NFL Draft

2015 Steelers Mock Draft Version 4.0: Final Edition

Steelers NFL Draft logos

The 2015 NFL Draft will get underway Thursday night in Chicago, so I might as well beat the rush and go ahead and release my final mock draft on this Monday.

If you missed my previous three mock drafts, or educated guesses as I like to call them, you can find them at the links below.

As I say every year, mock drafts are never satisfying to me as I know the chance of getting all of the picks correct really doesn’t exist. It’s a losing proposition and several of the picks are sure to not please the masses. The pre-draft process, however, is satisfying to me, as I get a chance to watch a lot of tape and read a ton of material on several of the draft hopeful players.

One again, you will notice at the bottom of every selection there are nine additional players listed that I considered in each and every round. In round six, however, I duplicated the nine as both picks existed in the same round. In total, I should have 71 players listed that I considered for this mock draft and my ultimate goal is to have all of the Steelers eight draft picks come from that group of players.

I tried to be as thorough as possible with my explanation of every selection, but did not get too deep into player breakdowns this year, as you all should be well acquainted with several of them by now thanks to the hard work that Alex Kozora, Chris Nicolaou and Luke Shabro put in over the course of the last several months.

As usual, included below is my yearly red disclaimer.

************** If you are going to comment in this post please add value to the discussion. The rounds here are not important and you are not helping the discussion exercise by saying “Player X” will not last that long or is being drafted too soon. Please add what you like and dislike about a certain player and feel free to add your own mock as well. Remember, the discussion should be centered around the players, not the rounds they are drafted. Mock drafts are never perfect, but the value of them is in the discussion about the players. If I feel you are not adding value with your comments I will simply delete them. Go elsewhere if you want to be a nuisance or a troll. **************

Previous mocks:

2015 Steelers Mock Draft Version 3.0: Post Free Agency

2015 Steelers Mock Draft Version 2.0: Post Scouting Combine

2015 Steelers Mock Draft Version 1.0: Post Senior Bowl

Round 1 – Pick 22 – Kevin Johnson – CB – Wake Forest

Surprise!!!!!! After swearing all offseason that I wouldn’t be mocking a cornerback in the first round, I have changed my mind. So why did I change my mind and why was Johnson the one that changed it? For starters, it’s no secret that the Steelers are interested in him as general manager Kevin Colbert, head coach Mike Tomlin, defensive backs coach Carnell Lake, player personnel director Dan Rooney Jr. and pro personnel coordinator Brandon Hunt all attended his Pro Day. That wasn’t enough, however, to change my mind. In addition to the Pro Day representation and subsequent dinner with the player, of all of the cornerbacks who seem poised to be drafted in the first round, Johnson best fits the Steelers defensive scheme, in my opinion. If you remember, I spent quite a bit of time going back over several of Johnson’s since 2012, so I was able to take a long look at him.

The Steelers still didn’t bring Johnson in for a pre-draft visit, but in the end, I don’t think that matters. What really got me going in the other direction was the fact that Tomlin has a history with Johnson’s college position coach, Derrick Jackson, who was a coaching intern with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Tomlin was on the staff there coaching the defensive backs. Jackson said recently that the Steelers scouted Johnson throughout last season, so they likely knew enough about him both on and off the field that they didn’t deem it necessary to bring him to Pittsburgh for a visit.

As a pointed out several weeks ago, selecting Johnson in the first round goes against several trends associated with the Steelers dating back to Colbert’s first year with the team, but I truly believe they are willing to buck those for Johnson, who has a good shot at still being on the board come time for the 22nd overall selection.

On top of everything above, the Steelers really didn’t bring in many players for visits at positions of immediate need that are first-round worthy. Sure, they brought in Marcus Peters, Randy Gregory, Eli Harold and Eric Rowe, but in my opinion, only the first two are first-round worthy and both had character red flags that needed investigating. Yes, an argument can be made for wide receivers Breshad Perriman and Jaelen Strong, but in the end, I just can’t see them going in that direction.

Johnson’s shortcomings are well known and they start with his tackling ability and concerns about his size. His weight is going in the right direction, however, and being as he played special teams at Wake Forest, he’ll have some time during his rookie season to work on his tackling as a special teams member with the Steelers.

So, for a second-consecutive year, I have the Steelers drafting a cornerback in the first round after swearing that I wouldn’t. I think the evidence leading up to the draft supports my decision in addition to the fact that the Steelers really need a cornerback early this year. They have to come away with a long-time starter early.

