So we've had the combine and the imaginary draft stock shifts have taken place. All of sudden, out of nowhere, a quarterback has moved from the best in class to being the third QB taken, at least 3-5 WRs have jumped into the 1st round, and the first openly gay player may go undrafted (which won't happen Roger Goodell will make sure someone takes a flier on him in at least the 7th round, which is absolutely the right thing to do for a myriad of reasons). All of these things happened, without a single game being played. Not one player had a bad game this past weekend but it seems like all of them has had their future changed in some way.
To me the real intrigue about the combine is shuffling through what is real and what is fake. Did a WR draft stock really improved because he jumped higher than expected in the vertical leap test? You know the one where you have all the time in the world, can take a deep breathe (and maybe a step) and jump as high as you can with one hand trying to touch as many of what I can only describe as plastic tongue depressors as they can. Because you know, that always happens in NFL games. Don't get me wrong each test can be used within a specific context to measure a certain ability of a player. But just because a running back runs a 4.26s 40 yard dash doesn't mean he's the next Chris Johnson.
So here is my updated Mock for the Steelers based upon the combine results where I take part in the lunacy of trying to read minds of our GM and head coach and I try to ascertain what they may have or may not have taken from this combine. The only thing left before the drafts is the free agency (March 11) and pro days, which won't be completed until after April 18. I will do one more mock draft before the draft and after the pro days are completed.
1.15 Kelvin Benjamin 6'5 240lbs FSU WR
Pre Combine Pick - Kelvin Benjamin
My wife tells me a couple of things, 1. I'ma know it all. I think ya'll have figured that one out by now. And 2 I'm stubborn. I do a poor job of hiding my flaws on here don't I ?(she has to deal with me 24/7 so ya'll should feel lucky). The combine was a good one for me. I was scared initially because Benjamin expected to run a 4.3s 40, if he did that it would place him outside of the Steelers range. I would hope though that the Steelers would trade back here and try to pick up another 3rd round pick and get Kelvin in the 20s because he'll probably be there and it makes more sense to take him there. But I'm too lazy to look for trades, maybe that will come later. Several things happened in the combine, several WRs ran very fast 40 times and wowed everyone who watched. Kelvin Benjamin was not one of those wide receivers. He ran a very pedestrian 40 at 4.6 officially. But if you watched his 40 time, you could tell - dude got out of the block really slow. Good thing he doesn't have to line up like that in an actual football game right? Speed was never an issue with Benjamin on tape so I wasn't worried about his time as long as it wasn't like 4.8 or something like that. I was much more interested in his field drills since drops were an issue with Kelvin. Here is what Curt Popejoy, a featured columnist on SB Nation, had to saw about the field drills.
This was another area where Benjamin atoned for poor film with drills. One of the most telling drills of the combine is the gauntlet. This is where a receiver has to react quickly while running the width of the field, catching passes coming at him rapid-fire from both directions.
If there was a spot where one would assume Benjamin would fall flat, it would have been here. However, you can see his combine prep had him prepared. Benjamin flowed through the drill smoothly and showed very active hands. He plucked the football from the air, not letting it get into his body. It is this sort of consistent effort and commitment to improvement that will help him secure a first-round spot.
This confirmed what I saw in the tape that his drops were due to, no bad hands or body catching, but simply turning upfield before he secured the ball. This can be easily corrected by coaching. Benjamin is Eric Ebron who is more dangerous with the deep ball. He has essentially the same measurables that Ebron came in with, except an inch taller and ten pounds lighter. I can see Kelvin being used as a #2 tight end also and give Ben that big WRs outside that he has wanted since Sweed failed to live up to those expectations.
2.15 Keith McGill 6'3 211lbs Utah DB
Pre Combine Pick - Loucheiz Pourifoy
Pourifoy had a really bad combine. First of all he showed up (not that he shrunk but you know what I mean) under his listed 6'1 height at 5'11. Then he ran a 4.6s 40 yard dash. Then he only did six reps on the bench. Then he has some tape that brings pause, Benjamin abused him and his poor tackling showed up against LSU. I also found out that he had violated team rules and was suspended.... at florida.... you know where Aaron Hernandez played football. Albeit under a different coach but the football culture at florida is still the same. That may not mean much but when you throw it on the trash heap that Pourifoy put up at the combine, it really stinks.
