FanPost

STEELERS BIG BOARD - New Year's Update

SUPERSEDED: THE NEWER VERSION CAN BE FOUND HERE.

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OBSERVATIONS:

An analysis of the Steelers wants and desires appears here, current as of New Years.

If the Steelers don’t trade down, the odds are good that we will pick up a very superior athlete in the 1st Round - either a special talent for the front 7 on defense or their choice of the deep WR and CB classes that will start to flood out in the 20s. But that same cluster of value toward the end of the 1st and early 2nd gives trading down some extra appeal. There is not a lot to divide the pack of DB's and WR/TE's in this band, so trading back wouldn't cost much and it would ameliorate our lack of a 3rd round pick (traded to the Browns to get Shamarko Thomas, so we can't really complain).

It also looks like a frustrating class at Safety. HaHa Clinton-Dix is a clear 1st-rounder, but after him there is a significant drop down to a big cluster where value begins in the mid- to late-2nd and with the Safety/Corner crossover candidates. Grabbing one of these would be a main appeal of trading back.

There seems to be a cluster of DE-to-OLB conversion options with 3rd Round grades. The Steelers may have real hopes that one of these will drop into the 4th, or maybe even to a 4th-round compensation pick. If they don't get an OLB in Round 1, expect such a pick in Round 3-4 to take advantage of this group.

YOUR COMMENTS MATTER!

I will periodically update this list to reflect the feedback you give. I do NOT have the skill or knowledge to rank these players on my own, so what you see results from my effort to reflect our community opinion. It may have started with raw opinions from the online pundits, but that is not where it’s going to end.

RULES OF THE GAME:

The basic approach should be easy to follow:

RULE 1 – Order is based on value to the Steelers. Great players for other teams and situations would be downgraded here if they fail to fit the Steelers’ openings, system, or other requirements. Positions with an enormous downgrade are moved to the "Ain’t Gonna Happen" list at the end.

RULE 2 – Organized by Highest Value ("HV#"). An HV of 32 means the player is a reach at any point before Pick # 32 (the end of the 1st round), but good value after that. Getting that player at 47 would be fine, while getting him at 79 would be a steal.

RULE 2.A – Players with the same HV# are more-or-less equivalent so don’t sweat the order inside each grouping. I tried to group them by position: Defense, then Offense, inside to out.

RULE 2.B – For the sake of easier comparisons I subdivide each round as follows:

* 1st Round grades: HV 5, 10, 15, 20, or 25.

* 2nd Round grades: Early (HV 32), Mid (HV 43), or Late (HV 53).

* 3rd Round grades: Early (HV 62), Mid (HV 74), or Late (HV 86).

* 4th Round grades: Early (HV 97) or Late (HV 115).

* 5th Round grades: Early (HV 133) or Late (HV 151).

ROUND 1 GRADES

HV 1 Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina – 6'5", 275 lbs. The position may be a moderate priority, but otherworldly talent speaks for itself.

HV 1 Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M – 6'5", 305 lbs. An elite tackle who would be a real upgrade even if we trust Mike Adams to "get it".

HV 5 Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – 6'1", 205, all the speed in the world, and entering the draft with a record of success as a clear #1 receiver that teams are game planning to stop. The consensus pick as this year's top receiver. In his "Short List" article Neal wrote: "There's a difference between "fast" and "explosive" as far as scouting cliches go. Watkins isn't going to leave scorched turf after his feet hit the ground, but he has such a powerful stride, he becomes a tough cover for weak cornerbacks. He's aggressive and competitive with the ball in the air, but he can still get himself open. His development as a player will be very interesting; seems like a great fit in a Ben Roethlisberger-led offense."

HV 5 Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA – 6'4", 250 lbs. A tremendous and special athlete that might be compared to the early 2013 picks Mingo and Jordan. Give him two or three healthy years under Coach Dad and Coach Butler, and you'll have a perennial pro-bowler. BUT ... is another pass rusher the right pick for 2014? If the Steelers make this pick it will signal an extreme solution to the Woodley-and-Worilds issue, that’s for sure. Unless Jarvis Jones or Barr could move to ILB over Spence and the current roster. Wouldn't that be an awesome linebacker corps...

HV 5 Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo – 6'3", 250 lbs. Another tremendous athlete that might be compared to the early 2013 picks Mingo and Jordan. Give him two or three healthy years under Coach Dad and Coach Butler, and you'll have a perennial pro-bowler. BUT ... is another pass rusher the right pick for 2014? If the Steelers make this pick it will signal an extreme solution to the Woodley-and-Worilds issue, that’s for sure. Unless Jarvis Jones or Mack could move to ILB over Spence and the current roster. Wouldn't that be an awesome linebacker corps...

HV 10 Ra'Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota – 6'6", 311 lbs. A remarkable athlete who could probably play both Defensive End and Nose Tackle in the 3-4 if he stays motivated. OTOH, he’s ranked this high on pure, BPA talent because we have two 1st-round picks on the Defensive Line already plus 2013 camp darlings like Brian Arnfelt and Nick Williams who may take the step up in 2014. Bucky Brooks of the NFL Network did a thorough scouting report right after Christmas, in which he described Hageman as an ultimate boom-or-bust prospect. Two other articles include this scouting report, compares very well to what 34D has said about Hageman, and the now-famous "freaks list" showing Hageman as #2. The BTSC consensus has been that Hageman is the next best thing to Jadeveon Clowney, but will shoot out of our range once his Combine results come in. We discussed him at some length in this Mock Draft post. Neal did a gif-supported scouting report here.

