With today being my birthday, I thought I would give all of you a gift.
Now that the 2014 Pro Days now pretty much behind us, it is now time for my third 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft, or as I like to call them, educated guesses to inspire good draft talk about players.
I usually do about fivemocks prior to the actual NFL draft taking place and you can find the links to all of those from last year in this final mock draft post from 2013. Here is my first mock after the 2014 Senior Bowl just in case you missed it and here is the one I did following the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.
The Steelers have already had several pre draft visitors in and with free agency now pretty much over, we all should have a pretty good idea as to what the needs are and players the team has interest in. I try my best to keep my personal bias out of these mocks. Instead, I try to get inside the head of the Steelers brass and predict what I think they will do.
I’m not sure if I will have another mock draft before my final one. We shall see what happens over the course of the next few weeks. I normally like to do five, but four might be enough this year.
************** If you are going to comment in this post please add value to the discussion. The rounds here are not important and you are not helping the discussion exercise by saying “Player X” will not last that long or is being drafted too soon. Please add what you like and dislike about a certain player and feel free to add your own mock as well. Remember, the discussion should be centered around the players, not the rounds they are drafted. Mock drafts are never perfect, but the value of them is in the discussion about the players. If I feel you are not adding value with your comments I will simply delete them. Go elsewhere if you want to be a nuisance or a troll. **************
Surprised? If I were calling the shots for the Steelers, I would probably select Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, as I believe he will be a touchdown machine at the NFL level. As far as inside linebacker C.J. Mosley goes, I still like him as well, but it doesn’t appear as though the Steelers have taken much interest in him. In addition, inside linebacker appears to be more of a luxury pick early in the draft for the Steelers. When you consider Colbert’s track record, Beckham really fits what he looks for in a first-round player. For starters, he’s a mature underclassman and only 21 years-old. Second, he’s a high-character player with consistent college production. Beckham is versatile and can line up outside or in the slot. He’s a great route runner, has above average hands and is also willing to do the dirty work when it comes to blocking. Part of Beckham’s versatility that will help the Steelers during his rookie season is the fact that he can return punts and kickoffs and that would help lighten the load of fellow wide receiver Antonio Brown. The only real downside with Beckham is the fact that he didn’t produce touchdowns inside the red zone in college. Being as Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley were all present for his Pro Day, and took him to dinner the night before, we know there’s some serious interest in Beckham. The only other direction I see the Steelers going in the first round would be cornerback, but I have a feeling the top two will be off the board by the time the 15th overall pick roles around.
This pick can obviously go in several different directions depending on what happens in round one. For example, if a top-five cornerback is still on the board and one was not chosen in the first-round, I could see the Steelers going that direction. I’m betting against that happening, however, and being as this team lacks depth at the outside linebacker position, I can see Crichton being the pick. A productive three-year starter at defensive end in college, Crichton is a perfect tweener prospect to be converted to outside linebacker. His college tape and measurables remind you a lot of former Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley when he came out of college with the only difference being that Woodley dropped more in coverage. While some will argue that he can put on weight and become a 3-4 defensive end, I think he’s better suited to rush the passer instead of being forced to play the 3 and 5-technique. While his weight might be of some concern, Crichton still showed he can move at that size as evidenced by his 4.29 20-yard shuttle and 7.19 three-cone drill times. He could stand to lose 10 pounds, but it’s probably not that big of concern as long as he holds his current weight while increasing his strength at the NFL level. He uses his big hands well and gets off the ball quickly, but will have to get used to standing up as an outside linebacker. During his college career, Crichton recorded 165 tackles (100 solos) with 22.5 sacks for minus 130 yards and 51 stops for losses of 224 yards. He also recovered four fumbles and caused ten fumbles to go along with nine deflected nine passes. He is a high-character underclassman and only 22years-old. The Steelers have had him in for a pre draft visit, so there’s definitely interest in him.
