With nearly two weeks remaining until the 2018 NFL Draft gets underway, ESPN analyst Todd McShay is ramping up his mock game. On Tuesday, McShay released a complete three-round mock with himself acting as the decision-maker for all 32 teams. He considers this his ‘Grade: A’ mock draft of 2018.
As for McShay’s three-selections for the Steelers, he has them picking Central Florida cornerback Mike Hughes in the first-round, Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker in the second-round and Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis in the third-round. Below is McShay’s summary of the three picks he made for the Steelers.
The Steelers are coming off a playoff game in which Jacksonville’s offense hung 38 on them in Heinz Field, so defense will likely be a focus early. Hughes has good ball skills and the speed to run with high-end vertical receivers. He’s also a difference-maker in the return game. Baker has great speed and athleticism and can help Pittsburgh deal with the loss of Ryan Shazier. Pettis provides another WR who can stretch the field.
Of McShay’s three mocked picks for the Steelers, Hughes is the probably the easiest one to perhaps poke holes in. For starters, Hughes, who measured in at this year’s scouting combine at 5101, 189-pounds, has a perceived minor character concern stemming from a 2015 misdemeanor assault charge he received following an altercation in the early morning hours at a fraternity house near the North Carolina campus while he was enrolled there. Hughes ultimately was suspended by North Carolina and then proceeded to leave the program.
In 2016 Hughes played one season at Garden City (Kan.) Community College and then transferred to Central Florida for the 2017 season. He became a full-time starter by the second game of the season and ultimately led Central Florida in passes defended and interceptions as a junior. He decided to forgo his senior season and declare for the draft several months ago. At the scouting combine in Indianapolis he registered a pSPARQ score of 123.5.
While nothing says that the Steelers can’t draft a cornerback in the first-round this year, it will be a bit of a surprise should they ultimately go that route after drafting two cornerbacks last year. As far as we can tell, neither Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert nor head coach Mike Tomlin attended the Central Florida pro day this year and to date, Hughes hasn’t yet been brought to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit. Additionally, Hughes not playing his college football in a Power 5 Conference also works against his odds of being the Steelers first-round selection this year.
As for McShay’s selection of Baker in the second-round, at least he’s now hitting on a perceived position of needs. Baker, who measured in at this years scouting combine at 6011, 229-pounds, ran his 40-yard-dash in 4.53-seconds. He posted a pSPARQ score of 135.3 while in Indianapolis and Colbert and Tomlin were both at his pro day last month. in his three seasons at Ohio state, Baker registered 159 total tackles of which 17.5 resulted in lost yardage. He also had 7 sacks and 2 interceptions and a forced fumble. Baker’s draft stock this offseason has seemingly been between the second and fifth rounds.
McShay’s choice of Pettis for the Steelers in third-round is certainly understandable. At the combine, Pettis measured in at 6004, 186-pounds and he reportedly ran his 40-yard-dash in 4.47-seconds at his pro day. In his four seasons at Washington, Pettis registered 163 total receptions for 2,256 yards and 24 touchdowns. Last season he earned First Team All-Pac 12 honors for his play.