I am not going to waste time with an intro today. After all, who wants to read something that isn’t part of the actual mock draft anyway?
The draft is here, and if your mindset is anything like mine, all you care about at this point is the picks. Besides, my brain is officially fried, having ranked 400 draft prospects, analyzed hundreds for the BTSC Big Board, and done approximately 273 mock drafts (I’m exaggerating a little, but not much). Let’s get to the picks, and let’s get to the draft!
For clarity, this mock is solely based upon what I would do if I was the GM. This is in no way my prediction of what will actually happen in the draft, as my NFL Mock Draft 5.0 will outline my actual predictions.
Analysis for these selections will be coming from our BTSC Big Board.
In efforts to grab the pass-catcher of their choice, the Chargers give the Steelers Pick 21 and a 2024 3rd round pick for Pick 17.
Round 1, Pick 21: Joey Porter, Jr. | CB | Penn State
For what it’s worth, I am hearing Deonte Banks could go ahead of Joey Porter, Jr., making it quite feasible he is still available at this point.
Bradley Locker: Porter’s length and physicality make it almost impossible to win one-on-one against him; there’s no doubt he can be trusted when left isolated, even against backside receivers. Porter works in strong press and jabs throughout routes, mixing in both hands and placing them well on shoulder pads. On top of that, his instincts and anticipation are outstanding, enabling him to jump routes and understand where he should be positioned in zone. Even when he gives up separation, Porter’s arms are so long that he can tip passes effortlessly. Porter is certainly strong and big enough to even go head-to-head with tight ends in the slot, something which is rare for cornerbacks or even safeties. In terms of tackling, he’s good in the open field and is able to wrestle through blocks to make a stop. One of the areas of weakness for Porter is surrendering space, particularly on short, quick-hitting routes; he probably needs to clean up his turns and movement skills on breaks. Further, he should be conscious of not being overly physical, because subtle grabs or contact could be flagged at the next level. Porter’s solid Combine workout (despite not doing drills) and combination of ridiculous frame/wingspan make him a prototypical press corner who can lock down an entire side of the field.
In pursuit of a top center, The Seahawks give the Steelers Picks 37, 124, and 154 for Pick 32.
Round 2, Pick 37: Mazi Smith | NT | Michigan
Andrew Wilbar: Mazi Smith gets a bad reputation by many fans due to limited collegiate production, much like past Wolverine prospects who have gone on to the NFL and had success. Rashaan Gary is one name who comes to mind, and, just like Gary, the issue does not lie in the player. It lies in the utilization of the player, and in Mazi’s case, it was because of his specific role. Michigan relies exclusively on their EDGE rushers to generate pressure, while the defensive tackles are utilized solely as run defenders. Despite this limitation to Smith’s overall game, Smith grew as a pass-rusher in 2022, generating pressure and pushing pockets from the interior on a relatively consistent basis. Disengaging from interior lineman and finishing on sack opportunities is the next step he needs to take, but the pass-rushing potential is there. He can also start Day 1 for an NFL team, thanks to his tremendous run-defending ability. Pick 17 may be a slight reach for the Michigan big man, but if he happens to fall to 32, the Steelers should definitely consider pulling the trigger.
In order to grab South Carolina CB Cam Smith, the Giants trade Picks 57, 160, 243, and 2024 4th round pick.
Round 2, Pick 57: Sam LaPorta | TE | Iowa
Andrew Wilbar: Iowa has quite the track record of putting out quality tight ends, and LaPorta could very well be the next one. The numbers may not jump off the paper, especially as it pertains to touchdowns, but much is due to absolutely lousy play at quarterback. To have over 650 yards in a season highlighted by offensive deficiencies is nothing short of impressive. The area I am more concerned about is his blocking. LaPorta does not have the strongest lower body, which causes him to be supplanted as a blocker and driven back by pass rushers when playing in-line. He displays willingness in that department, but his hand placement is inconsistent, and he lacks the bulk to hold up against NFL defenders. If he can add a little weight and improve his technique as a blocker, LaPorta definitely possesses the talent to become a top-10 tight end in the league.
Round 3, Pick 80: Sydney Brown | S | Illinois
Andrew Wilbar: Brown measured in at 5’10” at the Senior Bowl, which is 2 inches shorter than he was listed as. Nonetheless, he is a living missile on the field. Brown is a dynamic athlete who possesses great range, fluidity in coverage, and outstanding instincts. One of the biggest risers at the Senior Bowl, Brown has consistently showcased his ability to come downhill and play the run, hang with dynamic receivers in coverage, and even blitz off the edge. I want to see the Steelers bring back Terrell Edmunds as much as anyone else, if not more; however, if that does not work out, I would love to bring in Brown as a replacement. Do not take this comparison out of context, but from the hair, to the athleticism, to the ability to make splash plays, he does show flashes of a prime Troy Polomalu when at his best. He is still a little rough around the edges, but the ceiling is super high for Brown.
