After almost six years of lurking around my favorite time of year (besides Steeler football in February), I finally made the plunge on Jan. 30 with my first Steeler mock 1.0.
It opened to encouraging reviews, and made me pay attention like never before in the weeks since. Resolved to wait post-Combine, I have now read enough posts by grown-ups like bigjay71 and DropTheHammer (and his indispensable Big Board), and many others whom I thank, to at least make up my mind more solidly and share my thoughts and hopes, if not withstand some ridicule and good-natured ribbing like the rest of us mere mockster mortals.
Two caveats: one thing this exercise has convinced me of is that we need more day 2 picks: I had no less than 15 prospects on my list for our pick at 3 comp, and another dozen at 4. Here's hoping we can trade down, but mocks with trade scenarios built-in aren still light-years away from my expertise. Perhaps this was the subliminal wishful thinking that made me forget that we did not have a legit pick at 3 anymore, in my Mock 1.0.
Then, there's the matter of the reworked contracts of Heath Miller and Troy Polamalu. I don't believe either move removes the urgency of drafting their successors, if the right conditions are there at any given pick. There is absolutely no guarantee that either will be as good in 2014 as they were in 2013, let alone what's in store in '15 or '16. I'm still not convinced Heath is all the way back as far as planting that knee is concerned, and separation speed is now a concern; as for Troy, it's not as much that I believe his dropoff his near as much as the unknown effect of not having a trusted partner at FS will do to his game.
Oh, about the title? It's a pun. In Québécois French, you see, "combines" is what we call longjohns, something this damn Northeast winter is very much all about. Here's to hoping it's over and spring is around the corner, finally. Without further delay, here goes:
1st round - Eric Ebron, TE (North Carolina) : I'm still marvelling at how much your first pick impacts the rest of your draft, in this mock game. Given that I believe both Mosley and Gilbert will be gone by 15, and that I don't believe neither Matthews or Robinson to fall to us, I decided to throw my lot with those who believe in this alternate year phenomenon with Colbert, which would mandate a 1st rounder on O this year. Once I did that, it was only between Ebron and Mike Evans, but that still did not make any easier. The reason I picked Ebron is simple, really: despite all the combine heroics, I still don't know how much Evans owes to Johnny Football. I also did not like the TE haul after the first round, and believe Heath's days as a dominant pass-catching TE may be over, as I hinted above. Given that we're committed to a TE-needy offense, we need 83's successor on board sooner (2015) rather than later (2017), if we're to take advnatage of the narrowing window of opportunity with Ben at the helm. Ebron will start in 2014, the only question is whether it will be at TE2 or TE1. If it's the latter, it means Heath will have become the blocking TE, something he's been known to be good at...Why couldn't we have two weapons at TE instead of just one?
Used to be Clinton-Dix - His combine nixed Dix
2nd round- Calvin Pryor, S (Louisville) : No, I have not shaken off my deep belief that safety help is needed high, especially since Ryan Clark seems closer to the broadcast booth than to roaming the middle of the field for anyone, let alone Pittsburgh. So, since I've said Ha! to Clinton-Dix, let's say hello to Mr. Pryor. When you like to hit WRs and TEs so much, they call you Mister. Yes, I'm an optimist to believe he'll fall to 46, but his combine may have woken up people to the fact that there's a bit of a dropoff after the Alabama safety; I'm gambling that his fall will stop with us. I see Pryor eventually starting at FS sometime in 2014, where he'll soon feed the fine machine at NFL headquarters, but eventually taking over at SS when Troy steps...(ugh, sob!)...aside, and making quite the duo with the Shark. I've even got a nickname in line with his "religious" last name: The Hammer of God.
Was Jordan Matthews, but his 40 time made sure he won't be around at 46
3rd round (comp) - DeAnthony Thomas, RB/KR (Oregon). This time, I did not forget we lost our pick (but gained Shamarko), but ever the optimist, I'm counting on the Black Mamba to slither down the draft in our waiting lap (huh, weird snake double-entendre, there). More weaponry for our OC, who may have been missing Dexter McCluster from his KC days, a well-deserved break from PR duties for our WR1, and definitely some excitement and x-factor unpredictability in an offense that needs it. I seriously looked at Landry and Trent Murphy, but seriously doubt either would still be around to pluck.
Was, as an illegitimate 3rd round pick, D. Thomas. I am banking on his frailty to have him slip a bit past offenses who could really have used him.