HV 10 C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama – 6'2", 235 lbs. Why does he rank so high? Go here and look at the December 26, 2013 comments from Rob Rang ("a coach’s dream at linebacker ... terrific diagnostic skills ... a virtual coach on the field whose athleticism and quick hands make him equally dangerous in pass coverage and run support...," etc.). Now look at Steel34D's scouting report, which ends with a comparison to Luke Kuechly. And now go look at this article on who Mosley is and what he is like. Why isn't he up there at HV 5? The Steelers already have Sean Spence, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin, and Larry Foote vying for the spot next to Lawrence Timmons, so it isn't a gaping hole. But Mosley could upgrade the position from "strong" to "awesome," and that is hard to resist.

HV 10 (or 25) Marqise Lee, WR, USC – 6'0", 195 lbs. People differ dramatically on whether Lee should be up there with Sammy Watkins as a top-10 pick, or back with the dense pack of receivers that will go in the 20's and 30's. The BTSC intelligentsia may be leaning toward the first opinion, as illustrated by Neal's "Short List" article: "Players in college don't typically show the level of fluidity in route-running as Lee does. At the risk of being too dramatic, he looks like a bigger version of Antonio Brown. Catches well, runs nice routes (and he'll only improve in that area) but he looks as fast running straight ahead as he does coming immediately out of a break. Not a tree-topping mega-freak athlete, but Lee is going to be a very solid-to-outstanding receiver. I may even be downplaying him a little bit. Lee playing the wide receiver position looks as natural as a duck in water. Impressive for a 23-year-old. High school and college teammate of Robert Woods, a guy the Steelers were said to really want in the 2013 NFL Draft. Similarities exist between the two." Steel34D described him in this way: "Lee won the Biletnikoff Award award and was a unanimous All-American in 2012. He toyed with the idea to enter last years draft. This year Lee was plagued with a knee injury causing him to miss three games and wasn't the explosive player he was in 2012. He had only 50 receptions, 673 yards and 2 TDs." A longer BTSC scouting report appears here.

HV 15 Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame – 6'6", 310 lbs. Another brilliant athlete ranked this high on pure, BPA talent because we have two 1st-round picks on the Defensive Line already plus 2013 camp darlings like Brian Arnfelt and Nick Williams who may take the step up in 2014. In his "Short List" article Neal wrote: "He's an incredibly quick and large lineman who could probably play a three-technique defensive tackle spot as well as a 5-technique defensive end. His versatility makes him so attractive - look at what Cincinnati did with pre-ACL tear Geno Atkins." Click here for the full BTSC scouting report.

HV 15 Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech – 6'5", 260 lbs. Getting a true counterpart for Heath would be sooo cool. It would be almost as good as getting that legendary "tall receiver" and better than a lot of receivers who happen to be really tall. At least one BTSC poster is very high on the guy: "Amaro is a TE who has WR skills who is bigger than Mike Evans (the WR) and may even be faster . A guy like Amaro would allow the Steelers to go 5 wide, with an empty back field, using a 2 TE personnel group. If they have that option, practically the whole playbook is available in one personnel package, which is perfect for the no huddle." Bottom line? There are three superb Tight End Prospects in the 2014 draft, with skill sets similar enough to make it a pick’em game: Amaro, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, and Eric Ebron. Of those three, Amaro comes to the job as the best receiving option and the poorest blocker. But he clearly has the size to be an excellent blocker if he also has the will.

HV 15 Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, TE, Washington – 6'6", 275 lbs. There are three superb Tight End Prospects in the 2014 draft: Sefarian-Jenkins, Ebron, and Amaro. Sefarian-Jenkins is the biggest and tallest of the three, but his breakout year in college was 2012. Teams schemed with the specific view of stopping him, and managed to keep him contained with that level of effort. He won the 2013 Mackey award nevertheless, but it is a minor-league scandal because the other two outplayed him from a statistical point of view.

HV 15 Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina – 6'4", 245 lbs. There are three superb Tight End Prospects in the 2014 draft: Ebron, Amaro, and Sefarian-Jenkins. Ebron may have a slightly lower ceiling than the others because he is an inch or two shorter than the others, but has gained the edge as a combination of top blocker and top receiver. In this gif-supported scouting report Neal summarized him as a "phenomenally gifted athlete" with many similarities to Heath Miller, concluding as follows: "When he grows into his frame and refines his blocking technique, he'll be an excellent all-around tight end. Until then, he may just be a great receiving option. Tough to have too many of those." 'Nuff said.

*** STEELERS PICK AT #15***

HV 20 (or 62) Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford – 6’6", 260 lbs. The top-rated conversion prospect to go from DE to OLB in the traditional Steelers way. He would have an even higher rating if not for the unofficial redshirt year it would take him to learn the position in the Steelers defense. Depending on the Woodley/Worilds situation, it might happen nevertheless. If he somehow falls to the 2nd the Steelers will trample anyone foolish enough to stand in front of the microphone.

