Ht: 6-foot-2 Wt: 317 lbs Age: 21
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Forget the fact the Steelers took David DeCastro in the first round last year; I'm confident that if Warmack is still on the board Thursday, the Steelers will put Willie Parker to shame on their way to the podium. The front office will rightfully continue to operate under the "Best Player Available" strategy, and if either Warmack or North Carolina guard, Jonathan Cooper are left on the board, the decision will be easy. I guessing Cooper goes before Warmack due to his superior level of athleticism and mobility that is rarely seen in interior offensive linemen. Still, there really is no losing in selecting either of these players.
I find it hard to believe that both Warmack and Cooper will be gone at 17, due to the perception that guards are not a premium position and can be drafted in any round. There may be some truth in that belief, (I like some of this year's mid-round guards), but when you have the solid yet unspectacular Ramon Foster at left guard and little depth for an offensive line that is the most frequently injured in the NFL, all of a sudden an elite guard prospect becomes very attractive.
Gimme Warmack-Pouncey-DeCastro to counter Atkins, Ngata, and Taylor, then plug in a middle-round running back, and watch the pro-bowls accumulate.
- Would be BPA
- Plug-and-Play Starter from Day 1
- Warmack-Pouncey-DeCastro would be an outstanding counter to the DTs of the AFC North
- Need for RB diminished slightly (Even in his advanced age, Franco could probably still run behind that trio)
Round 2.48: Phillip Thomas, Safety, Fresno State
Ht: 6-foot-0 Wt: 208 lbs Age: 24
The ballhawk from Fresno State would be a welcome addition to a secondary that has struggled to generate interceptions in recent years. In 2012, Thomas led the country with 8 interceptions. Adding to an already impressive stat-line, Thomas recorded 82 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. The 6'0" 208 lbs safety can also dish out some highlight-reel hits upon occasion, and would fill a massive void in safety depth.
Thomas may go earlier than this, but most have him slotted for the second round. While talented, he's battled a few injuries in his past, including a broken leg and coinciding dislocated ankle that cost him the entire 2011 season. Injuries aside, 2012 seemed to put to rest any lingering concerns, about his ability to bounce back.
- Playmaker who could learn from two of the best in the business
- Robert Golden is the only reserve safety currently on the roster
- Flexibility to play both strong and free safety is a major plus
Round 3.79: Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
Ht: 6-foot-0 Wt: 205 lbs Age: 23
When Hines Ward hung up the jersey in 2011, many fans felt as if they would never see a player like Ward ever again. While it's unfair to say Ryan Swope can be the "next Hines Ward," I have a feeling that Ward would (probably does) highly approve of Swope's style of play.
Looking beyond their nearly identical size (both are about 6'0" 205 lbs), Ryan Swope blocks, catches, and runs in a way that will have Steelers fans reminiscing fondly of the "old days" when receivers weren't comparing skirt colors with quarterbacks. Whether it's crackback blocks, or bouncing up from a major hit with a smile on his face, Swope really looks like the second coming of Hines Ward, all except for a one major caveat; Swope is fast. A 4.34 40 yard dash time at the combine validated Swope as more than just a slot receiver. Still scouts call into question the legitimacy of the time, most often saying "he doesn't carry that speed over onto the playing field." I'm no scout, but when I look at his highlight reels on youtube, I see plenty of instances where Swope leaves multiple defenders in the dust as he reels off one breakaway touchdown after another.
In any case, the fact that Swope is a white receiver with small hands and a concussion history could make him available to the Steelers when they pick in the third round.
- Fiery, physical receiver
- Likely pushes for the #3 WR spot early on
- Under rated speed and YAC ability could make him more than just a slot receiver
Round 4.115: A.J. Klein, ILB, Iowa State
Ht: 6-foot-1 Wt: 250 lbs Age: 21
Klein looks like an ideal candidate to try and be the Steelers next buck linebacker. In addition to being a strong tackler (345 tackles in just three years starting), Klein recorded 5-interceptions in his collegiate career, three of which he returned for touchdowns. While he's not the fastest linebacker on the field, his instincts are regarded as one of his key selling points, something that he's used to be adept against the run and in zone coverage.
- Appears to be a strong candidate for the 3-4 buck linebacker position
- Said to have great leadership qualities
- Could learn the system from 4th-rounder Larry Foote who's played both the buck and mack
Round 5.150: Lerentee McCray, DE/OLB, Florida
Ht: 6-foot-1 Wt: 250 lbs Age: 23
If you follow either Jim Wexell or Lance Zerlein on twitter, you'll find that the two have recently become enamored with this pass-rusher from Florida. McCray has had a multitude of injuries in his collegiate career, which have prevented him from reaching his full potential at Florida. Still, when called upon this past season, McCray responded well and had some success rushing the passer.
