NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Steelers’ Big Board – Top 50 Players

Organized by Highest Value (“HV#”) to the Steelers. Great players for other teams get downgraded here, as do positions where Pittsburgh has limited want, which causes important differences from where a player would be graded on an “all teams” board. An HV of 1:25 means the player is a reach for the Steelers at any point before Pick # 25 overall but good value at any point from the end of the 1st on. Getting that player in the early 2nd would be fine, while getting him at 2:14 would almost be a steal. Yes, this system results in a certain amount of grade inflation for positions of need because we are talking about the “highest” spot, but grades are never pushed up just because of need.
Players with the same HV# are more-or-less equivalent. And are sorted within each grade by position (Offense and then Defense, inside to out), and then alphabetically for players with the same grade and the same position.
 Rounds are subdivided as follows:
  • 1st Round grades: 1:01, 1:05, 1:10, 1:15, 1:20, or 1:25.
  • 2nd & 3rd Round grades: Early (#:01), Mid (#:12), or Late (#:24).
  • 4th to 7th Round grades: Early (#:01) or Late (#:16).

TOP 50 PLAYERS ON THE BOARD, NAMES ONLY (55 with ties)

1:01
  • QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson. (Junior)
  • QB Justin Fields, Ohio St. (Junior)
  • QB Zach Wilson, BYU (Junior)
  • T/G Penei Sewell, Oregon. (Junior)
1:05
  • T/G/C Rashawn Slater, Northwestern. (Senior)
  • QB Trey Lance, N. Dak. St. (RS Sophomore)
  • CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama (Junior)
1:10
  • OT Christian Darrisaw, Va. Tech. (Senior)
  • ILB Micah Parsons, Penn St. (Junior)
  • CB Caleb Farley, Va. Tech. (RS Junior)
1:15
  • OT Samuel Cosmi, Texas. (RS Junior)
  • T/G Jalen Mayfield, Michigan. (RS Sophomore)
  • RB Najee Harris, Alabama. (Senior)
  • WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU. (Junior)
1:20
  • OT Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame. (RS Senior)
  • T/G Teven Jenkins, Okla. St. (RS Senior)
  • QB Mac Jones, Alabama. (RS Junior)
  • WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama. (Junior)
  • EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami (RS Sophomore)
  • CB Jaycee Horn, S. Car. (Junior)
1:24 STEELERS ROUND 1 PICK
1:25
  • T/G Alex Leatherwood, Alabama. (Senior)
  • G/T Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC. (RS Junior)
  • TE Kyle Pitts, Florida. (Junior)
  • RB Travis Etienne, Clemson. (Senior)
  • WR Devonta Smith, Alabama. (Senior)
  • EDGE Joseph Ossai, Texas. (Junior)
  • ILB Zaven Collins, Tulsa (RS Junior)
2:01
  • TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn St. (Junior)
  • CB Tyson Campbell, Georgia (Junior)
  • CB/S Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse (RS Junior)
  • CB Asante Samuel Jr., Fla. St. (Junior)
2:12
  • T/G Jackson Carman, Clemson. (Junior).
