It’s unfortunate we’re talking about mock drafts so early into the new year. But with the Pittsburgh Steelers season donezo, we can start looking towards this year’s draft. While we will eventually come up with plenty of our own mock drafts, at least one national media outlet seems to be headed in the right direction with the team.
In Sports Illustrated’s latest mock, released Sunday, they have Pittsburgh selecting Washington cornerback Byron Murphy 20th overall. Here’s what they write in explaining the pick.
“The Steelers have Joe Haden holding down one outside spot, but they could use another smooth, fluid cover man. What Murphy gives up in size and press potential (5-11, 170 pounds) he makes up for in speed, aggressiveness and ball-hawking skills.”
Corner is obviously one of the team’s top needs, arguably the need, even rising above inside linebacker. The right corner spot is completely up in the air for 2019. Artie Burns will try just to make the roster, Coty Sensabaugh is set to be a free agent and even if he re-signs, shouldn’t be in that starting role again, while Cam Sutton has been used more in the slot than the outside.
Ball skills and playmaking is one of the most important traits to look for in the secondary. Over the last two years, Murphy picked off six passes, including four this past year for the Huskies. He also broke up 20 passes.
This might not have been the most difficult play in the world, but it’s an interception, and reaction and coordination this group simply doesn’t have. For me, that in itself is enough to overlook his lack of size.
At a glance, Murphy fits the Steelers general round one criteria. He’s an underclassmen, a redshirt sophomore declaring early, from a Power 5 conference. Pittsburgh has gone in that direction for six of their last seven drafts.