Doing mock drafts is like arguing with your wife, you are sure to never win. As more and more scouting reports come in and you watch hours and hours of whatever footage you can find on a player, your mind starts playing tricks on you. I read and watch everything I can get my hands on leading up to the draft and after every mock draft I do I am never happy with. The scenarios are endless. I guess I am lucky in that sense though that a bad day for me is having a bad mock draft. It beats arguing with the wife as well.
In all of my mock drafts I take into account the Steelers needs, draft history, player visits and methodology. In the end it is not a perfect science though and that is what makes it so fun in my opinion. One person might see a player as a 3rd round talent while another sees him as a 5th round talent. You take all of the information and form your own opinions.
Over the last week and a half I have flip-flopped my thinking easily 100 times in regards to the Steelers first round selection. Going from tackle, to cornerback, to defensive end. The hardest part is trying to figure out which player could slide where and what player might be underrated. In the end I just went back to the basic "best player available" way of thinking as it relates to a need. For a long time I thought Cameron Heyward might be off the board by the time the Steelers pick, but now feel a rush on quarterbacks combined with a reach or two should allow him to fall to #31 overall. It will be close I think.
I firmly believe the best scenario for the Steelers is to trade out of round one altogether as I feel they could use the extra picks. That is what I am ultimately hoping for on Thursday night. I just can not see them trading up for Mike Pouncey as I posted last night, the price is too much for an interior lineman. Stranger things have happened, but trading out and down makes the most sense.
The Steelers three biggest needs have not changed since the season ended. Tackle, defensive end and cornerback. Depending on which Steeler fan you talk to, the prioritizing of those three positions will likely be different. In the end I ranked the players I thought had an outside chance to be on the board when the Steelers pick and asked myself if each player was a first round talent. Derek Sherrod, Cameron Heyward and Danny Watkins were the only three I could in the end say without a doubt I thought were clear cut first rounders. I chose Heyward because when the dust settles, I believe Sherrod and Watkins have a good chance of being drafted before the Steelers pick. I have acknowledged the age of Watkins several times, but I also acknowledge his talent as well.
Below is my Steelers Mock Draft 5.0. It will be my final mock unless the Steelers trade out of the first round Thursday night. Should that be the case, I will have a 6.0 version out early Friday morning after we know what they received pick wise in the trade. I have listed a few players that I could see going in each round outside of my actual selection.
Almost all of my selections made pre draft visits to Pittsburgh. History has shown us with the Steelers that visitors end up being drafted. I have 6 of 7 on this list and it just ended up being that way. Will all 7 picks be correct? Hell no, but you increase your chances in my opinion by picking a player that has made a visit. It just makes sense to lean heavier that way.
Feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section and pray the Steelers trade down Thursday night.
Round 1: DE Cameron Heyward (Ohio State) - Heyward is a quality 5 technique defensive end from Ohio State that has played in the 3-4 defense. He has the NFL bloodline in him as his father was running back Craig Ironhead Heyward. He lacks elite pass rush skills, but would be a great student for defensive line coach John Mitchell. He would easily fill the role that Nick Eason played last season behind Brett Keisel and would be the future likely on the right side opposite Ziggy Hood. Depending on the quarterback run in round 1, Heyward could indeed still be on the board at #31 overall. When I was making the determination for this pick, I wanted to fill a need with a player that I thought had a clear 1st round grade and fit the best player available mold, Heyward was the obvious choice based on how I think round one will play out.
Other Players I considered here:
T Derek Sherrod - My biggest question with Sherrod is I do not think he will still be on the board when the Steelers pick. Many have him as the 2nd or 3rd best tackle in this draft and I think he would be a steal if he slipped down to #31. On film he certainly looks like he could easily be a first year back-up swing tackle and eventually take over the left tackle job. There is not much to not like about him and it would not surprise me to see him in the black and gold.