  • OT Dillon Radunz, N. Dak. St. (RS Senior)
  • C Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma. (Senior)
  • RB Javonte Williams, N. Car. (Junior)
  • EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia. (RS Sophomore)
  • EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn. St. (RS Sophomore)
  • EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan. (Senior)
  • EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami by way of UCLA. (RS Junior)
  • ILB Nick Bolton, Missouri (Junior)
  • ILB Baron Browning, Ohio St. (Senior)
  • ILB/SS Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame (RS Junior)
  • CB Aaron Robinson, UCF by way of Alabama (RS Senior)
  • CB Eric Stokes, Georgia (RS Junior)
2:23 STEELERS ROUND 2 PICK (# 55 OVERALL)
2:24
  • OT James Hudson, Cincinnati. (RS Junior)
  • OT Walker Little, Stanford. (Senior)
  • C/G Landon Dickerson, Alabama. (RS Senior)
  • C/G Josh Myers, Ohio St. (RS Junior)
  • QB Kyle Trask, Florida (RS Senior)
  • DL Christian Barmore, Alabama (RS Sophomore)
  • ILB/SS Dylan Moses, Alabama (Senior)
  • CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern. (Junior)

 

TOP 50 WITH DESCRIPTIONS (55 with ties)

1:01 T/G Penei Sewell, Oregon. (Junior). 6’5”, 325 lbs. Last year’s draft saw four OT’s picked in the top 15 players: Andrew Thomas, Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton, and Tristan Wirfs. So who won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best college OL? Sophomore – sophomore! – Penei Sewell. They just do not come better designed for the job than this country strong run blocker from a pass first program, who’s best known for his fantastic movement skills in space. He may need a year or two of good coaching to internalize some technical discipline and fine points, but that’s pretty much the only flaw. This goes to a tremendous side-by-side, gif-supported scouting report on Penei Sewell vs. Rashawn Slater published by TDN in early February.
1:01 QB Justin Fields, Ohio St. (Junior). 6’3”, 223 lbs. Top 5 Talent. Ain’t Gonna Happen. Here is one reviewer’s strong, gif-supported February argument for why Fields should be QB1 over Lawrence.
1:01 QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson. (Junior). 6’6”, 220 lbs. Going #1 overall.
1:01 QB Zach Wilson, BYU (Junior). 6’2”, 210 lbs. Wilson had reconstructive shoulder surgery during the 2019 offseason (and a 2018 broken thumb), followed by average production that put him on no one’s special radar. But he wasn’t off the scene either because the preinjury signs had been startlingly good. Then came 2020, when he lit up the world, completing close to 80% of his passes. The rest of the package seems to be there too. He has an arm good enough to make all the throws, Annie Oakley accuracy, a build that can take the pounding, a good football IQ, nifty feet for extending a play, the ability to make any throw from any angle, and above all that special gene for being creative when he needs to be. He’s also as savvy as they get in college. Here is a very brief scouting profile from back in October. This goes to a longer and more interesting, gif-supported October scouting profile from The Draft Network.
1:05 T/G/C Rashawn Slater, Northwestern. (Senior). 6’4”, 315 lbs. Draftniks argue that his arm length will limit Slater to Guard and Center, but this is a Football Player first and foremost. That covers a lot of nits like the failure to be 6’7”. The talents include ideal footwork, excellent mobility, very good hands, very good (if not great) power, a blue-collar type of play that will appeal to both the city and its team, and the best position flexibility in the draft. But the best part? Slater may never be the biggest or longest dog in the fight, but he’s going to be the scrappiest, fightingest dog anywhere close to the neighborhood. That matters. He has also handled top talent successfully, including a fantastic 2019 game against no less than Chase Young. Josh Carney’s gif-supported late January scouting report projects Slater as a sensational Guard prospect, particularly for a zone oriented run game, and awards a late-1st grade after worrying that the lack of length and the just-good power may limit how he would fit in the Burgh. This goes to a tremendous side-by-side, gif-supported scouting report on Penei Sewell vs. Rashawn Slater published by TDN in early February. That leaves little doubt about his ability to succeed as a Tackle too.
1:05 QB Trey Lance, N. Dak. St. (RS Sophomore). 6’3”, 224 lbs. Turns 21 in May. Wesley Cantliffe’s gif-supported February scouting report uses Mahomes as the comp, both for his skill set and the need to benefit from a redshirt year with great coaching. One can see his point. Trey Lance played only one, not so impressive game in 2020, which is a shame because the draftnik world was waiting on pins and needles after his 2019 season showed every tool you could ask for. Hardened reviewers composed metaphorical sonnets to the wonderful arm, perfect release, tight spiral accurate to every part of the field, in-pocket mobility to extend plays, overall athleticism, and foot speed to run when everything else breaks down. They loved his remarkable football IQ and personality even more, especially since N.D. State (former home of Carson Wentz) runs a modified pro system that calls for playing under center and making adjustments on the fly. Half field reads, but still enough to put him mentally ahead of players at larger schools. Really nice size as well. Used to playing in the cold. Top notch character. Etc. If you have your doubts, start to relieve them by reading this November article from NFL.com that digs into his background. Could he fall due to the lack of high level competition, and the ‘what have you done for me lately?’ problem caused by Covid-19? Here is a PFN comparison of Mac Jones (high floor) to Trey Lance (high ceiling).
