I logged onto the Internet on Friday morning to check out the latest mock drafts.
The first one that caught my eye was published by NFL.com’s Adam Rank. I don’t really know who Rank is, but the theme of his latest mock draft was what he thought every team SHOULD do, not what they will do. Since this particular draft was published on April 1, I was immediately on the look-out for some April Fool’s shenanigans. However, since I don’t fully invest in the annual NFL Draft to the point that I think my opinion is worth a ton, I quickly assessed that Rank’s suggestions were on the up-and-up.
So, what position did Rank have the Steelers taking at 24? Did he go with running back? How about offensive tackle? What about inside linebacker? How about none of the above? Now, remember, this mock draft was about what Adam Rank thought every NFL team SHOULD do, and apparently he thought Pittsburgh should select Jaelan Phillips, OLB/EDGE, Miami.
The first thing I wondered when I saw Rank’s pick for the Steelers—and I believe this is the official reaction when one doesn’t agree with a mock draft—was whether or not he was actually smoking crack. Anyway, I don’t know what NFL.com’s official drug-testing policy is, but below is Rank’s explanation:
“All right, I know you already have T.J. Watt, so taking an edge rusher doesn’t exactly scream “team need” right here in the first round. But if it were me, I’d look at the value you’re getting here. And then go address the offensive line later in the draft.”
Ah, yes, the all-important value picks that so many draft experts and wannabe experts fancy. I’ll have you know that I checked NFL.com’s draft profile grade for Phillips, and 6.39 translates to “Will Be Starter Within First Two Seasons” on that site’s scale. First of all, that sounds an awful lot like what everyone expects from Alex Highsmith, the OLB/EDGE the Steelers drafted in the third round last year. Second of all, 6.39 is right on par with the grades of Christian Darrishaw, OT, Virginia Tech; Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan; and Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State. Offensive tackle seems to be a bigger need for Pittsburgh than OLB/EDGE, so, I ask you, where is this incredible value with Phillips?
It would be one thing if Rank had the Steelers taking Micah Parsons, ILB, Penn State. First, Parsons grades out at 6.89, which is somewhere between “Pro Bowl Talent” and “Year 1 Quality Starter” on NFL.com’s grading scale—talk about your great value. Second, inside linebacker is a position the Steelers might actually be looking to upgrade, despite the emergence of Robert Spillane in 2020.
I realize this is Pittsburgh, and we love our outside linebackers, but if it were me, and it’s a toss-up between an offensive tackle or some OLB/EDGE with a similar upside, I’m going with the tackle.
OK, maybe the Steelers will have their choice of a handful of offensive tackles at 24, and maybe they’ll feel confident in snagging one in the second round (55th, overall). If that’s the case, I’m still not going with an outside linebacker. No, I’m checking to see if Creed Humphrey, center, Oklahoma, is still on the board. If he is, he’s mine. Maybe Zaven Collins, inside linebacker, Tusla, is still there and the last remaining inside linebacker with a first-round grade. Or, heck, how about one of those running backs? In my opinion, it’s not the greatest strategy to take a running back in the first round, but it might be if need and value line up.
In conclusion, I’ve always valued need as it pertains to the Steelers' approach to the draft, and it certainly seems like they won’t have to reach very far to address one with the 24th pick.
That's what I would do if I were them.