With the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine about to get underway in Indianapolis, I suppose it’s time for me to finally release my first full mock draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This momentous event I seem to push back further and further every year because I really don’t enjoy doing it as it is a no-win proposition. Hopefully you will keep the focus more on the players I have mocked to the Steelers as opposed to the round where they are mocked in addition to discussing the players I considered selecting.
As always, feel free to list your own mock in the comments below.
Round 1 – Hunter Henry/TE/Arkansas – 6’5” 253 – Even if Heath Miller hadn’t retired on Friday, I was still pretty much set on making Henry my first-round selection. While Henry is the top tight end in this year’s class, in my opinion, I will agree that there’s still some question as to whether or not he’ll be drafted late in round one or the top part of round 2. Henry is an all-around tight end who will need to improve his blocking at the NFL level. His performance as a pass catcher and route runner was impressive, however, and it includes him not registering a single drop last season on his way to catching 51 passes for 739 yards. It should also be noted that 75% of his catches resulted in first downs. Should the Steelers wind up adding a top-tier free agent tight end prior to the draft taking place, I will then adjust my outlook for the draft when it comes to the position accordingly.
Others Considered: OLB Leonard Floyd, ILB Jaylon Smith, ILB Reggie Ragland
Round 2 – Darian Thompson/S/Boise State – 6’1” 215 – While I like Thompson quite a bit, I don’t have him as a top-40 player as I sit here in late February. Alex Kozora did a great job of breaking him down, so I have nothing new to add to that. My hope is that he ultimately falls to the Steelers in the second round. Once again, if the Steelers add a veteran during free agency in the coming weeks, I could see this position being pushed down the team’s list of needs and especially if they wind up re-signing Robert Golden as well.
Others Considered: G Joshua Garnett, S Vonn Bell, CB/S Kendall Fuller
Round 3 – Jordan Jenkins/OLB/Georgia – 6’2” 257 – I’m a big fan of Jenkins and believe he’s yet to scratch the surface as a pass rusher. His long arms certainly allow him to dominate the line of scrimmage against the run. While he never hit double-digits in the sack column while at Georgia, he was able to provide consistent pressure. He definitely has underrated 3-4 outside linebacker written all over him and I am very interested to watch him perform during the upcoming combine and especially when it comes to the drills that will allow him to drop and measure his ability to bend. I really like his upside and on top of everything else, he has a very strong character.
Other Considered: DE Chris Jones, CB Will Redmond, CB Harlan Miller
Round 4 – Jihad Ward/DE/Illinois – 6’5” 296 – Ward is yet another player who I have profiled on the site and one you have already seen mocked to the Steelers by Kozora. Once again, however, I do not agree with where Alex has Ward going as I see him as more of mid-round player due to his overall ineffectiveness and consistency as a pass rusher. Ward has the size and the tools to become a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL, but even with that, I’m not convinced he will ever become a full-time player at the position. In my opinion, his college play showed he was better against the run then he was against the pass although I do like the way he chases after the football. Ward is very raw and because of that I do not think he’s reached his full potential in all areas of his game.
Others Considered: G Christian Westerman, S DeAndre Houston-Carson, CB Kevin Peterson
Round 7 – Cassanova McKinzy/ILB/Auburn – 6’1” 264 – By the time the draft rolls around, McKinzy might very well wind up being a fifth or sixth round prospect. On what little I have seen of him already, he figures to best fit an inside linebacker position in a 3-4 defense. He night need to get his weight down and he was mostly used on early downs at Auburn much in the same way that current Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams was used during his college career at Florida State. I look forward to learning more about McKinzy during an in-depth study. The combine certainly will be big for him when it comes to him showing he can move and hopefully at a lower weight.
Round 7 – Taveze Calhoun/CB Mississippi State – 6’0” 177 – I think we have a profile of Calhoun on the way and in that I think you will see him rated much, much higher by Josh Carney than most have him. With that said, I view Calhoun as a late day-three cornerback. I like his physicality and play against the run when it comes to effort but there are concerns about his ability to play man on a consistent basis. He’s a bit twiggy as well and I wonder if he can add weight. In my opinion, he’s best suited to play off at the NFL level and I look forward to looking at more of his games in the near future. High character player and a team leader.
Round 7 – Donavon Clark/Michigan State/G-T – 6’4” 314 – Clark is a very versatile offensive lineman who played both tackle spots as well as right guard at Michigan State. His best fit in the NFL figures to be inside at guard and once again, I look forward to taking a deeper look at his play in a future post but like what I saw during an initial quick first overview.
Others Considered: S Stefan McClure, ILB James Burgess, OLB Eddie Yarbrough
Overall Thoughts – I’m certainly not married to this mock and as it is my first one of the offseason, I certainly have a long list of players that I need to research more in depth. I found myself wanting to add a guard in the first few rounds and because I didn’t, I had to wait until the seventh. I also wanted to add a cornerback in the first four rounds but not at the expense of negating safety, defensive end and outside linebacker.
As always, I urge you to not get caught up with the rounds where I have players being drafted. Instead, please discuss the player above all else. I tended to structure this first mock more to players I like and who I view as fits for the Steelers based on needs.