Five Panthers were signed in post-draft free agency, boosting Pittsburgh’s total number of signed players to nine. Tailback LeSean McCoy was the only Panther to be taken on the first day of the draft, however day two saw linebacker Scott McKillop, tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling, and wide receiver Derek Kinder all sign NFL contracts.
LESEAN MCCOY, RB
Drafted By: Philadelphia Eagles
Pick: Round 2, pick 21
Analysis: MccCoy will not disappoint in the NFL. Slipping late into the second round may have been a blessing in disguise for the recording breaking tailback as the Eagles system will be perfect for the shifty Panther. Expect McCoy to thrive in the NFL now that he has an offense that is not solely dependent on him.
Positives: McCoy is a versatile back who can run with power or finesse and also step outside and catch the ball, which you can bet Philadelphia will utilize. The west coast style offense of the Eagles will allow McCoy catch defenses off-guard and break long runs. Waiting behind Brian Westbrook as the starter will give McCoy time to learn the NFL style from someone who is the same type of runner. The Eagles are consistently in the playoffs and will not be dependent upon McCoy’s play which will relieve any pressure he may have been feeling.
Negatives: The Pitt tailback was no doubt expecting to go higher in the draft to a team that would make him the starter, although after watching McCoy play the past two years I can only see him using this as motivation. The negative that comes with being drafted later is obviously a smaller contract, but really this is the best situation for the former Pitt standout. The biggest hurdle here is that he will be playing in possibly the toughest division in football.
SCOTT MCKILLOP, LB
Drafted By: San Francisco 49ers
Pick: Round 5, pick 10
Analysis: Expect McKillop to have a solid career in the city by the bay. Although he is not the fastest, strongest, or most talented linebacker, he has a nose for the football and makes big time plays in big game situations. The best possible outcome for McKillop would be to have a James Farrior type of career, but expect him to follow more in the footsteps of Paul Posluszny from the Buffalo Bills, which is certainly nothing to scoff at.
Positives: With a strong camp McKillop will have the opportunity to start for a team who could be in contention for the playoffs next season. Don’t forget San Francisco head coach Mike Singletary was one of the best linebackers to play the game. Learning under him will be a privilege and an advantage for McKillop.
Negatives: San Fransisco is on the rise as a team, but they build from the offense up, which does not give McKillop much to work with on the defensive side of the football.
LAROD STEPHENS-HOWLING, RB
Drafted By: Arizona Cardinals
Pick: Round 7, pick 31
Analysis: Stephens-Howling is a shifty back and a north/south runner, but his real forte is his ability to burn the defender with speed running to the outside. Work ethic is not an issue for this kid, as he is the ultimate team player–something that weighs heavily on coaches when they are making final cuts. If Stephens-Howling makes the team, expect him to see most of his action on special teams.
Positives: The Arizona coaching staff is well acquainted with the former Pitt tailback, as many of them saw him play for the Panthers while they were still coaching for the Steelers. Stephens-Howling can be a dangerous special teams player, and seeing a combination of Steve Breston and LSH returning kickoffs will make many teams think twice about squibbing. Arizona’s backfield situation is about as confusing as Mike Tyson’s tattoos, which leaves open the possibility of Stephens-Howling slipping into a roster spot to start the regular season. The best outcome, though it’s unlikely, for Stephens-Howling would be to start the season as the third down running back.
Negatives: Seeing as how LSH was a long shot to be drafted I would not expect him to make the team in his first season. That the Cardinals sport plenty of athletic backs and are considered a pass-first team does not bode well for #34.
DEREK KINDER, WR
Drafted By: Chicago Bears
Pick: Round 7, pick 42
Analysis: It will be interesting to see what Kinder will do in Chicago with Jay Cutler as the new quarterback. Kinder suffered greatly from Bill Stull’s inability to throw the ball and his constant battle with injury problems. (See his Draftguys.com profile for more.) Skill is definitely not a question for Kinder, but suffering an ACL tear in 2007 and only totaling 427 yards in 2008 made his draft status take a major hit.
