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.
This second iteration (the first by-position) contains is a list of the players I think the Steelers are most likely to target in Rounds 1-3, and probably in Round 5. It’s still short on the Edge talent and contains almost no WR’s or CB’s. That will come if time allows.
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 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.
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).
—- DEFENSIVE LINEMEN —-
1:25 NT Vita Vea, Washington. 6’4”, 347 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…
2:01 DT Da’ron Payne, Alabama [COMBINE]. 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?
3:01 DT Harrison Phillips, Stanford [COMBINE]. 6’4”, 307 lbs. Anyone who’s studied this player will scream at that grade, so let me be clear: I think Phillips would make a fantastic Defensive End for the Steelers who could actually find a way to push Cam Heyward once he gets a feel for the pro game. We’re talking serious brains, serious grit, good length, and a champion wrestler’s knack for balance, leverage, angles, and phone-box lateral movement. But with Heyward, Tuitt, and Alualu on the team, and Walton as the #4…? There’s just no room. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
5:01 NT Kendrick Norton, Miami. 6’3”, 314 lbs. Looking for a true, run stuffing, 0-tech Nose Tackle other than Vita Vea? Good luck in this draft. They are few and far between to say the least. Kendrick Norton may be the only real value pick before you get toward the rookie free agent pool. He has plenty of warts, as you can see from the NFL.com scouting profile. He wouldn’t, e.g., provide a fraction of the pass rush that Pittsburgh gets from Javon Hargrave and thus would be limited to the 3-5 plays per game when pure ‘immovable force’ matters more. He may even be a bit miscast as a 3-4 NT according to this gif-supported scouting report (“He’s a “1-tech through and through”).
5:16 NT Derrick Nnadi, Florida St. [COMBINE]. 6’1”, 317 lbs. The NFL.com scouting profile is easy to sum up from a Steelers’ perspective: “A poor man’s Javon Hargrave.” He’d have a higher grade if Pittsburgh played a 4-3 and wasn’t looking for someone to handle double teams. Here is a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants.
—- EDGE RUSHERS —-
1:15 Edge Bradley Chubb, N.C. State. Ain’t Gonna Happen.
1:20 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. This would be the Steelers’ ideal target if they really are unhappy with Bud Dupree, but the odds of him falling into their hands are slim to none. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
1:25 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. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
2:12 Edge Josh Sweat, Florida St. 6’4”, 251 lbs. A middle-class man’s Bud Dupree with exceptional length, the ability to play in space, and very good burst off the ball when he isn’t totally late. What he lacks is the same thing that hinders Dupree: the ability to rubber-man himself around and under NFL tackles. His stock would be a little higher if there was no history of knee issues, but that could also be an explanation for why he might discover some bend in the pros that has been less apparent in college. Of course, Dupree is going to get darned expensive pretty soon… Here is the NFL.com scouting profile, and here are scouting profiles from our sister site for the Panthers, our sister site for the Giants, and a Patriots-oriented website. This goes to a gif-supported, very enthusiastic scouting report from our sister site for the Titans.
2:12 Edge Kemoko Turay, Rutgers. 6’5”, 252 lbs. The NFL.com scouting profile describes a poor man’s Bud Dupree, with great explosiveness and the ability to play in space counterbalanced by a lack of bend. My how the draft process can change people’s minds! More recent reviews like this gif-supported scouting report credit Turay with a gumby-like bend close to Harold Landry’s. This Cowboys-oriented scouting profile is similarly enthusiastic. I suspect he’d be a Round 1 pick in most people’s eyes if not for a nasty history of injuries, with yet another that limited his Combine performance. See this Giants-oriented scouting profile. This goes to a draft process blog he is writing, which may provide some insight into the young man through his own words.
