Yes, it's time for the first mock draft of the season. Is it early? Absolutely it is, but that doesn't mean we can't start mocking a bit as we get a definition of how college players are playing and what the Steelers need in general. Thus, it is time to delve into one of my top-10 prospects of the early season. For the one- round mock I have here, we will assume the Steelers have the 13th pick, as per the rankings currently. It's unlikely this will be the same after the season ends, but regardless it's the best we can do currently.
Now, as we've seen during the first four weeks of the season, this pick has to be on defense. Yes, I know, another first-rounder spent on a defender. Unless Ben Roethlisberger retires, there's no chance I'm spending a first-round pick on an offensive player, especially not a running back. I would rather address RB through free agency with a guy like Tevin Colemen or, since it's now reported the Transition Tag is going on Le’Veon Bell, he might just be back with the team on a long-term deal.
This leaves me with three options: Cornerback, Inside Linebacker, or EDGE.
I can make a good argument for any of these three, but I have a certain sense the team really wants to shore-up the middle of the defense. I have the young, promising Matthew Thomas, and the overachieving Jon Bostic, but I'd like one of them to be a backup along with Vince Williams. Creating a four-headed attack at ILB in which I can rotate the guys I want on the field at will is something I'm all for. Thus, I'm going for that key game-changer at ILB.
Steelers fans, meet Mack Wilson.
Round 1: Mack Wilson. ILB, Alabama
Just to let you guys know, at the beginning of last year. WIlson ran a 4.59 40 and he looks even faster than that on tape. The 6’0’, 230lb (there is no way he is 230 lbs) linebacker is an absolute unit on the field. I introduce you to one of those rare athletic ILB types that can change a defense. If you want an introduction to him, watch him fly off the edge and absolutely blow up this running play.
He's an absolute freight train off the edge when he's unblocked like this. If you thought Bud Dupree could fly off the edge when he was unblocked, Mack Wilson puts that to shame. His athleticism isn't just limited to speed, but acceleration and agility too. He's elite in both areas, and you can see that all over his tape. Just take a look at this interception, great acceleration forward and then one of the most athletic interceptions you'll see as he lays out for the catch.
Dual hive here of great players in Quinnen Williams and Mack Wilson. Williams with a strong rip and man does he ever stay low. This is pure domination. Wilson with close coverage and a super athletic play. Wilson a special type of ILB. pic.twitter.com/t8Fqwcxz31— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 3, 2018
You have to give props to Quinnen Williams with a great chop and then the strong rip through right after. Williams himself is a great defensive lineman, and is a strict product of now-Steelers DL coach Karl Dunbar. However, you can see Wilson has extra tight coverage here and he's actually further behind the receiver to the ball, so Wilson has to come forward with burst and make this play. That's just an incredible athletic play.
However, my favorite thing about Mack Wilson on that play might be the mental aspect. To make that play requires two key things. One, you have to be able to read the QB and react quickly. Two, it takes top awareness of coverage on your man to make this play. Wilson makes that play possible through mental awareness chiefly. If you want to see the range and reaction this guy has in coverage, look no further than this play.
Goodness what a play by Wilson. Comes down and just lays out the receiver out. You can see the burst and athleticism straight off of that. This guy is not afraid to be physical either. Every time you watch him you get some Ryan Shazier glimpses. pic.twitter.com/VEhPYmdPT1— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 3, 2018
Every time I watch this play I get more and more Ryan Shazier vibes. He's increasingly aggressive with his athleticism and is shot out of a cannon on plays like this. His mental processing needs work on things like play-action but it has improved. Wilson has plays like this all over his film. Once he sees a play, he goes and attacks it and he attacks it aggressively. The hit and reaction once it's released are imperative to making this play. His athleticism helps a ton too, but the mental awareness in coverage is a huge reason why this works. That's something the Steelers seemingly lack at ILB too. The mental aspect in coverage seems to escape them, so this would be a huge add.
The way Mack Wilson plays reminds me a little too much of Ryan Shazier. His awareness in coverage, the way he aggressively comes off of the edge, and his run-defense too. Wilson is a great run-defender, and is especially good in fighting off blockers at the second level due to active hands.
Mack Wilson Thread: I am so impressed with how athletic and strong this kid is. Georgia OL uses the stack and gets to the second level on Wilson put he fights straight through this traffic. Stays disciplined as he breaks down and then rips right through the block. Smart play. pic.twitter.com/GypofYqOXI— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 3, 2018
Again, great discipline and rip through by Wilson. He is a really solid run defender and makes this play to prevent Sony Michel from really breaking it. Good tackle. pic.twitter.com/u9fgOtaXf2— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 3, 2018
He just tackled Sony Michel and Nick Chubb with ease too, so that should let you know how sure of a tackler this guy is. But notice how aware he is of the ball carrier and then how he fights straight off of these blocks to make the tackles. This is how you beat a stack block and fill in the line when your DL doesn't get the penetration you want them to get. The Steelers have this somewhat in Jon Bostic, but it never hurts to have two of them. When you have two of those ILBs, your run-defense improves exponentially.
Even Wilson’s cons mirror Shazier’s when he was coming out. He takes bad angles but they are made up for by his athleticism, and he overpursues into the backfield at times too. Yes, it would be a retread of a young Ryan Shazier, but Mack Wilson is just what this defense needs. You wanna improve this defense? Mack Wilson is the ticket to doing it.