As any NFL fan knows, once the Super Bowl is over, Sundays belong to the dead. And, I could not be happier. Second only to my love of the Steelers is my affinity for The Walking Dead. Kind of like DeAngelo Williams, who had a Walking Dead themed wedding. Anyway, with the conclusion of Season 7 of The Walking Dead, I can now focus all of my attention back on the NFL draft, which is less than a month away.
But while I sit here trying to type about cornerbacks and linebackers, that season finale left my brain wracking about the question: Who will be the protagonist to take down Negan? For those of you who are not TWD fans, Negan is the barbed-wire-wrapped-bat wielding antagonist who thrives by creating chaos and inflicting pain on the innocent. You know, sort of like Vontaze Burfict, only more civilized.
Anyway, instead of trying to ignore my urge to discuss all things dead, I decided to meld my two favorite topics together. So, with no further ado, I present to you my analysis of the possible first-round picks by the Steelers as they relate to the characters in TWD who are most likely to take Negan out.
Rick is the charismatic leader of this rag-tag bunch of survivors. When the heat is on, everyone looks to Rick, because he is cool under pressure… just like Ben Roethlisberger. For the record, TWD’s creator, Robert Kirkman, has stated that Rick is no longer safe/Rick could be killed off at any point, and what better way to end the life-story of Rick Grimes than to have him sacrifice himself in order to take out Negan. Of course, without a leader, these survivors would assuredly be lost. (Note: If you bring up the possibility of Maggie being the new leader, I will kick you in the shins!!!)
Likewise, the Steelers could soon be without their leader, if Big Ben does indeed retire, which both Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have stated is a realistic possibility in the very near future. Hence, the search for a new quarterback might start and end with this draft, specifically with Pat Mahomes (Texas Tech). Mahomes has the best arm in the draft, but he played in an air-raid offense, and in turn, he will need time to learn stuff. And, things. Joking aside, Randy Fichtner attended Mahomes’ pro day, where he set up a private workout for Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert to attend.
In simpler terms, Rick Grimes is the most important character on TWD; so, it is fitting that he would be the one to take down Negan, just as it is fitting that the Steelers draft a replacement for their team’s most important position. Simpler still, Rick Grimes and Pat Mahomes are leaders, and neither NFL teams nor post-apocalyptic survivors can last very long without one.
Daryl is the cute one… and by cute, I mean like a sewage-maintenance worker who moonlights as a pig farmer. Seriously. The survivors have access to showers now, and yet, Daryl is still covered in an inch of grime. Simply put, I will never understand the sex appeal of his character. Regardless, Daryl is THE fan favorite, and so there is a good chance that the show runners reward the viewers by tossing him the “Negan” bone (and a bar of soap, too). Likewise, it seems that most Steelers fans, as well as NFL mock drafters, have anointed an outside linebacker as the first-round pick. Now which linebacker they have a crush on differs from fan to fan:
–Taco Charlton (Michigan) is the gigantic, athletic freak.
–TJ Watt (Wisconsin) is the hustle guy.
–Takk McKinley (UCLA) is the track-star turned football player.
–Carl Lawson (Auburn) is the blue chip prospect with a history of injuries.
–Derek Rivers (Youngstown St.) is the small-school prospect with uncanny ability.
–Haason Reddick (Temple) is more of an inside linebacker, but either way, he is a playmaker that could bolster Pittsburgh’s defense.
In a nutshell, sometimes, the fans get exactly what they want as with the case of Daryl and as with the case of outside linebacker.
From the moment that she arrived, leading around her two pet walkers by chains, she has been the most badass character amongst a group of badass characters. Similarly, the most badass receiver in this draft is Mike Williams (Clemson). In the championship game, Williams made some catches that were jaw-dropping. He has great size, good speed, and spectacular hands. Of course, with Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers, and about four other pretty good receivers already on the roster, the question is: How would Williams get enough targets in this offense? As Dennis Green once told a reporter, when asked the same question about drafting Randy Moss when he already had Jake Reed and Chris Carter on the roster: “It is a good problem to have.”
Simply put, while Michonne and her kitana are badass, unless things unfold just right, I do not believe that she will be the one to actually take down Negan. Likewise, unless Williams makes an Aaron Rodgers-esque fall on draft day, he will not be available at pick 30.
If Michonne is the epitome of badass, then Carol is the personification of death. Carol has single-handedly rescued the group from the cannibals at Terminus, as well as chasing away (killing) the Wolves. Heck, if we are being brutally honest about Carol’s penchant for killing, she burned two patients from the infirmary, as well as shot a little girl. Yep. If anyone on this show is going to kill someone (Negan or otherwise), the smart money is on Carol. Similarly, after Tom Brady murdered the Steelers secondary so badly in the AFC Championship Game that not a single Steelers player had a pass defensed, adding a cornerback seems like a logical bet. Personally, I would rather wait until round three for Damontae Kazee (San Diego St.) or Rasul Douglas (West Virginia), but I would completely understand and condone drafting a cornerback at 30.
