17. PIT: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
What? Impossible! The Steelers passing on four of the most prolific pass-rushers in college football? Hard to believe but I think it could be a possibility. Hopkins seems like one of the safest picks in the draft this year as the standout from Clemson would certainly give the Steelers a potential No. 1 receiver on a roster that may not currently have one. What's more, when looking at the pass rushers available there are plenty of questions that arise about their success at the next level:
Werner: The one I have the least concern about. His work ethic is noted as exemplary. He'll be good but does can he stand up outside?
Mingo: Where was the production this year, especially when playing across from a quality pass-rusher like Montgomery?
Moore: Maturity and work ethic have been questioned.
Jones: Is the spinal condition a major liability (I want to say no, but then he won't be available at 17 anyway)?
I will say that Jarvis Jones is the hardest possible player to pass on here as he's been prolific for the past two years in what has been without question the premiere conference in college football. In addition to his spinal stenosis, Jones will be 24 in his rookie season. If trends are anything to go by, the Steelers rarely pick players older than 22 in their rookie year (DeAndre Hopkins has yet to turn 21), likely due to length of time it's taken younger players to unseat talented veterans in the past 10 years. Those days may be over now as a number of mainstays have been let go in the past two seasons leaving a lot of question marks at multiple positions. I'll put it this way-if the Steelers feel Jones' condition is not a limiting factor to his longevity, then I'd be shocked if they passed on him. Of course he may not be on the board if more teams share this view.
Hopkins wasn't all that shabby himself this past year at Clemson racking up an ACC-record 18 touchdowns on 82 catches, good for 1,405 yards. Needless to say, I don't buy the notion that Hopkins is a second round pick either. Sure he didn't wow with his 4.57 40 time at the combine, but it seems he improved that this past week at Clemson's pro day. Reports have differed on what Hopkins ran, with most stating he was able to lower his time to a 4.41 and 4.51, but local sources say he ran a 4.55. In any case, the significance of the 40 yard dash is overblown anyway. If you watch any of the clips of Hopkins on youtube, it's apparent he's plays faster than that. Looking across the league guys like A.J. Green (4.53) and Hakeem Nicks (4.63) have thrived despite not having the best 40 times.
Another positive to consider with Hopkins is the scheme he came out of at Clemson seems to resemble what Todd Haley has intstalled in Pittsburgh. One of Hopkins' reported strengths is his route-running, which you have to think makes his fit in Haley's offense even better.
To top all that off, Hopkins is known to have a great attitude. He doesn't seem to dwell in the spotlight and doesn't showboat. Both CBS.com and NFL.com have compared Hopkins to Roddy White when comparing skill sets. Factor that in with nearly identical measurables to Hakeem Nicks and the attitude of Reggie Wayne, and you've got yourself one hell of a football player.
Round 2: Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama:
It's safe to say that the Steelers know a thing or two about injuries on the offensive line. In the past three seasons, it's been harder to find a healthy offensive lineman in Pittsburgh than it is finding an optimistic Pirates fan. Fear no more fellow Steelers fans, the greatest band-aid ever created has come to save the line, and by extension, Big Ben. Barrett Jones is used to winning at Alabama, collecting three national titles in his four seasons there. He's also used to playing offensive line: all of the offensive line. Finishing his career rather amusingly by pushing loudmouth teammate and quarterback AJ McCarron while blowing out Notre Dame in the National Championship, Jones has also had experience at every other position on the unit. The talking heads project that Jones will be able to carry over this versatility to the NFL, listing him as a fit at every possible position minus left tackle. Jones begin his career with the Steelers in a couple of ways: 1. Start at left guard from day one 2. Spend all of four possessions "learning the ropes" behind veterans like Ramon Foster and/or David DeCastro before high-fiving one of the aforementioned players as they are carted off the field and making his way over to the huddle for his first snap as a starter. Hell it might be Pouncey, Gilbert or Adams on the stretcher, who's to say? In any case, Jones is a phenomenal backup with enough talent to start at an early point. He's not regarded as an overly athletic lineman, but his technique is lauded by scouts, and many feel he could have a long NFL career somewhere in the interior of an NFL offensive line. Not sold on spending yet another premium pick on offensive lineman? Consider that Jones was named captain of the Crimson Tide last year after posting a 4.0 GPA and graduating with a Masters in Accounting in just three years. Still not impressed? Jones traveled to Haiti to help relief efforts following the devastating earthquake the country suffered a couple years ago. He loaned his support to the needy again following the devastation caused by a tornado in Alabama last year that left hundreds homeless. To top all that off, Jones played the majority of last season with a List-Franc injury in his foot, and played well. The young man out of Alabama exemplifies the the very definition of the word character, and would be a welcome addition to any locker room. Here's hoping it's ours.