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2018 Steelers Big Board (By Position, 2.0)

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!

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NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Alabama Celebration Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

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 is 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 fine, 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; grades are never pushed up just because of need, however. 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).

Defensive Linemen

1:25 DL/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… Here is a gif-supported scouting report from former NFL player Stephen White.

2:12 DL 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?

2:12 DL Harrison Phillips, Stanford [COMBINE]. 6’4”, 307 lbs. Another top prospect who could grow into a legit challenger to Cam Heyward and Stepon Tuitt. 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 scouting profile.

5:01 DL/NT P.J. Hall, Sam Houston St.. 6’1”, 310 lbs. Cue the soundtrack from the Javon Hargrave draft film but add a little dissonance. Hall is another small school wunderkind who dominated the competition but has never seen anything like NFL level competition. He has the ‘stuff’ to succeed but is in for quite a shock when he realizes how much work he will really have to do. Like Hargrave, he is amazingly quick for his size and best suited as a penetrator. All pundits note that he added some size in 2017 and it slowed him down, so that may be a factor. Here is the scouting profile, which ends with Round 3-4 grade. This really nice article emphasizes that Hall’s single best asset may be his hustle and motor. This Falcons-oriented scouting profile is okay for an overview, as is this scouting profile from a Raiders POV.

5:01 DL/NT B.J. Hill, N. Car. St. [VISIT]. 6’4”, 315 lbs. If you buy into the scouting profile and this Steelers-oriented, gif-supported scouting report, you’ll judge that B.J. Hill is a less promising version of Javon Hargrave from two years ago. A lot of BTSC remembers the old days and wants nothing more than a true, run stuffing, 0-tech Nose Tackle. They are few and far between in this draft, and the Steelers defense has changed. BJ Hill fits the new prototype better and would push Gravedigger. Whoever wins (i.e., learns to deal with double teams), the team would be better and depth assured. OTHO, this brief scouting profile, and also this similarly brief scouting profile, see the opposite type of player: a low burst athlete who’s hard to move. Go figure.

5:01 DL/NT Kendrick Norton, Miami [COMBINE]. 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 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 DL/NT Derrick Nnadi, Florida St. [COMBINE]. 6’1”, 317 lbs. The 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.

5:16 DL Deadrin Senat, USF [COMBINE]. 6’0” 314 lbs. The scouting profile gives a Round 3-4 grade on Senat and describes him as a solid but limited 1-gap penetrator (a 1-tech who might play 3-tech as well). For Pittsburgh that translates to a poor man’s Javon Hargrave and a grade saying, “The bargain gets to good to resist at this point…”

6:16 DL Bilal Nichols, Delaware [VISIT]. 6’4”, 308 lbs. The scouting profile describes an excellent athlete who has underperformed in college. Good effort level and nice anchor against the run, but handicapped by bad leverage and poor technique. This brief scouting profile describes him as a player who flashes top level play and then fades back. Here is the CBS scouting profile. “Solid depth pick” would be the verdict from this Rams-oriented scouting profile and this brief profile from Tony Pauline.

7:99 DL Curtis Cothran, Penn State [PRO DAY]. 6’5”, 301 lbs. The scouting profile describes a 1-gapping DT who will need to spend a year in an NFL strength training program before trying to compete for a job.

7:99 DL Joshua Frazier, Alabama [PRO DAY]. 6’4”, 324 lbs. An immovable object to compete with Dan McCullers. Here is the scouting profile.

7:99 DL Gregory Gilmore, LSU [VISIT]. 6’4”, 308 lbs. The scouting profile describes an athlete with good length, strength and size but without the key assets for success as a defensive lineman: he is neither an immovable object nor a quick penetrator. But he is a hard worker who makes tackles and has physical assets he might develop.

Edge Rushers (OLB’s)

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 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 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. Of course, Dupree is going to get darned expensive pretty soon… His stock would be a little higher if there was no history of a serious knee issue (dislocation + ACL + complications). Start your research here, with our own Nick Martin’s gif-supported scouting report, which suggests that Sweat’s newly-healed knee injury might handle more bend than people think. Here is the 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.

2:24 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 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.

3:01 EDGE Dorance Armstrong, Kansas. 6’4”, 257 lbs. with exceptionally long 34½” arms. The Combine testing showed excellent numbers in the C.O.D. drills, very good ones for strength, and lousy ones for speed and explosiveness. All those numbers support the idea that he could move to OLB for a 3-4 team like Pittsburgh, but only with the understanding that he’s always been in a 4-3 and will need at least a year to catch up. Studies like the scouting profile tend to support all of those conclusions. Our own KansasCitySteelers says: “On tape, he looks a lot speedier than his combine times, with the ability to easily track down RB’s behind the line of scrimmage in backside pursuit. He shows that hustle on every play, with a non-stop motor, and consistently jolts blockers backwards with his strength, doing a good job setting the edge.” This Bears-oriented, gif-supported scouting report compares him to Trent Murphy and believes he’d be a good 3-4 OLB after a redshirt learning year. This Chiefs-oriented scouting profile considers him a fringe-1st guy. Round 1-3 at this Colts-oriented page as well, with consistent observations.

3:01 EDGE Lorenzo Carter, Georgia. 6’6”, 250 lbs. Another 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 scouting profile.