1:05 CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama (Junior). 6’1”, 203 lbs. The best cover Corner in the draft, and he tackles too. It will be a shock if he drops out of the Top 10.
1:10 OT Christian Darrisaw, Va. Tech. (Senior). 6’5”, 314 lbs. Remarkable movement skills even for the NFL, especially out in space where he routinely catches and pops LB’s and DB’s even in the secondary. The power is already more than sufficient, especially if you project improvement from professional strength training. That is also true for the basic technique: already sufficient, but improvable in all the little ways that usually do improve, such as nailing the kick slide, improving the hand fighting, and overall recognition of what’s going on around him. An excellent prospect with obvious Round 1 promise as both a pass protector and run blocker. Josh Carney’s gif-supported February scouting report ends in a Top 15 grade, with notes that Darrisaw would be good everywhere, but would excel the most in an outside zone attack that would get the most from his mobility. Josh also notes that Darrisaw has noticeably improved year after year in college, which makes it easier to project that the curve will continue as a pro. He is coachable, and it is obvious. This goes to a very readable and apparently fair scouting profile from January. Here is a briefer scouting profile from early February. This early February scouting report notes that Darrisaw uses his length very well, but sees better aerobic conditioning as an area that could improve his game yet another notch. Here is a February interview at TDN.
1:10 ILB Micah Parsons, Penn St. (Junior). 6’2”, 245 lbs. The dream running mate for Devin Bush, but it Ain’t Gonna Happen. Or at least it wouldn’t in any normal year. It becomes theoretically possible with Penn State playing so few games due to Covid.
1:10 CB Caleb Farley, Va. Tech. (RS Junior). 6’2”, 197 lbs. Smart and amazingly athletic, Farley was a high school QB who converted to WR in college, and then over to CB without missing a beat. Would probably rank in the Top 5 if he’d managed to stay consistently healthy and hadn’t opted out of the 2020 Covid season. Daniel Jeremiah has compared him to a young Jimmy Smith of the Ravens. Take my advice and do not read Owen Straley’s gif-supported February scouting report, because it Ain’t Gonna Happen and why dream about what you can’t have?
1:15 OT Samuel Cosmi, Texas. (RS Junior). 6’5”, 300 lbs. Will turn 21 just before the draft. Cosmi and Jalen Mayfield are the Round 1 Tackles who will appeal for that reason alone. On the field, Cosmi is an immensely athletic prospect with obvious LT upside and a pretty solid floor due to his already-good footwork and grip strength. But (that hateful word) he is quite likely to need a 2-year learning curve to fill in the physical and technical gaps expected from someone so young. Adding strength will help his game, as will an NFL coach bellowing about “consistency first, playmaking next.” It’s the classic problem of combining Top-5 natural talent with a round 3-4 skillset. That said, when was the last time Pittsburgh had any shot at a Tackle with that level of natural talent? The film is frustrating because upside is hard to measure and thus you end up at compromise grade in the mid- to late-1st. This nice looking scouting profile from early February ends in a Round 2 grade based on that maddening inconsistency. Alex Kozora’s gif-supported, early February scouting report ends with a mid-1st grade plus an asterisk for the acknowledged risk.
