As may have been made obvious as a result of my offseason coverage this year, I’m not typically one for creating mock drafts of my own. While I enjoy the what-ifs of perusing the mock drafts of others and the information garnered from reading them, I’m generally filled with a sense of ‘better you than me’ when I’m done.
So you won’t be seeing a mock draft from me, but with draft day finally here, and the opening round set to unfold tonight, I figured I could offer my thoughts on my preferences for how the first round might unfold for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With the 15th overall pick in what is considered a historically deep draft class, there are many ways the Steelers could go that would not only secure a high-quality player, but also simultaneously fill a need. That tends to be easier to do when you have a smorgasbord of needs throughout the roster. If one of these realistic options should happen to be the 15th overall pick, in no particular order, I’ll consider myself satisfied:
Darqueze Dennard, CB: A player that not only matches the team’s biggest need, but also their modus operandi at that position. Darqueze Dennard is among the most physical players at his position in this draft—certainly at the top of the position.
While he’s more known for his press coverage, the reality is that the Steelers have typically used one corner in press coverage, and that corner, Ike Taylor, is in all likelihood in his last season. Dennard could take over that role in 2015.
Kyle Fuller, CB: Perhaps even more well-rounded than Dennard and with more ideal size, Kyle Fuller screams ‘safe pick’. While it would be preferable to be able to trade down, even to 18 with the Jets, it could be risky if the Steelers want to specifically target Fuller.
A run on cornerbacks wouldn’t surprise me at all, and given the convergence of talent and need at cornerback, I find it hard to conceive of a suggestion that coming out with a premium corner in the first round is not the best case scenario for the Steelers this year. Dennard and Fuller are the two best options, and if one of them is there, I worry about risking losing both.
Odell Beckham, Jr., WR: Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans are expected to be gone by the middle of the first round. Odell Beckham is probably the third-best receiver in this draft, and also fits well with what the Steelers do.
While there’s a higher level of talent at receiver in round two than there is at cornerback, if the draft dictates that receiver is a better option in round one than is cornerback (e.g. if Dennard and Fuller are off the board), it would behoove the team to take advantage of the immense depth at the position and grab one of the top talents.
Ryan Shazier, ILB: Though some argue that Ryan Shazier’s strengths and weaknesses are too similar to that of Lawrence Timmons (i.e. both are best suited for the mack), it could be that the Steelers are headed in that general direction anyway, as evidenced when they selected Sean Spence two years ago. Shazier’s speed and playmaking ability are difficult to overlook, and should compensate for the occasions that he fails to shed a blocker.
C.J. Mosley, ILB: C.J. Mosley and Shazier possess many of the same strengths and weaknesses as well. Mosley might be somewhat more polished and ready to step into a 3-4 defense, but he also has some lingering questions about durability. Still, inside linebacker is not a position to ignore in a 3-4, and there’s no way that the Steelers are married to Spence or Vince Williams.
Trade Back: This draft is difficult to predict. With the amount of talent available in the first round, it presents teams with an abundance of options when it comes their time to pick, so the ripple effect from pick to pick is, I believe, greater than normal.
So it’s hard to say who would be where by the time the Steelers pick, and who would be available in a trade back spot. Would Beckham, Fuller, or Shazier, for example, be available at 22? It’s hard to say. But given the number of quality options, it could be worth taking the risk anyway.