The 2016 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and as NFL teams meet with prospects, schedule local visits and attend Pro Days the clouds begin to lift a bit in terms of where teams are looking in the upcoming selection process. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, GM Kevin Colbert has openly admitted the upcoming Draft will be a very defense oriented process, but as always relies on the 'Best Player Available' strategy for making those crucial early round picks.
Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com is normally a very realistic expert, in regards to his weekly mock drafts. However, after releasing his latest mock draft someone might want to take his temperature as he has the Steelers selecting a cornerback in the first round, and a very familiar wide receiver in the second. Yes, a wide receiver.
Take a look at Campbell's prediction for the Steelers first round pick at No. 25:
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: William Jackson, CB, Houston
The Steelers have a big need at cornerback, and Jackson looks like a perfect fit in what they look for with defensive backs.
Jackson recorded 43 tackles, five interceptions and 23 passes broken up in 2015. The 6-foot, 189-pounder has excellent height and length, but also has a tall, lanky frame that he needs to fill out for the NFL. He was electric at the combine with a 4.37-second time in the 40-yard dash and a strong showing in the field drills.
Over the past two seasons, Jackson was a steady defender for Houston. He recorded two interceptions, 37 tackles and 10 passes broken up in 2014. The previous year, he had one pick, 35 tackles and seven passes batted.
This pick makes a lot of sense for the Steelers in the first round. Despite in this mock draft Eli Apple and Vernon Butler being available at No. 25, not many would fault the Steelers for taking the big cornerback who lit up the NFL Scouting Combine recently. The team has a dire need for a cornerback who can play both man and zone schemes, is physical and has ball skills. Jackson III fits the bill.
As for the second round prediction, well, take a look at who Campbell predicts the Steelers will take in the second round at pick No. 58:
58. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
After Martavis Bryant's suspension, Pittsburgh could use a wide receiver for depth. The Steelers could use Boyd in a variety of ways and bring back the slash role into their offense.
Boyd totaled 91 receptions for 926 yards and six touchdowns in 2015. The year before, he notched 78 receptions for 1,126 yards and eight touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 197-pounder has speed to go with his size. The sophomore was impressive against good defensive backs in 2014, including Virginia Tech's tough secondary. If Boyd can stay out of trouble in the leadup to the 2016 NFL Draft, his DUI arrest probably won't prevent him from being selected early on.
In Boyd's first game for the Panthers in 2013, he gave Florida State some problems. That set the tone for him to break a lot of Larry Fitzgerald's freshman records. Boyd caught 85 passes for 1,174 yards with seven touchdowns in 2013. He also ran for a score and returned a punt for a touchdown.
As much as the first round prediction made sense, this is at the completely different end of the spectrum. It isn't as if Tyler Boyd, who played his college football at Pittsburgh and shares a practice facility with the Steelers, isn't a tremendous talent, but this pick would certainly test Colbert's 'Best Player Available' strategy. Although the Steelers might still look to address the wide receiver position, there are simply too many defensive holes to be filled for them to take a 2nd round flier on wide receiver depth.
Could the Steelers take a player like Boyd in the second round? Well, no one thought they would take Sammie Coates, or any other wide receiver, in the 3rd round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but they felt he was a good fit for the team and someone they could use moving forward. The same could happen in 2016, but I wouldn't bet on it.
The day of mock drafts ending and the real draft happening is on the horizon...it will be here before you know it.