The 2019 NFL Draft is fast-approaching, and, unlike in years past, the Steelers might actually have their pick of cornerbacks when the 20th pick of the first round (their pick) finally comes around on the evening of Thursday, April 25.
Isn’t life rather ironic? After years of needing a really good cornerback in the draft, only to be just out of arm’s reach of even the best of the rest, Pittsburgh may actually have to take all of its allotted time to decide which first-round caliber corner it should choose.
I say it’s ironic, only because the Steelers just signed free agent Steven Nelson, who will join the very capable Joe Haden in hopefully bringing stability to the position in 2019.
If it were up to me, I’d take Michigan’s Devin Bush, an inside linebacker, and a selection that would address arguably the team’s top need. Unfortunately, it’s not up to me. It likely won’t be up to the Steelers either, since Bush isn’t expected to last past the first half of the first round.
Receiver is certainly an option, with many mock drafts projecting more than a few going right before, during or after the Steelers first pick. Even tight end is on the table, with T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant—both Iowa alums—floating around the middle of the first round of the majority of mock drafts.
But cornerback just “feels” like the pick this year. Who should it be? I guess it all depends on who you ask (just like any other position, of course). LSU’s Greedy Williams seems to have the best physical tools and highest grade—“Should become instant starter,” says NFL.com’s profile on him. As for Washington’s Byron Murphy, while his NFL.com draft grade is slightly lower—“Chance to become a starter”—he appears to be gaining momentum as a favorite to land in Pittsburgh. How about Georgia’s Deandre Baker, a player with physical attributes—and an NFL.com profile grade—similar to Murphy?
It’s hard to get a read on Baker, which may or may not make him the favorite to be the Steelers next draft pick. But if I had to put odds on it, I’d go Baker number one, Murphy number two and Williams number three in terms of the cornerback the Steelers are likely to take at 20.
I base this on nothing, other than this is usually how it works for the Steelers come draft time. Williams figures to be the favorite to not be on the board, thanks to his aforementioned physical tools that include 4.3 speed and a 6-2, 185 pound frame. As for Murphy, he seems to be this year’s William Jackson III, a corner whose stock is quickly rising.
That makes Baker the favorite as far as I’m concerned. Only, unlike the Artie Burns selection in 2016, a pick that now looks like an epic reach three years later, Baker may actually make sense at number 20.
Will he be any good? How about the other two? Do any of them make sense when talking about the Steelers defensive schemes?
One more question, is corner really the best option when all the needs are examined? Don't forget, Haden will be a free agent after this season.
At any rate, these are questions we may be asking in about 10 days. The Steelers, it would appear, will have some questions of their own to ask on April 25--both involving the same position: Should they draft a corner? And which one should should they take?