1:15 T/G Jalen Mayfield, Michigan. (RS Sophomore). 6’5”, 319 lbs. Turns 21 soon after draft day. Mayfield and Samuel Cosmi are the Round 1 Tackles who will appeal for that reason alone. He is a tremendous athlete, but one who requires a bit of projection because he is still growing into his adult size, strength, and skills. Bottom line? He’s some of the best raw clay in the draft, but it’s going to need some forming and kilning (is that a word?) before it’s ready for use; though he did have a very impressive game against Chase Young in 2019… Daniel Jeremiah has put him at #24 overall, arguing that he can start immediately at RT, with the upside to grow way beyond just that. Here is a brief, late January scouting profile that ends with a fringe 1st grade after extolling his pass blocking skills even more than the run blocking. Devin Jackson’s gif-supported February scouting report ends in a mid- to late-1st grade as well, based on Mayfield’s tremendous athleticism and mostly-solid technique.
1:15 RB Najee Harris, Alabama. (Senior). 6’1⅞”, 230 lbs. with long 33⅜” arms and big 10” hands. Turns 23 just before the draft. Solid, solid, solid, with an extremely high floor and a very high ceiling. A big, strong RB who Daniel Jeremiah has compared to Matt Forte, Harris can be trusted to get every inch of what’s available, a lot that wouldn’t be there for lesser backs, and to get stronger as the game goes on. As Alex Kozora’s gif-supported January scouting report sums it up, “Harris has every trait you look for in a back. Not just at a baseline ‘good enough’ level. He’s good to great in almost every area.” Pick your asset (other than home run 40-time speed) and he’s got it. Vision, size, strength, super quick feet, a brutal jump cut, an even nastier spin move, a nose for both the sticks and the end zone, etc., etc., unto the end. He will (A) reliably hit the best available hole, (B) run you over if you stand and wait, (C) disappear if you go in hot, and (D) vanish from your grasp if you fail to get a perfect grip. Deadly. He’s also a tremendous receiver, and already an accomplished pocket protector. Pro ready – two words I almost never say. The hardest part is distinguishing which heights he achieved on his own, versus climbing so high on the shoulders of his friends. The BCS championship game may have helped for that one. Ohio State cornered him several times, and then could not bring him down because of what he did all by himself. The Steelers reportedly met with him at the Senior Bowl.
1:15 WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU. (Junior). 6’1”, 208 lbs. Top 20 at worst. Ain’t Gonna Happen.
1:20 OT Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame. (RS Senior). 6’6”, 305 lbs. Very good in every part of his game, with tremendous experience at a good program, Eichenberg has flashed everything but pure physical genius. He has it all – punch, power, pulling, etc. – but only the balance, footwork, and body control seem to be next level. All that makes him a high floor pick who’s easy to project as a long term blindside starter, and maybe an occasional Pro Bowler, but harder to see as an annual all star. Alex Kozora’s gif-supported February scouting report ends with a comparison to no less than Joe Staley.
1:20 T/G Teven Jenkins, Okla. St. (RS Senior). 6’6”, 310 lbs. A big, strong, nasty tough guy with some decent movement skills, held back by technical flaws like balance issues and [gasp!] too much aggression. Those can be fixed with good coaching and hard work, so the odds are in his favor, but it will take some work before he can beat out someone like a healthy Zack Banner. He’s shown all the tools to succeed as an NFL pass blocker too, but only flashes because his wide open Big 12 offense rarely asked him to do the vertical sets and other tasks he’ll need to at the next level. His strength suggests an ability to play Guard if he needs to. This Chiefs-oriented, late January scouting profile from SI notes that he “may have the strongest hands in this year’s draft class,” before ending with a typical fringe-1st grade. Jenkins was the initial #30 on Daniel Jeremiah’s board. “A future 10 year starter at RT,” says Josh Carney’s gif-supported February scouting report describing Jenkins as a mauler who run blocks as well as anyone in the class, but could have issues if put on the other side where mobility can matter more than strength. (Make sure to read the comments on that one!) This late January PFN scouting profile agrees, but ends in a Round 2-3 grade based on what can be translated to ‘RT limitations.’