2:24 Edge Lorenzo Carter, Georgia. 6’6”, 250 lbs. A prospect who could be described as a poor man’s Bud Dupree because his assets (explosiveness and length) are tied to a lack of bend. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
2:24 Edge Sam Hubbard, Ohio State. 6’5”, 265 lbs. A nonstop, technically sound piece for a 4-3 team looking to draft an overachiever who wins with guile, technique and motor rather than astonishing burst or bend. He plays surprisingly well in space because he used to play as a defensive back before adding on bulk. Here are the NFL.com scouting profile and a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants. This nice, gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Titans compares Hubbard to Mike Vrabel, which rings true to my ear. Don’t be at all surprised if he gets targeted by either Vrabel himself (Tennessee) or by the Patriots.
3:24 Edge Arden Key, LSU. 6’6”, 238 lbs. This year’s Randy Gregory. Key is the most divisive prospect in the draft because he has extraordinary pass rushing ability paired with very serious off-field problems and questions about whether he has the discipline to survive any professional success he manages to achieve. Great mystery surrounds the “personal problems” that derailed his Top-5 hopes, but if the Steelers believe they are truly behind him there is no better pass rushing prospect in the draft. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
4:01 Edge Kylie Fitts, UCLA. 6’4”, 263 lbs. Long, bendy, nimble, explosive and strong: those are primary assets you look for in an Edge Rusher. Fitts has the first three down, but struggles with explosiveness and hasn’t shown the ability to convert his gym strength into setting the edge against the run. He’s also been handicapped by an ongoing series of medical problems. The potential is there, but getting him to unlock it could be frustrating for all involved. OTOH, he played for the Steelers new DB coach, Tom Bradley, so the team presumably has an inside track. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
4:16 Edge Trevon Young, Louisville. 6’4”, 254 lbs. It’s all about the medicals. He suffered a nasty hip injury in 2016 (fractured and dislocated), and simply wasn’t the same player in 2017. The young man in early 2016 would be a few rounds higher. The one last year would be several rounds lower. This is an average, but it really depends on the medicals. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
—- INSIDE LINEBACKERS —-
1:05 LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech. 6’5”, 253 lbs. An athletic miracle who can play 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.
1:10 LB Roquan Smith, Georgia. 6’1”, 236 lbs. The dream ILB pick for much 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. He’d be right up there toward the Top 10 if he was a little better at taking on blocks. Yes, he could learn to be better at that, but the fact that he needs to is a slight knock.
1:15 LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise St. [COMBINE] 6’4”, 256 lbs. See Tremaine Edmunds and then make him vaguely human and a 1-year starter with better tackling skills. 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. This excellent, gif-heavy scouting report from our sister site for the Titans is the first place to go for an introduction. He’s been linked to the Steelers by Mike Mayock and Mel Kiper, Dan Kadar, and many others. Heck, his family even owns a football bus. Here are some Steelers-oriented scouting profiles: Report #1, Report #2, Report #3, and Report #4. You can find many others with a more general focus.
1:20 LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama [COMBINE]. 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.
2:24 LB Jerome Baker, Ohio State. 6’2”, 229 lbs. When does “fast and rangy Mack ILB” tip over into “oversized hybrid Safety”? Jerome Baker is right at that tipping point. He has the speed, athleticism, and other factors you look for but the NFL.com Combine profile isn’t alone when it questions his ability to handle NFL physicality, let alone to get free from NFL linemen.
2:24 LB Darius Leonard, S.C. State. 6’2”, 234 lbs. He’s got the speed and the range, but the NFL.com Combine profile emphasizes that he put 50 pounds on his frame during college. Can he get big and strong enough to withstand the NFL game? He also comes from a smaller school (Javon Hargrave’s alma mater). Here is a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants.
2:24 LB Fred Warner, BYU. 6’3”, 227 lbs. Fast, fluid, and a willing hitter despite his lack of statute, Warner was actually used in college as an Edge Rusher for many of his snaps. That won’t happen against NFL Tackles, but it suggests very good things about his ability to get off blocks if a lineman reached him in space. These links go to the NFL.com scouting profile and a typically good Draft Wire interview, which shows a pretty solid football IQ.
