The NCAA College Football season has been over for months now, and with the NFL offseason going full throttle, attention now turns away from the play on the field, to the characteristics and intangibles off the field.
Yes folks, it is mock draft season!
While mock drafts are nothing more than lofty projections for teams, the analysis of diagnosing team needs can be a valuable one.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have some glaring needs on their football team, and most reside on the defensive side of the football. Below is an early ranking of the Steelers’ top three needs which could, and probably should, be addressed in the upcoming draft (in no particular order):
2. Inside Linebacker
3. Wide Receiver
While there certainly are other team needs, including running back and EDGE pass rusher, most would agree the team should have a very defensive oriented draft class while looking at their current roster. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. agrees when he selected a cornerback to the Steelers in his third mock draft of the year.
Check out what Kiper said about the selection:
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
CB Deandre Baker, Georgia
Pittsburgh signed former Chiefs corner Steven Nelson in free agency, but the team could still target a defensive back in the round. As I wrote in my Mock Draft 2.0, former first-round pick Artie Burns had rough 2018 season, and the Steelers need more depth at cornerback. Baker (5-foot-11, 193 pounds) had a solid combine workout, although he’s not an elite athlete.
If you are like me, and don’t follow college football closely, you aren’t familiar with many of these prospects. I utilize the mock draft process to learn more about prospects, and in this case Deandre Baker.
Here is a quick synopsis of Baker as a player, thanks to The Draft Network:
PROS: Feisty and energetic in his play demeanor. Physical at the line of scrimmage. Despite not being the biggest corner, seems to have solid length. Experience playing in press, press-bail, off-man or zone. Mentally sharp and constantly alert in his area. Press coverage is a strength, typically in control at line of scrimmage and rides receivers off the snap with good technique. Physical down the field to avoid getting stacked. Does his job in the run game, turns things back inside as a perimeter defender. Experience playing both outside corner spots and the nickel.
CONS: Long speed is a major concern. Ran by several times against Missouri, and in other games as well. Consistently gives up vertical separation by simply not being able to match speed, especially at the top of routes. Stiff-hipped to the point where mirroring-and-matching is an issue. Average overall athlete without great click-and-close ability. If he can’t get his hands on you throughout the rep, he’s in danger of giving up separation. At times can be overaggressive in chasing routes in zone coverage, vacating his responsibilities. Needs to put on weight and get off blocks in the run game more consistently.
More from the Draft Network:
Man Cover Skills –Has tremendous stickiness when playing in the face of receivers. Patient to not hinge and grant clean releases, very physical to bump and reroute receivers on vertical stems. Has a great feel for pending breaks and often will finish the route for his opponent.
Zone Cover Skills –Holds his water and won’t chase aggressively the first receiver to flash across his face. Does not have a lot of burst or range for deep third or bail technique, his value is strictly in playing on the hip of receivers unless he’s tasked with guarding inside 10 yards.
Feet/Change of Direction –Feet are effective in staying flat and leveraged over the top of releases, stays in position to contact. Transitional quickness is good, but not great. Often will take aggressive (and effective) angles out of the break to find himself back in the hip pocket and ready to challenge.
Ball Skills –Wonderful ability to disrupt the football. Plays through the hands of receivers when applicable and/or unable to greet the ball first. Has a good deal of ball production thanks to anticipatory quality and ability to react to flashing hands from the trail position.
Flexibility –Tightness through the hips can be documented when he’s isolated in space. Can allow inside separating when trying to flip open and subsequently drive on the break. Has great mobility and ball control in the air and at the catch point to stay feisty.
Acceleration –Downhill speed is just fine, has click and close and generates a lot of power in said instances to jar the football loose. Ability to flip hips vertically and chase is a bit compromised by some tightness in the hips and a lack of long speed.
Zone Spacing –Football IQ helps to mask for lack of elite spring in his steps, splits his landmarks well and is in position to challenge a target when his zones are stressed down the field. Understands when to carry a receiver and when to pass off and transition into a late developing route.
Competitive Toughness –Love his fight, particularly at the catch point and when targeted in coverage. Has a lot of pop in his pads, will lay the boom on receivers when he’s meeting the football at the catch point. Plays the boundary vs. the run with intent to hold the edge.
Run Support –Doesn’t have the most length or power to press back blocks but brings aggression to hold his ground. May not always shuck the blocks with quickness to peel off and make tackles himself, but he’s going to hit his landmarks and allow pursuit to catch the play.
Tackling –He’s going to drop the pads on unsuspecting victims with frequent success. Tackle radius is not especially high but his ability to stay glued on receivers down the field allows him to finish off targets on the occasions he does concede the catch.
It is at this point where Steelers fans can debate the prediction, but also the team needs moving forward. Let us know what you think of the selection, as well as the areas of need, in the comment section below!