Now that the Steelers have made some free agent additions, and helped shore up some holes on the defense, it’s time to revisit what the team could potentially do in the draft. While they have added solid depth to the inside linebacker and safety positions, it will not stop them from addressing those two needs in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft.
With that being said, let’s get into the mock:
1st Round: Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama
The ideal scenario is Rashaan Evans falls to the Steelers in the first round. While this may have seemed like a pipe dream a month ago, Leighton Vander Esch’s combine rise could propel him to go ahead of Evans. Evans is the ideal player for what the Steelers ask of their inside linebackers as his athletic ability, versatility to line up on the edge at times (was actually an OLB before he converted off the ball) and not to mention his effective blitzing are traits the Steelers love.
I still have conflicting feelings on Rashaan Evans best fit. It's not that I don't think he can be a good off ball LB, but as a 3-4 OLB, his pass rush ability would go to use better. I kinda have this Haason Reddick dilemma right now. pic.twitter.com/dNLYVXQqmb— The Mick Nartin™ (@themicknartin) February 6, 2018
While Evans didn’t participate in the 40 at the combine, he did all the position drills and agility drills. He looked particularly outstanding in the position drills.
He’s able to get a lot of depth in his drops due to his speed, fluid hip flips and his ability to change directions smoothly.
My only real worry is the groin injury he dealt with during the season that seemed to linger throughout the season. He showed his toughness being able to play through it, but I’m worried it could potentially flare back up again during his rookie season because those type of injuries can tend to nag (granted I’m no doctor).
Evans would be the ideal pick for the Steelers at 28 as they’d be bringing a semblance of speed and versatility the Steelers lost when Ryan Shazier was lost to injury.
2nd Round: Terrell Edmunds, Safety, Virginia Tech
That’s the one word to how I’d describe Terrell Edmunds. Like his younger Brother, Tremaine Edmunds (projected top 10 pick), Terrell is an absolute size and speed freak at his position.
He actually tested better than top 15 projected pick Derwin James, and did it 2 lbs heavier. Edmunds possesses all the physical qualities the Steelers look for in a safety.
However, the one real caveat to Terrell’s game is that he’s very raw from a mental processing point of view. He’s a few steps slow when it comes to seeing and reacting, which can result in him taking some poor angles towards the ball carrier. In all honesty, I believe he’s more raw than Sean Davis was coming out Maryland, though I still have more work to do with watching film on Terrell.
A few things to keep in mind about Terrell though is that he was a cornerback coming out of high school and is currently 21 years old. He’s very young and hasn’t played the Safety position very long, so there’s definitely some projection to his game that needs to be accounted for.
In fact, in 2016, he didn’t really play the safety position, but rather the Rover position. For those who don’t know, the Rover is basically a hybrid of the sorts between a linebacker and safety. It takes the place of the nickel defender which is typically the slot CB and they usually line up on the side of the field with the most receivers. They typically are used to guard the inside receiver (TE, WR or RB) in man coverage and usually act as the force defender in run support.
One thing that will probably get the Steelers brass attention is the strong character traits Terrell has. Justin Fuente speaks very highly of him:
“I think athletically he’s just different. He’s an incredibly hard worker but I’ve never seen a guy that can’t get tired. He doesn’t. We know about the family, just great people in general but there’s just something different about him,” Fuente added about the middle Edmunds brother, “his stamina, his strength, his work ethic, his intelligence. He’s pretty special. When they go run in the summertime and we go do things and you’re playing games and he’s covering punts and playing safety and covering kickoffs, he’s the fastest guy out there every single time, every single rep, it’s pretty fun to watch. He can do about whatever he wants really. He’s pretty talented.”
While I’d personally be a bit hesitant to take him in the 2nd round at this juncture, I feel this is a spot Colbert and company would definitely consider him their guy, especially if they haven’t taken a Safety yet. With Morgan Burnett added, and the potential of Sean Davis being moved to FS, it might make sense for the Steelers to take a raw safety with great potential to bring along slowly in sub packages and play special teams.
3rd Round: Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee State
You read the title, why should you be surprised? If you don’t think the Steelers aren’t considering taking a WR decently high after Eli Rogers suffered a torn ACL (no longer on the roster) and Martavis Bryant being in a contract year, I think you’re sorely mistaken.
Two years ago around this time of the year I was very high on MTSU Safety Kevin Byard and his NFL potential. Now once again I’m falling in love with the traits of another MTSU prospect in WR Richie James.
Richie James is one of the more underrated WRs in the class. I've always found his game similar to that of Anthony Miller in some ways. Both have excellent hips to sink and cut with ease, play larger than their size, excellent route runners and hands, but both are very tough SOBs pic.twitter.com/LmDkFawavJ— The Mick Nartin™ (@themicknartin) March 1, 2018
Richie James played QB v. FAU LY. 22 c. for 207 yd & 3 TD on ground. Will run packages TY & call it the "Brent Stockstill Jr" after his QB— FranchiseKF (@FranchiseKF) June 19, 2017
I’m a big fan of Richie’s game. The former QB coming out of high school did just about everything at MTSU from lining up at RB, to playing wildcat QB, lining up on the outside and dominating the slot. His hands are some of the best you’ll see at the college level as he’s very comfortable making adjustments to bad passes and going up to make the tough grab. Something notable is how he can catch the ball even when he doesn’t locate it initially.
Did I mention he’s tough?
Every team needs a Richie James. pic.twitter.com/HUyriDPVlI— The Mick Nartin™ (@themicknartin) March 23, 2018
He shows a lot of toughness over the middle when sustaining a big hit, and being able to adjust his body to lessen the blow of the oncoming defender. That’s a huge prerequisite of being a slot receiver, you have to be tough over the middle.
His agility is outstanding and he’s very seamless when sinking his hips and making a beautiful cut to make the defender miss. His routes are very precise and he keeps defenders guessing with his combination of moves and quickness off the release.
Wait a second, who am I writing about again?
I swear, every time I write up his strengths I find myself pondering this same question, am I watching Antonio Brown’s clone? I’m not saying Richie is going to be near the level of Antonio Brown, but I can’t help but notice how scary the similarities are.
There’s a reason why Richie James is MTSU’s all-time leading receiver in many categories, he produces vs. the top competition.
Richie James in his career vs P5 competition— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) March 2, 2018
8 games... 68-849-5 ... Yards/Game: 106
Just like Kevin Byard two years ago, there are signs once again we could be looking at a very good NFL player. Don’t let an injury plagued Junior season change your evaluation of Richie. Even when he was struggling through loads of pain, he was showing his teammates support thoughtout the injuries. I noted this when I was watching MTSU play Marshall during the season, and an ESPN sideline reporter pointed this out.
basically wondering how they were down. Richie was encouraging the heck out of the sideline. #Leadership— The Mick Nartin™ (@themicknartin) October 21, 2017
It was surprising he declared after such an injury riddled junior season, but he’s put out enough film that proves he can play, and that he can play at a very high level.
If the Steelers end up taking a receiver, I hope they take Richie James as I think he’s a really good receiver prospect, and one I believe fans could look back on and wonder how he didn’t go higher in the draft.