Nine other players in order that I considered that might still be on the board: OLB Alvin Dupree, CB Marcus Peters, CB Byron Jones, OLB Shane Ray, OLB Randy Gregory, WR Jaelen Strong, S Landon Collins, DT Malcom Brown, T Andrus Peat.


Round 2 – Pick 24 – Preston Smith – Mississippi State

I was really glad to see Smith come in for a pre-draft visit on the final day as I would’ve been surprised had he not come to town. The Steelers need a strong-side outside linebacker that can not only play the run, but also get after the quarterback. And while Smith is a little larger than the normal tweener at 6-4, 271-pounds, he moves extremely well for a player of his size. That movement you can see on tape in addition to his 4.74 second 40-yard dash, 4.28 second 20-yard shuttle and 7.07 second three-cone drill. He also did 24 reps on the bench. He started 24 games in the SEC and registered 11.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss over the course of the last two seasons. He was reportedly a team captain and possesses a great character. He’s very likable when you watch his interviews and comes off as an intelligent player. While he doesn’t have elite bend, he can turn the corner. He can also two-gap and that means he would potentially make a great elephant defender in the Steelers defense.

While you will see below that I considered several other players at this spot, it really came down to Smith, Nate Orchard and Eli Harold. If both Smith and Harold are already off the board come time for this selection, I really have no qualms with Orchard being the pick. In short, I think round-two we’ll see an outside linebacker chosen if the position is bypassed in the first.

Nine other players in order that I considered that might still be on the board: OLB Eli Harold, OLB Nate Orchard, OLB Owamagbe Odighizuwa, OLB Hau’oli Kikaha, OLB Danielle Hunter, T T.J. Clemmings, NT Eddie Goldman, DE Xavier Cooper, WR Sammie Coates.


Round 3 – Pick 23 – Tre’ Jackson – G – Florida State

Should the Steelers wind up taking a cornerback and an outside linebacker in the first two rounds, it will leave a lot of possibilities in round-three when it comes to best player available versus need. According to my final rankings, Jackson, who mostly played right guard at Florida State, very well could fit both of those categories. Colbert, Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were all present at the Florida State Pro Day this year and it makes sense that Jackson was one of several players they were there to observe.

With Ramon Foster entering the final year of his contract, the team might want to address the future at his position in the upcoming draft. In addition to that, they really need to solidify their guard depth this year as either Cody Wallace or Chris Hubbard would most likely be asked to step in should something happen to Foster.

As previously mentioned, Jackson mostly played right guard in college, so unless he is groomed to play on the left side, David DeCastro might be a candidate to switch sides down the road should this be the selection. Jackson was a starter during the final three years of his college career and served some as a team captain. He reportedly only gave up four total sacks and five total pressures during his final two seasons at Florida State.

Nine other players in order that I considered that might still be on the board: G Ali Marpet, DE Henry Anderson, CB/FS Alex Carter, RB Jeremy Langford, OLB Lorenzo Mauldin, RB David Johnson, WR Tyler Lockett, S Anthony Harris, CB P.J. Williams


Round 4 – Pick 22 – Steven Nelson – CB – Oregon State

Round-four should present the Steelers with an opportunity to add another cornerback as they certainly need to double-dip this year. Gauging the stock of Nelson is tough as I have seen him mocked as early as the middle of the third-round over the course of the offseason. As I’ve stated several times over the course of the last few months, Nelson is my favorite mid-round cornerback and I was happy to see him brought in for a pre-draft visit. He is very physical against the run and according to stats compiled by Pro Football Focus, didn’t miss a tackle all of last season.

While a bit under-sized at 5-10, Nelson can still play outside at the NFL level, in my opinion. His best spot, however, might be in the slot as he registered a 4.49 second 40-yard dash and 4.07 second 20-yard shuttle time. Gil Brandt of NFL Media has Nelson down as being burned 36 times on 76 targets (47.4 percent) and giving up three touchdowns last season. He also had two interceptions, eight pass break-ups and made 60 tackles. In my opinion, he’s a mixture of Steelers cornerbacks William Gay and Antwon Blake and he fits what the team does defensively.

If Nelson is off the board, hopefully Ohio State’s Doran Grant isn’t as he would be my next selection for this spot. Penn State safety Adrian Amos also wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize in the fourth-round.