3:01 EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma. 6’1”, 242 lbs. [Adapted from an entry provided by poster Thoroughbred of Sin] This video scouting profile describes OO as a well-developed pass rusher who overcomes lack of size and weight with a variety of moves and an understanding of how to use them to set up his opponents. This excellent statistical analysis from Blogging the Boys shows how well his college production and athletic testing stack up against the class’s top edge prospects. Concerns about his size, positional/scheme fit, and lack of quality competition at the college level drive lukewarm reviews like the scouting profile, with the biggest problem being concerns about struggles to set the edge against the run and whether his lack of size despite already built-up frame will make that impossible to solve. Of course there was a certain James Harrison who was both shorter and smaller but did okay in that regard… More flattering reviews like this Titans-oriented scouting profile focus on his vast array of pass rushing tools and intelligence, leading to a Melvin Ingram comparison. His coverage skills garner mixed reviews but his nice combine performance suggests that he has the requisite athleticism to develop into a capable zone defender. Grades range from top-15 talent at CBS to fifth-round value at Walter Football so yes: you could use the word “divisive.” The fascinating Moneyball-esque stat-driven analysis in this article emphasizes that OO got even more pressures than sacks despite constant double teams and no free lanes, which the author credits to his well developed skill set.

3:01 EDGE Kemoko Turay, Rutgers. 6’5”, 252 lbs. A fine pass rusher and a terrible run defender. I suspect that first quality alone would make him a Round 1 pick in many people’s eyes if not for a nasty history of injuries, with yet another (hamstring) that cut off his Combine performance. The scouting profile praises his explosiveness but more recent reviews like this gif-supported scouting report and this gif-supported review from our sister site for the Rams credit Turay with more remarkable bend then get-off. This Cowboys-oriented scouting profile is similarly enthusiastic. See also this Giants-oriented scouting profile, and this parallel scouting profile from Big Blue View. This goes to a draft process blog he is writing, which may provide some insight into the young man through his own words.

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 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 scouting profile.

4:16 EDGE & BUCK ILB Genard Avery, Memphis. 6’1”, 255 lbs. The scouting profile describes a very strong, explosive and versatile player who is big enough to play Buck ILB, but reports say he prefers to play Edge. Sounds like Jack Of All Trades type similar to Arthur Moats, who has quietly solved a number of potentially vexing depth problems while excelling on special teams. Moats is already on the team 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 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 scouting profile.

7:99 EDGE Macklin Weaver, Eastern Illinois [PRO DAY]. 6’5”, 260 lbs. Here is a BTSC article on his pro day meeting.

Off Ball Linebackers (Buck, Mack, and Nickel)

1:05 MACK/BUCK ILB & EDGE 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 MACK/NICKEL ILB 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. Here is a good, thorough scouting profile from PFF.

1:15 MACK/BUCK ILB MACK/BUCK ILB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise St. [COMBINE, DINNER, PRO DAY, VISIT]. 6’4”, 256 lbs. See Tremaine Edmunds and then make him moderately human and a 1-year starter. Nobody this big should be able to move like he does. This video scouting report found by bamasteeler1 makes good points that LVE has a distinct lack of linebacker polish. “He’s 3-4 lessons away from being a good NFL linebacker”. Not a no-risk pick by any means. LVE and Rashaan Evans are neck-and-neck as the Steelers’ most likely 1st round pick, and the exchange is basically higher potential versus a better player right now. 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.

1:15 MACK/NICKEL ILB Rashaan Evans, Alabama [COMBINE]. 6’3”, 234 lbs. The 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. This video scouting report found by bamasteeler1 argues that Evans is way ahead of his peers from the pure “skills” POV, and suggests that he profiles as a perfect 4-3 Sam. That would translate to a superior tackler at Mack but with a few question marks on coverage. He and LVE are neck-and-neck as the Steelers’ most likely 1st round pick, and it’s a fair debate on the eternal problem: existing player versus potential player. Here is a gif-supported scouting profile from a Cowboys POV. This goes to a gif-supported scouting report worth the read. This gif-supported scouting report from Jon Ledyard has a line about his range that might apply to his whole conclusion: “The next best thing to elite.”

2:24 BUCK ILB 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. Interesting fact: his stock has gone up on my personal board every time I’ve heard coaches or other players talk about playing either with him or against him. The last player who struck that chord so strongly was Markus Golden, and I can see a very similar career arc here. On the numbers, he compares to T.J. Watt with piss poor 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 scouting profile, a gif-supported scouting profile from a Bears perspective, and an interview posted at Draft Wire.

2:24 MACK/NICKEL ILB Fred Warner, BYU [SENIOR BOWL]. 6’3”, 236 lbs. Fast, fluid, and a willing hitter despite his moderate build, 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 scouting profile and a typically good Draft Wire interview, which shows a pretty solid football IQ.

3:01 MACK/NICKEL ILB 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 Combine profile isn’t alone when it questions his ability to handle NFL physicality, let alone to get free from NFL linemen.

3:01 MACK/NICKEL ILB Darius Leonard, S.C. State. 6’2”, 234 lbs. He’s got the speed and the range, but the 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.

3:12 MACK/NICKEL ILB 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 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.

3:12 MACK/NICKEL ILB Malik Jefferson, Texas [VISIT]. 6’3”, 236 lbs. A young man with 1st Round athletic gifts 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 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. This interesting Bleacher Report review of the whole LB class compares him to Ryan Shazier athletically but only if he’s in a scheme that doesn’t want him to read what’s going on – a major flaw imho.

3.24 MACK/NICKEL ILB Oren Burks, Vanderbilt. 6’3”, 233 lbs. Top notch marks for football character and leadership, and he has the physical tools, but the shifting defensive schemes he’s played in leave a lot of question marks. He could be a steal if the NFL coaching “takes” or he could be one of those players who never quite masters the techniques of his position. His entry in this Bleacher Report review of the whole LB class makes for an interesting read. The 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.

4:16 MACK/NICKEL ILB Joel “Iggy” Iyiegbuniwe, W. Kentucky [VISIT]. 6’1”, 229 lbs. A solid, not flashy, mid-round Mack ILB who would add quality depth and special teams assistance. Here are the scouting profile and a Raiders-oriented scouting profile, both of which promote his sideline-to-sideline speed, adequate coverage ability, and surprising physicality for his size.

