In this two part post, I will highlight some of the players at the combine I think will be of interest to the Steelers. Part 1 will focus on the Defense since I believe that side of the ball to be their biggest area of need.
It's almost certain that they will draft one, and likely that they will draft one early...
1. Darqueze Dennard - he hasn't received much love from many here on this site, but he is the top CB at the moment. His forty will be one of the most anticipated as many seem to expect him to run slow (4.6 or so). Truth is, if he runs in the low 4.5's, he'll still be the top CB prospect provided he looks good in the drills. If he runs in the 4.4's, he's probably a Top 15 lock.
2. Justin Gilbert - seems to be a more popular choice among fans on this site. Is it because he's an inch taller than Dennard? He might have a potentially higher upside, but he is still a bit raw and has more flaws. He is expected to run a bit faster than Dennard, so he'll need to run in the mid-to-low 4.4s to open some eyes. Adding to his appeal is his ability as a return specialist.
3. Kyle Fuller - a strong combine may very well put him into the 1st round, and poor showings by Dennard and Gilbert could even vault him to the top. He plays like a Steeler CB and I was hoping that he'd last until the pick @46, not sure that will happen anymore.
4. Bashaud Breeland - remember the name if you are not familiar with him yet. He's been a fast riser and if he looks fluid in the drills and runs a solid forty, he'll remain on the "hot" list. He plays a lot like Fuller, and might just be there as the pick @ 46 comes in.
5. Terrance Mitchell - overshadowed by his Oregon teammate Olomu (who, even though was a 1st round prospect, didn't declare for the draft), Mitchell is a good CB in his own right. Not quite there with the first 4 on my list (he's in my top 10 though), he could be a guy in the mix for the expected 3rd round comp pick (if they miss on the other 4 in the top 2 rounds). Watch his forty time as he's not a burner and could be a mid-4.5's guy.
Others - keep an eye on Ross Cockrell and Rashaad Reynolds. If the Steelers were to double-dip at CB, these two could be good early day three picks.
This is a position they may not draft if they sign a stater in FA or feel they already have their guy on the roster. If neither is the case,then they could pick one early...
1. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix - a bit of a mixed-bag from him, but a strong combine could boost his stock into top 15 consideration. That still seems a bit high, though, as there are some who think Pryor is the better prospect. More likely, he'd be in consideration if the Steelers were to trade down.
2. Calvin Pryor - another fast riser who is now at the top of some lists. A slow forty would take him down a notch, but he isn't expected to be a burner anyway. Probably going to end up a late 1st/early 2nd like most of the top safeties usually do.
3. Ed Reynolds - could be in the mix for the pick @46 if the they felt a strong need to get a FS who can play early. Like Dix and Pryor, is tall and has the size many teams now covet. Probably will put up similar numbers at the combine as those two as well.
4. Terrence Brooks - while not as big as the first three on my list, he can sure bring it. He fits the Steeler style of FS and has many similarities to Clark, although he's expected to be faster. A good combine and he'll go earlier than the 3rd round comp pick, but he could be a nice fit with "Headache" Thomas as the future FS and SS of the Steelers.
It almost seems certain that they will have to pick a DE at some point given the likely vacancies they will have at the postion. It could even mean an early pick if the situation presents itself...
1. Rashede Hageman - one of the most talked about prospects here on this site. He's expected to blow-up the combine, so it would actually be a bit of a letdown if he's merely "good". The biggest question about him remains his lack of consistency on tape. Picking him @ 15 seems like one of the more high risk/reward picks they could make, but he looks like a nice fit to pair with Cam Heyward (at DE in the base and inside in the sub).
2. Stephon Tuitt - at one point, he was thought to maybe be the better prospect than Hageman, but that has soured a bit. Probably because, even though he's the same size, he's not quite the athlete that Hageman is. If Tuitt is impressive at the combine, though, he could return to the conversation @ 15, but for now seems like a prospect that will go late 1st or early 2nd. It would get interesting if he were to fall to 46.
3. Josh Mauro - after the top two, there is a big drop off in DEs that are good fits. Mauro has the height (and likely the strength) of Hageman and Tuitt but is probably about 35-40 lbs. lighter. The important number for him (as Steelers fans) is what he weighs in at. If it's north of 280 and he looks about where expected athletically, then that's good. If it's closer to 270, then there would be concerns whether he could gain 15-20 lbs. and not lose significant fluidity. He's a guy to watch for with the 3rd round comp or the 4th round pick.
