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2018 Pittsburgh Steelers Big Board (By Ranking)

It is that time of the year again! Time to dust off the latest Big Board, although slightly abridged, as we lead up to the NFL Draft!

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

For those wondering, no, I am not going to do a full fledged Big Board this year. There simply isn’t enough time and motivation to do my normal level of research, collecting and jotting down all the links you deserve. Beyond that, I have always kept the data in a gigantic table and simply copied it here, which the new VOX editing program won’t allow because the text has - gasp! - commas. Grrrr...

But how am I supposed to play the mock-draft games if I don’t have proper input from y’all? It’s a serious problem for a true addict! So with your help I would like to offer a methodone version of the Big Board rather than the full on addict’s fix. [Draft drug dealers of the world unite!]

What follows is a list of the players I think the Steelers are most likely to target in Rounds 1-3, and probably in Round 5 as well to the extent that any remain. The heavy focus is on ILB’s, Safeties and Tight Ends, with a nod toward the “special” players in Round 1 and a few of the many Running Backs that deserve to be listed. Please drop your thoughts on the (very raw) suggested grades in the Comments. If we can get some consistency I will try to incorporate it and publish an update.

Anyone who wants to take over should say so! I will be happy to share both the master file and the credit. A Big Board format is the only real way to compare players across positions while narrowing down the “value” fight to something workable. You’d be doing us all a service. Write to me with any questions.

Organized by Highest Value (“HV#”) to the Steelers. Great players for other teams get downgraded here, as do positions where Pittsburgh has limited “want.” An HV of 1:25 means the player would be a reach for the Steelers at any point before Pick # 25 overall but good value at any point from the end of the 1st on. Getting that player in the early 2nd would be a bargain, while getting him at 2:14 would almost be a steal. Yes, this system results in a certain amount of grade inflation for positions of need because we are talking about the “highest” grade, not the one where a player is expected to go. At the same time, I only push grades downward to reflect those issues; no one ever has a grade pushed up for need.

Finally, players with the same HV# are more-or-less equivalent so don’t sweat the order inside each grouping. I tried to group them by position: Defense, then Offense, inside to out.

Rounds are subdivided as follows:

  • 1st Round grades: 1:01, 1:05, 1:10, 1:15, 1:20, or 1:25.
  • 2nd & 3rd Round grades: Early (#:01), Mid (#:12), or Late (#:24).
  • 4th to 7th Round grades: Early (#:01) or Late (#:16).

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ROUND 1

HV 1:01 - FS Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama. The closest thing in the draft to Ed Reed, except he can probably play Corner too. The very prototype of a Free Safety. Don’t dream, it Ain’t Gonna Happen.

HV 1:01 - SS Derwin James, Florida St. 6’3”, 215 lbs. The closest thing in the draft to Troy Polamalu coming out of USC. The very prototype of a Strong Safety. Don’t dream, it Ain’t Gonna Happen.

HV 1:01 - QB Sam Darnold, USC. Ain’t Gonna Happen, but if you get a shot at a franchise QB you take it.

HV 1:01 - QB Josh Rosen, UCLA. Ain’t Gonna Happen, but if you get a shot at a franchise QB you take it.

HV 1:01 - RB Saquon Barkley, Penn St. Spare us. It Ain’t Gonna Happen.

HV 1:05 - QB Josh Allen, Wyoming. Ain’t Gonna Happen, but if you get a shot at a franchise QB you take it. [And he is a little Ben-like in many ways].

HV 1:10 - ILB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech. 6’5”, 253 lbs. An athletic miracle who plays football at the most-needed position. He might even be too big! Mike Mayock and other Combine pundits speculated about whether he might grow into a superb Edge player rather than staying as an oversized Mack. The Steelers would leap on Tremaine Edmunds like a pack of starving badgers if he fell to #28, but the odds of him hitting #15 are slim to none. Do they trade up if he somehow falls to #20...? I hope so.

HV 1:10 - ILB Roquan Smith, Georgia. 6’1”, 236 lbs. The dream ILB pick for most of Steeler Nation, Smith lacks the ultra-freakish athleticism to be the next Ryan Shazier but he’s probably as close as you’ll get to being the next C.J. Mosely. Fast, smart, hard-working, etc., etc. Like Edmunds, there’s almost no chance that he falls all the way to #28 and the F.O. would have to seriously consider a trade up by ten spots if he falls out of the top 15.

HV 1:15 EDGE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State. Ain’t Gonna Happen. He’s only here to make the point that even the best Edge player in the draft gets a downgrade compared to the ILB’s and Safeties.

HV 1:15 OG Quentin Nelson, Notre Dame. 6’5”, 329 lbs. Do the Steelers need a Guard? No, of course not. Would they pick a bigger and more physical David DeCastro if he fell to #28? Heck yeah. Would they take him over Evans or LVE at the bigger position of need? [My brain hurts]. Probably. A few years back Kevin Colbert talked about putting the “special talents” into their own Round 1 category because (essentially) they count as more than just one player on your 11 man squad. Since Nelson fits in that category there is no way to drop him any lower.