3:01 LB Uchenna Nwosu, USC. 6’3”, 251 lbs. A heck of an athlete with surprising athleticism, many pundits view Nwosu as an Edge player more than an off-ball linebacker. On the numbers, he compares to T.J. Watt with far lower numbers in the explosiveness tests like the vertical and broad jumps. He didn’t do the 3-cone drill or shuttles that measure change of direction, but is expected to do better on those. The Steelers would see him as an ILB with pass rushing assets. But could he play Mack, or only Buck? Here are the NFL.com scouting profile, a gif-supported scouting profile from a Bears perspective, and an interview posted at Draft Wire.
3:12 MACK ILB/HYBRID Shaun Dion-Hamilton, Alabama [COMBINE]. 6’0”, 230 lbs. High school valedictorian. Alabama team captain. Starting linebacker ahead of likely Round 1 pick Rashaan Evans until this year’s freak injury. Your humble author has admitted to a draft crush in this case and admits to believing SDH might have had higher stock in this class than Roquan Smith if he hadn’t been hurt. “Steal” doesn’t begin to cover it. If the team doctors clear his knee, this is an almost certain Round 1 talent who will most likely be available in Round 3. But will the doctors clear him? We don’t know, but my guess would be “yes.” The big 2016 injury was an ACL. He came back way ahead of schedule and was looking great until a freak hit fractured his kneecap in 2017. The second injury had nothing to do with the first, and just like a broken bone should heal completely.
So why am I so enthusiastic? Scouting reports like this one (“the best hips of all the inside linebackers in this class” and “one of the best coverage inside linebackers that I saw on tape”) will do that. So will scouting profiles that read, “quarterback of the Crimson Tide defensive, making pre-snap reads and rarely coming off the field... solid forum tackler who can make plays in the open field.” The NFL.com scouting profile includes the key information with some probably healthy pessimism. (1) Hamilton has suffered season-ending injuries in each of the past two years, which raises medical red flags and limits the available film. Explain it away all you like, it’s an issue. (2) Hamilton has an outstanding, C.J. Mosley-or-better football IQ, and the charisma to really lead a defense. I place extreme value on that, but you don’t have to. (3) The pre-injury SDH had all the exceptional athletic talent you’d expect of an Alabama top-level prospect. Bottom line: It’s up to the doctors. He could get picked in Round 2 or he could have to wait until Round 6 depending on their verdict. FYI, note this February Draft Wire interview where the young man tells us, “My kneecap is fully healed at this point. I’ve started running and things of that nature. I’m ahead of schedule. I’m just taking it day by day. Every day seems to get better.” Here is a Rams-oriented scouting profile that basically echoes my opinion except for the player comp.
3.24 LB Oren Burks, Vanderbilt. 6’3”, 233 lbs. The NFL.com scouting profile describes a classic hybrid LB/SS tweener who’s a step too slow to be a true safety and some oomph too slow to be a true linebacker. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants echoes that view in suspiciously similar language. OTOH, interviews show a smart young man who has a good grasp of fitting into a true team defense. It’s a case of projection. Personally, I see a lot of pre-injury Sean Spence if he can build up some ‘nasty’. His biggest concrete problem has lain in getting off blocks, but that is a learnable skill and one shared by most men faced with an athletic NFL lineman who outweighs you by 100 lbs.
3:24 LB 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 learn an NFL defense, his leadership, his on-field demeanor, and his play strength. He’s either an early Round 2 pick or a boom-or-bust flier for Round 5. Determining which is beyond the ability of anyone who lacks the chance to really meet with and interview him. The NFL.com scouting profile sounds the warning notes, as do this fairly detailed scouting profile and this scouting profile from our sister site for the Redskins. This shallow, Chargers-oriented scouting profile emphasizes the outstanding physical tools.