On the converse, Keith McGill shined at the combine. The big combine showed up at his expected height and ran a 4.5s 40 yard dash. As if being 6'3 wasn't good enough he posted a 39 inch vertical. He also has the ability to play safety or corner although I think he will start out at corner since he isn't really physical to play safety. McGill showed good hip movement in the drills which is a sticking point for tall corners. McGill is very raw which is keeping him from being a round 1 selection. I think Carnel Lake can work with his athletic abilities and pairing him Cortez Allen, another big corner, will bode well for the Steelers secondary in the future. I also wouldn't mind going with Kyle Fuller at this pick. But McGill ability to possibly play safety in the future gives him the leg up for me.
3.15 Christian Jones 6'3 240lbs FSU LB
This is the imaginary draft pick that we would get from trading back in the first round. If we don't trade back I would still take jones at the compensatory pick in the 3rd round if he is there then move Dri Archer off the draft list. There are a couple of reasons why I go LB here. Currently we have Vince Williams, Larry Foote, and Sean Spence vying for the ILB position. Its time for foote to retire and the other two options have combined for one total season played for the Steelers. Spence will be playing in his first action in two years when training camp starts.
There needs to be an added re-enforcement at the linebacker position, also it wouldn't be a Steelers draft without a linebacker somewhere. Jones is a big linebacker that has good speed for his size. His biggest struggles and why he won't be taken higher is that he thinks too much on the field. Scouting reports have said it takes him too long to diagnose plays which means I wouldn't have him calling our defense, leave that to Troy or Timmons, but with Timmons right beside him and able to direct him, he could be a solid starter and a nice match with Timmons in the middle of the defense.
3. compensatory Taylor Hart 6'6 281lbs Oregon DE
Pre Combine Pick - Taylor Hart
Hart didn't do anything at the combine to scare me away from him here. I love length in the 5 tech 3-4 DE. If Hart can bulk up to around 305 while keeping his speed and increasing his functional strength he could be a very good DE to pair with Cameron Heyward. Hart right now needs to add strength, if he does he could be a real nice addition to the defensive line.
4.15 Xavier Grimble 6'4 257lbs USC TE
Pre Combine Pick - James Morris
Grimble didn't rack up a lot of stats at USC but he does have the athletic ability, or at least it is believed that he has it, to be a factor in the passing game as a tight end. Reports say that he is a good blocker and out of high school his receiving ability was touted as being the reason why he was the #1tight end in his class. Grimble didn't run in the combine so I will be watching his pro day. I believe that his lack of stats has to do with the poor USC offense not particularly grimble. With so many other tight end prospects Grimble will fly under the radar and can be had in the fourth round.
4. compensatory Dri Archer 5'8 178lbs Kent State RB
Pre Combine Pick - Xavier Grimble
Archer ran a 4.26s 40 in the combine. He is essentially a faster Chris Rainey. His slight frame will keep him from going too high but I think we have to try to find someone with some speed in the backfield and that can take over the return duties. Also our last two picks from Kent State have all worked out, here is hoping that trend continues.
5.15 Justin Ellis 6'1 334lbs Lousiana Tech NT
Pre Combine Pick - Jaylen Watkins
Rarely it is a good thing that a prospect comes in shorter and with less weight in the combine but this was the case here. Here we're looking for a diamond in the rough. Ellis has some skills that can be molded into a good NT. It would be good if he did and we didn't need to use a high draft pick on a 2 down player.
6.15 Ryan Groy 6'5 316lbs Wisconsin OT
Pre Combine Pick - Spencer Long
I love this pick here, an athletic guy that you give your new offensive line coach to mold and he's played every position on the line. Also wisconsin is known for putting out good linemen. If there was a read to trade one of these picks to the dolphins to take Mike Pouncey off their hands I'd do it but until that opportunity arrives, this is the next best thing. We always need to be drafting offensive linemen to at the very least bolster the depth at the position.
7.15 Pat O'Donnell 6'5 225lbs Miami P
Pre Combine Pick - Pat O'Donnell
There isn't anything other than punching your fiance in a casino that would change the draft status of a punter right now. Well maybe breaking his leg falling down the stairs in a bar fight would. There will be games in the playoffs where field position will be crucial, having a punter that can pin your opponent back in their own terriority time after time is an asset to the defense and the offense. He averaged 47.3 yards/punt last year. I also like that he is big, it is nice to have a last line of defense with a big punter who won't get ran over by small backs.