Now that free agency and the pro days are behind us, we now three weeks exactly until the 2016 NFL Draft takes place. Being as the Pittsburgh Steelers are almost halfway through their allotted amount of pre-draft visitors, it’s time for me to release the third version of my seven-round mock draft for 2016.
As usual, please focus more on the players I have the Steelers selecting than the actual rounds because it goes without saying that draft stocks are very fluid. Feel free to critique these players in the comments below along with adding your own mock draft for everyone to view.
Round 1 – Andrew Billings/NT/Baylor – 6005-311 – I have no reason to move away from Billings as my first round selection at this stage of the process for several reasons. For starters, I still believe he’ll be on the board come time for the Steelers to pick in the first round. Second, not only can he play nose tackle in the Steelers 3-4 base front, he should also be able to absorb some additionally snaps in the Steelers nickel front as he did that very thing while at Baylor. He is not only stout against the run, he’s also an effective pressure provider up the middle against the pass. If you look at Billings as a player who will only potentially play 30% of the Steelers defensive snaps as his career progresses, your evaluation is way off. The tape shows that he’s more than just a plugger and as head coach Mike Tomlin said recently, future Steelers nose tackles also need to be able to play more than just the 0 and 1 techniques. Billings can do just that.
Round 2 – Keanu Neal/S/Florida – 6004-211 – I was real close to putting West Virginia safety Karl Joseph in this spot as I feel he’ll likely slide into the second round. However, being as I’m sure I’d would catch hell for such a decision, I will stick Neal back in this spot this time around. When you look at the players that we have compiled on our pre-draft visitor list, it’s evident that the Steelers are looking at several of the top-rated safeties in this year’s draft class. Neal, by the way, is now on that list as of this week. He is a very versatile player who comes from a big-time program. On top of that, the Steelers like players who have nice SPARQ scores and Neal certainly can claim that. I will, however, hold out hope that Joseph somehow falls to the Steelers here.
Round 3 – Malcolm Mitchell/WR/Georgia – 5115-198 – The more tape I watch of Mitchell the more I’m convinced he’ll be drafted somewhere in rounds three or four. I like that he’s hands-catcher who specializes in catching poor throws because of his above-average body control. Due to Markus Wheaton being in the final year of his contract and combined with the fact that the future of Martavis Bryant is currently up in the air, I think you’ll see the Steelers address the wide receiver position during the second day of this year’s draft. As noted in previous posts on this site, Mitchell checks a lot of the boxes when it comes to what the organization looks for in their wide receivers.
Round 4 – Jonathan Jones/CB/Auburn – 5091 – 186 – Once again, judging by the Steelers current list of pre-draft visitors, they appear to be targeting several mid-round cornerbacks this year who can potentially play both inside and outside at the NFL level and more specifically, in their own defense. As you have seen for some time now, Alex Kozora is a big fan of Jones and when you turn on his tape it’s easy to see why. Sure, he’s undersized, but even so, he showed a propensity at Auburn to not only being able to take away and defend passes, but tackle as well. Once again, he possesses a nice SPARQ score and checks all of the boxes that the Steelers look at when it comes to draftable cornerbacks.
Round 6 – Tyler Ervin/RB/San Jose State – 5097 – 192 – The Steelers could potentially use a change of pace back this year and being as they’ve already shown some interest in Ervin, it makes sense to include him in this mock as a late-round selection. Not only did Ervin produce roughly 2,800 yards of total offense while at San Jose State, he also returned several kickoffs in addition to a few punts. It will be interesting to see if the Steelers ultimately bring Ervin in for a pre-draft visit this month.
Round 7 – Caleb Benenoch/OL/UCLA – 6054 – 311 – Should the Steelers wind up drafting an offensive lineman this year, you can probably count on it being one with position flexibility. Enter Benenoch, who can play both right tackle in addition to guard. The Steelers have now brought him in for a pre-draft visit so that’s enough for me to include him in this mock. He will be a developmental player of sorts who checks a lot of boxes when it comes to him being a potential draft pick for Pittsburgh this year.
Round 7 – Elandon Roberts/ILB/Houston – 5113 – 234 – The Steelers reportedly showed some level of interest in Roberts while in attendance at his pro day and that makes a ton of sense. While the Steelers did add inside linebacker Steven Johnson recently to help replace the losses of linebackers Sean Spence and Terence Garvin this offseason, they still have a potential depth spot that needs to filled. Additionally, Lawrence Timmons and Vince Williams are both in the final years of their current contracts and while I expect the former to be signed to an extension this offseason, the team still needs to unearth potential future help behind him and fellow starter Ryan Shazier. Roberts is tackling machine and because of that, he could have a chance at making the final 53-man roster this season as a core special teams player while he works at becoming a future depth player inside.
Overall Thoughts – When it comes to the Steelers potential first-round draft pick this year it’s still hard for me to come up with several names for that spot. As far as Houston cornerback William Jackson III goes, I’m starting to get the feeling that he’ll already be off the board come time for the Steelers to make their selection. You could make a strong argument that Joseph could potentially be the selection and I would certainly not dismiss that possibility. However, he would be the only safety I would be comfortable with in the first round.
In the second or third rounds I can see one of the several safeties the Steelers have brought in being drafted at that includes Neal, Vonn Bell, Jeremy Cash and Darian Thompson. At this point in the process I will be surprised if they don’t draft one of those four players if they miss out on Joseph.
When it comes to cornerbacks, if Jackson isn’t the selection in the first round, I have a feeling the Steelers might wait until the third or fourth to grab one. Personally, I can’t see them drafting Eli Apple or Mackensie Alexander in the first round if either is still on the board.
For obvious reasons, this mock is slanted heavily toward players who the Steelers have already shown quite a bit of interest in. As the final three weeks progress, it will be interesting to see if any wide receivers are ultimately brought to Pittsburgh for visits. Additionally, inside linebacker and quarterback are two other positions to watch closely when it comes to forthcoming visits.