For the final time of the 2015 NFL Draft season, my Pittsburgh Steelers’ mock draft. After some internal debate, I decided to switch my mock draft style from Fanspeak.com to doing one without a simulator. It’s more interesting when you get to make your picks without having to resort to “the sim did…” comments.
Read ‘em and weep below. Feel free to leave your feedback.
Round 1 Pick 22 – Byron Jones – CB – UConn – 6’0/5 199
If you’ve read the scouting report on him, you could tell this is where I’ve been leaning. I’m not entirely convinced he will actually be there – in my NFL mock, he was long off the board – but if he happens to fall, I’d scoop him up.
Hardly a bad thing to say about him. The measurables are phenomenal: over six foot, nearly 200 pounds with 32 inch arms. His times were at the top of his class: 4.36 40, 44.5 inch vertical, 12’3” broad jump. And his tape matches up: low initial stance, fluid hips, and the ability to make plays on the football.
He’s a four year starter who split time at corner and safety though definitely projects as a corner. The biggest concern with Jones was his shoulder injury but he didn’t have to go back for medical rechecks. A great sign teams aren’t that concerned.
Off the field, and what separates him from someone like Marcus Peters, he brings in high marks. Great family ties and Jones has shown intelligence off the field, double-majoring and completing two internships in the political spectrum.
Taking a corner in the first round is bucking a trend but cornerbacks are likely to be the most talented players on the board. And that’s something the team is always looking for in the first round – talent.
Other Players Considered on the Board: Alvin Dupree, Marcus Peters, Kevin Johnson, Landon Collins, La’el Collins, Eddie Goldman, Eric Rowe
Mock Draft Notes: If Dupree falls, which I find highly unlikely, I’m taking him. Peters is higher on my board than Jones but it’s hard to know for certain if you can trust him off the field. Johnson is a nice consolation prize, and I still see Goldman as a fine one technique prospect. Still have this feeling Rowe is going to wind up in a Steelers’ uniform. Possibly in the first. The one true darkhorse.
Round 2 Pick 24 – Hau’oli Kikaha – OLB – Washington – 6’2 253
Two weeks ago, I would’ve told you to stay far away from this kid. But I’ll eat crow and admit that after watching the tape, I quickly became a fan. He’s a better than timed athlete who shows it in his drops and is one of the few top outside linebacker prospects to have extensive experience in doing so.
Some may look at his 40 time and become worried he’s the next Jarvis Jones. But Jones isn’t struggling because he can’t run fast. It’s a bend/strength issue. Kikaha is not a natural pass rusher like, say, Eli Harold, but the tape shows it’s good enough. He’s physical, violent, and will set the edge against the run.
Production was off the charts, all coming post-ACL tears. 51.5 TFL, 36.5 career sacks is a unique sort of production against quality competition.
Taking an edge rusher in the second round just makes the most sense. There probably won’t be one worth taking in the first and if the Steelers wait any longer, the talent well dries up considerably. I’m never one to put yourself in a box and say you have to take a position but the board is going to strongly suggest it.
Other Players Considered on the Board: Eli Harold, Nate Orchard, Sammie Coates, Maxx Williams, Preston Smith, Michael Bennett
Mock Draft Notes: All the other top outside linebacker prospects make an appearance. Wide receiver could realistically be taken early but it just isn’t as severe of a need.
Round 3 – Pick 23 – Tyler Lockett – WR – Kansas St – 5’9/7 182
Not changing this one. Though this isn’t a mock strictly for what the Steelers’ will do, I believe they will nab a receiver earlier than some fans will expect. Or like. But Lockett is the best route runner in this class. And a quarterback’s favorite target isn’t the biggest receiver. It’s the open one. That’s what Lockett does better than anyone else.
He’ll also be a strong candidate as a return man, excelling there en route to being named conference Special Teams’ Player of the Year twice.
Lockett has good bloodlines, and comes from a football background with his uncle and father successful receivers at KSU.
Dri Archer can still be in the mix, but we don’t live in a league anymore where players get a long leash. If you feel the pick is a mistake, and many do, you don’t string it along. Instead, cut your ties and move on.
Other Players Considered on the Board: Quinten Rollins, Steven Nelson, David Cobb, Adrian Amos, Jeremy Langford, John Miller, Henry Anderson
Mock Draft Notes: Lot of similar suggestions as you saw in Dave Bryan’s mock yesterday. Amos is an appealing cornerback/safety hybrid. Been big fans of Miller and Anderson for quite some time.
