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Predicting the Steelers offseason - Part Three: The NFL Draft

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I turn my eye to the NFL draft to fill the holes and pump youth into the team. Who do I take in the first round?

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In the third part of what is turning into an epic series (if you ever read “The Wheel of Time,” this will be only a bit shorter but will be much better), I will delve into the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft as acting GM. In the first article, I filled much of the Steelers’ roster with players who were a part of the team in 2016. The second article dealt with signing of FA players from other teams. Now my sights are set on snagging players fresh out of college, and this article will deal with the first day of the NFL draft, which is when rounds 1-3 take place. Not all players will make the final roster of 53, and some may not even make the 10-man practice squad (PS). However, I do expect the first three draft picks to be contributors in their rookie seasons. Picks taken in rounds 4-6 are expected to make the final roster, while the last pick will head for a year of developing on the PS.

Disclaimer: I am absolutely not an NFL draft expert. This is intended to be fun and to get good discussion going.

Players that were lost during the FA period.

ILB Steven Johnson, OLB Jarvis Jones, C Cody Wallace, TE David Johnson, WR Markus Wheaton, S Shamarko Thomas, ILB Lawrence Timmons, RB DeAngelo Williams.

Free agent additions

ILB Gerald Hodges, OLB Alex Okafor, C Brian Schwenke, S Robert Blanton

Positions on my “need-to-fill” list

OLB, ILB,RB, TE

With no further ado, let’s build the future!

Round 1 #30

Gerald Everett, 6-3 227 lbs., TE, South Alabama

South Alabama has never had a player selected in the first round -- or in any round -- of the NFL draft, but I am ready to change that. Everett might not have the look of the prototypical TE, but that will be a bonus with mismatches in coverage. During the past two seasons, the South Alabama product snared 90 passes for 1,292 yards and 12 touchdowns. One thing that impresses me is his toughness. Five days after surgery to repair a broken pinky finger, he got into the game on the final drive of a 38-31 loss, hauling in one catch. The following week was a productive one in which he went 6-69. I have him this high as I believe he will blow up the combine and his pro day, and rockets up draft boards.

Pros

  • Solid hands which lead to acrobatic catches.
  • Great acceleration that will induce separation.
  • Toughness.

Cons

  • Sloppy route runner.
  • Leans into his breaks.
  • Not ideal size.

Round 2 #62

Jordan Willis, 6-4, 255 lbs., OLB, Kansas State

Willis was named most outstanding player for the South squad at the Senior Bowl. This was due to his two strip-sacks. Neither the accolade nor the plays were a surprise, as he says he watches up to five hours a day of film on NFL defensive ends. During the prior two seasons at K-State, he accounted for 20 sacks and six forced fumbles -- and that is the kind of productivity I am looking for in an OLB. I believe he will grow under the tutelage of James Harrison and Bud Dupree and flourish into a fine OLB.

Pros

  • Excellent change of direction.
  • Solid tackler.
  • Quick reaction to plays.

Cons

  • Too deliberate as a pass rusher.
  • Needs to get creative with his hands and moves.
  • Tight hips.

Round 3 Pick #94

Eddie Jackson, 6-0, 194 lbs., S, Alabama

This is my luxury pick right here. I am not as concerned with his injury history -- an ACL tear in 2014 and a broken leg in 2016 -- as other teams will be; it’s the reason he fell down draft boards. Jackson’s transition from CB to FS in 2015 was seamless, and it showed in his five interceptions for a whopping 230 yards. The asset he will at once deliver to the Steelers is his punt-return ability. His average of 23 yards per punt return and two TDs in 2016 should make Steeler Nation smile. And yes, he is being drafted as Mike Mitchell’s heir apparent.

Pros

  • Solid ball tracking skills.
  • Aggressively attacks ball carrier and makes WRs pay for coming over the middle.
  • Good job of constricting lanes in run coverage.

Cons

  • Injury history.
  • Tendency to diagnose plays slowly.
  • Takes poor angles due to aggressiveness.

In the next installment, I will cover the third day of the NFL draft. Featured will be rounds 4-7. One thing I need to remind everyone is that this series still has yet to cover the time leading up to the start of the season. Things will become clearer then. As Kevin Colbert’s replacement, are you ready to fire me or sign me to a contract extension?

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In case you missed one of the previous articles, you can read them below:

Predicting the Steelers offseason: Part 1
Predicting the Steelers offseason: Part 2