Brian Bennett at ESPN.com answered some mail this week and the question about Pitt's 2011 potential first-round NFL Draft picks came up - including potentially Dion Lewis.
Bennett doesn't seem to think Lewis is the lock first-rounder that many do, pointing to his size. At first I blew this off, figuring there had to be several guys that fit Lewis' mold that made it into the first round. After doing a bit of research, I was a little surprised to see that the last running back listed at 5'8" or less (which is Dion's listed height on the Pitt website) to be selected in the first round was...
Wait for it.
Steve Broussard in 1990.
Unless you were playing fantasy football via the mail at that time, many of you might not recall the former Atlanta Falcon who played in the 1990s.
Twenty years. That's a long time. Now, I should be quick to point out that there were a handful of guys listed at 5'9" that were taken in the first round since that time. 5'8", 5'9", not sure it makes all that much of a difference. Plus, who's to say that Lewis won't be given another inch upon graduation. But it does show you that teams are likely more hesitant to select a shorter running back with a top pick.
If Lewis comes out and has another monster year, and would happen to come out in the draft, do I think he would be a first-rounder. I guess. Though, I'd defintely have to see who else was coming out, etc. Bottom line, while it's rare, I think Lewis and his 5'8" frame could be taken in the first round with another outstanding season. But I've said it before and I'll say it again - a few things still need to break Lewis' way for him to be a first-round pick next year, now that he appears to be eligible:
- Stay healthy...a big 'if' for someone his size who will likely be relied upon to shoulder the bulk of the load with a new quarterback.
- Put up the same types of numbers as he did last year - again, could be a big 'if', if the passing game struggles and teams start stacking the box.
- Avoid a running back heavy first-round. Five running backs were taken in the 2008 draft pushing studs like Matt Forte and Ray Rice into the second round.
So if Lewis isn't a lock for the first round, does he come out? Only he can answer that.