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2018 NFL Mock Draft: Steelers inject swagger into the defense in latest 3-round mock

The Steelers add an edge to their defense in the latest 3-round mock draft.

Welcome to yet another edition of mock drafts with your favorite BTSC personality! In honor of this edition, I’d thought I’d bring a little swagger to the table to get started with this one.

It serves a purpose as the first round pick has loads of it, and a trait which will treat him well in the NFL.

Let’s get down to the picks:

1st Round: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

Among the talk about positions of need for Pittsburgh, I do not believe this is getting talked about a lot, but Pittsburgh has quietly been showing interest in some of the cornerbacks in this class. I’m not sure how the team is interested in adding another corner to a room filled with young talent, in terms of depth. That said, this is one of those picks I believe is a great because of the type of player you are getting.

Jaire’s athletic traits aren’t just good, they’re exceptional. Very few cornerbacks get under 4.00 in the short shuttle. That type of short area quickness is very valuable in a cornerback as is the ability to change directions, which Alexander showed he can do with ease.

Jaire Alexander isn’t just a CB with excellent athletic traits though, he’s got elite mental traits I believe separate him from the rest of this class. It’s his pure confidence and swagger that really caught my eye.

Call it arrogance, call it being cocky, call it taunting, I don’t care, because this is an elite trait for a cornerback. What I’ve always noticed about the best cornerbacks in the game is they thrive on getting in the head of the opposition. Also, to play the cornerback position you have to a short term memory, and when you’re as confident as Jaire is he doesn’t allow bad plays to pile up.

Jaire is also natural at finding the ball, even if he wasn’t supposed to be there.

I could go on for days about the prospect of Jaire Alexander, and why I would be in favor of taking him with the 28th pick. I think he could be the best playmaker at cornerback this team has had since Rod Woodson’s days and I’m not afraid to say it. I really like Alexander, he’s one of my absolute favorites in this class.

Mike Tomlin seemed to show some interest in him at the pro day according to Jaire himself in this interview, so I definitely wouldn’t rule out the possibility that he could be the Steelers 1st round pick.

(FWIW, Jaire will be 1 of 22 players attending the NFL draft in Dallas)

If the Steelers do take a cornerback though, be on the lookout for Cameron Sutton potentially moving to Safety.

2nd Round: Dante Pettis, WR, Washington

This is a receiver the Steelers have shown some interest in, and I personally believe he was held back by a QB who was incapable of getting him the ball.

What I love about Pettis is he’s explosive and is a really refined route runner. Pettis is good at exploding off the line and has really refined releases which help him create separation at the stem of his routes. Pettis also rarely drops the ball, which is something I value in a wide receiver immensely.

Pettis is also the all-time leader for punt return touchdowns in the NCAA with 9 of them, and the Steelers could use a player with this skill set to get Antonio Brown off punt return duty once and for all. I’m not sure if Pettis will be here, but if he is, I wouldn’t be surprised with the selection considering Martavis Bryant is in a contract year and Eli Rogers still rehabbing his injured knee.

3rd Round: Fred Warner, LB, BYU

Let me get this out of the way, I really like what I saw from Fred Warner and I hate the way BYU used him. He was essentially used in a hybrid linebacker/nickel role where his primary job was to act as the force player, who’s job is to keep everything inside and act as outside containment.

This limited Warner from really being able to react and shoot gaps as often as he wanted to. This changed at the Senior Bowl though where he slid into a more traditional 3-4 ILB type of role and he showed to be very comfortable in that role. He showcased the ability to quickly process and shoot gaps in front of him, as well as his range sideline-to-sideline.

This is the type of player the Steelers need at the mack linebacker position with Ryan Shazier out for at least the upcoming season. One aspect that really caught my attention with Warner though was his coverage ability, and just how exceptional he looked in that role.

Am I watching a cornerback, or did I really just see a 6-foot 3-inch 236-pound linebacker just do that? The corner ends up adjusting his route after feeling Warner close in on the route, and Warner was able to adjust smoothly with his backpedal and cut in front of the pass. I know the route was initially open and the quarterback should’ve seen it open, but how Warner played it afterwards isn’t common to see in a linebacker. This type of coverage ability isn’t a surprise considering the way he tested.

The Steelers had a formal interview with him at the Senior bowl according to Warner himself, and it’s easy to see why the Steelers would be interested in player like him. He should definitely be on the Steelers’ radar somewhere on day 2 of the draft if they choose to not go linebacker in the 1st.