4:16 NICKEL/DIME ILB Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson [VISIT]. 6’1”, 215 lbs. Whoever invented the terms “Nickelbacker” and “Special Teams Demon” may have had this young man in mind. The scouting profile is typical of the breed: O’Daniel is a true missile in the open field 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, which is one of the things he failed to show on film.

4:16 ILB Tegray Scales, Indiana. 6’0”, 230 lbs. The scouting profile describes a very smart ILB who lacks the foot speed to really excel at the Mack position, and the size to be an upgrade on Williams or Matakevich, but would almost certainly figure out a way to make the team. 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. This scouting profile from an avowed fan pegs him as a Round 3 player whose ideal feat would be as a 4-3 Sam. This Steelers oriented, gif-supported scouting profile makes similar observations and suggests Round 4. He gets a slight discount here for being a fine football player who doesn’t quite fit the specs that Pittsburgh is looking for this year.

5:01 MACK/NICKEL ILB 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 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.

5:01 NICKEL/DIME 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 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 MACK/NICKEL ILB Jack Cichy (“SITCH-ee”), Wisconsin. 6’2”, 234 lbs. Major injury issues concerning a 2016 torn pec and a 2017 torn ACL. Get past those and you have a fine prospect with all the speed, fluidity, tackling and instincts one looks for in a Mack ILB. Not as much experience as you’d like but even the abbreviated 2016 season was enough to earn him a semi-finalist position for the Butkus Award. All in all, a great prospect for a Day 3 flier. Here are the scouting profile and a Steelers-oriented, gif-supported scouting report. This scouting profile makes the point that he played with T.J. Watt, so the Steelers theoretically have an inside track. As this Cincy Jungle scouting profile summarizes, “When healthy Wisconsin’s ILB has been sensational.”

5:16 BUCK ILB Josey Jewell, Iowa. 6’1”, 235 lbs. The 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.

5:16 MACK/NICKEL ILB Matthew Thomas, Florida St. [VISIT]. 6’3”, 227 lbs. He’s got all the measurables, including some truly astonishing numbers in the explosiveness tests, but he’s also managed to be an afterthought who never developed the “instincts” required for an ILB. Lots of sparks (SPARQ?) and flashes, but no flames. Here is the scouting profile, which suggests a number of off-field tragedies that might account for this. This is a decent scouting profile from back in November, and a very brief scouting profile from February.

5:16 ILB Chris Worley, Ohio State [VISIT]. 6’2”, 230 lbs. Things you never thought you’d say about an Ohio State player: lacks size, speed and fluid movement skills, but makes up for it with gritty determination and toughness. Worley is a player you’d love if he only had enough pure athletic talent to play Mack or enough size to play Buck. Alas, but he’s caught dead in between. Here is the scouting profile. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants is a bit more positive: “Worley isn’t the star linebacker that [] fans crave. He is, instead, more of a ‘glue guy’… that does most everything well and holds a unit together.”

6:01 BUCK ILB 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 scouting profile.

6:01 BUCK ILB 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 scouting profile.

6:16 MACK/NICKEL ILB Jermaine Carter, Maryland [VISIT]. 6’0”, 228 lbs. A two-year captain who projects to be a special teams and sub package specialist. Here is the scouting profile. This brief scouting profile describes him as a “short, stocky, high motor… heart and soul of the defense” type.

6:16 BUCK ILB 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 scouting profile.

Safeties (Free, Strong, and Dime ILB)

1:01 FS/CB 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 SS/FS 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.

1:25 SS/FS Ronnie Harrison, Alabama [COMBINE & VISIT]. 6’3”, 214 lbs. Before starting, anyone who wants to have an informed opinion should consider this very detailed and enthusiastic, gif-heavy scouting report discovered by our own Nick Martin. It makes convincing arguments that Harrison should get a mid-1st value because he has huge versatility, a proven football IQ, excellent communication skills and coverage skills, and high quality tackling. Feel free to disagree but do it with arguments rather than bias, because there’s a lot of emotion surrounding this prospect and he really has not earned it. IMHO Ronnie Harrison is this year’s unfortunate winner of the “Sold Too Hard And Too Early Award”, as typified by this Cowboys-oriented scouting profile and this Chiefs-oriented scouting profile. The scouting profile also lauds his physical talents, but notes the common rumors that he’s more a team player than an alpha dog. The draft community has backlashed against those early rave reviews, pointing out that Harrison played across from the best Free Safety in the nation and behind the best front seven. What is the reality? Let’s talk it out!

1:25 SS/FS Justin Reid, Stanford [COMBINE & VISIT]. 6’1”, 204 lbs. Stanford smart, 4.40 fast, and ready to rumble. Here is the 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. For more depth see this scouting profile (“interchangeable safety prospects who can play anywhere from the box to the centerfielder spot” but could be a better tackler); this top prospects board (he’s #19) from Steeler fan Jon Ledyard (“all the athletic traits you could want, experience at multiple positions, developing ball skills, exceptional football IQ and outstanding communication skills”); this scouting profile comparing Reid to Minkah Fitzpatrick (“an interchangeable safety that literally checks EVERY box”); and this gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Panthers. PFF has a great one to end on: he compares to a young Morgan Burnett.

2:12 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 scouting profile.

3:01 SS/FS/DIME ILB 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 Combine scouting profile and the regular scouting profile. This goes to a Steelers-oriented, gif-supported scouting report.

3:01 SS/FS Tarvarius Moore, SMU [VISIT]. 6’1”, 199 lbs. He was well down everyone’s list of Safeties until a pro day performance that made him a SPARQ-score superstar, with numbers like a 4.32 dash, 38-1/2” vertical, and equivalents in other areas. There is no scouting profile but after the pro day Zierlein looked at the film and gave him a Day 2 grade. This quick profile from a Browns POV would agree, as would this Draft Wire article calling him the most underrated Safety in the class. Many others now have him pushing the Top 50. Sounds a lot like Sean Davis’ draft profile if you think about it.