1:20 QB Mac Jones, Alabama. (RS Junior). 6’2½”, 217 lbs. Can there be a high floor, low ceiling QB prospect? If so, it’s Mr. Jones. A smart game manager who understands the position and can deliver the ball consistently, quickly, accurately, and with touch until you get to those 50-yard throws that test his NFL-average arm strength. The film says “late 1st” all day long, but then you have to account for playing with enough talent to make a half blind, knock-kneed chimp look brilliant. On the one hand, all that talent made the college game was easier for Jones than for any other prospect; on the other, he still had to make the throws and lead the team. The average athletic profile and  arm strength pull on his draft stock too, but be fair: he is no more limited than some of the genuine greats like Joe Montana (a Round 3 pick, btw). Accuracy, where he’s aces, matters far more for the QB position. This late January scouting profile from a Patriots POV ends with a late-1st grade. Here is a PFN comparison of Mac Jones (high floor) to Trey Lance (high ceiling). This gif-supported February scouting report from Alex Kozora ends with a solid mid-1st grade on a comparison to Andy Dalton, with Drew Brees as the ultimate upside.
1:20 WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama. (Junior). 5’10”, 184 lbs. Top 20 at worst. Ain’t Gonna Happen even though he lost the back end of his season to a fractured ankle.
1:20 EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami (RS Sophomore). 6’5”, 260 lbs. Will turn 21 just before the draft. Considered by many to be the #1 Edge Rusher in the class despite opting out of the Covid-ravaged 2020 season, there is a small but real chance he could fall to #24 because of that. The value could be irresistible if he does. Rousseau fits the Steelers’ OLB profile like he was created for the job. Size, length, speed to power talent,a few good moves with the top notch athleticism to learn more, and even the proven ability to drop back into coverage. This late-January scouting profile responds to buzz tying Rousseau to the Lions at #7 overall with well placed cautions about Rousseau’s youth and one-year-wonder status. This goes to a brief but useful February scouting profile that summarizes things pretty well, albeit with no real analysis. Ditto for this summary, Raiders-oriented scouting profile. This mid-January, gif-supported scouting profile ends with a Top 15 grade due to offsetting Top-5 potential against limited bend and very limited experience despite the “mind boggling” production of his RS Freshman year. The full length Walter Football scouting profile is better than most, and well worth a read for a balanced POV that ends with, ‘he may have been overhyped before the season, but is still a Top 20 prospect.’
1:20 CB Jaycee Horn, S. Car. (Junior). 6’1”, 205 lbs. Will be 21 on draft day. The classic draft dilemma with Corners: are length, speed, and skill going to be enough, even with sterling NFL bloodlines like a Pro Bowl WR as your dad? All eyes are on the film studies and reports about whether his COD ability is also up to NFL standards. Wesley Cantliffe’s gif-supported January scouting report offers one analyst’s confident opinion that he will be more than fine, at least for press-man coverage. It helps that Horn plays a good, physical game in run support, but he is handsy and should be expected to produce an annoying number of PI penalties until his habits, technique, and confidence mature to where everyone expects.
1:24 STEELERS ROUND 1 PICK
1:25 T/G Alex Leatherwood, Alabama. (Senior). 6’5¼”, 312 lbs. with long 34⅜” arms but smaller 9½” hands. Won the Outland Trophy for best O-lineman in 2020 as a Tackle, and had good success as a Guard in 2019. That very high floor, with a ready made backup plan, is a big part of his appeal as a prospect. Smooth, quick footed, mobile, and strong enough to handle the job, Leatherwood has a number of fixable technique issues that drop his stock to where Pittsburgh is going to pick. None of those are very severe (hand fighting, balance, keeping his knees flexed to avoid waist-bending, etc.), it’s just that they really do need to be ironed out. That may require a redshirt year and, if he can’t make it work, a move inside to Guard. This nice scouting profile from January points to a possible weakness against inside countermoves, which may be related to relatively slow hands for landing his punch. Josh Carney’s gif-supported January scouting report concludes that Leatherwood would be fine value for Pittsburgh at 1:24, though he’ll be a bigger help in the running game than as a pass protector unless coaching can help with his only-average mirroring skills.