HV 1:20 ILB Rashaan Evans, Alabama. 6’3”, 234 lbs. The NFL.com scouting profile compares him to a young Lawrence Timmons who played through a nasty groin injury for all of 2018. That will do nicely, TYVM. He and LVE are neck-and-neck as the Steelers’ most likely 1st round pick.

HV 1:20 ILB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise St. 6’4”, 256 lbs. See Tremaine Edmunds and then make him vaguely human and a 1-year starter. Nobody this big should be able to move like he does. LVE and Rashaan Evans are neck-and-neck as the Steelers’ most likely 1st round pick.

HV 1:20 CB Denzel Ward, Ohio St. 5’10”, 191 lbs. The best pure Corner in the draft, with 4.32 speed combined with ridiculous balance and COD. If he was 2” taller he’d be a lock for the Top 10; 4” taller and he’d be Top 5. Ain’t Gonna Happen. But if he’s there the Steelers will face some hard choices.

HV 1:25 NT Vita Vea, Washington. 6’4”, 247 lbs. Don’t compare him to Casey Hampton. That isn’t fair because Big Snack has become a figure of myth and legend in the minds of Steeler Nation. Dontari Poe or a pre-Browns Danny Shelton? Those are quite fair, and maybe even Haloti Ngata (known to Pittsburghers as “The Eater of Children” back in the day). If the Steelers needed a NT the way they need an ILB or a Safety, Vea would be good value in the low teens. But for this team he’s a half step back because Javon Hargrave is more than adequate already.

HV 1:25 EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College. 6’3”, 252 lbs. Not so much a testing freak as a movement freak. He’s the sort of gumby pass rusher that gives OT’s fits, especially when combined with a relentless attitude. If the Steelers really are unhappy with Bud Dupree, this would be the most semi-realistic man to target.

HV 1:25 SS Ronnie Harrison, Alabama. 6’3”, 214 lbs. Ronnie Harrison will be at or near the top of the Steeler wish list if the top four ILB’s are off the board when the Steelers pick. He needs a good bit of polish and rumor has it that he’s more a team player than an alpha dog, but those are the sort of quibbles that keep you out of the Top 10-15. He’s absolutely good enough to fit in the Top 32. It’s only a question of comparing him to the other talent that’s still on the Board.

ROUND 2

HV 2:01 DL Da’ron Payne, Alabama. 6’2”, 311 lbs. Imagine a player you really, truly believe will be the next Cam Heyward. Do the Steelers have a hole at that spot? No, and that is why his grade is insultingly low. But would you want the F.O. to ignore the next Cam Heyward if he fell in their lap?

HV 2:01 SS Justin Reid, Stanford. 6’1”, 204 lbs. Stanford smart, 4.40 fast, and ready to rumble. Justin Reid is a nigh-perfect fit for the Steelers’ recent defensive philosophy on draft picks. Indeed, my dream scenario goes like this: The best of the four top ILB’s in Round 1, Justin Reid in Round 2, and then we call the whole draft a win as we move on to collect some gravy...

HV 2:01 QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma. 6’1”, 215 lbs. [Ducking]. I want absolutely no part of this fight. All I’ll say is that a discount has been applied to reflect the relative lack of need for a QB versus an ILB or a Safety.

HV 2:01 QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville. 6’3”, 200 lbs. Nor this fight! Same discount for a man fairly described as “Josh Dobbs but 3 rounds better”.

HV 2:12 EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA. 6’6”, 264 lbs. Played as a 3-4 OLB in college but might be better suited for a hand-in-the-dirt role. Will require a solid year of coaching before making any mark in the NFL, but has the physical potential to make a very big mark thereafter.

HV 2:24 SS Marcus Allen, Penn St. 6’2”, 202 lbs. Listen to the pundits and you hear a constant refrain: “He looks like a Steeler…” A heady, hard-hitting box safety who’d get much higher grades if he had the speed and fluidity to occasionally cover NFL-caliber athletes in Nickel. Well known for leadership qualities too. Very similar prospect to W.Va.’s Kyzir White but a little smaller. NOTE: This may be the grade I struggled with the most. One really good interview and he pops up to 2:24.

HV 2:24 SS Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech. 6’2”, 220 lbs. A Strong Safety with exceptional size and speed (he blew up the Combine big time), but less in the way of football skills than the other Safeties in the Round 2-3 discussion. Open field tackling and poor angles (related issues) seem to be the primary issues. OTOH he only turned 21 in late January, he’s been widely praised for his leadership skills despite the lack of years, and his bloodline includes a pro bowl TE for a father, Saints RB Trey Edmunds, and a brother named Tremaine who will go in the top of Round 1 at ILB. Bottom line: this is a player with the stuff to be a very good pro if he can get coached up on various parts of his game, and the physical assets to be an immediate help in run support as a Big Nickel Safety while he learns what it takes to be a starter. Tomlin and Colbert were both on hand for his pro day. Here are the NFL.com Combine scouting profile and the regular scouting profile. This goes to a Steelers-oriented, gif-supported scouting report.