Nine other players in order that I considered that might still be on the board: CB Doran Grant, FS Adrian Amos, CB Senquez Golson, TE Jesse James, TE Blake Bell, TE Jeff Heuerman, G Mark Glowinski, OLB Markus Golden, DE Corey Crawford.


Round 5 – Pick 24 – Kurtis Drummond – FS – Michigan State

I really wanted to put the aforementioned Amos in this spot but feel like it might be a round too late. Drummond wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize in a poor safety class. Drummond was named the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Conference Defensive Back of the Year in 2014. The 6-0, 208-pound safety recorded 72 total tackles (54 solos) last season with five stops for losses. He also defended 15 passes, while intercepting four of them. He was the co-recipient of MSU’s Coaches Club Award (outstanding senior on defense) and was elected a co-captain by his teammates.

If drafted by the Steelers, Drummond could help out immediately on special teams with the hopes that he will be become the heir-apparent to current starter Mike Mitchell in a few years. Tomlin, Colbert and Lake all attended the Michigan State Pro Day back in March, so they should know quite a bit about him.

Nine other players in order that I considered that might still be on the board: FS Durrell Eskridge, OLB Davis Tull, OLB Kyle Emanuel, DE Derrick Lott, CB Charles Gaines, CB Bryce Callahan TE Tyler Kroft, WR Kenny Bell, WR Titus Davis


Round 6 – Pick 23 – Max Valles – OLB – Virginia

In a addition to double-dipping at the cornerback position, it won’t be surprising to see the Steelers do the same at the outside linebacker position this coming weekend. Being as the 6-5, 251-pound Valles is expected to be drafted on day three and has made a pre-draft visit to Pittsburgh, it’s easy to throw him in this mock draft.

At 20, Valles is reportedly the youngest player in this year’s draft and he would’ve been wise to stay in school another year. In 22 career games at Virginia, he recorded 78 tackles with 18 of them resulting in a loss. He also had 13 sacks, 12 passes defended, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception.

Projections as to where Valles will ultimately be drafted have been all over the place this offseason, so it’s very hard to gauge what round he’ll ultimately be drafted in. Some 4-3 teams might even consider him as a defensive end, so that might help him come off the board earlier than the sixth round. Whoever drafts Valles will have quite a project on their hands and the Steelers could certainly use one with the upside that he has.

Nine other players in order that I considered that might still be on the board: TE Wes Saxton, CB Darryl Roberts, RB Karlos Williams, FS Chris Hackett, WR Darren Waller, CB Justin Coleman, TE Nick Boyle, G Sean Hickey, G Jeremiah Poutasi


Round 6 – Pick 36 – Matt Jones – RB – Florida

While the Steelers didn’t bring any running backs in for pre-draft visits that I know of, the later rounds will serve as the perfect opportunity for them to look for a big back that can eventual spell starter Le’Veon Bell. The team met with Jones at the Florida Pro Day, so that makes it easy to throw back in my final mock mock draft.

As mentioned in my last mock, Jones is a one-cut runner that needs to refine his running style and ability to break tackles. In reality, he more than likely would start the season on the Steelers practice squad if drafted.

Nine other players in order that I considered that might still be on the board: TE Wes Saxton, CB Darryl Roberts, RB Karlos Williams, FS Chris Hackett, WR Darren Waller, CB Justin Coleman, TE Nick Boyle, G Sean Hickey, G Jeremiah Poutasi


Round 7 – Pick 22 – C.J. Uzomah – TE – Auburn

The Steelers brought in quite a few tight ends for pre-draft visits over the course of the last month and that leads you to believe that they might select one this coming weekend.

Uzomah is a developmental tight end that looks the part on paper when it comes to his measurables and he can viewed as a potential future replacement for Matt Spaeth. As I mentioned the last go-around, he wasn’t used extensively in Auburn’s offense over the course of the last two seasons and that will likely hurt his draft stock. His blocking and route running need a lot of improvement but he has shown that he catch the football and get open against SEC competition. Like most seventh-round draft picks, Uzomah will likely struggle to make an NFL roster out of training camp.

Nine other players in order that I considered that might still be on the board: T/TE Cameron Clear, G Quinton Spain, CB Dexter McDonald, WR Devin Gardner, CB Craig Mager, CB Bobby McCain, NT Deon Simon, C Max Garcia, TE Kennard Backman


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