We are now down to the home stretch with the three-day 2019 NFL Draft beginning tonight. That means that all the mock drafts will soon be over, but some stragglers are getting their final predictions in. One of the last that we have seen is from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which every year posts a prediction of who they think the Pittsburgh Steelers’s first-round pick will be.
With Ed Bouchette now with The Athletic, Gerry Dulac fielded the paper’s first-round prediction with the Steelers, and he had the team going with cornerback Byron Murphy. Murphy is among the cornerbacks that the team brought in for a pre-draft visit, so we already know that the interest is there.
He chose Murphy, predicting that Devin Bush will not be available at 20, over another cornerback, Greedy Williams, arguing that Murphy is the safer pick as a professional even though he posted a relatively slow 40 time and could add a few pounds to his frame.
“He is a safer pick and more versatile player than Williams because he can play outside or as the slot corner in the nickel defense”, Dulac wrote. The Steelers are looking for a player to challenge nickel back Mike Hilton, whose size (5-9, 184) caused other teams to pick on him last season and made him a liability in pass coverage”.
Hilton, an exclusive rights free agent, is entering his third season after spending the past two years as the team’s primary nickel defender, registering three interceptions during that span, though two of them came off of deflections.
It’s interesting to note that Dulac says he doesn’t believe the Steelers have a first-round grade on any of the safeties in this class, including Darnell Savage, which frankly would be somewhat of a surprise after they selected Terrell Edmunds in the first round a year ago.
Should the Steelers select Murphy, though, there is a very good chance he will play right away, and the team would also be able to afford to play him wherever he is more comfortable—either on the outside or in the slot—because Steven Nelson, the cornerback that they signed in free agency to start, is capable of doing both as well.
I elected not to do a mock draft this years since we added more draft writers to the staff and thus have has no shortage of mock drafts up for you, but if I were to do one, I believe Murphy would have been the name I ultimately settled on in the first round as well.
While his speed might be a cause for concern, I don’t think the Steelers are necessarily affixed to being a primarily man coverage team, and can adjust their coverages to the talent that they have available to them. If Murphy is better in zone, they would play more zone, or a mix of man-zone concepts that allows Joe Haden to stick to a receiver as Ike Taylor did within a zone structure.