HV 20 Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State – 5'11", 200 lbs. A variation on the common problem of measurable in this draft. He had a productive college career but he is also 5’11" and may not have the elite speed to deserve a higher ranking. A strong showing at the Combine could move him up a solid ten or fifteen slots. A Patriots' draft page did an adoring write up in this nice article. Profootballspot.com has a similar review here. For a more thorough, professional, and reliable viewpoint, look at this BTSC scouting report by Steel34D.

HV 20 Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State – 6’0", 200 lbs. And a nice, nimble kick returner. But supposed to be a little unpolished. In his "Short List" article Neal gave the following descriptions: "It's as if he was physically molded by Dick LeBeau. Great size and length, and while he has playmaking ability, Gilbert wants to hit. That's the part of him that really stands out. He's physical more than flashy. He can also return kicks, making him a great all-around prospect."

HV 20 Haha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama – 6'1", 210 lbs. The consensus best Safety in a weak class. In his "Short List" article Neal wrote: "So what if he borrowed a few bucks from a coach? Does that even matter anymore? It certainly might for the Steelers ... Clinton-Dix [is] a talented deep center field kind of safety - the type that might actually make the Steelers' single-high coverage an option instead of a weakness. He's a willing hitter, and he can make plays on the ball in coverage." This short scouting report actually compared him to Ed Reed when he came out of college. If he’s going to mature into the Ed Reed that tortured us for so many years, I say we should grab him before the Ratbirds do!

HV 20 Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M – 6'5", 225 lbs. There are several big receivers in this class. Mike Evans is considered the best of that group. He might be a stretch at pick #15, but it would be hard to call it a "reach." A lot will depend on his maturity in the interviews, how he runs against the clock, and what his game speed looks like for our film-study people. Is he fast enough to offer more big-play opportunities than the three top Tight End prospects? That's the big question. And how did he get handled so easily by the 5'10" EJ Gaines (HV 43 out of Missouri)? On the other hand, Plaxico Burress' measurables at the Combine were 6'6", 232 lbs. and a 4.59 40-time. That's not exactly "quick" and the next Plaxico would be well worth our 1st-Round pick. Click here for a BTSC scouting report.

HV 20 Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU – 6’0", 190. Fast, fast, fast, and slippery. Also a top option at kick returner, which the Steelers could use as well. His ceiling looks a lot like Antonio Brown's performance in 2013, and just imagine what Ben would do with two AB's on the field at the same time! If the Steelers think Beckham has anything like Brown's work ethic it would not be a surprise to hear his name. Based on what the Internet says, he sounds a lot like 2013's Cordarrelle Patterson (Vikings at # 29 overall).

HV 25 Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma – 6',0", 200 lbs. How weird is this year’s Cornerback class? At this writing cbssports has Colvin rated as a 3rd-Round talent while their two mock drafts see him going in the 1st at #16 and #31. Walter Football agrees, but has him going in the 2nd Round (to us) at # 46. That would be a nice value pick. 6’0" and pushing 200 lbs. Probably fast enough too, but supposed to be a little unpolished and prone to mistakes from being too aggressive.

HV 25 Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida – 6'1", 190. A Combine phenom in the making. Height, weight, and fast as hell. Huge hype going into 2013. But he didn’t live up to it and had several sub-par games. The answer to "Why?" will determine his final ranking.

HV 25 Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State – 5'11", 195 lbs. Like Purifoy, Roby had a lot of hype going in to the 2013 season and then underperformed. The big question is why. Profootballspot.com provides a nice, concise summary. He will blow up the Combine on everything but height. 5’11" and 190 lbs.

HV 25 Jason Verrett, CB, TCU – 5'10", 175. Like several cornerbacks in this draft he presents a basic problem. He seems to be fast enough and productive enough, but he is also 5’10" and small of frame. Questions exist about his ability to cover tall, NFL-quality receivers and his fit for the Steelers system.

HV 25 Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State – 6’2", 216. A redshirt sophomore who may come out this year with his QB (Derek Carr) leaving already. Had an eye popping second year in the Fresno State offense. He caught 122 passes for 1645 yards and a ridiculous 23 TDs. A former high school basketball star as well as football star, Fresno State athletic's website claims he runs a 4.48 forty yard dash and post a 42 inch vertical leap. The latter might be more believable as Adams is rarely challenge for jump ball. He shows an impressive ability to locate the ball and get it at its highest point and an even more impressive body control to come down in play. Adams doesn't run the full route tree at Fresno State and that might be his biggest concern. [Lifted from Steel34D's Dec. 21 article on upcoming Bowl games].

HV 25 Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers. 6’5", 220 lbs. Another possibility for the Big Ben’s Big Receiver Sweepstakes.

HV 25 Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State – 6’3", 205. 6’3" is good, he’s been very productive, has good hands and body control, and he’s a local. The essential "but" is that he’s a tweener. He’s not quite tall enough to be that elusive "big receiver" and he’s not quite fast enough to be a top receiver who also happens to be tall. Here is a scouting report from Steelers Depot. A great show at the Combine or the Senior Bowl could really help his stock. He would be a steal in the 3rd as a younger and maybe even better Jericho Cotchery. A bargain in the late 2nd.

HV 25 Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt – 6’3", 205. On paper it would be hard to distinguish him from Allen Robinson. Matthews’ edge is that he broke the all-time receiving record for the SEC. That has to count for something.

