The NFL Scouting Combine is just days away, and despite there being very little evidence of teams actually showing interest in any specific players, NFL Draft analysts are feverishly typing away at those mock drafts.
Of course, websites like this one love the speculation, as it can create some quality discussion and debate about positional need, and individual prospects who could possibly be considered for an NFL franchise.
As I’ve stated before, some analysts’ mock drafts are regarded in higher distinction than others, and Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN would certainly be in the upper echelon.
In Kiper’s latest 2.0 mock draft, he joined a growing number of people who are predicting Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to the Steelers with pick No. 28 in the first round.
See what Kiper had to say about the selection:
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
*Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
Vander Esch is a name I continue to hear for the end of the first round. I expect him to put up strong numbers at the combine. At 6-4, 240, he has the versatility to play outside linebacker, but I think his best fit is as an inside ‘backer in a 3-4. He’s a physical run-stopper who can defend tight ends and running backs -- he had three interceptions in 2017. Inside linebacker is an obvious need for the Steelers, who will have to replace Ryan Shazier. This is also a spot where I could see a team trading up to grab Louisville quarterback and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, who I think will be the fifth QB off the board.
The analysis of Kiper seems rather lazy to me, when it comes to Vander Esch. Nothing he said shows anything more than “The Steelers have a need, and this kid fits the bill.”
But what is more interesting is how Kiper suggests this may be where a team moves up in the draft to try and select a player like Lamar Jackson. With pick No. 28, the Steelers should be receiving any, and all, phone calls from teams who may want to jump back into the first round, in order to garner more draft picks.
Pittsburgh currently has at least one pick in every round, except in the 4th and 6th rounds. Adding picks, especially in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, if some of the dynamic playmakers the team sought after aren’t on the board anymore would be a best-case scenario for the Steelers.
Nonetheless, Vander Esch, depending on how he tests at the Combine, could be there, and might just be a player the Steelers like enough to take at No. 28.