Much great work has been done here already by others concerning the draft, but I thought it would be of interest to look a little more closely at some of the sleepers at the skill positions, some of whom could end up being draft day steals.
The Steelers are keenly aware that Roethlisberger is entering his prime, and they likely want to continue enhancing skill position talent in order to maximize the immense potential of the offense in the next few years. This draft appears to be loaded with talent at the skill positions, particularly at WR and RB, and many prospects with solid potential will likely slip into the bottom half of the draft. If the major needs at OL, DL, and CB are addressed early, the Steelers may dip into the skill position lottery pool in the back half of the draft. Below I analyze the status of the Steelers at these positions, and highlight some of the players who may draw the Steelers interest as good value skill position picks.
Tight End: It was clear when Heath Miller went down with injury in 2010 that the Steelers have no one who can step in and provide a pass threat at the position. In addition, the Arians offense might also desire a 2nd TE who can create vertical mismatches for defenses (ala Patriots 2010). This would fit in with what I believe is the Steelers desire to employ more height in the vertical game, as our receivers are on the shorter side. Our priority in upgrading at TE is evidenced by the serious interest the Steelers have shown in Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin (6’4” 250 lb.) at his Pro Day. Although not really a sleeper at this point, I think he may be a draft priority for the Steelers. He will likely need to be taken with the 3rd round pick. Unfortunately, the rest of the TE pool looks rather bland.
Wide Receiver: The Steelers have obviously done a fantastic job at improving the WR corps the last few years, but we still don’t have that tall threat. If we were to get one, it would make the other receivers that much harder to defend, and our vertical game would have the potential to be explosive. The keen interest the Steelers have shown in Terrance Toliver, WR, LSU (6’4” 212lb.) at his Pro Day suggests that they prioritize getting that tall receiver to round out the WR corps. Limas Sweed will be given a shot in training camp, but securing that need will not be left to depend on him. I also think highly of Greg Little, WR, UNC (6’3” 231 lb.), but I believe the Steelers may shy away from him unfortunately due to character concerns, which I think are overblown. He looks very talented on tape, and his interviews suggest that he is intelligent and competent, past indiscretions aside. The Steelers would probably have to select Toliver or Little in the 3rd round as well. Another WR in this draft who I think will be a later-round steal is Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego State (5’11” 187 lb.). He is being undervalued due to his slow 40 time at the combine, but he possesses great hands and route-running abilities, and has the proper work ethic and desire to suggest that he may be a good receiver in the NFL. Brown could probably be drafted with the 5th or 6th round pick.
Running Back: At first glance this would not seem like a priority, but this RB class is absolutely loaded with quality backs that will make it into the later rounds. We could afford to take one of them, as a lottery ticket for potential upside, to diversify our running game with a dangerous 3rd down/change-of-pace back to replace Mewelde Moore, and to provide protection in the event of an injury to Mendenhall. I am not knocking Redman or Dwyer here, but it is impossible to ignore the talent available in this draft class. I think at the very least the Steelers offense would be greatly enhanced with the addition of a little lightning to compliment Mendenhall’s thunder. Delone Carter (Syracuse), Bilal Powell (Louiville), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), Dion Lewis (Pitt), and Johnny White (UNC) all appear to be very promising talents. I am particularly high on Lewis, he has unreal moves and vision, and I think he would be a great change of pace/3rd down back, if not more. Johnny White looks like an absolute monster in the making who could be had late; he can block and is a great receiver as well. He also would be a solid ST contributor with his tackling abilities. Dion Lewis might make it to the 5th round, and Johnny White to the 6th/7th.
Skill position sleeper tape:
Lance Kendricks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCAuwm3OG6k
Terrance Tolliver http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcLC6Cecl2E
Greg Little http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRKB-KIQMg4
Vincent Brown http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFPxKcZpGbU
Dion Lewis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWoEEy7jhmw
Johnny White http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXFjO_tPQG0
Delone Carter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yib0EHiGnjs
Da’Rel Scott http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hleY7FV8Lhk
Bilal Powell http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKERqz7G3UU