ROUND 2 GRADES

HV 32 (early 2nd) Vic Beasley, LB, Clemson – 6’3", 235. I understand there would be "fit" issues for the Steelers at both OLB (a bit small) and ILB (more of a pass rusher in college). This ranking assumes they wouldn’t be too severe, in which case his talent would easily justify a 2nd round pick. Kyle Van Noy seems to be in an identical situation.

HV 32 (early 2nd) Ryan Shazier, ILB, Ohio State – 6’2", 225 lbs. Most sites describe him as a superb prospect to play the weakside linebacker in a 4-3 because he is fast, instinctive, and a good playmaker in space. But everyone then goes on to add that these same traits might make him a great fit as an inside linebacker for the 3-4. After Mosley he may be the #2 prospect at that spot on the Steelers Board. May be fast on a track too, but certainly plays fast in game speed. Click here for the BTSC scouting report by Neal Coolong.

HV 32 (early 2nd) Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU – 6’3", 235. I understand there would be "fit" issues for the Steelers at both OLB (a bit small) and ILB (more of a pass rusher in college). This ranking assumes they wouldn’t be too severe, in which case his talent would easily justify a 2nd round pick. Compare to Vic Beasley

HV 32 (or 62) (early 2nd or early 3rd) Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri – 6’5", 275 lbs. Looks like a solid prospect with a solid first step. Probably the #3 option for a 3-4 Defensive End. The alternative ratings reflect the likelihood that DE won't be a need/desire. But ... if the top candidates are missed in the 1st and DE turns into a need because Hood and Woods are both lost, don’t be surprised to hear his name in the second.

HV 32 (early 2nd) Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU. 6’3", 220 lbs. Seems to be "above average" but not "special" in just about every way. You also read the occasional criticism for drops paired alongside praise for circus catches. Biggest knock was a so-so Senior year, but there may be good explanations for that. Given the depth in the WR class there is a decent chance that Hoffman could be one of the players to fall, giving someone an outright steal in the 3rd.

HV 32 (early 2nd) Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado. 6’1’, 170 lbs. Unbelievably athletic from the quick, smooth, and fast point of view. And plenty tall. The biggest "if" is whether someone like Ryan Clark would split him in half the first time he went over the middle. And whether he could EVER win a contested ball against an NFL Corner. Richardson is a great prospect who would rate even higher for a team that needs someone to take the top off the defense. At that he would excel. God help us if he makes his way into Brady’s hands.

HV 43 (mid-2nd) Scott Crichton OLB, Oregon State. 6’3", 265 lbs. As contributed by NoVaBurgher: "An OLB conversion prospect which are kinda hit or miss round here, but I think he would be a great candidate. He’s been super productive at OSU, had 19 TFL and 7.5 sacks this season, 17.5 TFL and 9 sacks last season. Also been known to bat down a pass every now and then and forced 10 fumbles over his 3 year career. I put question mark as his round grade because he still could come back to OSU and a lot of his projection will depend on how he runs the OLB drills at the combine and at his pro day. I could see anywhere from 2nd to 4th round most likely." This link takes you to a long scouting report from July of 2013 which, like several other preseasons sites, had Chrichton listed as a potential 1st-Round pick. As of this writing he is expected to go on the 2nd day.

HV 43 (mid 2nd) Yawin Smallwod, ILB, Connecticut – 6’3", 245. A very good ILB prospect with an edge in the athleticism department. But does he even have enough of that special explosion to pick an ILB before the 2nd Round?

HV 43 (mid 2nd) Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford – 6’3", 245. A very good ILB prospect with a Stanford-level brain that can learn a complex defense. As shown in this scouting report, Skov is the sort of player who is more than his physical parts. Had an ACL which seems to be all better. But does he even have enough of that special explosion to pick an ILB before the 2nd Round?

HV 43 (mid 2nd) Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech – 6’0" and 195 lbs. Questions about his speed, but a good, fluid athlete who is willing to tackle. He also gets points for the family connection: brother Vincent Fuller who played 5 years as a Titans Safety. Fuller was lauded as a "complete" package in this nice article on a Patriots site, with a similar analysis noting his lack of elite speed in this article.

HV 43 (mid 2nd) E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri – 5’10" and 195 lbs. Good speed with some questions about his tackling and hands. Made a big splash toward the end of the year by shutting Texas A&M’s 6’5" Mike Evans down cold. Snark erupted and continues on whether that ought to raise Gaines’ stock, plummet Evans’, or both.

HV 43 (mid 2nd) Tre Boston, S/CB, North Carolina. 6’1", 205 lbs. Has played a lot of Corner, so he has the coverage part down better than his peers. Sounds like a fine centerfielder. The big knock seems to be tackling. You can find a scouting report here. My impression is that he’s one of those players who could rise a lot at the Combine and might even deserve to. A conversation with Coach Lake would answer a lot of questions about whether Boston deserves a much higher or a much lower HV #.