1:25 G/T Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC. (RS Junior). 6’4”, 300 lbs. The enigma of Round 1, AVT is built like a Center, moves like a Tackle, and projected most often to Guard. His grade would be up in the teens if we could be confident in either the Center or Tackle aspect, but he has been quoted as saying that he considers himself to be a position-flexible Guard. I.e., the one OL position that Pittsburgh won’t target in the 1st. Strength, technique, understanding of the position, agility, experience; etc. He’s got it all, with many fewer holes than you expect to see from a college player. Mock drafts in December had him pushing into Top-10 consideration! Smiles all around if you are looking for a football player, but accompanied by a vague worry if you really want a Tackle or a Center. Daniel Jeremiah’s initial Top 50 caught the essence. AVT came in at #14 overall, with this observation: “I think he has a chance to stick at tackle, but he’s ideally suited to play guard [and] is ready to start on Day 1.”
1:25 TE Kyle Pitts, Florida. (Junior). 6’5”, 240 lbs. Everyone has him tagged to go in the Top 10-15 picks, including Wesley Cantliffe’s gif-supported February scouting report, and he is such a good receiving weapon that he deserves to. But where is the fit for Pittsburgh? The team is chock full of WR’s, and has a Move TE in Eric Ebron. That lack of fit earns a large discount on this Steelers-specific board; especially since the team doesn’t seem to prioritize TE’s as much as the fan base anyway. Yes, Pitts reportedly has a blocker’s mentality. So yes, you can argue that all he really needs is more sand in his pants to become what we all want. But is that enough to justify a higher grade for this particular roster?
1:25 RB Travis Etienne, Clemson. (Senior). 5’10”, 210 lbs. W.E.A.P.O.N. But is he the right kind of weapon for Pittsburgh’s scheme? Alex Kozora’s gif-supported February scouting report lists fumbles as a potential issue, but the bigger concern may be Etienne’s running style. He will do much better in a freewheeling outside zone attack than a system that would ask him to run between the tackles, and push the pile on short yardage downs. But make no mistake about the upside! The list of assets starts with lightning in a bottle quickness, and continues through home run speed, good discipline to stay within the system, and the willingness to stick his face in the fan on blocking duty. Yes, he is only big rather than huge. And yes, he benefited from having a great QB and overall team around him. But facts are facts: the kid is electric. He’s even a fine punt and kick returner.
1:25 WR Devonta Smith, Alabama. (Senior). 6’1”, 175 lbs. An artist at the WR position, 2020’s Heisman Award winner has all the production, speed, shiftiness, separation ability, and attitude to get picked high in the first. Daniel Jeremiah has compared him to no less than Marvin Harrison, and he isn’t the only one. There is a small chance that his odd cable-and-wire frame could cause a surprising drop, and even one far enough to put him into the Steelers’ range, but it is hard to see him as the pick even so.
1:25 EDGE Joseph Ossai, Texas. (Junior). 6’4”, 253 lbs. [Other sites say 6’3”, 245]. Ossai is a true pass rushing linebacker with the multipart skills to excel moving forward and in space. Those measurements, and the skill set, create a profile very much like T.J. Watt’s as a prospect! This decent looking February scouting profile ends in a late-1st grade based on that level of upside balanced by a real need to learn his craft to NFL standards. This thorough, late January scouting profile sees Ossai’s main limitations coming from being asked to do so many different tasks in college, and ends with a Mid-1st grade. This Chiefs-oriented SI scouting profile follows the trend: hugely athletic, perfect for a 3-4, questionable size for a 4-3, and in need of good coaching and hard work to bring the skills up to his potential all-pro ceiling. Ditto for this late-January scouting profile (“Athletically, Ossai is overflowing with juice”).