3:01 SS/DIME ILB Kyzir White, W. Va. [VISIT]. 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 scouting profile. This goes to a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants. Here is a brief article on his visit to Pittsburgh.

3:12 SS Marcus Allen, Penn State [VISIT]. 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.

3:12 FS/SS 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 scouting profile makes him sound like a wonderful depth player and a questionable starter. The summary in this Bleacher Report list of Safeties (he’s #7) describes a classic Free Safety with some injury concerns.

3:24 FS/SS Dane Cruikshank, Arizona. 6’1”, 209 lbs. Here’s an easy comp for you: Sean Davis. Cruikshank has great size and very good speed, played good college ball as a Safety and failed as an occasional Corner. He’s got all the physical tools you look for held back by question marks about his football IQ. Sound familiar? Here is the scouting profile, which ends with a Round 6-7 grade. This gif-supported scouting report is much more optimistic, comparing him to Minkah Fitzpatrick with a Round 2 grade. Controversy! This reasoned scouting profile ends up in the middle, with a Round 3-4 grade. This Cincy Jungle article says that he looked great at his pro day, where he attracted a lot of NFL interest.

3:24 SS/FS Deshon Elliot, Texas. 6’2”, 210 lbs. A prospect safety with unusual size and some questions about his play speed: sounds like a Steelers-type prospect if they think he can develop a tackling attitude. Here are a damned-with-faint-praise 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. His entry on this Bleacher Report list of Safeties (he’s #11) echoes the concern in other summaries: “The mental processing and competitive toughness skills are obvious, but those won’t mask athletic deficiencies against superior talent.”

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 scouting profile. His entry on this Bleacher Report list of Safeties (he’s #9) is a bit repetitive: plays slower than he tests, does better in the box.

4:01 SS/DIME ILB 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, and Bucky Brooks has said he’s one of the brightest kids the scout/player has ever coached, but he’s still got a long way to go.

4:01 FS/SS 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 Combine profile. This scouting profile lauds his football IQ but ends with a Day 3 grade due to an array of smallish issues across his fundamentals. Here is a Raiders-oriented scouting profile.

4:16 SS/FS 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 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.

6:01 FS/SS Troy Apke, Penn State [LOCAL]. 6’2”, 198 lbs. A local boy from Mt. Lebanon, Apke has only started for one year and put up fairly ‘meh’ tape. But then he won MVP for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl (a post season all star game), went to the Combine, and put up a string of 95-99% SPARQ score numbers that prove he’s an unbelievably brilliant athlete with barely scratched potential. Plus he’s local and could have met the team without any report. The scouting profile points out tackling problems and poor angles, which remind us that football skills don’t automatically appear in conjunction with physical talent. Here is a scouting profile from a Penn State site.


1:15 CB Denzel Ward, Ohio St. 5’10”, 191 lbs. Ain’t Gonna Happen. 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. But if he’s there the Steelers will face some hard choices.

1:25 CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville [Tomlin & Colbert at Pro Day]. 5’10”, 196 lbs. Combine superstar and common target for Steeler fans who’d spend the 1:28 pick on a Corner (a category that could include our own Nick Martin), Alexander is extremely fast, wonderfully athletic, and especially loved for his willingness to tackle. Read between the lines in the scouting profile and you’ll see a solid Round 1 grade hedged by concerns over a 2017 season consumed by small[ish] injuries he played through. Here are links to an interview with Sports Illustrated and another interview with Draft Wire. This goes to a Steelers-oriented scouting profile. He and QB Lamar Jackson were apparently major draws for Tomlin & Colbert at the Louisville pro day (Tomlin is the one who put him through the drills and coached him up). Here is a nice gif-supported scouting report from a Raiders POV.

1:25 CB Josh Jackson, Iowa. 6’1”, 192 lbs. Ain’t Gonna Happen. Looks the part and plays the part. A solid, blue chip Corner prospect with good but not great athleticism that’s enhanced by extraordinary ball skills and an amazing ability to get his head around compared to most college CB’s. The scouting profile gives him an “instant starter” grade. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Raiders loves his coverage skills to death but joins the crowd arguing that “he really needs to improve his tackling and physicality.” The CBS scouting profile says his tape makes him the #1 CB in the class (most have him as #2 behind Denzel Ward).

2:01 CB Mike Hughes, Central Fla. 5’10”, 189 lbs. The scouting profile describes a fantastic return man with great athletic talent limited by a lack of polished skills that might let him play with NFL physicality despite his size. (Zierlein clearly wishes he’d gone back to college for another year). This gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Panthers calls him a Day 1 starter with great ability in zone, very good but very improvable skill in man coverage, and distinct flaws in run support. This gif-supported scouting report gives him an easy Round 1 grade and suggests he could go as soon as #15 overall. This thorough, gif-supported scouting report echoes a lot of the bottom line in others: struggles with physical receivers and deserves an easy Round 2 grade, but will go in Round 1 because CB’s are in such demand and he has a high ceiling. Same for this scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants. Here is the full length Walter Football scouting profile.

2:12 CB Carlton Davis, Auburn. 6’1”, 203 lbs. Ain’t Gonna Happen. Davis is a big, tall, strong press Corner who’s had exceptional success in the SEC. He’s never had to play much zone and would have to learn that skill, but all in all he has a very high floor for a college Corner despite some stony hands. You’ve got to love this line from the scouting profile: “A nuisance that WR’s could do without.” Here is a scouting profile from Baltimore Beatdown that compares him to Marlon Humphrey (the Ravens’ 1:16 pick in 2017). This gif-supported scouting report considers him a top grade press Corner who plays like Vontae Davis, but needs to learn zone coverage techniques. This Packers-oriented scouting profile basically agrees, as does this scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants. This gif-heavy scouting report from a Bears POV follows suit.