If the Steelers fail to land a cornerback in the first two rounds, round three must be the round that they make that happen. While the pick in this round is late, I believe there’s a decent chance that Watkins will still be on the board. Watkins, the brother of Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, was one of the few bright spots on the Florida defense last season. He is ultra-versatile as he played outside, inside and free safety during his college career. Initially, Watkins would likely best fit the Steelers as a nickel or dime defensive back, but eventually he might be able to be moved outside. His speed would allow him to stick with quick slot receivers and his size will allow him to also cover the bigger hybrid tight ends as well. He put up 225 pounds 22 times at the combine, so strength is not an issue. While he is not afraid of playing the run, his tackling does need to improve at the NFL level as often times he fails to bring his feet and wrap up properly. Watkins seems to be a solid character kid, a four-year college player and still only 21 years-old. He should fit in right away on special teams as a gunner. Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake was present for his Pro Day. Will he last?
Round four is the perfect chance for the Steelers to double-dip at the cornerback position and I believe Colbert really has eyes for Cockrell. He watched him at the East-West Shrine game and also made a point to take in his Pro Day as well. Cockrell is a prefect zone-coverage cornerback and while not a blazer, he does break on the football well. A defensive captain, Cockrell had 41 pass deflections during his career at Duke and that led the nation’s active players and set a school record. He also recorded 12 interceptions at Duke and 227 career tackles of which 148 were solos. In the bowl game last season against Texas A&M, Cockrell more than held his own against wide receiver Mike Evans. He reminds you of Cortez Allen and possesses a great football IQ. In my opinion, Cockrell would be a steal in the fourth round and might even be worth moving up for a couple of spots to get if it only cost a fifth-round selection to do so.
In addition to having dinner with Benjamin prior to the Florida State Pro Day, the Steelers brass let Freeman tag along for a free meal as well. Why do I think there’s a decent chance this running back last until the fifth round? For starters, he is undersized and while productive in college, he only carried the football more than 19 times in game twice during his career. While he can catch the football out of the backfield, he only has 47 catches to his credit. When you look at how the draft has played out over the last few years at the running back position, you will see why I think Freeman might just last until round five. While he is a poor man’s Kevin Faulk, he’s not Giovani Bernard. In fact, he’s more Stepfan Taylor, but I do believe he can function as a change of pace and third down back at the NFL level. He’s not flashy, but he is consistent and I think Haley and Colbert really like him.
The Steelers could use yet another young defensive end to develop and Hart best fits that profile. Hart has all of the measuables to play defensive end in the Steelers defense, but he lacks a strong base and needs a ton of work on his technique, as often times you will see him moved way too easily. If you look at Hart’s stance on tape, it will remind of the one used by Brett Keisel. However, Hart is nowhere close to being able to have his name mentioned in the same sentence as the bearded one. Hart hardly ever takes a play off and while not the most nimble player, he was asked to drop occasionally and he does move fine for a player with his size and build. Hart will never be Aaron Smith, but he could develop into a rotational player on the Steelers defensive line in a few years. He absolutely has to get stronger and must learn to keep his pad level down at the snap. He seems to have a good football IQ and is reportedly a very hard worker. He would be a tough player to cut.
New defensive assistant and former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter knows all about Barrett being as he coached him in 2013 at Colorado State. Porter got a lot out of him as Barrett earned Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-Mountain West honors in 2013, and ranked No.5 in the nation (FBS) in tackles for loss with a Mountain West record 20.5 and No. 5 FBS in sacks with 12.0. Barrett finished his three-year career at Colorado State with 246 tackles (116 solo), including 18.0 sacks and 32.5 tackles for loss, to go with three interceptions, seven forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and six pass breakups.
If the Steelers are looking to add a a young nose tackle in the draft to challenge Hebron Fangupo or to develop on the practice squad, Carrethers could fit the bill in round six. He doesn’t move very well, but has the size to be a two-gap, two down plugger. His short arms, however, make it tough for him to disengage from blocks and despite him being stumpy, he still comes off of the ball way too high at times. Carrethers, in my opinion, has very limited upside, but might be worth a flyer. Consider him a project.
If there is one tight end that offers upside that can be had late in the draft, Blanchflower is that player. The four-year player battled a bilateral sports hernia injury all of last season and still hasn’t been able to workout for scouts as a result. Blanchflower will be a day-three selection because of his injury history, but when he has played he has shown he can function as an inline blocker and a receiver. He’s a good hands-catching tight end that moves well out in space.