By Alex Kozora
With free agency near its end and more players researched, the draft becomes slightly clearer. A second crack at a mock. Needless to say, still very fluid at this point. Trades aren’t projected in this mock. If you missed it, my first mock draft.
Now if you excuse me, I’m going to put on my riot gear and shield myself from the comments.
Round One: Stephon Tuitt/DE Notre Dame
As upsetting as it is to take another defensive end after selecting Ziggy Hood in 2009 and Cameron Heyward in 2011, there’s a big hole at five tech. And past selections shouldn’t dictate future ones.
Admittedly, 15 is optimistic for Tuitt. Best case, and though this has become cliché, is to trade down. Should a quarterback fall, and there’s a real possibility of that happening, the Steelers could have the opportunity to move down.
He’s comparable to Heyward in size and scouting report. Heyward weighed in at the Combine at 6’5 294 with 34 1/4 inch arms. Tuitt goes 6’5 305 and 34 3/4.
Tuitt doesn’t just take on blocks in the run game. He’s a fantastic athlete that can collapse the pocket and get to the quarterback. The role of a defensive end has shifted from that plugger to guys that can move and get pressure. Saw that with Heyward and you’ll see it with Tuitt. But he has the strength to hold the point of attack against the run. Just 21 and a hernia injury slowed him down last season. His 2013 tape isn’t even a true indication of how good he can be. He’s far from the ceiling.
Cam Thomas isn’t the answer at defensive end. Even though Kevin Colbert has stated Thomas was brought on to play there, he shouldn’t see significant playing time. Tuitt may not start Day One but can give the team two pass rushing ends in sub-packages on 3rd down.
If we’re going to continue to speak of the importance of a strong front seven, defensive end must be addressed.
Round Two: Davante Adams/WR Fresno St
On the other hand, getting Adams here would involve a little bit of fortune. But like David DeCastro and even Limas Sweed, players inevitably fall.
No, he’s not 6’5. He doesn’t have to be. With a 39.5 vertical and a large catch radius, he plays big. And quick. Incredible burst and very little stop-start time. Soft hands who is capable of high-pointing the football and a natural separator on his routes. Racked up ludicrious numbers in just two years. 24 TDs in 2013, eight more than the next closest in Division One. Another player that’s only 21 and will improve exponentially. Scouting report is full of positives with the negatives minor by comparison.
It’s a difficult transition for most receivers but if Lance Moore is locked in as the slot receiver, it’s not unthinkable Adams could overtake Markus Wheaton as the #2 receiver. Wheaton did show progression in his rookie year but Adams is talented enough to compete. And that’s never a bad thing.
Should Adams be off the board, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews is a solid consolation prize.
Round Three (Comp): Pierre Desir/CB Lindenwood
Sticking with the same pick here as my last mock. Don’t think the Steelers will take a cornerback early because of a lack of precedent (only three corners in the first round since 1979) and a lack of value on the position. Team doesn’t ask for ballhawks. Just sure tackles who are physical and willing to support the run.
With the top three corners established, and really four counting Shamarko Thomas, the team can afford to wait until Day Three and snag a developmental prospect. Desir has good size and ideally, can eventually be paired with the 6’1 Cortez Allen.
It is rare for the Steelers’ to draft players below the FBS level, however. Picking Desir would be going against the grain.
As an aside, if Chris Borland should fall to pick 97, the Steelers should snag him in a heartbeat. More I learn about him, the more enamored I become. Quintessential Steeler. Just couldn’t find a place to fit him in this mock.
Round Four: Lache Seastrunk/RB Baylor
Reading the tea leaves with some of the following picks. Pittsburgh recently worked out Seastrunk as one of their 30 allotted private workouts. Certainly not a say-all, end-all but it shows interest.
Even with the LeGarrette Blount signing, there isn’t much depth. Alvester Alexander and Tauren Poole are the only other backs on the roster, each signing future contracts. Neither is likely to break camp with the 53.
This is a weak running back class that might not see the first running back off the board until Day Three. I haven’t gotten to watching many running backs yet but I like Seastrunk’s makeup. Ran in the low 4.5’s at the Combine and showed explosiveness with a position best 41.5 inch vertical.
Averaged over 7.5 yards per carry in his two year career with 19 career touchdowns. Big issue with him is like Boston College’s Andre Williams, did not catch a pass in 2013. Probably not a Day One ready type of back. But with Bell and Blount, he doesn’t have to be.
Round Five: Loucheiz Purifoy/CB Florida
The team sent Carnell Lake to Florida’s Pro Day to watch the Gators’ trio of cornerbacks. Jaylen Watkins will be long gone by this point and Marcus Roberson is too injury-prone and way too raw to be selected here. Purifoy is also fairly green but has started 19 games seeing action in 18 others.
