1st: ILB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
2nd: G Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
3rd: OT Brandon Mosley, Auburn
4th: NT Nick Jean-Baptiste, Baylor
5th: OLB Cordarro Law, Southern Miss.
6th: CB Justin Bethel, Presbyterian
7th: SS Sean Richardson, Vanderbilt
7th: WR Derek Moye, Penn State
7th: RB Davin Meggett, Maryland
7th: DE Travian Robertson, South Carolina
1st Round (24th Pick Overall): ILB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama (6-2, 265 lbs.): I recently posted a way-too-long article on why Hightower is the best option for the Steelers if they stand pat at #24. http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2012/4/10/2939397/with-the-24th-pick-in-the-2012-nfl-draft-the-pittsburgh-steelers. I am still hopeful that some teams drafting above us will reach for players, thereby causing someone like OG Cordy Glenn to fall to #24, but I doubt it. ILB is a big position of need. James Farrior is gone and the Steelers need to find his long-term replacement. At 6-2, 265, Hightower is big and strong, and is a very good run-defender. He is smart and called the plays for the Tides' defense, a necessary ability for Farrior's replacement. Hightower is surprisingly athletic and fast for his size, although he is not terribly fast or athletic overall. He may be a liability in pass coverage, especially against the more talented Running Backs and Tight Ends. However, Hightower can quickly diagnose and react to plays, a trait which can somewhat offset his athletic shortcomings. Hightower has the potential to be a solid starter at ILB, perhaps at some point in his rookie year. He could also develop into a team leader. However, I question whether Hightower has Pro-Bowl potential.
2nd Round (56th Pick Overall): G Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State (6-5, 333 lbs.): Guard is another big position of need. The Steelers need an upgrade at starting LG, and Guard depth overall. I like Guards Kevin Zeitler and Amini Silatolu in the 2nd round, but both will likely be gone by #56. Osemele has a reasonable chance of being on the board at #56, although he could go earlier. Osemele is a huge, powerful lineman with a mean streak. He has long arms and big hands, and defenders cannot escape once Osemele locks onto them. He has decent but not great athleticism, but he should be able to do an adequate job of pulling from the LG position. Osemele has sloppy technique, plays too high, and may have trouble with elite interior pass rushers. Some say he would be better suited to play Right Tackle, but he would likely struggle against fast edge-rushers. Osemele needs work, and likely will not be ready to start right away. However, I am not sure any Guards still on the board at the end of the 2nd round will be capable of starting right away. Osemele has a ton of potential to bloom into a quality Guard, but is a risk-reward type pick.
3rd Round (86th Pick Overall): OT Brandon Mosley, Auburn, (6-6, 305 lbs.): The Steelers must add OT depth. RT Willie Colon has been injured the last 2 seasons. It is unclear whether Marcus Gilbert will be able to cut it at LT. If NT Josh Chapman is on the board at #86, he would probably be my choice. However, I expect Chapman to go a little earlier than that. Mosley played TE in high school, and JUCO defensive end, before converting to OT at Auburn. He is a raw prospect with potential. Mosley has good athleticism, quickness, and mobility. He is a good run-blocker. He probably needs to add some bulk and learn how to play in an NFL offense, as he played in a spread offense in college. Mosley has the raw tools to be a starting RT someday with time and grooming.
4th Round (119th Pick Overall): NT Nick Jean-Baptiste, Baylor, (6-1,335 lbs.): The Steelers must find Casey Hampton's long-term replacement at Nose Tackle. Dontari Poe will likely be off the board by the time the Steelers pick in the 1st. I do not love Alameda Ta'amu. He has been falling, but will still probably be taken by someone in the 2nd or early 3rd round, which may be too high. I like Chapman, but would not use more than a 3rd-rounder on him, as he is not a sure thing and is coming off of knee surgery. If we do not get Chapman in the 3rd round, Jean-Baptiste would be a good alternative in the 4th. Jean-Baptiste is a late-bloomer. He was a walk-on at Baylor. He dominated at the East-West Shrine game, but was not invited to the Combine. He has good pad level and a very good bull rush. However, he has poor technique and footwork. Jean-Baptiste is a developmental NT with long-term potential.