Positives: The Bears leading receiver last season was Devin Hester, who totaled 665 yards on 51 receptions–not exactly mind-blowing numbers. Chicago also finished 21st in the league in total receiving yards, so all Kinder is going to have to do is show that his hands are better than the current receiving corp’s. With a 4.46 40-yard-dash, odds look good for him to make the team. Don’t be surprised if he becomes a constant contributor for the Cutler and Chicago.
Negatives: Switching quarterback from Stull to Cutler is about as big of a difference as there is. Adjusting may be a problem for the wide out, but Cutler is a Pro-bowl quarterback which should play into Kinder’s favor. There really are not many negatives here, but the Bears did draft two receivers ahead of Kinder in Jauquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox. They’re not the same as Kinder, but there are so many roster spots to go around.
DAVE BRYTUS, P
Team: Baltimore Ravens
Pick: Free Agent
Analysis: Look to see Brytus make his Mixed Marshal Arts debut before his NFL one. His specialty is to punt the ball 30 yards into coverage and either have it hit off the oppositions blocker or let it bounce 30 more yards for a beauty.
Positives: Sam Koch will retain the starting job, but Brytus will stick around on the practice squad and may get his chance if Koch gets injured.
Negatives: There are only 32 starting punters in the league–not a good statistic for Brytus, then again if Mitch Berger can find a starting job I guess anything is possible.
C.J. DAVIS, OL
Team: Carolina Panthers
Pick: Free Agent
Analysis: Davis will make the (Carolina) Panthers squad after an outstanding senior year at Pitt in which he was a big reason why McCoy hit the 1,000 yard mark again. The former (Pitt) Panther offensive linemen should have been drafted but was probably overlooked because of his switch from his natural position of guard to center last season.
Positives: He goes to Carolina with fellow Pitt Panther alum Jeff Otah who will be able to show him a thing or two to improve his chances of making the team. The Panthers boast a solid run and pass game that takes much pressure off the offensive line.
Negatives: Carolina’s line is already solid, so Davis will have to impress in camp. If Davis returns to his natural position he should make the team, but if he stays at center don’t look for him in the 2009 season.
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick: Free Agent
Analysis: Collins was underutilized at Pitt but was a solid and sure contributor when he did get the chance to shine. Although he played fullback in college, he is a solid runner and may someday be converted to RB like Buc’s Earnest Graham. Collins was one of the NCAA’s best fullbacks but went undrafted because his position is basically disappearing in the NFL.
Positives: Tampa Bay has had running back issues the past and has yet to find their one true starter, yet the addition of Derek Ward from New York will knock everyone down a rung on that ladder. If there is a fullback position to be filled in the NFL, Collins is more than talented enough to fill it, but do not expect him to stay at Tampa Bay long.
Negatives: The situation does not look good for Collins, as his position is disappearing and his blocking is not up to NFL standards. There is hope for CC though, because he showed dramatic improvement from his junior year to his senior year in the blocking category–this all came after being recruited as a running back in high school.
RASHAAD DUNCAN, DT
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick: Free Agent
Analysis: Duncan showed spurts of talent and promise during his days in a Pitt uniform. He probably will not make the Bucs this season but with hard work and determination he may find a home somewhere in the NFL in the next couple of years.
Positives: He is a new style defensive linemen, meaning that he is small and fast but still strong enough to battle at the line. This type of player is taking over the linemen position in the NFL, which plays right into his hands.
Negatives: Duncan was wildly inconsistent at Pitt. This is his number one area to improve on, and in order to make a NFL team his work ethic and consistency must improve.
MARK ESTERMYER, Long Snapper
Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Pick: Free Agent
Analysis: Connor Lee was one of the best kickers in college last year, so it appears Estermyer has been doing a good job. He will probably make the Steelers team since they are looking to stabilize the position after last year’s inconsistency.
Positives: With Jared Retkofsky injured, expect to see Estermyer compete for the starting job with Greg Warren. He is accurate and coming to the Steelers at the perfect time.
Negatives: Everything looks in place for Estermyer to be in the NFL next season. There are no real negatives here.
**Note: 2006 Pitt graduate Adam Graessle signed as a punter with the Greenbay Packers.