CB/FS Aaron Williams - I have long acknowledged that Williams is a tweener type defensive back and have flip-flopped my thinking about 100 times on if he will indeed be the Steelers number 1 overall selection. I do think the upside is there as he is still young and seems to be coachable at the next level, but the many questions still surround him. Should the Steelers end up losing both Ike Taylor and William Gay to free agency, they will have a huge hole at the cornerback position and even if they do not lose both, they need to still address the future. They still have Keenan Lewis and Crezdon Butler on the roster along with Bryant McFadden and hopefully Taylor will be back as well. In my final evaluation I see Williams as more of a top second round pick than a clear cut first rounder. Maybe the Steelers think different.
CB Brandon Harris - The biggest draw back on Harris is his size and that he looks better suited for man to man coverage than he does zone. He seems to be a good tackler which goes a long way in what the Steelers expect their cornerbacks to do and he is also good against the run. Like Williams though, I see him more as a top 2nd round prospect.
G Danny Watkins - I have Watkins on here for the sheer value alone. His age is a huge concern and goes against the history of what the Steelers like to draft. He is easily the second best interior line prospect on the board though and I doubt he even falls down to #31. I think he will make a great NFL guard at the next level.
Round 2: CB Curtis Brown (Texas) - I Have been on the Brown train for some time now and think there is still a good chance he is still on the board when the Steelers 2nd round pick rolls around. He could instantly contribute on special teams until he settles in as a nickel/dime back in his rookie season. He is a good fit for both man and zone coverages and could eventually move into one of the outside corner spots once he learns his duties in the Dick LeBeau defense. I hope he is there as I think he is a fit.
Other Players I considered here:
T James Carpenter - The 6th best tackle in the great in my eyes and I would be surprised if he fell this far. The Steelers had him in for a pre draft visit just in case.
T Marcus Cannon - The recent news about Cannon having non-Hodgkin lymphoma might be enough to scare several teams off including the Steelers. Cannon was also a pre draft visitor to Pittsburgh.
T Orlando Franklin - He is a mean mauler, but and could indeed still be on the board at the end of the second round. If the Steelers do not pick a cornerback in round 1 though, I feel they need to address the position in round 2 and put tackle off for a round.
CB Ras-I Dowling - If not for the injury concerns, Dowling would likely be one of the top cornerbacks in the draft. I think teams will see his upside though and take him in the middle part of round 2. It could indeed come down to a choice between Brown and Dowling.
Round 3: T Marcus Gilbert (Florida) - Should the Steelers come out of round 1 without a tackle, I think they will try to address the position in round 2 or 3. I like Carpenter, Cannon and Franklin as I mentioned above, but I think all 3 will be off the board before the Steelers pick in round 3. I think Gilbert can play both tackle spots and could kick inside should emergency arise. He also is a high character guy and he played with center Maurkice Pouncey at Florida. The Steelers have Pouncey and Max Starks as linemen that have come out of Gainesville and it would not be surprising to see Gilbert as the 3rd one.
CB Brandon Burton - If for some reason the Steelers have not drafted a cornerback heading into round 3, Burton could be the guy, but will need some grooming.
TE Lance Kendricks - Sure looks like the perfect tight end/h-back type that the Steelers covet. I think he goes somewhere in round 3 with an outside chance he falls to the Steelers in the 3rd round.
DT Kendrick Ellis - Great on the field, but might be an off the field concern.
ILB Quan Sturdivant - Looks to be a good inside linebacker prospect in a 3-4 defense and a student of the game.
Round 4: Denarius Moore (Tennessee) - Another young kid who can fly that is not afraid to do the dirty work either. The Steelers already have Emmanuel Sanders to be the heir to the Hines Ward throne so Moore would be groomed initially as the 5th wide receiver to push Antonio Brown. Moore projects as a #2 receiver initially, but they said the same thing about Ward before he was drafted. Moore visited the South Side so the Steelers have some interest in him. Wide receiver is not a huge need for the Steelers, but it never hurts to have a guy like Moore who appears to have good value here. We have seen first hand how valuable a guy like Mike Wallace can be that can take the top off of coverages. Moore fits that type of player.
