Now that we have 2018 NFL Scouting Combine behind us it’s time for me to release my second Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft of the offseason. Unlike my first mock draft that I posted right after the Senior Bowl, I did not use Fanspeak. This time, I reverted back to the old school method of placing players I think the Steelers might like in the rounds I think they might could be drafted.
As usual, I urge you to critique the players I have in this mock and not the round I have them being drafted. It makes for a better exercise for all of us if you do that. Tell me what you like, dislike or hope to learn more about each player.
Round 1 – Pick No. 28 Overall – S Justin Reid – Stanford – Reid is an incredibly smart and position flexible player with an NFL bloodline to boot. If the Steelers address the inside linebacker position during free agency with a higher-dollar player like I think they might, it will be hard not to mock a free safety type to them in the first-round up until the draft takes place. Reid, who had an excellent combine, figures to be a late first or early second-round selection. He played seven different positions during his career at Stanford — right cornerback, left cornerback, strong safety, free safety, nickel, dime and outside linebacker. The Steelers love drafting players with position flexibility and to top things off, Reid’s 134.2 SPARQ score will also have Pittsburgh’s attention. Reid has the potential to be the Steelers next free safety for several years to come.
Round 2 – Pick No. 60 Overall – OLB Josh Sweat – Florida State – The Steelers need depth at the outside linebacker position and especially behind Bud Dupree, who might not be back after the 2018 season if he doesn’t have his fifth year option picked up this offseason. While Dupree is certain to start in 2018 on the left side, having a developmental edge rusher such as Sweat behind him would be ideal. Will he last to the Steelers in the second? It’s hard to say after he posted a 142.4 SPARQ score at the combine. Personally, I think Sweat might wind up being drafted somewhere late in Round 2 so that’s why I put him in this mock. He has played on his feet some at FSU and that would help with his conversion to a 3-4 outside linebacker. Sweat finishes his college career with 14.5 sacks and 138 tackles in 32 games. His injury history might be the reason he falls. I have to think the Steelers will be present at his pro day.
Round 3 – Pick No. 92 Overall – ILB Genard Avery – Memphis – Avery was used as a hybrid linebacker at Memphis and thus lined up on the edge and off-the-ball. He’s a pure athlete and his off-the-ball tape is quite fascinating. He can play out in space well and while there aren’t many instances of him covering down the field, he’s a fluid enough of an athlete to do that. He tested great at the combine and while he’s probably not day-one starter material, he potentially could be one at the weak inside position and a special teams demon and backup as a rookie. Avery was a two-time first-team all-AAC selection at linebacker. He finished his career second in career tackles-for-loss, with 45.5. His 21.5 career sacks are third in school history, including 8.5 in 2017. A bit of a reach here, maybe? It’s possible.
Round 5 – Pick No. 148 Overall – RB Kalen Ballage – Arizona State – The Steelers could use a third running back behind Le’Veon Bell and James Conner in 2018 and Ballage would likely be a good developmental runner. The 123.4 SPARQ score he posted at the combine should make Ballage attractive to the Steelers and with so many good running backs in this year’s draft class, he might just fall to the fifth round. Ballage had 1,984 rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns in college on 450 total carries. He also caught 82 passes for another 684 yards and 2 touchdowns at Arizona State.
Round 5 – Pick No. 165 Overall – WR Jester Weah – Pittsburgh – Weah is a bigger bodied wide receiver with some speed. While not the field-stretcher that Martavis Bryant is, he can still get separation down the field and he catches with his hands. He had a small drop problem at Pittsburgh but is good after the catch and in traffic. He didn’t however, make many jaw-dropping catches in college from what I have seen. He’s a more than willing blocker, a physical player and thus should be able to contribute on special teams as a rookie.
Round 7 – Pick No. 220 Overall – TE Durham Smythe – Notre Dame – The Steelers appear to be set at their top-two tight end spots right now. Unless Vance McDonald or Jesse James are cut, they shouldn’t address the position during the first two days of the draft. If the Steelers draft a tight end at all this year, I think it might be in the sixth or seventh round and one that excels as a blocker more than a pass catcher. Smythe appears to fit the bill on tape I have watched of him. He only had 28 catches for 381 yards during his college career but did register 6 touchdowns. If drafted by the Steelers, he should be able to play on special teams if he can make the 53-man roster.
Round 7 – Pick No. 246 Overall – NT Joshua Frazier – Alabama – Frazier is a developmental defensive tackle and one new Steelers defensive line coach Karl Dunbar knows well. The Steelers will likely need to draft another defensive tackle this year with Daniel McCullers unlikely to be back in 2018. If the Steelers address this position with a cheap free agent, then perhaps they will draft a defensive end type to challenge L.T. Walton instead.