HV 43 (mid 2nd) Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State – 6’5", 235. My bet is that Benjamin will end up as a popular suggestion for the Steelers’ 2nd-round pick. He would be the prototypical "big receiver who is not a Tight End". For more see

*** STEELERS PICK AT #45 ***

HV 53 Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame – 6'2", 245 lbs. McLendon played better than he gets credit for in 2013. Teams only averaged 2.26 yards per carry when he was in. Those big running plays happened because Big Steve isn't a pass rusher, so teams could simply spread the offense out and scheme him off the field. A true, 3-down Nose Tackle would be worth our 1st-round pick, but the BTSC consensus is that Nix isn't that guy. And it doesn't help that he's already started to have knee issues. But that doesn't mean that Nix is off our Board. Not by any means. As Neal wrote in his "Short List" article: "Nix may be more athletic than Hampton was - but he doesn't seem to be as strong."

HV 53 (late 2nd) Shaquil Barrett, OLB Colorado State – 6'2", 250. A candidate to convert from DE to 3-4 OLB. Barrett was one of the better pass rushers in the NCAA in the 2013 season putting up 12 sacks and five hurries. At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds he projects nicely as a 3-4 OLB. He has a good first step, active hands and a great motor. He was used as both a stand-up OLB and a hand in the dirt pass rusher for Colorado State. Barrett had the chance to go against elite competition when his team played Alabama this season. He was primarily match-up against Cyrus Kouandijo (a potential top 15 pick in the 2014 draft). Barrett gave Kouandijo all he could handle putting up 1.5 sacks, 1 QB hurry, 1.5 TFL and 5 total tackles. [Lifted from Steel34D's Dec. 21 article on upcoming Bowl games].

HV 53 (late 2nd) Michael Sam, OLB Missouri – 6'2", 255. A candidate to convert from DE to 3-4 OLB. Michael was one of the better pass rushers in the SEC and beat out CJ Mosley as Defensive Player of the year. Seems to be smart and experienced, but may lack elite athleticism. If the cards play out in an odd enough way for the Steelers to pick an OLB in the 2nd, he might well be the one. If he's there in the 4th it could be irresistible.

HV 53 (late 2nd) Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State – 5'8", 190 lbs. Joyner is supposed to be a tough guy, a hard worker, and a good special teams player. It’s just that he’s 5’8". Seems like a football player through and through, the sort of guy who will achieve his potential and become a good slot Corner. Note that he played a lot of Safety in college, but for some reason has been labeled as a Corner on all the draft sites even though Safety can be more forgiving about the height thing. Bucky Brooks of the NFL Network did a thorough scouting report in November, 2013 at this link. He compared Joyner to a slot-corner Wes Welker, a playmaker like Troy Polamalu, and then ended up grading him at about HV 53 (late 2nd) anyway.

HV 53 (late 2nd) Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida – 6'0", 195 lbs. The younger teammate of Purifoy, he also had a disappointing season including a suspension for "violation of team rules." Athletic but unpolished, and possibly undisciplined. May not even come out.

HV 53 (late 2nd) Dion Bailey, S, USC. 6’0", 210 lbs. Decent to good size, decent to good speed, and better than good performance. Profootballspot.com provides a summary scouting report that explains why he might be a target.

HV 53 (late 2nd) Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State – 6'1", 215 lbs. According to Rob Rang at CBS Sports, "Physical, imposing hitter at 215 pounds who made his mark as a senior by producing big plays and turnovers. Well-built safety who delivers bone-rattling hits." According to our own Steel34D: "[Bucannon] had a great 2013 season with five interceptions, 109 tackles ( 1st in the PAC-12) and he earned 2nd Team All-American honors. Bucannon isn't just a one year wonder in 2012 he had four INTs and 106 total tackles, and in 2011 he had three INTs and 80 total tackles. He possesses a good blend of size and straight line speed while being a willing (and able) tackler. In fact Bucannon is known for his hard hitting ability. However he struggles with his change of direction and is not a safety that could play man coverage against a WR in the NFL."

HV 53 (late 2nd) Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor. 6’0", 205 lbs. Known as a big hitter with good athleticism but some sloppy technique.

HV 53 (late 2nd) Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville. 6’2", 210 lbs. Decent to good size, decent to good speed, decent to good performance. Adds up to a decent to good grade. Value begins in the mid- to late-2nd.

HV 53 (late 2nd) Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford. 6’2", 205 lbs. Decent to good size, decent to good speed, decent to good performance. Adds up to a decent to good grade. Value begins in the mid- to late-2nd. May have some maturity issues. Had a truly lousy game against Arizona State which ended when he got ejected for targeting.

HV 53 (late 2nd) Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State. 5’10", 186 lbs. Described with a lot of excessive praise like "human joystick," he gets compared to pros like Tavon Austin and Percy Harvin. But would it drive Ben nuts to get another of those instead of someone tall? In the exact right situation he would be worth a late 1st round pick. For the Steelers, a bit later - but note that this is one of the ratings I expect to go up as we get closer to draft time. According to a November, 2013 article by Bucky Brooks of the NFL Network, he and several other scouts think Cooks has surpassed Marqise Lee as a receiving prospect.

ROUND 3 GRADES

HV 62 (early 3rd) Timmy Jernigan, NT/DE, Florida State – 6’2", 290 lbs. This is a much lower grade than Jernigan would deserve for a different system, but from a purely Steelers point of view he is a little too light to be a 3-4 NT, and a little too short to be a 3-4 DE. Probably an ideal candidate to be a 4-3 DT, maybe even in the late 1st round because of the assets he brings: a high motor, good experience, lots of strength, and some quickness and pass rush ability.