4:01 LB Genard Avery, Memphis. 6’1”, 255 lbs. The NFL.com scouting profile describes a very strong, explosive and versatile player who is big enough to play Buck ILB, moves well enough in space (despite the size) to manage at Mack ILB, and could play Edge if he had more bend and flexibility. A true Jack Of All Trades that brings Arthur Moats to mind. Moats has quietly solved a number of potentially vexing depth problems while excelling on special teams and serving as a fine example of humanity for the team and city. But he did just turn 30, which is getting up there in LB-years. A younger and more athletic version might be helpful for long term planning. This goes to a fine and very complimentary gif-supported scouting report courtesy of 58Steel. A fine Combine performance sparked other reports too, including this scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants, and this briefer scouting profile.
4:16 LB Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson. 6’1”, 215 lbs. Whoever invented the term “Nickelbacker” may have had this young man in mind. The NFL.com scouting profile is typical of the breed: O’Daniel is a born special teams demon with too little size to really succeed as a linebacker and too few “quicks” to be an oversized Safety. One notable thing: the testing showed great C.O.D. ability, but that is one of the things he failed to show on film. Steeler Nation shouldn’t forget that Robert Golden was a special teams ace, and that there’s room for a Big Nickel role player. O’Daniel fits those roles like they were made for him.
4:16 LB Tegray Scales, Indiana. 6’0”, 230 lbs. The NFL.com scouting profile describes what Steeler Nation would call a very promising but undersized Buck ILB who lacks the foot speed to excel at the more-needed Mack position, and the size to be an upgrade on Williams or Matakevich. The pundits, like this brief Draft Wire scouting profile, emphasize how often his football IQ and disciplined skill set compensate for his relative lack of outstanding athleticism. He’s the sort of player you love to have on your team, but probably not the one Pittsburgh is looking for.
5:01 LB Shaquem Griffin, Central Florida. 6’1”, 227 lbs. This is the young man who challenged the Combine’s all-time linebacker record for speed, and put up decent strength numbers too despite having no left hand due to a congenital birth defect. The best draft story of the year: period. There’s no getting around the fact that his handicap is, well, a handicap, but that only limits his value. The NFL.com scouting profile seems pretty solid in this case, describing an excellent small-school prospect whose real limits may be more size- and linearity-related than having to do with his hand.
HYBRID SS/ILB Skai Moore, South Carolina. 6’2”, 226 lbs. A two-year team captain and one of the best cover-LB’s in the class, Moore’s grade is limited by his lack of size and some residual worry about a serious 2016 fusion surgery on his neck. It’s a pretty tight grade because the floor and ceiling are close together: If he stays healthy he will be some variation on “hybrid SS/Mack and special teams demon.” If the medicals are an issue he will be out of the league. The NFL.com scouting profile adds those up into a late Day 3 grade, as does this scouting profile. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants, who also need a cover-capable linebacker or two, seems to place him in the early to mid Day 3 range. This gif-heavy, Panthers-oriented scouting report seems to agree: “immediate depth with enough upside to hope that they might be able to contribute in a more significant way down the road.” The CBS scouting profile more or less agrees. “… changes direction in a hurry. Almost built like rocked up safety. Great depth sinking in coverage and possesses keen route-recognition skills and quickly reacts to quarterbacks’ eyes. Doesn’t fly sideline-to-sideline but has range and is a decent blocker-shedder. A candidate to outperform his draft position.” [Infinite thanks to poster 58Steel for the find & research]
5:16 LB Josey Jewell, Iowa. 6’1”, 235 lbs. The NFL.com scouting profile calls him a poor man’s Sean Lee, but he honestly reminds me more of a slightly more athletic Tyler Matakevich, a player I love who is already on the team.