Other Players I considered here:
CB Curtis Marsh - I really could see the Steelers taking two cornerbacks in this draft and Marsh really looks like he has the tools to fit the Steelers system. Despite his tight hips he still always seems to be around the ball in coverage and appears to be a pretty sure handed tackler. Would be a great student for Carnell Lake and has quite a bit of upside as an outside corner. Would look great in the black in gold.
NT Ian Williams - Could be groomed to take over for Casey Hampton down the line. Really good value here in my opinion.
NT Jerrell Powe - Not totally convinced he falls this far, but would present great value if he did. Round 4 seems like the perfect round should the Steelers decide to address a future nose tackle.
TE Virgil Green - Another tight end/h-back type that seems to fit what the Steelers look for.
Round 5: TE Julius Thomas (Portland State) - Raw, but full of upside and the 5th round in my opinion is the perfect round to address the tight position. Needs in-line blocking improvement, but seems to have really caught the Steelers eye. His stock seems to be on the rise, but I feel he will still be on the board in the 5th. Better pass catcher than a blocker and can stretch the field. Had a good East West Shrine game. The Steelers need a better backup to Heath Miller and Thomas could present some nice two tight end matchup nightmares similar to what the Patriots are now doing.
Other Players I considered here:
CB Cortez Allen - If the Steelers choose to take two corners in this draft, Allen could be the 2nd one. Good speed and length and willing to offer run support. Would certainly be a project for Lake.
DE Brandon Bair - Projects as a 5 technique at the next level and if the Steelers do not take Heyward or another defensive end by round 5, they could do worse than Bair. He is the Danny Watkins of defensive ends as he will enter the NFL as a 26-year old rookie. Would be a project, but the Steelers have done well developing late round 3-4 defensive ends.
WR Austin Pettis - Gritty possession receiver type that is a redzone threat. If they feel they need to go the possession route over an outside guy who can stretch the field, Pettis looks like he can be that go. Good blocker too.
RB Stevan Ridley - Mewelde Moore is unlikely to be back and Jonathan Dwyer needs competition to push him. Ridley appears to be light years ahead of Dwyer as far as in-game recognition and blitz pick up. If the Steelers look running back in round 5, Ridley looks like he could fit the bill. Has shown he can catch out of the backfield in limited use, so will need to improve that area of his game.
Round 6: Mario Harvey (Marshall) - I really like this guy and he sounds like perfect Steeler material. Great special teams player with great speed. Since his Pro Day he has shot up the board from possibly going undrafted, but still should be available with pick 196. Great potential as an inside linebacker and would easily make the team in my opinion.
G Keith Williams - Should the Steelers address the guard position in this draft late, Williams is a classic pulling guard type that seems to fit the Steelers system. Like most late round guards he needs grooming. More athletic than he is strong.
G Andrew Jackson - Project guard who is familiar with the man-blocking scheme. Has technique issues, but gives great effort. Offensive line coach Sean Kugler might could fix him. Would be a practice squad candidate more than likely.
FS Mark LeGree - Ball hawking free safety.
SS Shiloh Keo - Physical strong safety. Great special teams contributor and leader. Certainly a project though and would be a practice squad candidate.
Round 7: RB Da\'Rel Scott (Maryland) - Perfect round to take a chance on a future 3rd down back and someone to help push Dwyer. Visited Pittsburgh prior to the draft, so they have some interest in him.
Other Players I considered here:
DE Zach Clayton - Looks to be best suited as a 5 technique defensive end at the next level.
NT Frank Kearse - Seems to have caught the Steelers eye. If he goes undrafted he could be a potential post draft free agent the Steelers could go after whenever free agency opens.
NT Anthony Gray - Same situation as Kearse.
DT Corbin Bryant - Was brought in for a visit.