HV 62 (early 3rd) Daniel McCullers, NT, Tennessee – 6’6", > 350 lbs. A massive run-stuffer. He won't be catching any quarterbacks, but on true running downs he'd be ideal. A question for the film-watchers will be if his height causes leverage problems that will make him vulnerable at the next level.

HV 62 (early 3rd) Morgan Breslin, DE/OLB, USC. 6’2", 250 lbs. USC’s top pass rusher in 2013. He would be a conversion option for the Steelers. He is described as a smart player with several pass rushing moves, good but not over-the-top athleticism, and every intangible you could ever want. Downgraded a bit because of season-ending hip surgery and some earlier foot trouble, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Steelers chose him with their expected end-of-the-3rd compensatory pick.

HV 62 (early 3rd) Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State. 5’11", 200 lbs. Might be a little short compared to his peers, but has played well in a quality program. Biggest knock seems to be "Ike Taylor hands." Another player who you’d really like to ask Coach Lake about before giving a final grade.

HV 62 (early 3rd) Deshazor Everett, CB, Texas A&M. 6’0", 185 lbs. May not come out until 2015, but if he does there will be some real consideration. A tough and physical player with a lot of potential and also some baggage. Got ejected from a game for targeting, and had a one game suspension arising out of a bar fight. To be fair though, the fight involved men (i.e., it wasn’t a domestic violence thing) and may just a young-and-stupid event. The questions are more about lack of discipline than "bad character."

HV 62 (early 3rd) Rashaad Reynolds, CB, Oregon State. 5’10", 187 lbs. As contributed by NoVaBurger: "Decent size, decent speed, nothing that really jumps out at you, but from watching him play (which I’ve done a lot), the kid is a ball hawk. Had 6 picks this year and in the bowl game had 2 scoop n scores over Boise State. If he runs better than expected, he could climb higher, but if we’re looking for a mid round flier or a double dip candidate for CB, this guy could be a steal." Walter Football has him graded as a 2nd-3rd Round talent too, with CBS grading him as a 5th. So NoVa may be very right that he would be a Steelers target in and about that area. This link takes you to a nice scouting report from preseason (May of 2013). It describes Reynolds as a very smart player with limited athleticism and "top-notch intangibles". Sounds like a very safe pick for someone who will be a long term contributor who won’t make mistakes, and possibly a starter if a professional training regime is what he really needed.

HV 74 (mid 3rd) Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech. 6’3", 242. Played 3-4 OLB as a Junior and 4-3 DE as a Senior. Another good option for a mid-round Steelers’ OLB. Had a couple of fundamental flaws in his game that may be fixable with the right coaching, like overpursuing.

HV 74 (mid 3rd) Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State. 6’1", 243 lbs. A conversion option from DE to OLB. The obvious knock on Bradford is his height, but the Steelers have known an occasional player to do okay at OLB despite a lack of expected inches. If memory serves, the last one even scored a touchdown on a pick-6 a few years back. Bradford has a reputation for being that kind of workout warrior too, though it hasn’t (yet) translated into functional strength on the field. See this link for a nice little scouting report.

HV 74 (mid 3rd) Dominique Easley, OLB, Florida. 6’2", 285 lbs. He may have been a high 1st round pick but blew out both the ACL and MCL in his right knew in September of 2013. After coming back from an ACL in his left knee during 2011. There are also some questions about his fit with the Steelers. Hence a serious downgrade into the mid-3rd at the earliest.

HV 74 (mid 3rd) Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn. 6’2", 240 lbs. A highly effective 4-3 edge rusher in college, he projects as a 3-4 conversion to OLB for the pros. Definitely a potential mid-round target for the Steelers.

HV 74 (mid 3rd) Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama. 6’5", 260 lbs. Another player with all the physical tools but who would require a year or two under Coach Butler before we’d be sure what we had.

HV 74 (mid 3rd) Demarcus Lawrence, OLB, Boise State. 6’3", 245 lbs. He was certainly able to rush the passer in college, and earned some praise for holding the edge against the run. A solid 3rd-round option if the Steelers are looking for someone who could convert to OLB after a year of learning under Coach Butler.

HV 74 (mid 3rd) Kareem Martin, DE/OLB, North Carolina. 6’5", 265 lbs. A very athletic guy with up and down performance that improved over the course of the year. But can he convert from a college 4-3 DE to a pro 3-4 OLB? See this link for a decent preseason scouting report from July of 2013.

HV 74 (mid 3rd) Trevor Reilly, OLB, Utah. 6’5", 255 lbs. Very athletic, but something of an underperformer. But could be one of those players who would blossom under an NFL strength & conditioning regime. For the Steelers he would be a mid-round option for someone who might be converted to OLB.

HV 74 (mid 3rd) Chris Smith, OLB, Arkansas. 6’3", 268 lbs. A conversion option from DE to OLB. According to this October, 2013 scouting report, Smith has a lot of talent for rushing the passer but has been mediocre at best against the run. Sounds like one of those players whose true ranking will depend on Coach Butler’s evaluation of his issues and his ability to learn.

