Are we there, yet?
Now that we 2018 pro day circuit is about to come to a close it’s time for me to release my third Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft of the offseason. Once again, I did not use Fanspeak for this mock draft.
I wanted to go an entirely different route this time around and my goal for this mock was to draft a quarterback and edge-rusher in the first two-rounds and thus purposefully waited to draft an inside linebacker and safety in the next two rounds in order to see what kind of reasonable selections I could put together.
I’m sure me going this route this time around will create quite a bit of discussion in addition to a ton of push back being as so many of you are wanting the Steelers to go inside linebacker and safety in the first two-rounds this year and not wanting them to draft a quarterback at all. I certainly understand that line of thinking as I did that myself in my previous two mock drafts. Consider this my annual experimental mock draft and one that certainly goes against the grain and thus consensus.
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 – QB Mason Rudolph – Oklahoma State – You can now count me among those who believe there’s a decent chance the Steelers draft a quarterback in the first-round this year based on a few things they have said and done this offseason and that includes them attending the Oklahoma State and Louisville pro days. Personally, I like Rudolph a little more than I do Lamar Jackson and if forced to choose between those two, I would go with the former. The big quarterback threw for 13,618 yards during his four seasons at Oklahoma State on his way to competing 63.2% of his total pass attempts. He has a strong arm, good accuracy and while he will obviously need to sit and learn a while, could become a very capable NFL starter. Is he a first-round quarterback? As late as the Steelers pick this year you can probably call him a second-round prospect.
Round 2 – Pick No. 60 Overall – OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo – Oklahoma – This might be round too early for Okoronkwo. With that said, he sure can get after the opposing quarterback. While he had 17 sacks the last two seasons he probably should have had at least six more. The Steelers really could use another pass rusher to groom and one that can provide more consistent disruption. Okoronkwo needs to develop some as a run defender but he really doesn’t have a long way to go when it comes to being a complete pass rusher. He did have 33 total tackles for losses over the course of the last two seasons.
Round 3 – Pick No. 92 Overall – ILB Jerome Baker – Ohio State – If the Steelers wait until the third round to draft an inside linebacker prospect, Baker could wind up being a player in their sights. The Ohio State product could probably stand to put on a little more weight at the NFL level for starters. Last season, Baker led Ohio State in total tackles with 72 and had 17.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Additionally, he had two interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two pass breakups. He is one of the more-athletic off-the-ball linebackers in this year’s draft class.
Round 5 – Pick No. 148 Overall – S DeShon Elliott – Texas – Waiting this long for a safety really left me scrambling. I wanted to mock Penn State’s Marcus Allen here but feel he’ll probably go off the board before the end of the fourth-round. While probably best-suited to play more of a strong safety role at the NFL level, Elliot, a one-year starter at Texas, has shown he has some position flexibility to his game. Last season he registered 63 total tackles of which 8.5 resulted in lost yardage. He had six interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 9 total passes defensed. He figures to make an instant impact as a special teams contributor during his rookie season with hopes that he can eventually become a starter at one of the two safety spots. His 115.9 SPARQ score that he registered at this year’s scouting combine will certainly force teams to go back and reexamine his tape from last season.
Round 5 – Pick No. 165 Overall – RB Kalen Ballage – Arizona State – Ballage seems to fit what the Steelers might look for in another running back and they appear to have quite a bit of interest in him so far through the pre-draft process and thus that’s the reason he’s been a mainstay in my mock drafts. The fifth-round seems to be a perfect fit for him. The 123.4 SPARQ score he posted at this year’s scouting combine was indeed impressive. 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 7 – Pick No. 220 Overall – WR Jester Weah – Pittsburgh – I still can’t help but thinking that Weah would be a good fit with the Steelers. While he might nor ultimately become the heir apparent to current Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant, perhaps he can become a more productive Darrius Heyward-Bey. He won’t wow with spectacular catches, but he is a very physical player, very willing blocker, has speed and size and above average after the catch.
Round 7 – Pick No. 246 Overall – NT Joshua Frazier – Alabama – It’s easy to stick with Frazier as a late-round prospect. I still have some tape watching to do when it comes to later-round defensive tackles so for now I will go the lazy route and keep Frazier as my final selection for the Steelers.