2:12 CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado. 6’0”, 201 lbs. with long 33-1/2” arms. Would get a higher grade from a team with more need at the position. The scouting profile compares him to Artie Burns and it’s an easy analogy to make. He has lots of technical work to do but he is a high-floor prospect with the assets and attitude to develop into a true #1 Corner in the NFL. Here is a gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Panthers, and another scouting report our sister site for the Raiders. This scouting profile is equally enthusiastic.

3:01 CB Duke Dawson, Florida [VISIT]. 5’10-1/2”, 197 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. Here are the 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.

3:01 CB Donte Jackson, LSU. 5’10”, 178 lbs. Add 2” and 20 lbs. and you’d have an easy Round 1 pick, especially coming from Cornerback U. He has speed and athleticism to spare. All that’s missing is size and oomph. The scouting profile compares him to Leodis McKelvin, but I see a lot of analogies to Senquez Golson before the cascade of injuries lowered his stock from draft uber-steal down to a great “if only…”

3:01 CB M.J. Stewart, N. Carolina [VISIT]. 5’11”, 200 lbs. Another young man you can describe as a football player who happens to play Corner. Fans would start to speculate about his ability to play Free Safety within 12 seconds of hearing the draft pick announce. The reality? He could, but might have more value honing those coverage skills. The main knock is that he’s got nothing special to sell him beyond a high floor and football “bones” to spare. Here is the scouting profile. Here is a Rams-oriented scouting profile, and another from a Steelers POV that calls him “an ideal slot corner.

3:12 CB Avery Averett, Alabama. 5’11”, 183 lbs. In a less loaded class there would be people pumping his stock toward the late 1st but in this class he will go on Day 2, especially when you apply the Alabama discount and how rarely he faced a QB with no fear of getting sacked. Here is the scouting profile.

4:01 CB Holton Hill, Texas. 6’3”, 200 lbs. It’s the same old story: maturity concerns drop a fringe-1st specimen down to boom-or-bust range. If he can grow up, become a working man, and learn to be a citizen you’ll have a major draft steal that fans will love for his length, physicality and the skillset he should be able to absorb. If not… well, not. Here is the scouting profile. How high is the potential? CBS has him ranked as the #42 player overall.

4:16 CB Parry Nickerson, Tulane. 5’10”, 182 lbs. Born and bred as a Nickel Corner with the potential, like Willie Gay, to grow into more than that if he masters his craft. Extremely fast (4.32) and very quick, but he lacks the frame to bulk up beyond where he already is. The scouting profile uses words like “gritty,” “tough,” “competes hard,” and “ballhawk,” but also admits that the limitations are real. And the team has Mike Hilton already, plus Cam Sutton forcing his way onto the stage. Is there room for a third example? Nickerson made this list of “most underrated players”. This goes to a gif-supported scouting report from a Raiders POV.

4:16 CB Greg Stroman, Va. Tech. 5’11”, 182 lbs. Many sources like CBS have him in this “easy Day 2” range because he’s shown the ability to be very sticky in coverage, but other respected sources like the scouting profile and the Walter Football scouting blurb end with Day 3 grade over fears that he will get “big-boyed” in the NFL. Plus skills as a punt return add some luster. This article suggests an average Round 4-5 expectation while this Jets-oriented scouting profile seems to be in the fringe-3rd range (‘exceptional nickel CB who also returns punts).

5:01 CB J.C. Jackson, Maryland. 5’10”, 201 lbs. Yet another tough guy Corner who could probably transition to Free Safety, Jackson’s main problem is grabbiness. He’s the sort of prospect that fans will love in many ways, but would not object to seeing with his hands in boxing gloves for half of every practice. There is also a serious off-field red flag: he was charged for – and then acquitted of – being involved with 2014/2015 armed robbery of someone’s home. His grade would be a solid round higher without that incident. Here is the scouting profile. This goes to a brief scouting profile that projects good upside, while this brief scouting profile questions his ceiling.

6:01 CB Nick Nelson, Wisconsin. 5’11”, 200 lbs. [Torn meniscus (3-4 month recovery) drops his grade 2 full rounds. Heal well young man.] A nice, solid, steady prospect to be an NFL Corner who’d get a round higher grade if he didn’t suffer from Hands of Stone Syndrome. Here is the scouting profile (note the author and the player comparison btw).

7:16 CB Trey Johnson, Villanova [PRO DAY]. 5’11”, 187 lbs. Team attends pro day with whatever initial impression. Prospect runs a very surprising 4.33 dash and a 4.20 short shuttle. Teams says, “We need to make sure we really understand who this kid is and how much of that potential he might be able to tap.” Entry is made on the BTSC Big Board. Simple, right? This goes to a solid interview in lieu of a scouting profile.

Offensive Linemen

1:15 OG Quenton 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. Here is a gif-supported scouting report from former NFL player Stephen White.

3:24 OT Brian O’Neil, Pitt [VISIT/LOCAL]. 6’7”, 305 lbs. He’s got a Round 2-3 grade at the scouting profile, and Zierlein knows his OL’s better than any other position group. Ain’t Gonna Happen. It’s a freebie courtesy to a local star.

5:16 C/G Tony Adams, N.C. State [PRO DAY]. 6’2”, 322 lbs. The scouting profile ends with a Round 5 grade for a prospect with a very good build, good quickness, but desperate need for an NFL strength training program. The Steelers have limited need at Guard so we’ve applied a small discount. Here is a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants, which points out that Adams was once a Top 20 tennis player in New England. Quick indeed!

7:16 OT Jordan Mailata, Rugby Player [VISIT]. 6’8”, 346 lbs. A miracle size-strength-speed athlete who’s never played a snap of football in his life. Pure, untapped potential for Mike Munchak to play with. Here is a BTSC article on his visit.

7:99 OG R.J. Prince, North Carolina [PRO DAY]. 6’6”, 311 lbs. Here is a brief interview worth a read. A decent athlete on the fringe of Day 3. Probably more a FA for the Steelers.