4. Brent Urban - he's close in size to Hageman and Tuitt, but not nearly the athlete of either. He looks powerful at the point but isn't a strong pass rusher. If he shows faster and more agile than expected, that will boost him a bit. For now, he looks like a 5th round guy.
5. Taylor Hart - also has the height of the other four, but is probably about 15lbs. south of 300. That's ok because that's about where Keisel and Cam play. Hart plays somewhat like da Beard in that he has a funky down stance and can play standing up too. He's a bit more athletic than Urban and Mauro, and could be a nice fit for the 5th (maybe even jump to the 4th with a strong combine).
There is much debate about whether or not the Steelers need one, or should draft one. I'm going to leave Nix of this list because I don't think taking a NT with the top pick is a wise choice...
1. Justin Ellis - he is basically the same size as Nix and can do the same things. He just happened to play for Louisiana Tech (Terry Bradshaw's school) where he wasn't noticed as much as Nix. If the Steelers really are looking for a NT, he would be a good choice if he's there in the 4th (he could even go higher). I'm still not sure it's a big enough need unless they were to come out and say they are moving McLendon to DE (which seems unlikely).
2. Ryan Carrethers - another small school prospect (Arkansas St) who looks the part of the classic NT. While he can do some good things and looks quick on tape for his size, I'm not sure he'd necessarily be a big upgrade over what they have in Fangupo.
Regardless of the Woodley/Worilds saga, this is a position that needs some depth. I'll leave off Mack and Barr since they are likely to be out of range for the Steelers pick...
1. Dee Ford - he looks great on tape with quick feet and fluid movement. While he hasn't done much in coverage, he looks to have the athletic ability to do well at it with practice. Quite frankly, I like him as a prospect better than I did Jarvis Jones. That being said, it seems unlikely they would pick an OLB #1 two years in a row...unless both Worilds and Woodley don't return. If Ford blows up the combine, he could go top 15.
2. Kyle Van Noy - he's receive a lot of love on this site, and is a nice prospect. He's not really a top 20 guy even with a killer combine, but could sneak into the late 2st. He'd be an OLB for the Steelers, but could do some work inside in the sub packages.
3. Jeremiah Attaochu - he shows a lot of the things the Steelers like their OLBs to do and would be a sneaky nice pick @46 who will probably put up similar numbers to Van Noy.
4. Marcus Smith - former QB who is brings some nice size. Will be interesting to see if he can put up the same numbers as the other 3 (as he might not be as fast), but he can do the things the Steelers ask of their OLBs. He would make for a nice depth pick with the 3rd round comp.
5. Prince Shembo - overshadowed by Tuitt and Nix, he did some nice things there too. Concern that he isn't the best in coverage, but his is willing and capable. Seems like a good fit for a backup spot who they can probably grab in the 4th.
6. James Gayle - from Worilds’ alma mater, he has nice size/speed combo and may tear it up at the combine. Would be a very interesting pick who might have the kind of upside that can make him a steal (say in the 4th round). A killer combine and he will go higher.
7. Devon Kennard - son of a former NFL OT, he isn't the most athletic, so watch his forty time closely, but he's a guy who can be an effective backup as a day 3 pick.
On paper this really isn't a need, but if Spence can't fully recover and if Foote were to be released, then it looks thin. I expect Foote to stay, though, because he isn't expensive...
1. CJ Mosley - it's basically a one-man show at ILB, with CJ far ahead of everyone else. He is the darling of this site, but I think expectations for him should be tempered, He will do well at the combine, but he is better suited as the "Mack" in the Steeler system than the "Buck". I think he could team well with Timmons and be effective in the sub packages as a cover LB, but I don't think he will single-handedly change the D as some may expect.
2. Boseko Lokombo - who? if you haven't heard of him, he plays LB for Oregon. He does a bit of everything for them and will probably put up similar numbers as Mosley at the combine. He'd be a nice fit for the cover LB in the sub packages for the Steelers.
That's it for now, but Part 2 (with the Offence) will be out tomorrow...