–Cameron Sutton (Tennessee) met with Tomlin and Colbert on three different occasions, making him the front-runner.
–Gareon Conley went to Ohio St., which makes him a very logical choice, considering Tomlin’s affinity for Buckeyes.
–Desmond King (Iowa) is the most Steelers-like, in that he is a hitter. So much so that some see him as a safety.
When push comes to shove, Carol has killed the most people: with guns, with knives, with sweet potato cookies. Thus, killing one more person (Negan) would be as routine for her as adding an extra sprinkle to a donut. Then again, Carol’s kill list is already extensive, and thus, the showrunners might allow someone else to get the spotlight (in round one), while they have Carol wait until later on to kill someone (in round two). But, again, I would not at all be surprised if someone is “looking at the flowers” at pick 30.
We spent seven seasons watching Morgan go from a kind-hearted Samaritan, to a raving nutcase, to a Zen-like Buddhist, to a deadly assassin. Regardless of his current state of mind, Morgan has aikido-based ninja skills at his disposal, as well as as a lifetime’s amount of pent-up rage to unleash. In other words, if Morgan were to somehow get anywhere near Negan, the war would be over within seconds. But, again, Morgan is also a tad insane; so, he could just as easily walk into the middle of a group of walkers and go out in a blaze of glory.
Likewise, Mike Mitchell is a swinging pendulum. For three seasons, Mitchell was best known for doing stuff that was utterly baffling, such as preening around like a peacock after tackling a player who had just gotten a first down. Then, for the final half of last season, he was pretty darn good. Alas, in the AFC Championship, Mitchell reverted back to his old ways, specifically biting on a couple of pump fakes that my two-year old could have diagnosed.
In other words, just like how the aforementioned Morgan is bipolar, Mitchell is just about as likely to make a bone-headed play as he is to actually make a game-changing tackle. Hence, it would not surprise me if the Steelers selected Obi Melinfonwu (Connecticut) or Budda Baker (Washington) at 30. (Disclaimer: It should be noted that Morgan is my favorite character on TWD, while Mike Mitchell is the bane of my Steelers fandom, but their “mood swings” make them similar).
Over half a season ago, Carl had the golden opportunity to kill Negan… but, he did not. While the odds are against Carl getting a second opportunity, he is indeed Robert Kirkman’s favorite character, so there is a slight chance that Carl will still get that honor. In a similar vein, the Steelers are probably not going to have the opportunity to draft OJ Howard (Alabama), but considering that Heath Miller was Big Ben’s favorite target, there is a slight chance that if Howard dropped low enough, the Steelers could trade up to acquire him, so that a tight end could still get the honor of being Pittsburgh’s first-round pick.
At the beginning of the season, no one would have guessed that Eugene would still be alive, let alone be the third-in-command to Negan. Despite his extensive history of cowardice and ineptitude, Eugene is currently in the perfect position to orchestrate the biggest victory in the show’s history.
Like Eugene, most Steelers fans have not considered Jabrill Peppers at all, because he is a player without a position. As a safety, he has only one career interception, and he is too small to switch to linebacker.
That said, he is smart (again, like Eugene). While at Michigan, Peppers attended meetings for four different positions: secondary, linebackers, running backs, and special teams. Similarly, he was asked to know the entire playbook for and/or to line up at every single position on defense. Furthermore, Peppers was tasked with covering the opposition’s best player — sometimes that was a receiver, sometimes a tight end, and sometimes it was a running back. So, essentially, Peppers has the athleticism to play almost anywhere on defense.
Ultimately, while Peppers will be an afterthought and/or overlooked by most (just like Eugene was), he might actually be the next generation of hybrid defender (linebacker-safety) for which the league has been searching.
There are so many good options from which to choose, that it makes it difficult to figure out who will actually be the “one”… (in the draft, as well as on TWD). That said, Sasha’s final words to Eugene were very telling. As he was loading her into the casket, Sasha told Eugene that she still had faith.
Eugene replied, “In Rick?”
To which Sasha replied, “No, in you.”
Those three, simple lines give us some insight into what is going to transpire in Season 8. As mentioned before, Eugene is in the perfect position to betray Negan… and, man alive, what a surprise that would be for him (of all people) to be the hero! In turn, if my Walking Dead allegory is indeed correct, I am now pretty much convinced that the Steelers will draft Jabrill Peppers. And, what a surprise that would be for him (of all players) to be the Pittsburgh’s first-round pick!