1:01 QB Sam Darnold, USC. Ain’t Gonna Happen.

1:01 QB Josh Rosen, UCLA. Ain’t Gonna Happen.

1:15 QB Josh Allen, Wyoming. Historic-level arm talent means it Ain’t Gonna Happen despite collegiate accuracy problems.

1:15 QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma. 6’1”, 215 lbs. [Ducking]. As with Lamar Jackson, I want absolutely no part of this fight. If you see more value in a QB than I do, your grade should be higher. It Ain’t Gonna Happen anyway since Mayfield is now being projected in a lot of Top 5 mocks. See the discussion in this extremely detailed QB study.

1:25 QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville [COMBINE]. 6’2”, 216 lbs. [Ducking]. I want no part of the QB fight! 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. N.B. 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, but Jackson may end up being even better. See the discussion in this extremely detailed QB study showing that Jackson’s accuracy is fine. He and CB Jaire Alexander were apparently major draws for Tomlin and Colbert at the Louisville pro day.

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 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.

3:24 QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond. 6’3”, 215 lbs. Take your snapshot of an ideal QB from the leadership and impressions point of view – say a young Manning or Luck – and then give him nothing but small school experience and an only-adequate arm. That is Kyle Lauletta, the clear star of this year’s Senior Bowl. This grade is a bit elevated because your author has great faith in those non-physical assets (bias acknowledged). Here is the scouting profile, which gives him a solid Round 5 grade despite the flat statement that he “Can’t make all the NFL throws.” OTOH, See the discussion in this extremely detailed QB study which shows that Lauletta’s arm is better than Falk’s, at least by a little. The Saints, like the Steelers, have their QB but are hoping to luck into an heir with bargain picks. This mock draft/scouting profile and its companion on Mike White address that idea. Lauletta’s personal background and manner, combined with Jimmy G’s departure, have led to constant speculation about his fit with New England, as evidenced by this Patriots-oriented scouting profile and this similar, gif-supported review from our sister SB Nation site, which sees a weaker-armed Alex Smith. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants sees a likely prospect for a west coast system, which is also fair. Finally, here is a “Mr. Stats” scouting profile that compares Lauletta to Kirk Cousins more than Alex Smith.

4:01 QB Luke Falk, Wash. St. 6’4”, 225 lbs. Looked like a real winner in 2015 and 2016 but a substandard 2017 O-Line got him beat up pretty badly (10 games with a broken throwing wrist!) and made his stats look artificially bad. Accurate Passer with a quick tight release who reads defenses well and makes lots of adjustments at the line (though the scouting profile notes “Slow to see blitzers and misses hot routes” as a weakness). The major knock is barely adequate arm strength. See the discussion in this extremely detailed QB study (“Simply cannot make all the throws”). Here is a wildly, over the top enthusiastic scouting profile from September of 2016. It does, however, confirm his ability to “engineer nail-biting, come-from-behind victories.” This year-old scouting profile notes link is from a year ago and says this: “One area of concern is that Falk tends to hold the ball too long. Washington State’s offensive line [for 2016 was] pretty solid [but he] needs to get rid of the ball quicker.” Sure enough, he got crushed in 2017. This scouting profile probably sums it all up as well as possible: “Thrives in the Air Raid offense, but has shown [] poise, versatility, and decision making … for a precision and timing based NFL offense. Doesn’t possess a rocket arm or bonus mobility, but has shown he can make all of the throws and he goes through his progressions well… Played most of 2017 with a broken right [throwing] wrist, while setting Pac-12 records.”

4:01 QB Mike White, W. Kentucky. 6’4”, 225 lbs. Your classic QB developmental project: the kid with sterling size, fabulous arm talent, and good attitude buried in a small school program behind a nonexistent offensive line. He’s sort of a mirror image to Josh Dobbs, who’d proven all you could want but pure size, NFL accuracy, and experience in a pro system. White has every measurable tool to be an NFL quarterback except mobile feet, but he also has so little comparable experience that one can only guess about the all-important immeasurables. Here is the scouting profile. This scouting profile and its companion on Kyle Lauletta come from a Saints POV where, like the Steelers, the fans have their QB but are hoping to luck into a bargain priced heir. Here are a Dolphins-oriented scouting profile and a long local newspaper article on White’s draft prospects. This goes to a decent, if page-by page scouting profile. And finally, a scouting profile worth more from the humor standpoint than the substance, though it’s consistent with the more serious efforts by and large.

6:01 QB Kurt Benkert, Virginia. 6’3”, 218 lbs. Another boom-or-bust practice squad prospect with a huge arm that’s saddled down by major accuracy and decision making question marks. See the discussion in this extremely detailed QB study.

6:01 QB Chase Litton, Marshall. 6’6”, 232 lbs. Looking for a practice squad boom-or-bust prospect at the end of your mock? You could do much worse than Chase Litton, who looks the part, has the arm, and possess the required nerve and guts. The problem lies in the mental processing time and the difficulty reading defenses, which led to waaaaaay more interceptions than a team can survive. But those are above-the-neck issues that can be learned, and a certain someone from New England has shown that it sometimes works out in just that way. Here is the scouting profile. This long and excellent article focuses on the red[dish] flags raised by several events as a teenager. Definitely worth the read. This 6-minute video scouting report from Matt Waldman is also worth some attention for a technical, on-field POV, as is the discussion in this extremely detailed QB study.

6:01 QB Brogan Roback, Eastern Michigan. [VISIT]. 6’3”, 220 lbs. As explained in this scouting profile, Roback is a small school star with decent size and a lot of talent. A similar story is told in this scouting profile. Sounds like a fine Day 3 flier.