6:01 LB Micah Kizer, Va. State. 6’2”, 240 lbs. A prototype Buck ILB who’d deserve a much deeper look if the Steelers had more need in that department. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
6:01 LB Christian Sam, Arizona State. 6’2”, 236 lbs. A prototype Buck ILB who’d deserve a much deeper look if the Steelers had more need in that department. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
6:16 LB Andre Smith, North Carolina. 6’0”, 240 lbs. 100% thumper coming off a knee injury. He’d have no chance to be more than a 3rd string Buck ILB behind Williams and Matakevich, and would do better finding a team with more use for his skill set. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
—- SAFETIES —-
1:01 FS Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama [COMBINE]. 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.
1:01 DUAL 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.
2:01 DUAL Justin Reid, Stanford [COMBINE & VISIT]. 6’1”, 204 lbs. Stanford smart, 4.40 fast, and ready to rumble. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile. A favorite of the BTSC draft community, he fits the recent Steeler profile of looking for smart, fast athletes who can play both Free and Strong Safety.
2:12 DUAL Ronnie Harrison, Alabama [COMBINE]. 6’3”, 214 lbs. Harrison is this year’s unfortunate beneficiary of my “Sold Too Hard And Too Early Award”, as typified by this Cowboys-oriented scouting profile and this Chiefs-oriented scouting profile. The NFL.com scouting profile also lauds his physical talents, but notes the common rumors that he’s more a team player than an alpha dog. But the draft community has backlashed a bit, pointing out that he played across from the best Free Safety in the nation and behind the best front seven.
2:24 FS Jessie Bates III, Wake Forest [COMBINE & PRO DAY]. 6’2”, 195. A classic centerfield Free Safety with enough physical gifts to be a long time starter after a few years learning the NFL game and building up his body. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
2:24 SS/HYBRID Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech [TOMLIN & COLBERT BOTH AT PRO DAY]. 6’2”, 220 lbs. Portrait of a SPARQ-score superstar: the size of a huge, almost-linebackerish Strong Safety wedded with the exceptional speed and athleticism of a true Free Safety. Terrell Edmunds would be right up there with his brother Tremaine if he didn’t lack the same level of football skills seen in the other Safeties in the Round 2-3 discussion. Open field tackling and poor angles (related issues) seem to be the primary issues, but they aren’t the only ones. 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, an NFL RB brother (Trey), and a surefire Round 1 pick at ILB (Tremaine). Bottom line: this is a player with a genuine chance to be an NFL star but it won’t happen unless he can get coached up on various parts of his game. He gets a full retail grade because he also has the physical tools to be an immediate help in run support as a Big Nickel Safety while he fills in the rest of his game. 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.
3:01 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.” He played the hybrid ILB/SS “Moneybacker” position at West Virginia, where he also earned plaudits for his leadership too. His Combine performance wasn’t bad but did confirm real limitations when it comes to speed. Very similar to Marcus Allen but a little bigger. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile. This goes to a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants.
3:12 DUAL Armani Watts, Texas A&M. 5’11”, 205 lbs. A solid but unspectacular prospect who is good in almost all departments but special in basically none. The NFL.com scouting profile makes him sound like a wonderful depth player and a questionable starter.
3:12 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 Kyzir White but a little smaller.
3:24 FS/DUAL Damon Webb, Ohio State. 5’11”, 209 lbs. At Ohio State he was a step-too-slow Corner who successfully transitioned to Free Safety. That’s impressive. But he’s still built like a Corner. Can the transition hold up at the NFL level? Here is the NFL.com Combine profile. This goes to a top-notch analysis of Webb’s game long matchup against a slippery Penn State slot receiver, in which Webb acquitted himself well. This video scouting profile on Webb’s tackling ability and angles was recommended by our own Nick Martin.
3:24 DUAL Deshon Elliot, Texas. 6’2”, 210 lbs. A free safety with unusual size and some questions about his play speed: sounds like a Steelers-type prospect for Strong Safety if he can develop a tackling attitude. Here are a damned-with-faint-praise NFL.com scouting profile and a Draft Wire interview that shows a film buff who really believes in building his body to have the best tool but winning with his head.
