NFL Draft

Bryan: 2016 Steelers Mock Draft 2.0: Post Free Agency

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have most of their free agency work behind them, it’s time for me to release the second version of my seven-round mock draft for 2016.

As usual, please focus more on the players I have the Steelers selecting than the actual rounds because it goes without saying that draft stocks are very fluid.

I have tilted this Steelers mock toward players I believe the Steelers have some interest in combined with needs that I currently see them having. Feel free to critique these players in the comments below along with adding your own mock draft for everyone to view.

Round 1 – Andrew Billings/NT/Baylor – 6005-311 – It took me a while to come around but now that the Steelers have shown more than just passing interest in Billings, you have to think he’s a player high on their draft board who has a chance to still be on the board come time for them to pick in the first round. Billings isn’t 0-technique nose tackle in my eyes but he can play the 1, 2 and 3 spots. At Baylor, he played quite a bit on third downs and as a matter of fact, 4 of sacks last year came on that down. The big question when it comes to spending a first round draft pick on a player such as Billings is whether or not he’ll be able to absorb some snaps in the team’s nickel package. Even if he can’t, the fact that the Steelers place such a big importance on stopping the run on early downs combined with the fact that they’ve now lost nose tackle Steve McLendon in free agency, allows one to fathom Billings being the selection.

Round 2 – Keanu Neal/S/Florida – 6004-211 – The Steelers still seem poised to draft a safety this year and more importantly, one who is versatile. Neal certainly fits the bill when it comes to that and early reports have the Steelers being interested in him. During his three seasons at Florida, Neal registered 79 total tackles, 4 interceptions and 5 pass breakups in 34 games played. He’s a physical player who can also hold his own in coverage. While Neal’s 4.62-speed leaves a lot to be desired, his 4.38 time in the short shuttle combined with his leaping ability certainly shows that he has athletic ability. When it comes to Neal’s draft stock, I’ve seen him listed all over the place. In other words, he could probably go as early as late in the second round to late in the fourth. It will be interesting to see if the Steelers ultimately bring Neal in for a pre-draft visit in the coming weeks and if they do, you have to like his chances of being drafted by them in the second or third round.

Round 3 – Dak Prescott/QB/Mississippi State – 6022-226 – I’ll admit that I do not enjoy mocking a quarterback to the Steelers this year but the team certainly appears to be headed that direction. When you consider that Landry Jones is more than likely entering his final season in Pittsburgh, you can understand why they Steelers might want to begin the process of grooming another potential backup to starter Ben Roethlisberger. Over the course of the last several weeks, the Steelers have shown a lot of interest in Prescott, who recently was arrested for driving under the influence. While that indiscretion might hurt his draft stock, I’m not convinced that the Steelers have removed him from their board completely. I’m willing to bet that the Steelers will bring Prescott in for a visit in order to not only research his character more, but see how strong his football IQ is as well. Prescott is an intriguing quarterback prospect not only because of his strong arm and pocket presence, but his ability to use his legs as well.

Round 4 – DeAndre Elliott/CB/Colorado State – 6007-188 – The Steelers could certainly use another cornerback in this year’s draft and Elliott certainly checks a lot of boxes when it comes to fitting what Pittsburgh looks for at the position as he is 6007, 188-pounds with 32-inch arms. While not blessed with blazing speed, Elliot’s 4.55 time in the 40-yard dash shouldn’t hurt him too terribly bad. It’s also worth noting that he registered a short-shuttle time of 3.94 at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine along with a 41-inch vertical and a 10’5″ broad-jump. Elliott possesses above-average diagnoses as a run defender and is not afraid to tackle. He’s more of a zone defender than anything else with decent fluidity. The Steelers reportedly showed some interest in Elliott at his recent pro day and it will be interesting to see if he’s ultimately brought to Pittsburgh for a visit.

Round 6 – Malcolm Mitchell/WR/Georgia – 5115-198 – Being as Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant will miss the 2016 season due to a suspension and combined with the fact that fellow wide receiver Markus Wheaton is likely entering his final season with the team, it won’t be surprising to see the organization draft yet another receiver this year. The sixth round would be the perfect opportunity to do just that and assuming Mitchell is still on the board come time for the Steelers to pick in that round, he certainly would be a great target. Mitchell caught 174 passes for 2,350 yards and 16 touchdowns during his college career and while he isn’t a burner, he can get himself open down the field. While he’s currently just an average run blocker, Mitchell shows effort in that area of his game and thus has room for improvement. 76% of Mitchell’s 58 receptions last year resulted in first downs and he only had 3 drops. Mitchell seems like a willing special teams player to boot based on history and that might go a long way in him ultimately making an NFL roster as a rookie.

Round 7 – B.J. Goodson/ILB/Clemson – 6005-242 – Goodson projects as a 3-4 inside linebacker in the NFL after only being a one-year starter at Clemson. He did lead his team’s defense in total tackles last year and while he doesn’t show great form in that area, he seems to be reliable. Goodson is a project draft prospect with upside. While he works at transitioning more as an interior linebacker he should be an asset to an NFL team as a special teams player. The Steelers need competition at the inside linebacker due to the recent loss of Sean Spence and potential loss of Terence Garvin. Additionally, Vince Williams is entering the final year of his rookie contract while Jordan Zumwalt has yet to play a down.

Round 7 – Joel Heath/DE/Michigan State – 6052-293 – Heath checks all of the boxes when it comes to what the Steelers look for in defensive ends. He bounced around at Michigan State when it comes to the position that he played on their defensive line. While still very raw, Heath has a good motor. In Pittsburgh, Heath would be a late-round project with upside and because of that, he would likely spend his rookie season on the team’s practice squad. He also has a very strong character.

Overall Thoughts – I really wanted to include an Ohio State player in this mock due to the Steelers history of the Steelers when it comes to selecting players from that school. Safety Vonn Bell would’ve been my main choice in either the second or third round, but I chose to go with Neal in the second instead. I also like Ohio state tight end Nick Vannett as well and thought about making him the team’s third-round selection over Prescott.

While I didn’t mock an offensive lineman to the Steelers in this version, I really gave a lot of thought to selecting a left guard. The same goes for an edge-rusher as I really like Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins along with a few others. I certainly am not against addressing those two positions in my future mocks just so you know where my head currently is at this point of the offseason.

If you want to look back at my first mock draft, you can find it right here.

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