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Todd McShay Mock Draft: Steelers add to pass rush in early ESPN prediction

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It is mock draft season, and the ESPN expert has a surprising selection for the black-and-gold.

DXL Frisco Bowl - Louisiana Tech v SMU Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It might seem crazy to talk about the 2019 NFL Draft, but with the college football season officially over, and bowl season on deck, it is now time when experts start to release their mock drafts for the upcoming draft process.

While mock drafts are nothing more than lofty projections for teams, the analysis of diagnosing team needs can be a valuable one.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have some glaring needs on their football team, and most reside on the defensive side of the football. Below is an early ranking of the Steelers’ top three needs which could, and probably should, be addressed in the upcoming draft:

1. Cornerback
2. Inside Linebacker
3. EDGE Rusher

While there certainly are other team needs, including running back, most would agree the team should have a very defensive oriented draft class while looking at their current roster. ESPN draft expert Todd McShay agrees when he selected a pass rusher to the Steelers in his first mock draft of the year.

Check out what McShay said about the selection:

23. Pittsburgh Steelers

Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech

Ferguson is rising on draft boards rapidly, and I expect him to shine at January’s Senior Bowl. He can really overwhelm blockers with his speed to power and would be another asset for one of the better pass-rushing teams in the NFL.

If you are like me, and don’t follow college football closely, you aren’t familiar with many of these prospects. I utilize the mock draft process to learn more about prospects, and in this case Jaylon Ferguson.

Here is a quick synopsis of Ferguson as a player, thanks to The Draft Network:

PROS: Super productive – 122 tackles, 41.5 tackles for loss, 27.5 sacks and five forced fumbles over the past three seasons. Gives an honest effort on every snap and makes plays on hustle. Has success slashing through gaps as a run defender. Slapped together well, looking the part of an NFL edge defender. When he gets home, Ferguson does well to separate the football from the quarterback.

CONS: Needs to disengage from blocks and play through contact better. Lacks the hand technique needed to shed quickly and keep his pads clean. Too many body-to-body rushes with no identifiable plan to get to the quarterback. The frequent square up position and lack of hand technique leads to him getting reached and not keeping outside leverage. Ability to convert speed to power is below average. Does not read the tackles set well and appropriately combat it, missing opportunities to draw them off balance and attack vulnerable areas. Does little with his upper body, feet or hands to set up his pass rush moves. Pads have a tendency to get high, robbing him of play strength. Offers way too much surface area to blockers and they have no issues landing their punch on him. Lacks the burst and flexibility to consistently win around the outside edge track in the NFL. Vertical push does not put stress on the offensive tackles feet to keep up with landmarks around the arc.

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Ferguson is a low ceiling, high floor edge defender who would operate best from a 3-point stance in the NFL. Ferguson doesn’t have ideal athletic traits, nor will he be a quick winner off the edge in the NFL, but he’s a strong run defender at the point-of-attack and could project to an interior rush role on long/late downs. He shouldn’t be thought of as a coveted prospect, but in the mid-rounds, Ferguson can be a valuable extra rusher and rotational defender for an NFL team.

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It is at this point where Steelers fans can debate the prediction, but also the team needs moving forward. Let us know what you think of the selection, as well as the areas of need, in the comment section below!