Holmes trade opens up options


The trade of WR Santonio Holmes from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the New York Jets in return for a fifth-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft has plenty of implications for each team, both in the first round and beyond.

The Jets fill one of their biggest needs by acquiring Holmes and now are free to concentrate on the defensive side of the ball with the 29th overall pick. They are aging along the defensive line, and could infuse some youth and toughness with a player like Penn State DT Jared Odrick, or they could bolster the pass rush with someone like TCU DE/OLB Jerry Hughes, who has been rising up draft boards in recent weeks.

Safety also is a need for New York, and should USC's Taylor Mays slide a bit, the Jets would have to consider a player with his unique size/speed combination despite questions about his limitations in coverage. They also might consider moving up a few spots if Texas' Earl Thomas were to drop down the board, because Thomas is the complete package in terms of physical tools and instincts.

As for the Steelers, they now have a glaring need at wide receiver. With Holmes gone and 2008 second-round pick Limas Sweed catching only one pass last season, Pittsburgh desperately needs help, and should Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant be available at No. 18 overall, it would present an interesting dilemma. Holmes was shipped out because of off-the-field incidents, and the Steelers might be reluctant to replace him with a prospect facing character questions of his own.

Other wideouts like Georgia Tech's Demaryius Thomas, Illinois' Arrelious Benn and Notre Dame's Golden Tate would be reaches at No. 18, so a better option would be an interior lineman who can contribute right away and help the Steelers re-establish their physical identity. Florida C/G Maurkice Pouncey and Idaho G Mike Iupati both fit the bill here, and Pittsburgh then would be free to target one of the wideouts mentioned above in the second round.

Finally, a need at cornerback could be filled early with a player such as Kyle Wilson of Boise State or Kareem Jackson of Alabama, both of whom would offer value later in the first round.

The trade also gives the Steelers plenty of options in the fifth round, in which they now have four picks. Assuming their top three needs are filled early, they would be free to bolster their depth at linebacker, along the defensive line, and at running back and receiver.

Along the defensive front, a space-eating 5-technique such as Alabama's Brandon Deaderick or South Carolina physical freak Clifton Geathers could fit the bill. If Pittsburgh opts for a pass-rusher, South Florida's George Selvie, LSU's Rahim Alem, Connecticut's Lindsey Witten and NC State's Willie Young will be attractive.

Pittsburgh also could choose offensive line depth in the form of Iowa's Kyle Calloway or Virginia Tech's Ed Wang, who was worked out by Pittsburgh coaches during his pro day. Both would offer good developmental potential.

Depth at wide receiver (and added special teams value) could come in the form of Clemson's Jacoby Ford or Central Michigan's Antonio Brown, and reloading at running back could be an option as well. In that case Miami's Javarris James would bring good value with his vision and quick cuts.