Okay, so I think we have had enough of the whole Ray Rice situation don't you? So I think this is a good time to preview my 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to watch out for that the Steelers have a realistic chance at Drafting. I started my 2015 Draft Research almost immediately after the 2014 Draft. So without further adieu, here are my Top 2015 Steelers Draft Targets.
Top Draft Needs: CB, OLB, TE, OT
Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Ohio State
Why they would draft him: The Steelers have had issues with their Pass Rushing ever since James Harrison left and LaMarr Woodley became too fat to turn the corner. Jason Worilds could have a good season this year after exploding in the 2nd Half of the season and ousting Woodley at Weakside Linebacker. However, he is also a Free Agent after this season and this is a make or break year for him. Either way, I have a feeling he will leave in Free Agency, particularly after the deals given to the other Steelers Free Agents, Pouncey, Gilbert, and Cortez Allen. He will either play himself out of the Steelers price range, or play bad enough to the point the Steelers won't think it worth keeping him as a starter.
Strengths: Like his former teammate and 2015 Steeler 1st Round Pick Ryan Shazier, Spence is extremely athletic. He knows how to avoid blocks very well with his fluidity and balance, with a quick burst and first step that make him a dangerous Pass Rusher at the collegiate level. He also has experience standing up and dropping in coverage which can only increase his value for the Steelers.
Weaknesses: While fast and athletic, Spence is still very raw, which is typically associated with the kind of athleticism that players like him have. He still needs to develop the Pass Rushing moves that he will need at the second level. Spence also has some bad-boy history. Spence received a three-game suspension from the Big Ten after testing positive for ecstasy late in the 2013 season. He sat out of the Orange Bowl and will missed the first 2 games of the 2014 season.
Devin Funchess, TE, Michigan
Why they would draft him: Heath Miller is a reliable TE (one of the best in the NFL), but his recent ACL tear last year has put into question his further durability at the age of 31. Behind Heath, the Steelers don't have much of a receiver at TE. Matt Spaeth is purely a blocker at this point and Michael Palmer is just a 3rd backup.
Strengths: One of the better Receivers at the position at the collegiate level. He has the body control and tracks the ball that is reminiscent of Jimmy Graham or Vernon Davis. He has great burst off the line and is a matchup nightmare for Linebackers and Defensive Backs alike.
Weakness: At 6'5" 230, Funchess lacks the ideal bulk that is needed at TE (indeed, Michigan is essentially playing at WR this season). He also needs to get bigger and gain better technique to become a more effective blocker that the Steelers desire at TE. Many people seem to see more Jermichael Finley in Funchess based on the amount of drops he has had at Michigan.
Compares to: Jermichael Finley, Free Agent/Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
Why they would draft him: The Steelers issues at CB have been well documented. Allen is not a #1 CB and Ike Taylor has regressed to the point where I am astonished that they didn't draft anyone at the position high in the 2014 Draft. However, it was reported that they had Justin Gilbert and Kyle Fuller ahead of Shazier on their Draft Board so CB was already seen as a 1st Round need last year.
Strengths: As part of arguably the best Secondary in all of College Football, Williams is a physical ball-hawk that specializes in knocking the ball loose. He has elite acceleration that allows him to correct mistakes in coverage. He is also very versatile, having experience at CB, S, KR, and PR. He also has great form when tackling and isn't afraid to play run support, which is essential for CBs in Dick LeBeau's Defense.
Weaknesses: Williams needs to get a bit bigger and stronger in order to cover the type of WRs that are in the NFL nowadays. Even if he can get good placement, Williams often gets blocked out by bigger bodies. He also has some issues in Run Defense that causes him to be boxed out easily.
Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
Why they would draft him: at this point in time right now, I don't think OT is a first round need, but if last week's performance against the Browns is any indication, Kelvin Beachum might not be the future Franchise LT and could be better suited as a utility backup. Protecting Ben is key for the Steelers and he has been injured far too many times throughout his career.
Strengths: Erving is an absolute MONSTER when it comes to Run Blocking. He is super athletic and knows how to run over people to free the RB. Having initially played on the DL, Erving has the nasty streak and aggressiveness that the Steelers (and all teams for that matter) like in Offensive Lineman. He also showed very good Pass Blocking potential after his game against Vic Beasley last season, effectively eliminating him from the picture.
Weaknesses: Sometimes he can be a bit too aggressive, blowing past his assignment due to where he thought the play was supposed to end up. He sometimes stops moving his feet when blocking and relies too much on his upper body.