4th round - Josh Mauro, DE (Stanford). This is the place to start developmental/depth picks. I must admit to a post DaBeard-anxiety, and this guy caught my eye as someone just as smart who could grow into the position with a proper weight regimen. With Keisel, at best back only as a stopgap, and Hood gone, DE is more of a need than we think. There is no guarantee we'll find or homegrow that NT gem who'll allow McClendon to switch over, so I think ol' Steve will have to handle that position at least one more year. Plus, what's not to love about these Stanford guys? Which brings me to my next pick...
Was, aa a 3 (comp) Skov - See below; counting on some slippage, again.
4th round (comp) Shayne Skov, ILB (Stanford). You can kid me all you want about my Stanford mancrushes, but this guy is a PLAYA. As I wrote in my 1.0, "There's no doubt he can absorb the steep learning curve from Coach Dad, in time to succeed Larry Foote in 2015 as starter. He and Timmons would become the LB equivalent of the Clark-Polamalu dynamic duo: one allowing the other to exploit the other's freakish athletic prowess, free of having to call plays or worry about coverage much." Now, Foote is gone, and Lebeau-complexity wait period be damned, I believe this guy could be a plug-and-play, the exception that confirms the rule. Why would he fall to us at 4 comp? Mythology about him being a 2-down player? Worries about his ACL? Who knows, I just have a feeling. And to answer Drop The Hammer's question: yes, he will be an improvement on Spence-Williams-Garvin. Mark my words, he'll be this generation's Zach Thomas, a guy impossible to substitute off the field.
Was Sam - No bashing going on here, rooting for the guy, just not a transition-to-OLB candidate for us, I'm afraid.
5th round - Philip Gaines, CB (Rice) - This guy is F-A-S-T, and combined with comparisons to the much-despised Courtland Finnegan, that is sufficient to make him my choice for this round at CB. There is no denying Ike Taylor's slippage, Curtis Brown is gone and Gay is just a stopgap at CB. I'm not saying Gaines will step in at CB2 in 2014, there's still a bit of rawness to him, thus explaining the bit of a drop off to the 5th round in my scenario, but for once, I'd like a guy who can keep up with the Jones at WR. Gaines is tall and fast, with a bit of nasty, and that spells nickel starter to me. Also considered Nix and Colvin, with the latter beind deemed to much of a risk even at 5, and the former's obvious comparables with Deebo just too good to be true.
Was Rashaad Reynolds, but I'd be dreaming in Technicolor if I still thought he'd make it to us in the 5th -
6th round - Elhadji Ndiaye, OLB (Nebraska-Kearney). Wherefrom? Not the slightest clue. This is a longshot crapshoot, and if things ever fell into place like I'm Buzzbeering them so far in this 2.0, if it works, 2014 would become a banner year for the Steelers. At 6'5, 255 with a 4.48 40 time (you read that right), he's a freak in Freakzoid Land. You just cannot teach that kind of athleticism and size. The 6th round is the place to have these redshirt picks that cannot possibly play the year they're drafted. And even though I'm still not sold on JJ being able to start this year, I resisted the itch to believe any draftee could in any event in Coach Dad's offense anyhow.
Was Fiederowicz, but I violated my rule about drafting Hawkeyes since I got my TE in the first round, this time.
7th round - Damian Washington, WR (Missouri). At the risk of repeating myself, you cannot teach that kind of speed and height. At nearly 6'4'' and a buck-95, he might be mistaken for a rail beam, but I believe Washington will be ready for his close-up by 2015, after a few cameos this year as the successor to either Moye or Wheaton on the WR developmental squad. One or both will graduate to WR2-3 in 2014, so this is a pick for the future. Washington needs a LOT of polish. Looked also at Jalen Saunders, but I already have my Mighty Mite at KR in Thomas, even though Saunders could find himself a niche at slot receiver as well.
Was J.C. Copeland, but I came down that buzz real fast after reading reactions. What was I thinking, a fullback?!
7 comp - Ryan Groy, OL (Wisconsin) - I read somewhere on BTSC that the Steelers might end up with 3 compensatory picks, so I put the 3rd here, randomly. As I wrote in my 1.0 about him "What caught my eye here was Drop the Hammer's hint that he might be Kelvin Beachum 2.0. With our luck health-wise on the line, we will always need one of those. And of course, you know you get solid OL pros out of Wisconsin." And then I read about his fast 10 yeard split at the Combine. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have our own Steeler Mr. Irrelevant, Ladies and Gents!
Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings!