NFL Draft

Valente 2018 Steelers Mock Draft

Mock drafts, the illicit drug of the NFL offseason. Though it seems that everywhere we look there is another mock draft being posted, we often can not help but look. The NFL Draft is one last high for football fans, intended to carry us through the long days of summer. So, while it seems that everyone and their dog has a mock draft, here is one more to hold you over until Thursday night, when we learn the true fate of our beloved teams.

Feel free to discuss the picks you loved and hated from my mock draft in the comments below.

Round One Pick 28 – Alabama ILB Rashaan Evans

Surprise, surprise. Well, not really as it seems Alabama inside linebacker Rashaan Evans has been the consensus pick for the Steelers since this process started and for good reason. The Steelers need help at inside linebacker after imploding down the stretch with the loss of Ryan Shazier. The team does not necessarily have to replace Shazier’s skillset, which may be impossible due to his elite athleticism but they do need to upgrade the position, which Evans will do immediately.

An athletic, downhill linebacker, the Steelers have done their homework on Evans, meeting with him at this year’s NFL Combine and attending his pro day.

With the selection of Evans, the team’s depth chart now reads Vince Williams, Jon Bostic and Evans, a major improvement from Williams, Sean Spence and L.J. Fort, who finished last season.

Round Two Pick 60 – Oklahoma St. WR James Washington

The Steelers surprise for a second year in a row going wide receiver in the second round yet again. This year, they select Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington, who like Evans also dined with the team after his pro day.

Washington helps fill out the Steelers’ receiving core as Eli Rogers is a question mark after his ACL tear and Martavis Bryant figures to test free agency in 2019. The Oklahoma State receiver will slide in well for Bryant’s role as his deep ball skills have been noted during the draft process. Analyst Lance Zierlein wrote “(Washington’s) limitations and dependence upon his quarterback’s deep ball accuracy makes the chasm between his ceiling and floor a little wider” in his profile.

Luckily for Washington, he will have one of the NFL’s most accurate deep ball quarterbacks throwing to him in Ben Roethlisberger.

Round Three Pick 92 – Virginia Tech S Terrell Edmunds

Though it took a tad longer than expected, the Steelers get their safety in round three, going with Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds.

Edmunds is a player who can line up all over the field, he’s fast enough to cover downfield and physical enough to be in the box. He’s also a former cornerback, which adds to his versatility and he was a team leader, making him a great fit for the black and gold.

Tomlin was on hand at Virginia Tech’s pro day and likely got a good glimpse at Edmunds and his ability.

Round Five Pick 148 – Delaware DT Bilal Nichols

At 6’4 and 306 lbs, Delaware’s Bilal Nichols is a perfect scheme fit for the Steelers’ defensive line.

Nichols moved to nose tackle last season and showed early promised at his new position. He garnered the attention of the Steelers as they decided to bring in Nichols for a pre-draft visit.

With only Daniel McCullers behind Javon Hargrave on the nose tackle depth chart, Nichols could come into camp and claim the backup spot for himself.

Round Five Pick 165 – Wisconsin EDGE Leon Jacobs

It would feel unimaginable if the Steelers do not select an outside linebacker. They wait until the fifth round but the Steelers select T.J. Watt’s former teammate in Leon Jacobs.

Like Watt, Jacobs is highly athletic with many intriguing tools to work with. Jacobs ran the fastest 40-yard dash, had the third most reps on the bench press and fourth best broad jump out of his position group.

On tape, the Wisconsin pass rusher flashed a smooth bend on the edge and a powerful bull rush. A converted inside linebacker, Jacobs also showed a good feel in coverage, something that the Steelers ask their outside linebackers to do.

The Steelers could use some more depth at the outside linebacking position, as behind their starters, the team only has Keion Adams, a rookie who played zero snaps last season due to an injury and Anthony Chickillo, who is set to be a free agent after next season.

Round Seven Pick 220 – USC WR Deontay Burnett

The Steelers double dip at the wide receiver position, taking USC’s Deontay Burnett early in the seventh round.

With Washington, the team plugs in a receiver on the outside but with Burnett, the team can now plug in their replacement for Eli Rogers in the slot. At 6’0 and 186 lbs, Burnett is built almost identically to Rogers and comes with a similar skillset.

A solid route runner with great quickness, Burnett’s addition allows the Steelers to move on from Rogers, who has not been signed and is rehabbing an ACL tear.

While neither Kevin Colbert nor Mike Tomlin were at the USC pro day, a Steelers scout was present alongside receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Could Heyward-Bey have been there to help look at USC receivers such as Burnett? It’s a stretch but still a possibility.

Burnett could also slide to the seventh round as he has been nursing a hamstring injury as of late.

Round Seven Pick 246 –  Alabama DT Joshua Frazier

With the Steelers’ final pick, the team selects Alabama defensive lineman Joshua Frazier.

Frazier played for new defensive line coach Karl Dunbar at Alabama and he now gets one of his former pupils to toy with in his first season.

Some of those tools to work with include a massive frame at 6’4 and 321 lbs, long arms (34 ¼”) and ability to be a decent run stopper.

Conclusion: In the end, the Steelers not only added valuable pieces to areas of need but also continue to bolster positions of strength. The team now has three solid options at inside linebacker with Williams, Bostic and Evans. The safety core also improves from last season, dropping Mike Mitchell for Morgan Burnett and Edmunds. The wide receivers get an outside and slot piece in Washington and Burnett and the defensive line also gets some new toys to plug in. With these selections, this is a Steelers roster that is stronger and more well rounded than last season’s roster.

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