7:01 QB (?) J.T. Barrett, Ohio State. 6’1”, 220 lbs. Let’s summarize. J.T. Barrett is that young man you want your daughter to bring home; the one who will obviously end up running some business, doing actual good in Congress, or excelling some other way. He’s a three-year captain for Ohio State. Three! It’s never happened before and may never happen again. But he played QB in college and he’s just not suited for the role at the next level. It’s sort of like scouting a smaller and less accomplished Tim Tebow, with all the leadership skill and without the divisive religious nuts dogging his shadow. My projection is this: offensive role player who ends up as your #2 RB, #4 WR and emergency QB all at the same time, while contributing on special teams and gluing your locker room together. That’s worth a Day 3 draft pick. Here is the scouting profile. There have been some three gazillion others about him over the years if you care to look.

Tight Ends

2:12 TE Mike Gesicki, Penn St. [COMBINE] 6’5”, 247 lbs. Check out this spider-graph at! 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 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 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. Here is the scouting profile.

3.12 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 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.

3:24 TE Mark Andrews, Oklahoma. 6’5”, 256 lbs. A big, former WR target with good hands, who runs good routes, has a genuine knack for finding the soft spot in zone coverage, and possesses the size to be an effective blocker. Would be ranked higher if he had either a hint more speed or had shown the nastiness to be an asset in the run game. Here is the scouting profile. This goes to a brief scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants. The full-length Walter Football scouting profile thinks he could go as early as Round 2 (to Pittsburgh no less!) This decent looking scouting profile agrees on the Round 2 grade. Finally, this goes to a good article from (hard as it is to believe) Cincy Jungle (even a blind squirrel…)

4:16 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 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.

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 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.

5:01 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 scouting profile.

5:01 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 scouting profile really does remind you of Matt Spaeth.

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.

1:20 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 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 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 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 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.

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 scouting profile compares him to Jamaal Charles, who Jones has consciously imitated from the stylistic POV.

2:24 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 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 Royce Freeman, Oregon. 5’11, 234 lbs. Sleeper alert. Have a look at the 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.

3:12 RB John Kelly, Tennessee. 5’9”, 205 lbs. Your classic NFL bowling ball and a surefire fan favorite for all who love angry runners that earn tough yards. Look at the gifs in this scouting report if you want to see what I mean. The scouting profile pegs him as a guaranteed role player with decent wiggle, but questions whether he has the burst and top speed to be a three down force. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants is more positive, calling him an “electric, fast and agile” back with serious upside. Here is a gif-supported scouting report from the SB Nation Tennessee Volunteers site, which is both biased and knowledgeable. This fairly careful scouting profile is worth a look for the final comparisons if nothing else: “Ceiling: MJD. Floor: Doug Martin.”

3:12 RB Mark Walton, San Diego St. 5’10”, 188 lbs. Think Gio Bernard and you’ll have a decent comp for Mark Walton. He will excel as a 3rd-down back with superior quickness, speed, hands, burst, and a willingness to mix it up in pass protection, but will face real durability questions if he’s asked to regularly run between the tackles. Combine him with a healthy James Conner and you’d have something very similar to Lev Bell. Here is the scouting profile, which drops his grade for health concerns (ankle injury). This brief scouting profile strikes a solid, general opinion. Here is a decent, if Patriot-oriented scouting profile.

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 scouting profile, along with a scouting profile from our sister site for the Broncos and one of those asset-by-asset scouting profiles.

RB Nyheim Hines, N.C. State. 5’8”, 197 lbs. Your classic ‘short but not small’ guy who isn’t afraid to stick his nose into either a pile or a blitzer, Hines is also a home run waiting to happen – or will be until he gets crushed enough by a few NFL linebackers to take the edge of that 4.3 speed. Shades of Fast Willie Parker! His lack of size limits his ability to be a bell cow back, but he could be electric if paired with a healthy James Conner. The scouting profile worries about his lack of make-‘em-miss vision and quickness if you read between the lines but, like this scouting profile, emphasizes that he provides extra value as a kick and punt returner. Here is a gif-supported, Cowboys-oriented scouting profile, and a similar gif-supported scouting profile from a Steelers site.

4:16 RB Akrum Wadley, Iowa. 5’10”, 191 lbs. The scouting profile describes a runner who can make anyone miss with brilliant lateral cuts and jukes, but who’ll drive you crazy because the moves go sideways instead of up the field. Another candidate for ‘running mate with Conner,’ his grade would be higher if he had the size and stuff to be a better pass protector when shuffled in as a 3rd-down back. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants says much the same thing. Walter Football’s scouting profile compares him to Duke Johnson, which might be a good observation if Wadley gets the knack of really trying to block even when he knows he’s overmatched. This Seahawks-oriented scouting profile (with accompanying video study) compares him to a smaller Shady McCoy, which is also fair considering what McCoy might look like if you stripped off that extra bit of solidity.

5:01 RB Jordan Wilkins, Mississippi. 6’1”, 217 lbs. The scouting profile describes a runner with every asset you want except attitude. A find Day 3 pick nevertheless because of the old NFL chestnut that’s lasted so long because it is true: young men with talent hits the NFL, gets punched in the nose by tough guys who are just as good, and then falls in with just the right coach, who shows him how to wear those big boy shoes. Jordan Wilkins with big boy shoes would be a Day 2 shoe-in (sorry for that).

5:16 RB Kalen Ballage, Arizona St. 6’1”, 227 lbs. A brilliant SPARQ kid who’s shown shortcomings when it comes to putting that native athletic talent into practice on a football field. The scouting profile is a study in how a scout tries to put words on someone who just doesn’t “get it.” Worth a Day 3 pick nevertheless on the chance that a good NFL coach and locker room might harness the scattered potential.

5:16 RB Dimitri Flowers, Oklahoma. 6’2”, 245 lbs. If the Steelers didn’t have Rosie Nix… Flowers is one of the best full-/H-back prospects we’ve seen in recent years. He blocks and catches like an undersized TE with great ability to latch onto both slippery defenders and footballs in the air. You’ve got to love football players, and he is a great example of the species. Alas, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have this role filled.