HV 74 (mid 3rd) Craig Loston, S, LSU. 6’1", 210 lbs. Has a reputation as a big hitter with top measurable and some important coverage issues. Profootballspot.com explains this well in a nice, short scouting report. It makes you wonder how good he’d be after a year with Coach Lake.

HV 74 (mid 3rd) Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh. 6’4", 190 lbs. A good, tall possession receiver with everything but top end speed. The Steelers might well draft him in the middle rounds.

*** STEELERS TRADED THEIR 2014 3RD-ROUND PICK TO CLEVELAND, AND USED IT IN 2013 TO PICK SHAMARKO THOMAS ***

HV 86 (late 3rd) Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt. 6’0" 285 lbs. A potentially great Tackle in the 4-3 that doesn’t fit the Steelers 3-4. It’s almost a shame to say that because (a) he is a hometown boy, and (b) the NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks went so far as to describe him as someone with a real chance to be the next Geno Atkins.

HV 86 (late 3rd) Christian Jones, ILB, Florida State. 6’4", 230 lbs. All the measurables in the world, but repeated questions about his ability to use them. The knock you read is that his athleticism is wasted by the need to make up for bad angles, overpursuit, and a lack of "instincts." On the other hand, those are exactly the sort of things that good coaching and film study can repair. So which Christian Jones will you get? The Steelers would be looking at him for the ILB slot next to Timmons, as a taller and faster upgrade to Sean Spence and Vince Williams. Much as I love ILB’s, that is a position of relatively low need, which also drops his grade a bit.

HV 86 (late 3rd) Antone Exum, S/CB, Virginia Tech. 6’0", 224 lbs. May lack a little speed, but he is supposed to be a good athlete who would excel in a Steelers-type zone system. Described as an "over-sized hybrid CB" package in this nice article on a Patriots site. He missed a lot of 2013 games with a nasty and nagging ankle problem, and more games last year with an ACL.

HV 86 (late 3rd) Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State. 6’2", 205 lbs. Played a very effective center field, including interceptions. Also a smart player who made the defensive calls and is noted for taking good angles, etc.. If he was a better athlete, though, he would rate higher. May not have the physical tools to earn a value commensurate with his college production.

*** STEELERS EXPECTED TO HAVE THREE 3RD- OR 4TH-ROUND COMPENSATION PICKS FOR THE 2013 LOSSES OF MIKE WALLACE, KEENAN LEWIS, AND RASHARD MENDENHALL ***

ROUND 4 GRADES

HV 97 (early 4th) Ego Ferguson, NT, LSU. 6’3", 210 lbs. If he comes out, he would be a Steelers mid-round target as a backup Nose Tackle. The thing is, the Steelers might have a slot for the next Casey Hampton, but between Steve McLendon, Ziggy Hood, Al Woods, and Hebron Fangupo there is little room for another player who would "only" be good.

HV 97 (early 4th). DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State. 6'3", 320 lbs. A potential Nose Tackle out of Penn State? Expect the drums to start pounding. But the odds are very low that he will end up a Steeler because he is not a big enough improvement on McLendon and Woods to be worth an early pick, and he will be long gone before the Steelers would be ready to pick another "solid contributor" at that position (no sooner than the 4th imho).

HV 97 (early 4th) Ray Drew, DE, Georgia. 6’5", 273 lbs. He fits the physical specifications for a 3-4 DE to a tee, but is there really a need? Assuming that Ziggy isn’t resigned, the Steelers could use a star to pair with Heyward and depth to train up behind him. Drew doesn’t look like a probable star and is much to good to be a mere depth pick in the later rounds. That conflict is why he is devalued for the Steelers compared to where he will go in the actual draft.

HV 97 (early 4th) Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State – 6'4", 300 lbs. According to Steel34D: "Richburg has NFL size at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds and nice display of athleticism. In a weak class for his position he may very well be the second center taken in the draft. He excels in pass blocking showing a good ability to mirror his opponent. Richburg needs to improve his strength but could be an intriguing pick for a zone team around the third round." If Velasco goes, Cody Wallace finds a full-time position, and Beachum becomes a full-time Tackle ... [whew] ... the Steelers would have a hole at backup Center. With Pouncey's contract coming up in 2016 it wouldn't be a bad idea to have someone there to learn.

HV 97 (early 4th) CJ Fiederowicz, TE, Iowa – 6'6", 265 lbs. and his school listed him as running a 40-time of 4.85. The #4 Tight End on most boards, with a lot of notes about his powerful blocking. He's downgraded to a 4th-round prospect here because all of that sounds an awful lot like Matt Spaeth, and Matt Spaeth is on the team already. One could make a strong argument that he ought to be off the Steelers' Board altogether for the same reason.

HV 97 (early 4th) Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin. 6’1", 190 lbs. Everyone talks about his "lack of athleticism," but he still gets open an awful lot. And he was a walk-on, so he earned his way up to being the #1 target and a major producer. The question is whether he has topped out, and whether the Steelers have any need for a good-to-very-good receiver who won’t be a #1 to pair with Antonio Brown.

HV 97 (early 4th) Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU. 6’0", 195 lbs. Playing opposite from Odell Beckham hides him a bit. Landry was used as the "big and physical" counterpart to Beckham’s "catch me, oops you can’t" role. Promises to be a nice, solid receiver at the pro level but the Steelers have Cotchery already and that devalues this type of player. Still, well worth a pick if he drops enough.

