Over the weekend, Mocking The Draft and Turf Show Times collaborated in putting together a mock draft with representatives from all 32 teams. I participated as the Steelers rep, and I'd like to thank Douglas Morrison and his team for putting this together and letting me participate. After trading up to get another pick in the third round, I came out with this:
1.17- WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
2.48- ILB Kevin Minter, LSU
3.79- SS Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse
3.91- RB Marcus Lattimore- South Carolina
5.150- OL Braxston Cave- Notre Dame
6.206- S Robert Lester, Alabama
7.223- RB Ray Graham, Pittsburgh
In the first round, my top two (realistic) options were gone when the Panthers took Kenny Vaccaro at 14 and the Titans traded back and took Jarvis Jones one pick ahead of me at 16. Even Tyler Eifert was gone, having been taken 12th overall by Miami. My options were down to Patterson or Manti Te'o, and I went with the higher upside of Patterson. Te'o was taken three picks later by Chicago.
In the second round, I debated over Minter, Eddie Lacy, and DJ Swearinger. However, knowing the depth this draft had at running back and safety, I went with Minter because I viewed him as the last starting-caliber linebacker available. That proved to be a good decision, as I was able to bring in Thomas and Lattimore in the third round.
As I expected, the run on safeties began at the start of the third round, with Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas being taken in the first two picks. I brought in Shamarko Thomas, knowing the Steelers have shown interest in him, with the expectation that he would be the top backup at Safety. Long-term, though, he is much more suited to replace Troy Polamalu than Ryan Clark.
Before the draft started, I had verbal agreements with a few other GMs to trade up into the third round with my 4th(115), 6th(168) and a 2014 3rd round pick. I felt comfortable with trading away a future pick, something the Steelers do not typically do, because I am sure we will recoup that pick in getting compensation for Mike Wallace (and Keenan Lewis and Rashard Mendenhall). Eventually I came to this agreement with the Houston Texans, who had acquired the 91st pick. I made an aggressive move in trading up, and followed it with a high-risk, high-reward pick in Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore's injury concerns are not to be ignored, but he is by far the most talented back in this draft when healthy.
With my 4th round pick now gone, I waited until the 5th round and picked Braxston Cave at 150 with the idea that he would replace Doug Legursky on the depth chart. He is a good run-blocking center, and can hopefully fill in as a decent backup Guard as well.
With my last two picks, I did something I normally don't like to do: double dip at a position I've already drafted. However, I feel like these were my two best picks in terms of value. Lester had no business being available with the last pick of the 6th round in my opinion, and I had Graham rated as a 5th-6th round prospect. Given our injury concerns at their positions, especially now with Lattimore, I felt that double-dipping was prudent.
HINDSIGHT IS 20/20:
- Though I don't believe I 'reached' with any of my picks, I wouldn't call any of my picks 'steals' until my last two picks in Lester and Graham. I expect Patterson, Minter, and Thomas all to go in the middle of rounds 1, 2, and 3 respectively.
- Now that I can see how the board played out, I would probably go back and change my first round pick to Manti Te'o. There was a run on receivers in the late 1st-early 2nd rounds, so none were available at 48, but there was incredible value to be had at receiver in the third round. Had I not taken Patterson, I would've jumped at the opportunity to draft Terrence Williams, Stedman Bailey, or Ryan Swope in the third round. All three of them were available at 79. The Steelers have been incredibly successful with 3rd round receivers in Wallace and Sanders, so this is something they might want to keep in mind when the real draft comes.
- Looking back at my trade, it will obviously all depend on the health of Lattimore's knees. If he's healthy, I will look like a genius; and if not I'll look like a fool. After taking Shamarko Thomas, my strategy was to trade up targeting Lattimore or UNC's Giovanni Bernard. When Bernard was taken at 84, I got more aggressive, and worked out a deal with the Houston Texans for pick 91. However, I probably should have waited until the break after the third round (rounds 1-3 were held on Saturday, 4-7 on Sunday) to work out a trade into the top of the 4th rather than the bottom of the 3rd. RBs Jonathan Franklin, Montee Ball, and Le'Veon Bell were available, and Lattimore himself could've fallen (though we'll never know).
- One need area that I did not address was outside linebacker. With Jones gone at 17, I did not feel like there was another pass rusher worth taking. I would never have passed up on a prospect who was really in free-fall, but there were no such prospects and I felt that adding another mid-round prospect to the likes of Worilds, Carter, and Robinson would be redundant. The Steelers need to see what they have in those players, and throwing another body in there would only clog the depth chart. Dick Lebeau recently praised Robinson, and I think they are more comfortable with Worilds starting than people might think.
- As for Undrafted Free Agents, I selected DL AJ Francis, Maryland; CB Marc Anthony, California; QB Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt; OT Elvis Fisher, Missouri; and OLB Wes Horton, USC. A few of these guys really intrigue me, especially Francis and Rogers. Francis has ideal size for a 3-4 DE, and also has experience lining up as Maryland's Nose Tackle. Jordan Rodgers, Aaron's younger brother, is still very raw but reportedly has a work ethic than can rival his brother.