5th Round (159th Pick Overall): OLB Cordarro Law, Southern Miss., (6-2, 261 lbs.): James Harrison will be 34 soon, and had 2 back surgeries last year. LaMarr Woodley is still in his prime, but missed much of last year with a hamstring injury. Jason Worilds has yet to prove that he has starting potential. The Steelers could use OLB depth, and you can never have enough good Linebackers in the 3-4. Cordarro Law is an under-the-radar prospect with a lot of potential. He has a good combination of size and speed, and had 9.5 sacks in 2011. Law has a good burst off the edge reminiscent of James Harrison. He is a hard worker, and is solid against the run. Law's favorite player is LaMarr Woodley. Law is projected to be drafted between the 5th and 7th rounds, and I would grab him if he is still on the board at the end of the 5th.
6th Round (193rd Pick Overall): CB Justin Bethel, Presbyterian, (6-0, 200 lbs.): The Steelers would seem to be set at CB with Ike Taylor and 3 young corners, Lewis, Brown, and Allen, all showing promise. However, the NFL is a passing league, and a team can never have too many good corners. Plus, William Gay is gone, and there is an open CB roster spot. Bethel has a good combination of size, speed, and athleticism (4.58 40-yd dash and 39.5 inch vertical at the Combine). He is good against the pass and the run, is a physical tackler, and has potential to play man or zone coverage. However, Bethel has difficulty back-peddling, has somewhat stiff hips, and played against weak competition in college. Bethel is a developmental player worthy of a 6th-round selection.
7th Round (231st Pick Overall): SS Sean Richardson, Vanderbilt (6-2, 216 lbs.): Troy Polamalu will be 31 soon, and it is unclear how much longer he will play. Ryan Clark will turn 33 this year, and his hard-hitting style always puts him at risk. Ryan Mundy is a capable but unspectacular player. The Steelers could use some Safety depth. Richardson is an interesting prospect. He is 6-2 and was a top performer in 4 categories at the Combine (including a 4.52 40-yd. dash and a 38.5 inch vertical). However, Richardson is very raw, and I have seen predictions of him going anywhere from the 4th round to un-drafted. Richardson plays undisciplined and jumps routes. He has had difficulties in both man and zone coverage, and is questionable in run support. However, with his measurables, he is worth a late-round flier if he is still on the board in the 7th round. Other possible Safety prospects in the 6th round would include Brandon Hardin and Tavon Wilson.
7th Round (240th Pick Overall): WR Derek Moye, Penn State, (6-4, 209 lbs.): Hines Ward has retired. Mike Wallace is a restricted free agent and is threatening to hold out. If Wallace leaves now via free-agency or even trade, WR becomes a much bigger need. Luckily, the Steelers have 2 other good young WR's in Brown and Sanders, and they were able to re-sign Cotchery. They could definitely use WR depth. Until recently, I did not know Derek Moye. He has a very good combination of size and speed (4.52 in the 40). Reports indicate that Moye runs good routes, is a good blocker, and a good leaper. Moye was also a team captain at Penn State. Moye had a productive 2010 season, but a disappointing 2011 season due to horrific QB play. Moye has had trouble beating press coverage, has dropped passes, and has struggled with injuries. Moye is projected to be anywhere from a 6th rounder to un-drafted. With his height and speed, I am not sure whether he will fall to the 7th, but he is worth a shot if he does.
7th Round (246th Pick Overall): RB Davin Meggett, Maryland, (5-8, 220 lbs.): Rashard Mendenhall is coming off ACL surgery. He may not be 100% at any time this season, and may not be back in 2013. Redman is a personal favorite of mine, but is not a star. Dwyer and Batch have potential, but are unknown commodities. The Steelers need to add RB depth. Davin Meggett is the son of former NFL RB, Dave Meggett. When running North/South, Davin Meggett is a solid between-the-tackle runner. He had a solid Combine, running a 4.53 40-yd. dash and putting up 23 reps in the bench press. However, Meggett lacks special speed, burst, and elusiveness. He often dances behind the line of scrimmage and goes East/West too often. He also is not as strong as his stout frame might indicate, and does not break enough tackles. Meggett is probably just a depth addition. However, as a Maryland alum, I had to add at least 1 Terp to this mock draft.
7th Round (248th Pick Overall): DE Travian Robertson, South Carolina (6-4, 302 lbs.): DE is not a big need position, but they could add depth here. Aaron Smith is gone, and there is room for another DE on the roster. Robertson had a good East-West Shrine game. He showed quick feet, good burst, low pad level and finished well. He is capable of holding up his man in the 3-4 so that the LB's are free to do their work. However, Robertson has poor technique and fundamentals, and will not provide a pass-rushing element.