3:24 SS Godwin Igwebuike (ig-weh-BYU-kay), Northwestern. 6’0”, 205 lbs. A young man who tests exceptionally well but has played only well. Pundits applaud the leadership, grit and football IQ but can’t seem to figure out why he’s struggled so much in coverage duties. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
4:01 SS/HYBRID Quin Blanding, Virginia. 6’2”, 215 lbs. A size XL box safety with decent speed but nothing particularly special beyond that. Blanding is 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.
4:16 S Trey Flowers, Okla. St. [COMBINE]. 6’3”, 202 lbs. An exceptionally long, lean and somewhat gawky talent with excellent speed and an NFL pedigree (his Uncle Erik was a Round 1 Edge guy who had a moderate journeyman’s career). The NFL.com scouting profile lauds his length, speed, and productivity but warns that he’s neither big and tough enough to intimidate as a box safety, nor flexible enough to excel as a coverage player. This nice interview/article adds that Flowers is a heady player, and quotes him as someone who looks to keep building strength so he can play in the box in a Kam Chancellor type of role. The Steelers could use that if he manages to succeed, but we can’t designate him as a pure Strong Safety because that kind of speed and length would make for a pretty good center fielder too.
—- CORNERBACKS —-
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.
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.
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 CB’s.
3:12 CB Duke Dawson, Florida [VISIT]. 5’10-1/2”, 209 lbs. but played between 205 and 210 lbs. When it comes right down to it, Dawson is a football player who happens to play Corner. He’s an example of someone who’s very good but not great in virtually aspects of his game. The 4.45 speed is about equivalent to his physicality, nimbleness, ability to mirror, technical skills, etc. Short 31” arms are the only real knock. He would probably deserve a late-2nd grade if there was more need at the position. Here are the NFL.com scouting profile, which basically says “a good football player who’s only lacking some length.” This good looking scouting profile from a Packers site calls him a “solid Day 2 pick,” while the brief Draft Wire scouting profile pegs him as a fine looking Nickel Corner with a Round 3-4 grade.
—- OFFENSIVE LINEMEN —-
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. A true “Colbert Special” that you never refuse.
—- QUARTERBACKS —-
1:01 QB Sam Darnold, USC. Ain’t Gonna Happen.
1:01 QB Josh Rosen, UCLA. Ain’t Gonna Happen.
1:05 QB Josh Allen, Wyoming. Ain’t Gonna Happen.
1:25 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. If you see more value in a QB than I do, your grade should be higher. Will not be available after Round 1.
1:25 QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville [COMBINE]. 6’2”, 216 lbs. [Ducking again]. I want no part of this fight either! Just like Baker Mayfield, a discount has been applied and anyone who sees more value in a QB than I do should push the grade higher. My personal summary: “The same player as Joshua Dobbs but 3 rounds better, and could be special if you build the offense to suit his skills rather than asking him to fit your offense.” Will not be available after Round 1 and shouldn’t be. Michael Vick beat the Steelers single handed in one memorable game, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Lamar Jackson do the same. But is that enough over the course of a season and career? It wasn’t for Vick.
2:12 QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma St. [COMBINE]. 6’5”, 235 lbs. He fits the physical profile to a “T” and has been a good, steadily improving pocket passer throughout his college career. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile. Interviews I’ve seen confirm a solid football IQ as well. The question is really just a matter of priorities. Mason Rudolph could conceivably be available for the Steelers pick in Round 2, but will be long gone by Round 3. He’s a better prospect than Joshua Dobbs was last year, but is he better than Joshua Dobbs after a year in the system? We simply don’t know. This grade assumes that Dobbs has issues and the #3 spot is open.
