that he wasn't healthy as much as you'd like your punter to be. The Steelers also gave up a fourth-round pick and a six to the Packers, who used those selections on tackle Allen Barbre and placekicker Mason Crosby. Barbre became a starter for a few years, while Crosby has been one of the best placekickers in the NFL. To make matters worse, Miami took Brandon Fields in the seventh round and he punted for nine seasons in the NFL, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in 2013.

Overall Grade: B-

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