2018 NFL Mock Draft: Steelers go unexpected route in Round 1

Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Hey all, it is mock draft season, and with the draft only 2 weeks away, I think it is about that time when we can get a gauge on interest in players and exactly where they will fall. I tried to keep this realistic, but not standard. It would be standard to mock Leighton Vander Esch, Rashaan Evans, or Justin Reid, but why not have a little fun and go out of the box with some thinking? Thus, I will try my best to address all needs the Steelers have in this mock draft. That said, as I am stepping into Kevin Colbert's shoes, I'll outline needs the Steelers have in the 2018 draft.


Some are obviously more major than most, with the big two being Inside Linebacker and Safety, EDGE and WR would likely sit in that second tier for depth purposes and then the other four needs are not desperate needs but more insurance could be used to bolster those areas of concern. As such, let's get into this draft with the mindset of possibly Best Player Available (BPA), but we need to know we have two needs that really need to be addressed for this defense to put it all together in 2018, especially after that horrendous showing in the playoffs vs the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Round 1, Josh Sweat, EDGE, Florida State

In this scenario, the Steelers actually address OLB first out of all things. T.J. Watt had a solid rookie year, but with Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo heading into possible contract years, plus only the unknown Keion Adams on roster, OLB is a big concern in terms of depth. If Watt or Dupree were to get hurt, and Chickillo were to step in to start, depth would be rather poor and as such, a 1st rounder as talented as Josh Sweat is tough to pass up at 28, assuming the Steelers' favorites are gone. This move not only secures the future at the position, but bolsters the pass rush right now.

I don't hear much about Sweat on BTSC, but to me, this guy is the 3rd best EDGE in the class behind Bradley Chubb and Harold Landry, both very likely top 15 picks. Sweat is the type of the guy who you want to get at EDGE, he has great power to speed, excellent bend, and solid hand usage, which allows him to often win off the line and get to the QB. Anyone with his combination should be a successful player at the next level. He wore a knee brace which seemed to really diminish his explosiveness and fluidity in his movements. At his pro day, he displayed his athletic ability and fluid ability, even showing he can drop back in coverage, which is often asked of Steelers OLBs.

This is clear view of the things that Sweat can do, does not just rely on athleticism, but has a flurry of pass rush moves to go with it. The kid is only 21, and he just turned it. Athletic and possessing the pass rushing traits you want, Sweat is a late 1st prospect I would pound the table for at will. His testing numbers are pretty freakish too, with him running a 4.53 40 yd dash. Have no fear, this is no Jarvis Jones, this man is polished and ready to contribute right away, this will immediately improve the Steelers defense.

Round 2, Darius Leonard, ILB, South Carolina St

The Steelers need to take care of ILB in the first two rounds, it doesn't matter which round, but I do feel that the Steelers will go for one more on the athletic side. If they wanted an athletic linebacker past the 1st round, Darius Leonard is your guy. An absolute tackle machine, Leonard is a sideline to sideline linebacker who flies all over the field. Although he ran only a 4.7, Leonard plays much faster than that on tape and it shows. Decent in coverage and solid gap discipline, the guy plays all out on every play and gives up almost no big plays. Smart, athletic, and disciplined, he may be just what the Steelers need as a whole.

This man does not stop working with that motor, and his discipline is shown here, great shifting through blockers and a fantastic job to wrap up. A solid comparison for him right now is Myles Jack. He is not as athletic but he plays smarter than Jack and they have similar size and play styles. This guy would be an immediate impact, and in the future could grow to be even more, would he start, I am not sure, but he would be impactful on the right away for a team that needs help at ILB desperately. He has that nose for the football and that closing burst, there is reason he has drawn comparison to guys like Telvin Smith and Deion Jones. Leonard has insane potential, and he is essentially who you wanted Jerome Baker to be.

Round 3, Damon Webb, S, Ohio State

The opposite of what the Steelers usually pick, Webb is not an athletic specimen by any means, he is just a smart, disciplined player. If there was ever a stronger trust the tape example from the Steelers, this pick would be it. Webb would not play in the box, he would be a good center fielder at the next level and would instantly be the 3rd safety, thus allowing the Steelers scheme versatility with addition of Morgan Burnett. This guy is a ballhawk, great ball skills and boy did it ever show when he faced Sam Darnold in the Cotton Bowl. Webb, while not being athletic, has impressive range and responds to QBs faster than some of the top safeties in the draft such as Justin Reid and Jessie Bates. He does have good depth when coming back to help vs the run and can wrap up well too, not as sure handed as he could be, but he is a much better tackler than Sean Davis. Webb could honestly be the best pure Free Safety in the draft, if it were not for a man named Jessie Bates. Webb could even go higher than this and likely will be at least in the 3rd round range for most teams.

Webb has some serious instincts when it comes to the ball, and here it only shows that, what a beautiful read, and the fluid movement of his hips only add onto this play, but he consistently made plays such as this one vs Darnold and USC Trojans. My favorite part about Webb is how he consistently improved over the course of his years at Ohio State. The more I study Webb, the more I ask how he is not a consensus 2nd round pick at least, and it would not surprise if league circles had him that high up either.

