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The 2018 NFL Draft is loaded with talent for the Steelers to choose from

Rest easy Steeler Nation. Your team will get a great talent in Round 1 of the Draft on Thursday night.

NFL: 2016 NFL Draft Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

If these pages are any guide, Steeler fans live in terror that all four of our ILB targets are bound to be gone at the 28th pick overall, and that only some second rate prospects will remain. Nonsense. This draft class has so much quality that Kevin Colbert will either get his man at ILB/Safety or an even more talented player somewhere else.

Defining “1st Round Talent” and Dividing the 1st Round Up

This has come up several times in our Comments, but I think it’s actually a pretty simple thing to do. Collect and grade all the prospects from the past ten years into a pool as if this was a single draft. Select the top 320 of those prospects, respectively. All of those are 1st Round Talents. 32 names per year, with some years having more than their fair share while others have less. This is a good year.

Several years ago we adopted the “Highest Value [HV]” grading scale for our BTSC Big Board, and it will serve us just as well here. To recap: Imagine that Al Villanueva goes on a quest for the Holy Grail and forgets the airspeed of a unladen swallow. Aaaaaaaah! Hole in starting lineup. How high could we value Tackle Prospect X before feeling cheated? Or maybe both Heyward and Tuitt get kidnapped by aliens and taken to be sex slaves on Planet Femluck. How high could we value this D-Line Prospect Y before wanting to trade back? Or AB’s old buddy is heard explaining to the medics, “Then he said only wimps use goggles and gloves to arc weld and fired the thing up...” How high can we value this WR Prospect Z without gagging?

You get the idea. HV means the highest value a player could reasonably have for a team with distinct need at the position. It works very well for every position but Quarterback, where I think it fails a bit because “distinct need” doesn’t quite capture the sense of “abject desperation” that can drive those picks. In any case, our Big Board gets built by adjusting grades down for lack of need, but never moving a grade above that Highest Value. Thus Vita Vea and DaRon Payne, who might be 1:10 prospects on a team needing a foundation piece for its defensive line, are at 1:25 and 2:12 on this year’s Steeler-oriented Board. They are discounted because the Steelers have much less need at that spot. Meanwhile Leighton Vander Esch and Rashaan Evans, probably weaker prospects in the absolute sense, are both at 1:15 on our Big Board because that is the Highest Value we can reasonably assign.

Moving on...

1st Round Talents in the 2018 Draft

I have not done much film study this year but I do read, listen and watch a lot of opinions from people who do. What follows are my best efforts to assign consensus, average grades based on the opinions expressed in multiple boards from multiple sources. Please note that I am well aware that the categories overlap. I’ve done that to emphasize that these aren’t hard lines but rather shades of gray about which reasonable people disagree. Please assume that words like “about,” “approximately” and “or thereabouts” are implied in every grade.

That is a lot of Round 1 talent, which different teams will of course discount depending on their own needs. Eleven (11) of those are special talents and/or top Quarterbacks who will certainly be gone before Pittsburgh gets a sniff. That leaves 16 players that other teams might poach before Pittsburgh goes on the Board. That is the exact number of Mid-1st values (a fact I assure you is pure coincidence).

Look, I get the concern. The more you think about this, the more you say to yourself:“Everyone we target has a Mid-1st value while the Steelers are picking toward the very end. There’s no way we can expect to get a steal in every draft!” You’d be right for an average draft but not for this one. There really are simply that many good prospects available. Many prospects don’t pan out of course, but that is another discussion.

But it’s even better than that. Look at the “Late-1st” group and you’ll see that it is dominated by the positions that typically get overvalued such as inside and outside pass rushers, a pair of good Corners, an offensive tackle (in a thin year), a quarterback, and two receivers (in a thin year this high). Plus there is a distinct tilt toward early defensive talent throughout my Round 1 grades, but we know that just as many teams need help on the offensive side. What are the odds that one of those teams will start to reach? The fringe-1st list has a lot of names...

Go down the teams. Do your own mock. Add in the couple of the fringe-1st names and a surprise or three that I’ve no doubt missed. What is left at 1:28? A darned good player who will either be (i) one of the coveted ILB’s, (ii) one of the two excellent Safeties we’ve targeted as exceptional consolation prizes, or (iii) a prospect like RB Derrius Guice or CB Jaire Alexander that by all rights should have been picked 10 spots above where Pittsburgh has its turn.

Set your mind at ease Steeler Nation. The team will get a great player on Thursday night. The bigger question is whether any of those Round 1 talents will be available when our team picks at #60 on Friday. Round 2 weights as heavily toward offense as Round 1 does toward defense, so a lot of teams are going to focus in that area and quite possibly allow a superior talent to fall.

And Don’t Go Thinking I’m Unduly Optimistic

Here is a comparable table from the awful draft class of 2013.