Round 4 – Pick 22 – Tyler Kroft – TE – Rutgers – 6’6 246
Struggled with this selection the most. Nothing on the board jumped out at me. The Steelers could wait until later in Day Three to take one, but Kroft is above that dime-a-dozen late round selection pool.
He has been dealt a bad hand over the last year, playing in an unfriendly system with a new offensive coordinator and bad quarterback that led him to declare early, and has been hampered by a high ankle sprain throughout the pre-draft process.
Kroft isn’t a burner but he is a decent athlete whose big frame poses natural mismatches. He isn’t a complete blocker but was asked to do it often in college and has more experience as an in-line tight end than others.
At worst, his get-in-the-way size will make him a blocker. Can add weight, bulk him up, and make him a slightly more athletic version of Matt Spaeth.
Other Players Considered on the Board: Jeff Heuerman, Markus Golden, Doran Grant, Jarvis Harrison, BJ Finney, Jacoby Glenn
Mock Draft Notes: The team has shown interest in Heuerman but I’m not a fan. Harrison and Finney are versatile lineman the team covets.
Round 5 – Pick 24 – Max Garcia – OG – Florida – 6’4 309
I make this pick with the team in mind. Like last year with Wesley Johnson, they pick up a lineman in the fifth round. Garcia is one of the most versatile lineman in the draft with extensive experience at tackle, guard, and center.
As we’ve mentioned, Ramon Foster is in the last year of his contract and there is no long-term answer at the position. I’m not convinced Garcia solves that but he’ll add competition.
Other Players Considered on the Board: Shaq Mason, Robert Myers, Clayton Geathers, Donald Celiscar, Josh Robinson
Mock Draft Notes: I really like Mason but he’ll get dinged for his lack of height. Myers was impressive at the Combine. Celiscar is flying under the radar and Robinson is a little bowling ball.
Round 6 – Pick 23 – Max Valles – OLB – Virginia – 6’4/5 251
Like Garcia, not a guy I love, but can easily see the team drooling over. He is young but used in some advance concepts, similar to what the Steelers’ employ. He’s a raw pass rusher but has an impressive build and versatility to play either side.
One of those picks that just makes too much sense. And nice upside, even if I’m not leading the Valles’ fan club.
Other Players Considered on the Board: Kyle Emanuel, Davis Tull, Chris Hackett, Christian Covington, Karlos Williams, Justin Coleman
Mock Draft Notes: Emanuel and Tull have been brought in but it’s still rare for the team to take a small school outside linebacker. Karlos Williams is a fan favorite while Coleman is a quick-twitch corner with nice size.
Round 6 – Pick 36 – Craig Mager – CB – Texas St – 5’11/4 201
While I’ve admitted I don’t know if Mager will ever be a base defense starter, but he’ll be a tough out in the NFL. A four year starter who has moved from FCS to FBS competition, he brings a level of physicality found in every Steelers’ corner. He sets the edge better than almost any corner in this year’s class.
He brings effort, special team’s value, and leadership qualities that are difficult to match. A man who lost his mother when he was a teenager, leaving him to essentially raise his sisters, Mager has preserved into a legitimate prospect at a small school.
Other Players Considered on the Board: Sean Hickey, Corey Crawford, Bobby McCain, Ryan Russell, DeAndre Smelter
Mock Draft Notes: Not a fan of Hickey but it’d be a romantic story to take the local kid. Crawford has long but isn’t very physical. McCain is a playmaker who can help in the return game. Fan of Smelter’s tape but the torn ACL is a big blow to his stock.
Round 7 – Pick 22 – Josh Watson – DE – Clemson – 6’4/1 298
Out of left field for the seventh round. But this is where scouts really separate from draftniks, uncovering players that aren’t given much fanfare during the draft. I actually put on tape of Watson several months ago and though I never got around to writing a formal report, I was relatively impressed with what I saw.
He had an excellent Pro Day, running a sub 5.0 and putting up 37 reps of 225 on the bench. Watson played inside at Clemson but will kick out to end in the NFL. A rotational lineman, he still produced 148 tackles in his four year career.
Traditionally, the Steelers will take someone in the trenches with one of their final two picks. They’ve done just that in each of the last six years. It’s a weak defensive end class which is unfortunate because depth is an obvious hole on this roster. Watson can be a body to compete to fill it.
Other Players Considered on the Board: Kaleb Eulls, Zach Wagenmann, Warren Herring, Tray Walker, Cameron Clear
Mock Draft Notes: Just throwing some names into the ring here with Eulls, Herring, and Walker. Some like Walker as a deep, small school sleeper. Herring will draw Ethan Hemer comparisons given their position and school, both hailing fro Wisconsin. High chance the team scoops up Cameron Clear if he isn’t drafted.