Ask 10 different people for their opinion of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first four selections in the 2018 NFL Draft and you will probably get at least nine different takes. While the team clearly loaded up on a combination of athleticism and statistical freaks, they started off by selecting a player who was projected anywhere from the late first to the mid-fifth round on teams’ draft boards, depending who you ask.
There’s little controversy about the final three, though. Their final three picks are each high-value, low risk selections oozing with upside.
Marcus Allen, S, Penn State
Yes, the Steelers selected safety Terrell Edmunds in the first round. Yes, Allen (no relation, by the way, to Hall-of-Fame runningback Marcus Allen) is a safety. Despite both excelling at playing in the box, though, Edmunds is more well-rounded, while Allen is a true, in-the-box, run-stuffing safety. That’s evident on Allen’s game film when asked to play single-high safety. Advice to the Steelers: don’t. He lacks the sideline-to-sideline speed to be a centerfielder.
But if you’re looking for someone who aggressively stands his ground in the box while still being able to cover in the flats and shallow to mid crossers? He’s your guy. He dishes out solid hits, but wraps up more often than not. He’s pretty much the Steelers’ replacement for J.J. Wilcox, who was released Monday afternoon. He’s also got special-teams nightmare written all over him.
Jaylen Samuels, RB/H-Back/TE, N.C. State
I keep trying to figure out an NFL comparison for Samuels, and I swear I keep coming back to Le’Veon Bell. They aren’t all that similar in style with the ball in their hands — Bell is the patient, dancing artist while Samuels is a single-cut guy with a cannonball-like burst. But it’s hard to describe Samuels’ versatility without wanting to come back to Bell.
He lines up everywhere: as the tailback, the fullback, a tight end, split wide, in your living room, waving in your window from across the street, doing high-rise construction and in permanent residence in the nightmares of a few defenders. You’d swear some physics major on N.C. State’s Centennial Campus in southwest Raleigh discovered how to clone people instantly during a break between classes, and decided to use his powers for good instead of evil, and used it to clone the most versatile player in the NCAA in 2017.
Meanwhile, English majors worldwide are shaking their heads at such ridiculous hyperbole.
The only thing standing between Samuels and him being somewhere among the first 64 picks is that he doesn’t truly have a position. He’s too good of a receiver to line him up in the backfield all the time. Meanwhile, he’s too shifty for a man his size (6’-0”, 225 pounds) to always split him out wide. He’s far shorter than the typical tight end, but using his absurd athleticism there creates highly favorable mismatches. he is the true “Jack of All Trades, Master of None” sort of kid. He may be my favorite pick in this entire draft. And he could be the steal of the weekend.
Joshua Frazier, NT, Alabama
My affinity for his last name aside, Frazier is an intriguing pick. Much like Willie Parker, Frazier didn’t really see the field much. But someone with an inside line to Alabama’s defensive line — Karl Dunbar, who was hired away from the Crimson Tide earlier in the off-season — knew what this kid had. This selection says something significant: the Steelers are looking to get away from their two most common defensive alignments (3-4 and 2-4-5 Nickel). Someone like Frazier, who can serve as a pure nose tackle while Javon Hargrave is moved to various places around the line, allows the defense to be stout enough to stay with a three-man front while utilizing just three linebackers and five defensive backs in a 3-3-5 stack alignment. And, if one of those five defensive backs is Edmunds, Allen or Morgan Burnett in more of a “money backer” role, then they are using a formation that sits right in between a 3-4 and a 3-3-5, and allows the Steelers to get the best of both worlds with one personnel package.
It also lets the Steelers replace their normal 2-4-5 Nickel with a 4-2-5 Nickel, composed of Any grouping of Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt,Hargrave, L.T.Walton, Tyson Alualu and Frazier. Much like the Edmunds, Samuels and Allen picks, Frazier gives the Steelers a great deal of versatility, despite being a true nose tackle.
say what you want about the Edmunds pick, and even the somewhat divisive pick of quarterback Mason Rudolph. But it’s hard to deny the quality the Steelers added on day three of this draft.