Thing to like most about him is his versatility. Was never the main return man at Florida but has reps returning kicks and punts. Blocked a punt and field goal in 2012. Racked up 22 tackles on special teams in 2011.
At this point, with a potential starting cornerback already selected, you can look for someone who projects as a #3-#4 corner and core special teamer with upside. At best, you find a diamond. At worst, you have an asset who can wear multiple hats on special teams.
Twice under Mike Tomlin has the team taken two cornerbacks in the mid-rounds. Doubling-down would not be a shock at a position where extra bodies are not only welcomed but really required.
Round Five: Shaquil Barrett/OLB Colorado
Arthur Moats will get a crack at outside linebacker first but the depth there isn’t particularly promising. Frankly, it’ll be a shock to see Chris Carter make the team out of camp and if he does, it’ll only be because of his special team’s value.
Barrett was highlighted by Dave back in February and came away impressed. Statistically, he checks out. Twelve sacks in 2013 tied for 5th in the FBS. He also blocked three kicks, forced four fumbles, and had an interception.
In the scouting report, Barrett flashed against top quality competition like Alabama. With his connection to Joey Porter, Barrett’s transition and comfort level will be smoother. Worth a flier. Guy that plays better on tape than the workout numbers suggest.
Round Six: Justin Ellis/NT Louisiana Tech
I’ve been a proponent of Steve McLendon and don’t question him being an asset as the starting noe tackle. But there’s no denying Ellis has the “prototypical” size at 6’1/4 331 (as of his Pro Day).
With a lot of needs addressed, a luxury like a third string nose tackle opens up. Even for a big man, recorded 48 tackles and 5.5 tackles for a loss his senior year. Tells you he did more than just occupy space.
With how great of a coach John Mitchell is, the more projects you can give him to mold, the better.
Round Six: John Urschel/OG Penn State
Guard isn’t a need with Ramon Foster and David DeCastro with the Guy Whimper signing providing veteran depth. But it wouldn’t be a Mike Tomlin draft without selecting an offensive lineman. He’s taken at least one in all but one draft (2013).
Urschel is similar to Kelvin Beachum in that they’re both undersized. But what they lose in brawn they make up for in brains.
At just 22, he’s already graduated with a degree in math, earned a master’s degree in the same field, and is working on getting his second masters in math education. His GPA is 4.0.
He’s been a two time, First Team All-Big Ten member. He’s taught a math class to undergraduates three days a week in the spring of 2013.
He’s started 25 career games at guard. He’s had a paper published entitled, “Instabilities of the Sun-Jupiter-Asteroid Three Body Problem.”
You get the idea.
In the midst of all the ugly locker room stories, a story like Urschel’s is refreshing. That doesn’t automatically translate into NFL ability. But it makes me want to find out. A guy I’m going to do more research on.
Round Seven: Roy Finch/RB Oklahoma
A fun flier. Just 5’7 180, he’s a tiny ball of speed and explosion. Don’t see too many guys that can cut as quickly as he can. Watched him in the NFLPA Bowl Game as he ran for 60 yards and returned a kickoff for 51. Not an every down back by any means but a player you can get creative with.
After a promising freshman campaign, questions about his work ethic dropped him down the depth chart and made playing time hard to come by. In 2012, he only received seven carries.
But if his head is right, and the uptick in carries from his junior to senior year would indicate that, he could have a more promising NFL career than college.
Going to offer value as a runner in space, catching out of the backfield or in the slot, and in the return game. Type of players you want to take late. The more hats someone can wear, the better the chances they’ll earn a helmet.
Just a quick list of players that may not get drafted but still worth a look.
Jamie Meder/NT Ashland – Small school but uber-strength and understands leverage. Also played well in the NFLPA game and it translates to the tape I watched. Played the five tech in Ashland’s 34.
Jason Hendricks/S Pittsburgh – Local kid who showed great ball skills his junior season. Picked off six passes. But just one interception his senior year and a 4.81 40 at his Pro Day leaves him off the draft board.
Brandon McCladdie/CB Citadel – Just the tea leaves here. Played with Cortez Allen early in his career. Similar size at a listed 6’1 200. 36 career starts. Two-year team captain.
Jerick McKinnon/RB Georgia Southern – I’d be surprised if he was not drafted. But as a small school kid who played QB in a triple option, maybe he falls through the cracks. In love with his triangle numbers. 209 pounds, ran a 4.41 with a 1.46 ten yard split, jumped 40.5 inches in the vertical and 11 in the broad.
Glenn Carson/ILB Penn State – Isn’t going to wow you at all as an athlete but classic two down thumper who’s a fundamental tackler.