It’s wrong, it’s pointless, but I think it’s also fun to speculate. Part of the reason it’s nearly impossible to figure out is that the Steelers likely have no idea how things will play out either.
I feel better about some picks than others, but that’s how it goes. Comments are welcome… Just remember, if you tell me I’m wrong, you’re probably right… But we’re all wrong.
I’m happy that the mocking is done, and next week we can start discussing how the new additions to the team will help the Steelers going forward.
1. Darquenze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
I’ve gone back and forth on this pick a lot. I think that if he’s there, Odell Beckham Jr will be the pick… but I don’t think that he will be. I would not be surprised if he goes in the 10-14 range. I think that if he gets close to 15 a team like the Jets, Ravens, or Eagles could trade ahead of the Steelers to steal him.
As an NFL prospect, there’s a lot to love about Dennard. I think that he’s
fast enough, but where he really wins is with his instincts, toughness, and exceptional technique. At Michigan State he was regularly on an island, all alone with his man… A true shutdown corner. What worries me though is when he has to play off the line of scrimmage (which the Steelers do, a lot).
There’s a chance Justin Gilbert could fall to the Steelers and he or Kyle Fuller could be a better fit for the scheme they’ve traditionally run. I’m actually sort of hoping that the Steelers are more interesting in Fuller than they’re letting on, because I see him as a safer pick.
Hopefully if this is the direction the Steelers go, they let Dennard do what he does best, and play closer to the line of scrimmage, especially early on in his career.
2. Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
I think the Steelers can just sit back here in round 2 and take the best receiver that falls to them. There’s about 3 or 4 that could be a steal at their spot. Kelvin Benjamin, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, Davante Adams, and Jordan Matthews are all talented receivers that might be here as well. Ike Taylor has also been a proponent of Martavius Bryant too, who personally scares me.
The Steelers are in a prime position in round 2 to grab a falling prospect. If quarterbacks start falling out of the first round, you’ll see a lot of action on them early in round 2.
Donte Moncrief isn’t my favorite round 2 option (I’m a fan of Benjamin and Robinson), but I think he’s the most likely to be there and the Steelers have shown a lot of interest in him, bringing him to Pittsburgh and meeting with him at the combine.
Moncrief really has all the tools you want in a wide receiver prospect. He’s big (6’3″ 220 pounds), he’s strong, he has enough speed to stretch the field vertically, he has okay hands (some concentration lapses on tape), but he just didn’t ever seem to put it all together in college. He did suffer from some bad quarterback play, but still just didn’t produce like you’d like to see as a senior. Moncrief reminds me a lot of Browns WR Josh Gordon. They’re identical in height and weight, and both are do-it-all receivers that aren’t burners but know how to make big plays down the field.
The consistency isn’t there yet, but I think that he has all the tools to be a very good outside receiver, that would complement Antonio Brown well.
3 (Comp pick). Marcus Smith, OLB, Louisville
I honestly thought that Jason Worilds would be signed to a long term extension by now. I’m still not panicked. I think after June 1st we’ll start seeing more work on contracts for players on the roster. However, the Steelers need a plan B if Worilds plays hardball, and even if he doesn’t the depth is really thin. Chris Carter is going into his 4th NFL season, and has had opportunities to show his stuff on the field and has been very underwhelming. The Steelers need to find their new 3rd OLB.
As Steelers fan now know very well, you really need to have a good #3 OLB. We’ve all seen Lamarr Woodley and Jason Worilds spend way too much time in sweatpants. We’ve been pretty lucky that we’ve always had a decent option in the #3 spot in Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones last year.
Much was made about Kevin Colbert attending the Louisville Rutgers game last year, speculating that he was there to scout Bridgewater. My guess is he was watching Calvin Pryor… but guess who had 3 sacks in that game? Marcus Smith.
Smith moved all over the Cardinals defense, and that kind of versatility has to be attractive to the Steelers in having him transition from DE to OLB. Smith even lined up to cover slot receivers in some situations. Smith would offer depth, and allow the Steelers to rotate a lot of different guys around the defense.
4. Brent Urban, DE, Virginia
I hate making comparisons to top level NFL players. I compared Moncrief to Gordon above, which honestly they both looked similar as rookie prospects. That’s not the case here… but Brent Urban’s body type resembles that of Texans DL J.J. Watt. That’s about it though, Watt was light-years ahead of Urban coming out of school. That being said, Urban has the things you can’t teach which is a 6’7″ 300 pound frame with a massive wingspan. His arms are actually a 1/4″ longer than “J.J. Swat.”
Urban would be a project, but could be a star in a few years. He does a great job of getting off the snap quickly and using his arms to keep lineman off of him. He’s a little light for a 3-4 DE though, he needs to hit the weights, particularly in his lower body because he can get pushed back.