6:16 RB/WR Reggie Bonnafon, Louisville [VISIT]. 6’2”, 210 lbs. His pro day numbers confirmed his reputation as a SPARQ-score athlete. As summarized in the notes in this Redskins-oriented mock, Bonnafon is basically an unknown because he converted from QB to WR in 2016 because he wasn’t going to displace Lamar Jackson, and then to RB in 2017 because it seemed like a good idea to show versatility. Sounds like a really good gamble for a Day 3 flier.

7:99 FB/TE John David (“J.D.”) Moore, LSU [VISIT]. 6’4”, 236 lbs. Every year LSU awards #18 to high character tough guys the locker room admires. J.D. Moore was the most recent. The intangibles that implies are what gives him a chance to make a Steelers’ team that already includes Rosie Nix. Check out his goodbye letter “To the LSU Family.” You’ll get the point.

Wide Receivers

2:12 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 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. Here is a gif-supported scouting report from former NFL player Stephen White.

2:24 WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M [VISIT]. 5’10”, 200 lbs. Considered a Round 1 pick by many pundits, Kirk is one of those players that beats the world as long as he’s in motion but does far less well in a phone booth. Universally praised for his competitive spirit, he runs great routes and has good speed but has been beaten by good press coverage that holds him up at the line, and he’s gotten some critique for limits on combat catches. He’ll start as a primary slot receiver with potential to grow into an undersized outside WR in the AB mold. A great punt & kick returner too. Here are the scouting profile and the full length scouting report from Walter Football. This goes to a gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Panthers; this to a scouting profile from our sister site for the Broncos; and this to one from our sister site for the Giants.

2:24 WR Anthony Miller, Memphis. 5’11”, 190 lbs. A favorite of our own Steel34D, Miller is an all-around receiver who has everything but all around consistency. As discussed in this nice article/scouting profile, Miller is another ultra competitive type who’s been under the radar during the draft process due to a fractured foot. The scouting profile notes inconsistent hands, which this gif-supported scouting report from well respected former NFL player Stephen White called “focus drops” and counterbalanced against some extraordinary combat catches. This less enthusiastic, Packers-oriented scouting profile describes a #3 receiver who might grow to be a #2. This Patriots-oriented scouting profile gives him a Round 1-2 grade. Here is a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants.

3:01 WR Dante Pettis, Washington. 6’1”, 192 lbs. The scouting profile compares Pettis to T.J. Houshmandzadeh, a well known Steeler Killer back in the day. The difference seems to be that Pettis is a better, more explosive athlete with a higher ceiling and punt return ability (he set the CFB record with 9 punt return TD’s!), but may lack some of that inner fire and alpha personality that made the former Bengal such ferocious competitor who played better than his measurable talents. This gif-supported scouting report praises his blocking in addition to his “feel for the sport” and ends with a comparison to T.Y. Hilton joined to a late-1st grade. This Vikings-oriented scouting profile goes with Nelson Agholor – another player who winds with overall athleticism and skill rather than overwhelming physical talent. Can Pettis learn? Overall, I sense that this scouting profile from out sister site for the Falcons and this gif-supported Bills Wire scouting report may make the best point: Pettis has done some great things, has good but not great measurables, and has more subtle assets like an intuitive sense of how he and others are moving in space; and he also has many ways he could improve; but his production went down significantly when Jon Ross left and he was asked to be The Man on his own. A solid Day 2 prospect.

3:24 WR DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State. 6’1”, 205 lbs. A ‘gamer’ more than an athlete, Hamilton is that player everyone forgets about even though he shattered Penn State’s career reception record with 20% more than the second place person, is second only to Allen Robinson for single season receptions, and edges Robinson out for the single game record. He’s also known as one of the hardest workers on a team that includes perpetual nose-to-the-grindstone types like Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki. Why is he invisible? Because he’s the Quiet Quincy of his team and he wins with quiet assets like precise routes, wonderful body control, and always rising to the occasion. There are no exceptional measurements like size, speed, quickness or strength; just quietly moving ahead and constantly winning. He even has his share drops (unless there’s a game or a key first down on the line). Here is the scouting profile, which includes all-but-raves about his football- and human character. This gif-supported scouting report came out after he kept on winning throughout the Senior Bowl week. This goes to another gif-suppported scouting profile, and this to a Giants-oriented scouting profile.

5:01 WR Justin Watson, Penn. [VISIT] 6’3”, 215 lbs. The scouting profile describes a receiver with great hands, character and size who utterly dominated the Ivy League for several years, but who probably lacks the sheer speed and explosiveness to compete against the big boys. ‘Ivy league? Come on…’ Enter his pro day, with 4.39 speed, a 40” vertical and assorted other SPARQ-score achievements. My how the evaluations change. Here is the BTSC article from when the Steelers brought him in for a visit.

5:16 WR Richie James, Middle Tenn. St. [COMBINE & VISIT] 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 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.

6:01 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 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…

6:16 WR Devin Gray, Cincinnati [PRO DAY]. 5’11”, 183 lbs. Very good 4.4 speed. This goes to a BTSC article on his pro day meeting. Supposed to have good hands but suffered from poor QB play.

6:16 WR Quadree Henderson, Pitt. [LOCAL VISIT]. 5’8”, 190 lbs. A punt/kick returner who doubles with less success as a Wide Receiver. Here is the scouting profile. This goes to a nice interview that gives surprising insight into what the young man is like. Here is a Lions-oriented scouting profile.

7:01 WR Russell Gage, LSU [VISIT]. 6’0”, 184 lbs. As summarized by the scouting profile, Gage is a tough, competitive, junk yard dog of a special teams player who doubles as a Wide Receiver. This goes to an article on his visit to Pittsburgh.