HV 115 (late 4th) Josh Mauro, DE, Stanford. 6’6", 280 lbs. Just about the ideal build for a 3-4 DE, but supposed to have average physical skills. He would make a great depth pick in any of the later rounds. This link goes to a scouting report.

HV 115 (late 4th) Marcus Smith, OLB, Louisville. 6’3", 255 lbs. Quick and accomplished, but undersized for an NFL DE in the 4-3. Sounds like a traditional Steelers conversion option.

HV 115 (late 4th) Jordan Tripp, OLB/ILB, Montana. 6’3", 240 lbs. Dominated the competition at a smaller school. Supposed to be a top "sleeper" as a 4-3 OLB, some questions arise about where he would fit in the Steelers system. A good showing at the Senior Bowl and Combine will bring him firmly onto the radar.

HV 115 (late 4th) CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska. 6’3 220 lbs. Look at the size of him! But according to reports he will need some serious coaching up before he’s ready to be properly evaluated. This pick will depend a LOT on Coach Lake’s review of the film and opinion about his prospects.

ROUND 5 GRADES

HV 133 (early 5th) Ryan Grant, WR Tulane – 6'0", 192 lbs., and neither particularly fast or particularly slow. This HV rating is unfair and some team will probably snap Grant up by the early or mid-4th. But the Steelers are in an unusual position for Wide Receivers. We could use a true #1-quality weapon to pair with Antonio Brown or Heath Miller, but we actually have good depth after that with Wheaton, J-Co and Moye. Hence the lower HV # than he probably deserves. According to our own Steel34D: "Grant catches the ball well. He also runs good routes but there are concerns about his overall athleticism and level of competition he faced in college. He also has dealt with issues of holding on to the football after the catch. Overall Grant is a late round WR prospect with some upside to make a roster."

HV 151 (late 5th). Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State. 6’0", 280 lbs. Talk about short and squat! But by all accounts he knows how to use that stature to generate leverage, and he is both quick and generally athletic. His Dad was Mickey Sutton, a Corner for the Rams back in the day. His son has him by four inches and a full hundred pounds. This may be an unkind grade, but how could the Steelers use him? It is hard to believe he could bulk up enough to play Nose Tackle and he is the totally wrong build to be a 3-4 Defensive End.

HV 151 (Late 5th) Cassius Marsh, DE/OLB, UCLA. 6’3", 270 lbs. He’s supposed to be a very athletic guy and will be drafted as a 4-3 DE. For the Steelers he would have to convert to OLB. That is asking a lot, but it is hard to imagine what other position he would fit on a Steelers defense.

ROUND 6 GRADES

ROUND 7 GRADES

HV 7-FA Ben Gardner, DT/DE, Stanford. 6’4", 280 lbs. Tough, smart, physical, etc. but lacking the physical measurements to be a good fit in the Steelers defense. If he gets drafted it will be as a 4-3 DE. Tore a pectoral in October, 2013.

HV 7-FA Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama. 6’4", 280 lbs. A decent to good player from one of the best college programs. He will be drafted in the middle rounds by a 4-3 team. Lacks the physical measurements to be a good fit in the Steelers defense.

*

*

THE AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN LIST

More than a third of the first two rounds will likely go toward prospects who play a position where the Steelers have little or no need. Giving them a Steelers HV # is silly, but they should be listed to provide examples of the many prospects that will prevent other teams from snapping up our favorites.

QUARTERBACKS

It’s a rich class in 2014 and we all know that QB’s have by far the highest positional value. There will be a LOT of teams opting to grab a signal caller instead of a target the Roethlisberger-rich Steelers would go for.

Blake Bortles, QB, Univ. Cent. Fl. – Will likely go early in the 1st.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville – Will likely go early in the 1st.

Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State – Will likely go early in the 1st.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M – Will likely go in the 1st.

Tajih Boyd, QB, Clemson – Will likely go in the 1st or 2nd.

Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU – Will likely go in the 1st or 2nd.

Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford – Will likely go in the 2nd.

A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama – Will likely go in the 2nd.

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia – Will likely go in the 2nd.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

This is also a rich class in 2014, with high positional value. But the only player special enough to be worth a high Steelers pick is Jordan Matthews. The other Tackles might be marginal improvements on our trio but that can’t justify an early pick. Picking an early Center or Guard is even less likely.

Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan – Will likely go early in the 1st.

Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama – Will likely go early in the 1st.

Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee – Will likely go early in the 1st.

Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn – Will likely go in the 1st.

Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State – Will likely go in the 1st.

La’el Collins, G/OT, LSU – Will likely go in the 1st.

James Hurst, OT, North Carolina – Will likely go in the 1st or 2nd.

Zach Martin, G/OT, Notre Dame – Will likely go in the 1st or 2nd.

Cyril Richardson, G/OT, Baylor – Will likely go in the 1st or 2nd.

RUNNING BACKS

The Steelers grabbed their man last year. They are not going to spend a high pick this year too. But other teams will!

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin – Will likely go in the 1st or 2nd.

Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington – Will likely go in the 1st or 2nd.

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor – Will likely go in the 1st or 2nd.

Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona – Will likely go in the 2nd.

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