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Bryan: 2018 Pre-Draft Final Thoughts

We still have a few hours remaining until the 2018 NFL Draft gets underway in Dallas and with that, I have a few final thoughts roaming around inside my head to pass along to all of you like I have done in past years. Some are related to the Pittsburgh Steelers while others are just generic in nature.

* I’ve said for several weeks now that I’m pretty meh when it comes to this year’s draft class and I still think that way now that the big day has finally arrived. Yeah, the quarterback class is intriguing, but I dont find myself feeling that way about any other position group. I think Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert probably said it best this past week when asked if he thought this year’s draft class was unusually deep.

“No, I would say this, I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of marquee kind of players where everybody can easily identify those kids as future Hall of Famers, but I will say this, there’s probably more of that solid starter capable player than maybe I’ve seen in recent in recent years.”

* Quarterbacks usually drive the first-rounds of drafts and obviously this year that won’t change. We think we know that at least four will be taken in the first-round and maybe even as many as six. Outside of anticipating who the Steelers will pick in the first-round, I can’t wait to see how many quarterbacks go before they select and to where.

* Speaking of the quarterback class, I think Sam Darnold should go No. 1 overall even though I also still believe he should have stayed at USC one more year. Does that make any sense? Whatever team does take him, hopefully they won’t rush him along. Sitting behind a veteran quarterback for a full season will likely do him a lot of good.

* The New England Patriots are going to draft a quarterback in the first two rounds. I can feel it in my jejunum. On a similar note, we could see all four AFC East teams draft quarterbacks this year.

* Could we really see four true off-the-ball linebackers get selected in the first-round? If that happens, when was the last time that occurred? Also, is that perhaps a sign that this year’s draft class is really meh at the top?

* Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson might just be the most sure-fire prospect in this year’s draft class. Have any of you seen his tape? He’s one fun player to watch. He might just be my 1B draft crush this year in addition to linebacker Roquan Smith.

* Speaking of Smith, how great would he look in a Steelers uniform? No, it won’t happen, but one can fantasize just the same, right?

* There are four players I continued to think a lot about this offseason that I am very intrigued by and that I intend on watching closely what happens in their NFL careers regardless of the team they land with. Those four players are: wide receiver D.J. Chark, edge-rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo quarterback Mason Rudolph and linebacker Genard Avery. More on each below.

* Most everyone seems to think that Chark will be off the board by the end of the second-round and while that might ultimately wind up being the case, he still only registered 66 receptions at LSU. We don’t often see wide receivers with that kind of low production go in the first two rounds. He is talented, yet raw, and is a height, weight, speed guy. I find myself wondering what former Steelers wide receiver coach Richard Mann would think of Chark and what he might could do with him.

* As for Okoronkwo, man, he sure can get after opposing quarterbacks. Yes, he’s a bit older, but his 133.8 pSPARQ score helps and especially with him being only 6015, 253-pounds. Is he maybe this year’s Carl Lawson? Can he rack up sacks and pressures for a team as just a situational player? We’ll see.

* Rudolph, in my opinion, checks a lot of boxes and I enjoyed watching him. I also have the big-body quarterback bias thanks to Ben Roethlisberger. I also liked Blake Bortles coming out, so there’s that. Add on to all of this that Rudolph checks all seven boxes on the old Bill Parcells “rules for drafting a quarterback” checklist, and I’m even more intrigued by the Oklahoma State product. I think he will be a good candidate for the Parcell way of thinking for future studies.

* As for Avery, some team might wind up getting a steal with him. I think if he goes to the right team and is used properly, he could have a long and productive career in the NFL. He’s another player that’s fun to watch move around in space.

* Ok, one more semi draft crush and that’s wide receiver Russell Gage out of LSU. I knew nothing about him until the Steelers brought him in for a pre-draft visit but after watching his tape, I instantly liked him. He is an old school wide receiver and willing to do it all and that includes covering punts and kicks. I’ve always liked wide receivers willing to do the dirty work like blocking as well. Like his LSU counter-part, Chark, Gage is a very raw wide receiver with very limited college production. With that said, he has enough talent to stick in the NFL a while if his special team ability can instantly carry-over into the NFL.

* I really was surprised that the Steelers didn’t show more visible interest in running backs or outside linebackers during the pre-draft process. This doesn’t mean that they didn’t show interest and that they won’t draft one of each, I just thought we might see more visible evidence of it once the combine was over is all. Of those two positions, I really hope the Steelers draft an outside linebacker at some point to compete for a spot on the depth chart.

* I also am still struggling with the Steelers decision to not use all 30 pre-draft visits this year. At the very least, surely they could have found a few more players to bring to Pittsburgh to get to know better for future years when those players become free agents.

* As far as what the Steelers first-round selection might ultimately be, by now you all probably know the names of the players most-likely to be picked. Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch seem to be the most-popular guesses from the masses. While I still view safety Justin Reid as more of a second-round graded guy, I think he could be in play if the Steelers are good with his character.

* Colbert sure did do a good job this offseason of selling the fact that he will go best player available regardless of position. I always spend way too much time parsing every word that comes out of his mouth during the offseason and probably always will. I love my tin foil hat collection just the same. It will be fun to look at the draft results while going back over his offseason comments.

* There’s no way that Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander will wind up being the Steelers first-round pick, right?

* I find myself wondering if Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome will go back to the Alabama well for a first-round selection one last time Thursday night.

* Speaking of the Ravens, do any of you really believe the notion that they might draft a quarterback in the first few rounds? I don’t, but we’ll see.

* If the Steelers are to trade up during this draft, I think the best shot of that happening might include them putting some sort of package together to get into the fourth-round for a player they like.

* Finally, and as usual, I would like to close this annual post out by saying thank you to all the great help I’ve had during the pre-draft process. Alex Kozora, Matthew Marczi, Daniel Valente, Josh Carney, Sean McKaveney, Andy Miley, Michael K. Reynolds and David Orochena should all be commended for their efforts on the site over the course of the last several weeks and months and the same goes for David Todd, my podcast co-host. I also want to thank all of our loyal readers as well. It’s been a great pre-draft season for the site and we can’t wait to start posting more in-depth content centered around the players the Steelers draft over the course of the next few days. Enjoy the draft and be prepared for a lot of content after it is over.

Merry Draftmas.

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