Rob Rang and Dane Brugler are apparently no longer associated with CBS Sports and thus that’s probably why I missed the first mock drafts of 2018 that both released a few weeks ago, ahead of the Senior Bowl. Both longtime draft analysts are alive and well and their content can be found now exclusively on nfldraftscout.com.
In Rang’s first mock draft of 2018 he has the Pittsburgh Steelers selecting Boise State inside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the first-round with the 28th overall selection and below is his reasoning for that.
The frightening spinal injury to star Ryan Shazier could force the Steelers to strongly consider investing an early pick at inside linebacker. Some will criticize Vander Esch as a one-year wonder at Boise State but the same criticism also followed standout rookie T.J. Watt at Wisconsin. Like Watt, Vander Esch has the motor Steelers fans will love, as well as the length, athleticism and playmaking ability to earn a first-round selection.
Vander Esch, who registered 188 total tackles of which 62 of them resulted in lost yardage in the 32 games that he played in at Boise State, also had 4 interceptions to go along with 5 sacks and 5 pass breakups. He declared for the 2018 NFL Draft as an underclassmen several weeks ago and at that time said he was told by multiple scouts, agents, etc. that he’d likely be no worse than a second round pick. Currently listed on NFL Draft Scout at 6032, 240-pounds, Vander Esch is expected to have a solid showing at this year’s scouting combine. He’s certainly a fit for the Steelers as an inside linebacker and by the sound of things, they would need to draft him in the first round if they want him.
As for Brugler, he has the Steelers selecting Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison in the first round of his first mock draft of 2018 and below is his reasoning for that.
The Steelers have dealt with several issues in the back half of the defense all season, something that was obvious in the loss to the Jaguars. Adding a player with Harrison’s downhill speed and toughness would be a good start to rebuilding the Pittsburgh image on defense.
You should already be somewhat familiar with Harrison as he’s already been mocked to the Steelers a few times in a few the offerings put out by the major media sites. In case you need some refreshing on Harrison, he tied for a team-best 74 tackles this past season at Alabama season and recorded three interceptions. He reportedly measures in at 6-foot-3, 214 pounds and in the 44 games he played in at Alabama he registered 177 total tackles to go along with seven total interceptions and 17 total pass breakups. Like Vander Esch, Harrison declared for the 2018 NFL Draft as an underclassman a few weeks ago.
The Steelers obviously need help at both the inside linebacker and safety positions during the offseason and thus both are very likely to be addressed in the first two or three rounds in less than 90 days from now. It goes without saying that we’ll be posting full breakdowns of both Vander Esch and Harrison in the coming weeks and both players should be fun to monitor during this year’s scouting combine.