—- RUNNING BACKS —-
1:01 RB Saquon Barkley, Penn St. Spare us. It Ain’t Gonna Happen. I remember Bo Jackson. That comp would be perfect if you gave Barkley 4.2 speed and then cursed him with a career-destroying hip injury.
1:25 RB Derrius Guice, LSU [COMBINE, DINNER]. 5’10”, 212 lbs. It’s fair to assume that Lev Bell will either either depart or be seriously diminished in 2019. James Conner is a fine prospect, but can you rely on such a small sample set with such a large history of season ending medical issues? Now look at the two “needs” we all know: Mack ILB, where the team desperately needs depth and a future starter but Bostic can hold the fort, and Safety, where Burnett can hold the fort and the Wilcox/Dangerfield combination can offer at least a little depth. What makes those two defensive “wants” that much bigger than the all but guaranteed specter of a Bell-less 2019? Despite an injury plagued 2017, Derrius Guice is solid late-1st value. The NFL.com scouting profile is just one of many sources that compare him to a young Marshawn Lynch.
2:01 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. With the Morgan Burnett signing removing some of the urgency at Safety, and the ongoing drama with Lev Bell, Michel could be a serious target for Pittsburgh if he’s there in Round 2. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile. This goes to part one of a promised two in a very thorough, gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Titans.
2:12 RB Ronald Jones, USC. 5’11”, 200 lbs. A slashing back with good shiftiness, good hands, decent speed, and a knack for making that sudden cut into a hole that was barely there. The NFL.com scouting profile compares him to Jamaal Charles, who Jones has consciously imitated from the stylistic POV.
2:12 RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego St. 5’11”, 220 lbs. A solid all around back with good size, speed and shiftiness but lacking anything extraordinary that makes you sit up and go “Wow.” Here is the NFL.com scouting profile, along with a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants and a decent-looking, asset-by-asset breakdown. This extensive Pro Football Focus scouting profile concludes that Penny is an underrated Round 1 talent.
3:01 RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn [COMBINE]. 6’0”, 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. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile. This scouting profile from Baltimore Beatdown finds “very few flaws” to limit his “physical presence.” This scouting profile suggests Matt Forte as the comp. This scouting profile comes from a fantasy-oriented site but seems pretty solid nevertheless.
3:01 RB Royce Freeman, Oregon. 5’11, 234 lbs. Sleeper alert. Have a look at the NFL.com scouting profile, and then compare the critiques about average power and shiftiness to the test results (very nice size and best in show for all the C.O.D. drills). Freeman was admittedly handicapped in 2017 by nagging injuries and a questionable fit with the running scheme. If he followed the Lev Bell route, lost 10 pounds, and focused on quickness… Well, he could be a genuine steal. The question, “What would he be with an NFL training regime” looms big here, especially with the constant warnings about his heavy workload in college. This scouting profile from Pro Football Focus seems pretty on-point.
3:24 RB Nick Chubb, Georgia. 5’11”, 228 lbs. This grade depends on an assumption that all the red flags about his knee and leg injuries have been fully cleared, and has been depressed a solid notch or two by the fact that Chubb, when healthy, looks a lot like James Conner when he is healthy. Both have moments that made them look really special as a big, bell cow, two-down, one-cut runners. But staying healthy hasn’t been easy or consistent for either one. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile, along with a scouting profile from our sister site for the Broncos and one of those asset-by-asset scouting profiles.
—- TIGHT ENDS —-
2:12 TE Mike Gesicki, Penn St. [COMBINE] 6’5”, 247 lbs. Check out this spider-graph at Mocktable.com! Mike Gesicki is a SPARQ-score monster who makes Vance McDonald look slow and clumsy, and he will be high on the Board of any team focused on a receiving TE. But, as emphasized by the NFL.com scouting profile, 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. But if you let him hang out with JJSS and pick up some attitude… well, he might be one of the best blocking receivers you’d ever hope to see.
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 a lower floor and a higher ceiling. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
3:12 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.