Steelers trade picks 120, 154, and a 2024 6th round pick to the Commanders for Pick 97.
*Round 3, Pick 97: Blake Freeland | OT | BYU
Andrew Wilbar: If you want a tough evaluation to dig into, look no further than Blake Freeland. The pre-draft process is supposed to help clarify what we saw about players on tape, but Blake Freeland has made it difficult on evaluators. He struggled mightily at the Senior Bowl, specifically when having to counteract power rushers. One month later, he shows up in Indy and puts on a show at the combine, highlighted by a 4.98 40, a 37” vertical, and a 120” broad jump. At 6’8”, Freeland provides exceptional length, something offensive line coaches salivate over in a left tackle. What I find concerning is that he plays a little too stiff and upright in his stance, allowing for bendier edge rushers to get the best of him. Freeland most definitely needs a lot of work from a technical standpoint, but there will be a team on Day 2 who will bet on the traits and give him a shot.
*Round 4, Pick 124: Dorian Williams
Shannon White: Williams compares favorably with the aforementioned Henley, both in size and athletic ability, although Williams 4.49 forty was slightly faster. Like Henley, Williams is strictly a Mack LB who needs time to fully develop his coverage abilities at the NFL level. Williams is also an accomplished special teams performer, and highly respected around the Tulane program. For whatever reason, Williams reminded me of Terrell Edmunds while watching his game film. Williams is currently projected around the sixth round, which would be excellent value for an immediate special teams standout with the athleticism to potentially be a NFL starter somewhere in his future. Low risk/high reward type of selection.
*Round 5, Pick 160: Bryce Ford-Wheaton | WR | West Virginia
Andrew Wilbar: Bryce Ford-Wheaton is my favorite receiver nobody is talking about. You can complain about the drops all you want to, but at the end of the day, the quarterback play was putrid. Yes, some of the drops were easy catches that should have been made, and I am not dismissing that area of his game and considering it polished. However, the inconsistency at quarterback was evident in just about every game, which forced BFW to constantly readjust. I do believe this was part of the problem, and it is fair to assume it will be less of an issue in the NFL. As it pertains to the rest of his game, how could you not fall in love with the player? This man has been gifted with incredible athletic traits, from speed, to size, to physicality, and much more. Even his route-running is impressive for a receiver his size. He runs his routes with correct depth, and he can change direction relatively quickly, which is not normal for a 6’4”, 222 pound receiver with 4.38 speed. He has the ceiling of former Steeler Martavis Bryant athletically, and his off-the-field resume is much better than Bryant’s. If he is there in Round 4, the Steelers should run their card to the podium.
Round 7, Pick 241: Jake Andrews | C | Troy
Andrew Wilbar: Andrews may not have the best length or elite athleticism, but I absolutely love his tape. He has quietly put together a nice offseason, displaying great hustle and will at both the Senior Bowl and the combine. Andrews embraces the title of an offensive lineman. He simply loves playing in the trenches and pushing people around. On shorter passes near the line of scrimmage, Andrews knows how to get upfield, never giving up on a rep and always moving on to the next block. Don’t let his lack of length and size foot you, because he is as strong as any center in this class at the point of attack. His strong hands and wide base allow him to hold up against even the strongest of defensive linemen.
Round 7, Pick 243: Steven Gilmore | CB | Marshall
Andrew Wilbar: The brother of NFL star Stephon Gilmore, Steven is an undersized cornerback prospect (5’9”, 174 lbs) with the speed, ball skills, and bloodlines worthy of enticing *any* NFL franchise. Likely destined for the slot in the NFL, Gilmore does not provide ideal arm length and strength for the outside. Despite that, Gilmore displays a feistiness that I love. His hips are fluid and quick when changing direction, and his hand usage is impressive downfield, having an aggressive mindset and gameplan but not being overaggressive and called for penalties. Having said that, he is never going to be an extremely physical player at his size. Overall, I see Gilmore as an early Day 3 prospect with starting potential in a nickel role.
Round 7, Pick 251: Thomas Incoom | EDGE | Central Michigan
Andrew Wilbar: If you want a guy who doesn’t mess around with his work, Incoom is who you are looking for. A true breakout player in 2022, Incoom developed into one of the best MAC defenders, recording 19 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Converting speed to power is his true calling card, although he is capable of winning with finesse as well. Unfortunately, there is a difference between being able to do something and proving it on a consistent basis. Incoom has more twitchiness than people think, but his technique is so poor that his physical abilities do not always shine through against tough competition. I love Incoom’s potential and could see him taken on Day 2, but do not expect much from him in Year 1.
Undrafted Free Agents
ILB Trevor Nowaske, QB Lindsey Scott, Jr., RB Lew Nichols III, WR Shedrick Jackson, TE Kyle Patterson, OT Joey Fisher, C Trevor Downing, EDGE Eku Leota, LB Jacoby Windmon, CB Starling Thomas V, CB Christian Braswell, DB Ameer Speed