Round 5a, Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa

Let's face it guys.....we need another WR. No matter how much we may hate that prospect, there is almost no one behind AB, JuJu, and Martavis right now, and with Martavis in a contract year, a developmental type WR who can function as a solid WR4 for now should do the trick. Daurice Fountain is your guy, and many of you may not have even heard of the guy, but he is a player. Due to the environment he would be put into here, Fountain could become a legit #1 receiver in the future. There is no better place for Fountain to develop than in the WR factory. Fountain is not like Sammie Coates though, the guy is ahtletic but also shows out on tape and is rather sure handed. To put it into perspective, Fountain is a former track star, so it is easy to see why he is an athletic freak. His in air adjustments of the ball and release, specifically on slot corners, are some of the best in this class period. He is a scary playmaker vertically and after the catch, and is versatile inside and outside. I am not saying he has a shot to be the second coming of Antonio Brown......actually yes I am. There is no guarantee that happens, but this guy has the best shot to do it in the class as a developmental prospect for the Steelers. His pro day testing included a 4.46 40, 11 ft 2 in broad jump, and 42.5 in vertical, that is an athlete folks. An athlete and technician, Fountain has some scary potential folks.

Route running is solid as well, could be a top 5 route runner in the class, obviously Ridley, Pettis, and Hamilton are up there as the top guys, but Fountain is an all around impressive developmental project and I would love no more than the Steelers to grab him. This guy might be the perfect Martavis Bryant replacement, and all at 5th round value.

Round 5b, Ryan Nall, RB, Oregon State

Le'Veon Bell is injury prone and likely leaving after this season, so naturally, the Steelers would like to pick up a RB. We have seen them tied to Kerryon Johnson, Ronald Jones, and Derrius Guice even. The Steelers add one here in the 5th and he is a guy who can play Special Teams, but also add an element to the offense that the Steelers are lacking at RB.....big plays. Bell and Conner are not big play threats, Ryan Nall is just that guy. Consistently he would rip off long runs and the change pace from him to Bell would be so astounding he would get more of these opportunities in the Steelers offense. I do believe he has some stiff hips and it shows itself in outside runs at times, but he also has incredible burst and acceleration through holes. He has shown a decent ability to catch, but he is nothing special in that regard.

This guy is 232 pounds and yet ran a 4.52 40 at his pro day, absolutely insane for a guy of his size, and that is why he has such a big play threat. The guy shows balance and sometime he just becomes a bowling ball. His balance and ability to become slippery allow this big play threat to show out even more, and he could succeed at the next level.

Round 7a, Kentavius Street, DL, NC State

You can call me crazy for taking a risk on Street after he tore his ACL but Street's appeal to me was more than just from an athletic standpoint, and while he did have that impressive explosion and speed to power exchange, he also was a skilled user of his hands and dealing with Offensive Linemen without just his athletic ability. Many players have come back from ACL tears stronger than before too, so this seems like a low risk, high reward type pick for me. Street could be an instrumental piece on the DL for years to come if he does pan out next year after he has fully recovered from his Torn ACL, and honestly with the 7th round pick this does not scare me at all. It is a possible steal, and with the skill Street has to rush the passer and engulf RBs at the line, I support this risk in the 7th. He ran a 4.8 40 at 280 pounds, that is simply astounding to me and his explosion and agility were fantastic. He may not get to that level after he returns, but the prospect of it being there is enticing for the Steelers no doubt

This is the speed to power explosion he has and he gets around the Tackle with ease, this is a common theme on his film and you can expect him to continue this if he makes a completely full recovery from the injury.

Round 7b, Cam Serigne, TE, Wake Forest

Not many TEs are that good in this class, but especially in the art of receiving tight ends. I for one did not have a single RD1 grade on a TE this year and Dallas Goedert was a mid to late 2. Cam Serigne is a TE I like because of his ability to catch the football. He could grow to be a solid TE2, but he is athletic, and he was a former basketball player in college and it shows. He has extremely strong hands and brings down tough catches in traffic, thus he is a decent red zone threat too. Blocking is not his forte, and he needs to get stronger. He is a willing blocker, but is not strong enough to hold them even against CBs. Route running is solid and all but Serigne does need to refine his blocking skills or he won't see the field too much, but this is a good way to push Xavier Grimble and perhaps stash Serigne on the PS for a developmental season.

This is easily my favorite play by Cam Serigne. A strong catch over the middle in traffic for him. He does this often, and in the thread below you can see him make an acrobatic catch on an insane vertical but that almost seems routine for him. His basketball skills show through and he is a nice sleeper. He has the traits you want a TE to have to be a decent contributor to your team for years to come.

Needless to say, the Steelers are an extremely talented football team. They have a top 5 QB and the best RB and WR in football. The defense has some solid areas, but it needs to be refined with depth and player swho can contribute and improve the team at all levels of the field. I feel this draft did address a lot of needs, with high upside in the later rounds and impact players in the first 3 rounds. This, at the time, is one of my favorite mocks.

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