ESPN draftnik Mel Kiper Jr. has now released his third mock of the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft and after previously tabbing Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III as the Pittsburgh Steelers selection at 15th overall in his first two, he has now changed it to Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert this time around.
His athlete credentials are strong. On the field, he combines short-area quickness to adjust to routes and open-field speed to run with (or past) any receiver. He has enough size and strength to redirect routes at the line and can then flip his hips and run with anybody; he rarely allows much separation. Good ball skills and hands are evident both in coverage and the return game. Given the need at the position, it’s not out of the question that he lands in the top 10.
After the Steelers landed Carolina Panthers unrestricted free agent safety Mike Mitchell early in free agency, we aren’t likely to see many more mocks with Alabama’s safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Louisville’s safety Calvin Pryor going to the Steelers in round one. In addition, Kiper seems to be one of the last major media draftniks jumping off the Nix bandwagon.
Now that we are three days into the new league year, I expect we’ll see Gilbert or Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard as the popular selections for the Steelers in round one for a little while and especially after Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin both recently attended Dennard’s Pro Day.