In this youtube clip, he gives Luke Joeckel, the current favorite to be taken #1 overall on Thursday some trouble. Athletic and compact, McCray is in the mold of Joey Porter and James Harrison. One can only hope his career follows the same route.
- Physical, athletic pass-rusher who could add depth and potential to a team looking for Harrison's replacement.
- With the tutelage of Dick LeBeau and Keith Butler, he could become something special (see Harrison, Porter)
- Athletic ability could make him a nice add to the ST unit.
Round 6.186: Ryan Griffin, QB, Tulane
Ht: 6-foot-3 Wt: 221 lbs Age: 24
A sleeper who has gained some national attention in recent weeks, Ryan Griffin has some interesting parallels to Tom Brady. Griffin, like Brady does not possess any eye-popping skills, but is regarded as an intelligent player with strong anticipatory skills. Unlike Brady, Ryan Griffin's winning record was not nearly as impressive, thanks in large part due to being stuck on a mediocre team.
Griffin is a pretty big 180 from Ben Roethlisberger when it comes to style of play. He's much more of a traditional pocket-passer than a gunslinger like Ben. Still, his skill set would match nicely in Haley's quick-tempo, short-passing offense. While there seems to be some potential here to be more, I don't think it's unrealistic to think Griffin could become a quality backup in this league.
- The Steelers may still need a #3 QB
- Griffin has some potential if he has some kind of surrounding talent
- Heir to Ben?
Round 6.205: D.J. Harper, RB, Boise State
Ht: 5-foot-9 Wt: 211 lbs Age: 23
I see DJ Harper as a poor man's Ray Rice. Like Rice, he's a smaller back at 5'9" 211 lbs, but isn't quite as bulky or as powerful. That said, watching him on youtube, it's evident that he has home run-hitting burst and good vision. He's not afraid of contact either, and can run effectively between the tackles.
With the Steelers running back position remaining unsettled, it's a safe bet that Harper could come in and challenge for some playing time. The issue with Harper lies in his health. This past season was his sixth and final season at Boise State as he tore his left ACL in 2009 and then again in 2010. In that stretch, the injury allowed Tampa Bay's Doug Martin to leap frog Harper and take over as the starter until he graduated. Harper returned to his starting role in 2012 and started all 13 games, gaining 1,137 yards, 16 touchdowns (15 rushing, 1 receiving), on 223 carries. Team's will be scared due of Harper due to his medical history, but in the 6th round there's little risk in taking a flyer on Harper.
- With a thin depth chart, Harper could see playing time as a change of pace back and returner
- Well-rounded skillset: Can run, catch, and return
- Captain in 2012. Said to have strong work ethic and character. Just 23 (soon 24) despite 6 collegiate seasons.
Round 7.223: Zach Sudfeld, TE, Nevada
Ht: 6-foot-6 Wt: 255 lbs Age: 26
I was thinking about putting Baker Steinkuhler here, but the more I see on him, the more I feel like he could be an undrafted free agent addition. On the matter of Zach Sudfeld, this is another guy I've heard about through the Steelers Depot grapevine, and another guy scout Dave Te' Thomas gave high praise.
Sudfeld has had an extensive injury history at the University of Nevada, one which kept him to two career receptions before 2012 but when he finally got on the field, the 6'6" 255 lbs tight end was impressive. In his final year, the 26-year old caught 45 passes for 598 yards and 8 touchdowns. His injury history will likely keep him from going before the seventh round, but when all is said and done, landing him here could end up being quite the steal if he can stay healthy.
- Physical blocker and dangerous receiver
- Potential depth while Heath is out
- Intelligent, hard-worker who has perspective on mortality in football
In my mind this draft likely produces one surefire starter this year in Warmack, and possibly a heavy contributor in Swope. Thomas is groomed at both safety positions while playing some in some sub packages and on special teams. Given the injury history of Polamalu and Clark, you have to figure Thomas starts a few games when all is said and done. Klein and McCray probably have to struggle for hats on game days initially, but both could be assets on special teams. Griffin would have to beat out Charlie Batch for the third QB spot, and after receiving a lot of snaps in the preseason, I feel like he'd show enough promise for the Steelers to hand him a clipboard. Harper would be a surprise contributor on special teams, likely as a return man who would fulfill the role the Steelers tried with Chris Rainey last year. Sudfeld would have to fight with David Johnson for the 3rd TE roster spot while Heath is on PUP, but could hold onto it if he carries over his success from his final season at Nevada to the NFL.
I know it's rare to see the entirety of a draft class make it on a 53-man roster, but with all the departures this offseason, I don't think it'd be too much of a stretch.