In the first-round of his three-round mock draft Rang has the Pittsburgh Steelers selecting Boise State inside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with the 28th overall selection and he writes:
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 has been mocked to the Steelers in the first-round more than just a few times this offseason. At the scouting combine, Vander Esch put on a show that resulted in a very impressive pSPARQ score of 143.6. The one-year starter just recently had his pro day and while Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin both chose not to attend it, linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky did and reportedly dined with Vander Esch the night before.
Currently, the Steelers are expected to bring Vander Esch in for a pre-draft visit in the coming weeks. If there’s one main strike against Vander Esch it’s that he was just a one-year starter in a non power five college conference. The growing speculation is that Vander Esch will be drafted before the Steelers pick in the first-round. Vander Esch registered 188 total tackles, of which 13 of them resulted in lost yardage, in the 32 games that he played in at Boise State. He also had 3 interceptions to go along with 5 sacks and 6 passes defensed.
In the second-round of his three-rounder Rang has the Steelers selecting Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph with the 60th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and he writes:
The Steelers are looking hard at young quarterbacks to groom behind Ben Roethlisberger and may see Rudolph’s accuracy on deep passes as the perfect fit.
We have discussed Rudolph possibly going to the Steelers quite a bit over the course of the last several weeks so there’s not too much to add to Rang mocking him to Pittsburgh. Colbert and Tomlin both attended Rudolph’s pro day a few weeks ago and now we sit and wait to find out if that was just them doing their due diligence on the quarterback and the same goes for Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Speculation is building that Rudolph might ultimately be selected in the first-round by a team so the likelihood of the Steelers picking him in the second just doesn’t seem very plausible with less than three weeks remaining before the draft gets underway. In short, one would think that the Steelers would have to pick Rudolph in the first-round if they really like him and that assumes he even falls to them.
In the third-round Rang surprisingly mocked North Carolina State h-back Jaylen Samuels to the Steelers.
Samuels, who was grouped with the tight ends at this year’s scouting combine, measured in while in Indianapolis at 5114, 225-pounds and ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.54-seconds. In his four seasons at North Carolina State he recorded 201 receptions for 1,851 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,107 yards and 28 touchdowns on 182 career carries.
While Samuels was a productive player in college, he’s going to be a tough fit at the NFL level because of his size and skill set. In short, and pardon the pun, he’s likely be used as an h-back or possibly a fullback at the NFL level and him ultimately being drafted prior to the fifth-round will come as a big surprise to me. Rang could have easily addressed the safety or wide receiver positions for the Steelers in the third-round instead of sending Samuels their way.