As the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft approaches, it seems to be becoming increasingly more difficult to find anybody who thinks that the Pittsburgh Steelers should draft anybody who plays a position other than cornerback or outside linebacker, with the rare exception of the out of the loop national media pundit who lazily projects Landon Collins because of the retirement of Troy Polamalu at safety.
And as we continue to barrel ahead to when the picking begins, I myself am finding it increasingly unlikely that the Steelers’ 22nd overall pick is anything but a cornerback or an outside linebacker.
But my mind tends to frame the question in a slightly different way in terms of which way I would prefer to lean, given the ideal circumstances. When considering the ideal first-round draft pick, I can’t help but contemplate which hole I would rather leave unaddressed until the second or third round.
This is an inherently incomplete exercise, of course. If you have the option of only one potentially elite prospect in the first round between both positions, you would be foolish to get yourself too concerned with what will happen on Friday and Saturday. When you’re picking in the first round, you’re looking to hit the home run, after all.
But what if there are multiple prospects that you project as potentially elite—or none? If your first-round options at cornerback and outside linebacker are essentially equal, which one do you choose? Obviously, you have to consider your current roster, as well as the position’s significance to the team’s performance as a whole.
But after that you have to take a look at the rest of the draft class to see how you might be able to best address both positions. And while there is, as always, a notable drop after the first-round talents, with everybody coming thereafter bringing with him his own set of question marks, it seems that there is legitimately intriguing talent at both cornerback and outside linebacker in the second and third rounds.
At cornerback, you could have options such as the Florida State corners, Donald Darby and P.J. Williams. You could have the one-year explosiveness of Quinten Rollins, or the safety conversion project in Eric Rowe. There’s Alex Carter, and Senquez Golson, and the injured Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. At this point, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jalen Collins drop, despite his long-standing projection as a first-rounder.
Then if you look at the pass rushers, you first have the conversion projects, which is clearly led by Shane Ray. There is a drop-off after him, but there is interesting talent that could bottleneck in the second round, such as Nate Orchard and Danielle Hunter, whom the Steelers have expressed interest in, or Owamagbe Odighizuwa, who has apparently not drawn their attention.
At the linebackers, you have to wonder if Eli Harold might not slip all the way to the Steelers in the second. Then there are names like Lorenzo Mauldin and Hau’oli Kikaha and Kyle Emanuel. Looking at the names listed above, which position would you rather wait on until Friday?