3:24 TE Will Dissly, Washington [COMBINE]. 6’5”, 257 lbs. The Steelers met with him at the Combine and it’s easy to see the appeal if you view him as a Day 3 value pick. The NFL.com scouting profile explains the contradictions even though it ends with a pessimistic grade. Dissly was an almost good enough Edge Rusher until 2 years ago, when the coaches moved him to TE. So he has almost no real experience, and it shows in his lack of technique. His SPARQ-score was lousy, but mostly due to really bad marks on the bench and in the leaps. Play strength is not a reported issue, Mike Mayock called him “the best blocking TE in the class”, he has a Steelerish tough-guy attitude, and he excelled in the C.O.D. drills where no one thought he would.
3.24 TE Ian Thomas, Indiana [COMBINE]. 6’5”, 248 lbs. Raw but talented. He is already a decent blocker, and flashed enough at the Combine to earn the second highest SPARQ score in this year’s class after Gesicki, which ranks him in the top 20% of all NFL TE’s (Gesicki being in the top 1% with room to spare). Very much in the mold of Jesse James if you squint a little. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile, along with a scouting profile from Baltimore Beatdown, a less than complimentary, gif-supported scouting report, and a nice newspaper article full of background.
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.
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. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.
4:16 TE Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin [COMBINE]. 6’6”, 248 lbs. A big, receiving-oriented Tight End with fabulous hands, good route running skills, and a knack for getting open despite average athleticism. His stock is all over the place in the draft community, as noted in this scouting profile from Baltimore Beatdown. The NFL.com scouting profile may be counted among the doubters, while this scouting profile is more positive. Two notable things: Fumagalli is the kid with only nine fingers, and he has a reputation for toughness and grit despite his very limited blocking skills. By all accounts he’d be a good spiritual fit in black & gold.
4:16 TE Durham Smythe, Notre Dame. 6’5”, 257 lbs. A Tight End who makes a serious difference in the run game, and will manage to produce in the passing game if teams fail to respect it. Wow, who’da thunk it? The NFL.com scouting profile really does remind you of Matt Spaeth.
—- WIDE RECEIVERS —-
3:01 WR James Washington, Okla. St. [COMBINE & PRO DAY] 5’11”, 213 lbs. Any finalist for the Biletnikoff Award (best college WR) who gets two separate looks from the Steelers’ F.O. has to be on the Board, but he’s actually a tough player to place because his tremendous play speed and ability to get open do not match up to any of his Combine tests. In an odd way that’s good, because it might drop him out of the Round 2 grade assigned by the NFL.com scouting profile. He also has a lot of room to improve his route running, which means the “something” he’s been winning with so much in college can definitely be improved. Bottom line: the guy is a football player who wins, and who can keep getting better. This goes to a gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Jaguars, and this to a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants.
5:16 WR Dylan Cantrell, Texas Tech. 6’3”, 212 lbs. Martavis Bryant is nearing the end of his rookie deal and the Steelers like to pick a receiver every year regardless. Cantrell isn’t a burner, but he is a SPARQ score superstar in every other way with excellent height and remarkable hands. The NFL.com scouting profile contains more doubts than compliments, as does this gif-supported scouting profile, which calls him more of a smart receiver than an athlete. But then came those test scores that put him at the very top of this year’s class, so…
5:16 WR Richie James, Middle Tenn. St. [COMBINE] 5’9”, 178 lbs. Our own Nick Martin thought enough of this prospect to promote him up to Round 3 in a March mock draft, but most pundits think he will be available later. James is almost an archetype: the undersized, super agile, sneaky fast, punt returning Jack Russell Terrier of the football world. If drafted he’d be competition for Eli Rogers and a young man with dreams of growing into Antonio Brown or Steve Smith Sr. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile. This goes to a nice Draft Wire interview, this to a newspaper article on his pro day, and this to a pair of interviews with both the WR coach at MTSU and one with the young man himself.