HV 2:24 SS Kyzir White, W. Va. 6’2”, 216 lbs. 100% football player but only an average athlete if your standard is “athletes capable of starting in the NFL.” Talk about a grading curve! The young Mr. White gets universal kudos for his leadership too. The written descriptions make him sound very similar to Penn State’s Marcus Allen but a little bigger.

HV 2:24 CB Carlton Davis, Auburn. 6’1”, 203 lbs. A slightly bigger version of Josh Jackson, with slightly better coverage skills and a lot less ability to get after the ball. Very high floor for a college Corner.

HV 2:24 CB Josh Jackson, Iowa. 6’1”, 192 lbs. Looks the part and plays the part, but he lacks the extraordinary catch-up speed you look for and he doesn’t play the sort of physical, hard-tackling game to make up for it. But those are the half-empty points of view. Jackson is quite solid, has extraordinary ball skills, and an amazing ability to get his head around compared to most college Corners.

HV 2:24 TE Dallas Goedert, S.D. State. 6’5”, 255 lbs. Wonderful hands with good speed, good size, and a history of dominating against small school competition. But that level of competition really matters when you’re being asked to oppose NFL pass linemen and edge players in the running game, and to outfight NFL safeties in the passing game. Think Jesse James with further to go and a higher “boom” potential.

HV 2:24 RB Sony Michel, Georgia. 5’11”, 220 lbs. He does everything well, including blocking, and has become a BTSC fan favorite for very good reason. Discounted here from a solid Round 2 pick because Pittsburgh has only a moderate need for help at the RB position. Increase the need and you’d be looking at a real favorite for Pick #60.

ROUND 3

HV 3:01 FS Jessie Bates III, Wake Forest. 6’2”, 195. A classic center-fielder with enough physical gifts to be a long time starter after a few years learning the NFL game and building up his body.

HV 3:01 TE Mike Gesicki, Penn St. 6’5”, 247 lbs. Vance McDonald but even faster. A very fine prospect for any team focused on a receiving TE, but he isn’t a good blocker and he isn’t built in a way that makes it look like he’s going to get there. A pick that would make sense if the team wants to drop McDonald’s salary and health issues, but only under those conditions.

HV 3:01 RB Derrius Guice, LSU. 5’10”, 212 lbs. An injury plagued 2017 and the Steelers’ depth at RB reduces his value. The NFL.com scouting profile compares him to Marshawn Lynch.

HV 3:01 RB Ronald Jones, USC. 5’11”, 200 lbs. A slashing back with good shiftiness, good hands, and decent speed.

HV 3:01 RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn. 6’, 212 lbs. Johnson has every asset you want in a running back except breakaway speed and bone-crushing power. He’s shifty, sudden, hard to tackle, plenty fast enough, a good blocker, a hard worker, etc. The big knock seems to be health concerns, though he’s carried a heavy workload so far without real harm.

HV 3:24 ILB Malik Jefferson, Texas. 6’3”, 236 lbs. A young man with the athletic gifts to perform well as an NFL Mack, but question marks about his ability to absorb an process an NFL defense well enough to handle the above-the-neck aspects of the position. He’s either a solid Round 2 pick or a boom-or-bust for Round 5, and determining which is beyond the ability of anyone who lacks the chance to really meet with and interview him.

HV 3:24 TE Hayden Hurst, S. Car. 6’4”, 250 lbs. A fine receiving TE who’d get a much higher grade if he wasn’t 24 years old. The Steelers like them young, and Hurst just doesn’t fit the mold.

HV 3.24 TE Ian Thomas, Indiana. 6’5”, 248 lbs. Raw but talented. Very much in the mold of Jesse James. It’s very hard to even guess where he will end up, but the floor is pretty solidly set at “contributor.”

ROUND 4

HV 4:01 SS Quin Blanding, Virginia. 6’2”, 215 lbs. A size XL box safety with decent speed, but nothing particularly special beyond that. The sort of player who’s sure to be a fine special teams guy and has a chance to be much, much more than that if he can develop the football IQ and recognition to take a step up. Can he? No one coming out of UVA is dumb, but he’s got a long way to go.

HV 4:01 TE Mark Andrews, Oklahoma. A big, former WR target with good hands, who runs good routes and has a genuine knack for finding the soft spot in zone coverage. Would be ranked higher if he had the speed to stretch the seam or had shown the nastiness to be an asset in the run game.

HV 4:01 TE Dalton Schultz, Stanford. 6’6”, 242 lbs. A fine blocker with a Stanford-level football IQ and a good ability to find open zones, but not a special athlete. It’s hard to see him growing into a lot more than that.