Right now the Steelers have Cam Heyward and Cam Thomas (whom we have no idea if he can play DE) at DE, without any real depth behind them. Cam Heyward mentioned that Brian Arnfelt has looked good, which is great, but even if he’s ready to be a backup the Steelers need at least one more.
The Steelers haven’t shown interest in Urban as far as I know, but they tend to draft a couple guys every year that seemingly come out of nowhere.
5. Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern
I’ve been mocking guys like Dri Archer or De’Anthony Thomas because Todd Haley loves small, fast, pass-catching backs… The Steelers have been looking at different types of backs though, so I’m starting to think I may have assumed Haley has more pull than he does in the draft picks.
I don’t see the Steelers going with a RB earlier than this so I think they miss out on some of the more traditional backs they’ve looked at like Seastrunk and Andre Williams. McKinnon has visited the Steelers, and he’s probably a good middle-ground between scat back, and between the tackles runner.
What I love about McKinnon is despite his size, he’s much more than just a scat back. McKinnon has the game breaking speed you’d expect (4.4 forty time), but is also very strong with an amazing 32 reps on the bench press. If he was an offensive lineman, he would’ve put up the 7th most at the combine in that group.
While he’s not exactly a traditional running back, if he can learn to become one, I could see him being in the mold of longtime Falcons running back Warrick Dunn.
McKinnon played quarterback and running back in college and will take some time to develop because he’s never played a traditional running back position (Georgia Southern ran a lot of read option). He is a decent pass blocker though, which is important. In this mock the Steelers have yet to grab a return man so that’s where McKinnon can earn his money early on.
5 (comp). E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
There’s a lot of solid cornersbacks in the round 3-5 range in this draft. When I’m looking at a lot of them I think “oh that guy won’t be on the board” but chances are someone’s going to fall with all the talent there. The Steelers will probably double up at some point at the CB position.
I’d love to mock Louchiez Purifoy to this spot. He was once considered a second round pick, but his latest legal issues probably drop him off the board completely.
Gaines is a solid all around corner that probably falls due to a lack of size. It’s noteworthy though that even at his small stature he held the 6’6″ Mike Evans in check when they matched up last season. Missouri won that game, and Evans was held to 4 catches for 8 yards with Gaines matching up with him for most of the game.
6. Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State
Personally I don’t see ILB as a huge need for the Steelers. They have Sean Spence, Vince Williams, and Terrence Garvin as backups. They also have Arthur Moats who I think will be an inside/outside swing man in as well.
The Steelers could certainly use an upgrade next to Lawrence Timmons, but given all the holes on the roster I think that one of those guys mentioned can do an adequate job. However, the Steelers have had several inside linebackers visit during the pre-draft process. Max Bullough mentioned that he’s had a lot of contact with the Steelers.
Bullough is a bit of a mystery because he was suspended from his final college game for unknown reasons. He says NFL teams know why. It’s possible the Steelers have spent extra time with him because they are interested and want to get a good feeling for what his personality is like.
Bullough reminds me a lot of Vince Williams really. Both are thumpers and in Bullough’s case, he’s a very high character team captain type of guy. However, he’s very limited in terms of what he can do defending the pass. I’ve seen him in mocks go as early as the 4th round, but two down players just don’t get picked early anymore. I think that Bullough has to go to a 3-4 team where you can hide him somewhat on passing downs, so he could fall to this pick. Despite those weaknesses Bullough could still come in and be a very good special teams type player, and backup, and an asset in the locker room.
6 (comp). Beau Allen, NT, Wisconsin
Chris Borland is a second round linebacker that’s getting a lot of attention as being a tackling machine. However, the man in the middle taking on blockers to free up Borland didn’t even get a combine invite. Allen took advantage at his pro day however, putting up solid numbers. Allen was very dependable for the Badgers too, never missing a game because of injury.
Allen is a typical run stuffing nose tackle, and a hard worker. I don’t think that the Steelers see nose tackle as a huge need, I think they’re happy with McLendon there, but there is definitely a need for depth with Al Woods leaving for Tennessee.
While there’s still a chance Hebron Fangupo breaks out, he got a late start and is already close to 29 years old. Allen would be a great guy to stash on the practice squad for a year, and possibly take over for Fangupo in a couple of seasons.
7 (comp).Rob Blanchflower, TE, UMass
Blanchflower is a small school guy that doesn’t do anything at an elite level, but he is well rounded. Blanchflower could be a 7th round pick that sticks around and fills mutiple roles for several years the way that David Johnson did for the Steelers.
I think that Blanchflower would have a chance to make the team as a 3rd TE even though he’s a 7th round pick. He’s a good blocker, which would be his first responsibility. He also has enough athleticism to get involved in the passing game with maybe 10-20 catches per year. He also can line up in the backfield the way DJ did for the Steelers.