1:25 ILB Zaven Collins, Tulsa (RS Junior). 6’4”, 260 lbs. The comparisons vary between Anthony Barr, Leighton Vander-Esch, and a young Brian Urlacher. If that doesn’t sell you, nothing ever will. Collins was built by heaven to be one of the best 3-4 Buck ILB prospects for any draft, any time; a 260-pounder missile with startling burst, who moves like a 230-pound coverage player in open space. He also has very good bend, and can double as a legitimate Edge Rusher. Pittsburgh has a better roster of linebackers than most teams, and it is a strength compared to other many other parts of the team, but come on. Can we really pass that up? Josh Carney’s gif-supported January scouting report lists the small school experience as just about the only question mark. The PFN January scouting profile adds long speed as a potential issue, suggesting that he may time around 4.70 (Vince Williams ran a 4.76). This gif-supported early February scouting report also worries about whether he has the makeup speed to recover after falling for a play action fake. Both suggest that he might be asked to drop some weight in order to gain a step. This late January scouting profile digs down to what might be bigger negatives: “Rumors around campus describe Collins as having a terrible personality: no one likes him.” That translates to a locker room problem off the field, and maybe on the field in the form of lackadaisical effort and pursuit when the play isn’t nearby. This late January scouting profile from a Patriots POV ends with a solid Top 20 grade. Here is a nice gif-supported scouting report from early February.
2:01 TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn St. (Junior). 6’5”, 250 lbs. A well rounded Tight End who can block, run, catch, and bully. What a pleasure to say all those words together about someone coming out of college! Penn State called him “Baby Gronk,” but could it be more fair to call him “Baby Heeeeath”? Lost the second half of 2020 to a shoulder injury that required surgery, which may also limit his Spring practice run, but he should be ready to play at full strength in his rookie season. This goes to Wes Cantliffe’s gif-supported Depot scouting report from January. This early February scouting profile from a Patriots POV agrees with almost everyone on a very-early-2nd grade. Here is a fine point-by-point scouting profile from January.
2:01 CB Tyson Campbell, Georgia (Junior). 6’2”, 185 lbs. Long and wiry, with track-level speed, excellent COD skills, and the pop to play in zone too. He also tackles well for someone with his build. The assets are all there, and the coverage is proven; the flaw is an apparent lack of the ballhawk gene, issues in zone coverage, and a tendency to get beat on 50/50 balls by physical receivers. James Wilford’s gif-supported January scouting report ends with an early-2nd grade. This point-by-point February scouting report agrees on Round 2 after balancing the freak athleticism and press-man dominance with his lack of hands and limitations when playing zone.
2:01 CB/S Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse (RS Junior). 6’2⅝”, 212 lbs. with long 32⅛” arms. Too bad there won’t be a Combine, because his older brother Obi (the San Francisco Safety) probably rose two full rounds when his athletic genius got put on full display. Ifi is a tremendous athlete too, if a bit more on the coverage side of that hybrid DB description. His draft spot will ultimately depend on whether teams conclude he is a boundary CB in the making, or “just” a long, rangy Safety with CB potential for both the slot and the outside. Tackles like a big Safety ought to, which is downright special when he’s viewed as a Corner. Obvious Round 1 physical assets, but his technique is too far from a professional level to justify a Steelers pick in that range. Should be an instant contributor on special teams. Here is a typically solid PFN scouting profile from January. This January scouting profile ends with a Round 2 grade based on surprisingly good COD skills held back only by questions about his long speed. This 4-part January scouting profile points out that Melifonwu is already an accomplished Safety, and the questions go to his move toward being an outside Corner. This Cowboys-oriented scouting profile (and interview) ends with a Round 1 grade. Here is a February scouting profile from a Chiefs POV that ends with a high-potential Round 2 grade. This goes to a gif-supported scouting report from January. He definitely made some money at the Senior Bowl. This February scouting profile from a Cowboys POV considers Melifonwu the CB4 of the class behind Surtain, Farley and Horn, and ends with yet another Round 1 grade.
2:01 CB Asante Samuel Jr., Fla. St. (Junior). 5’10”, 185 lbs. His father was an all-star Corner for many years, and has every reason to be proud of his son. Junior could use some time in an NFL strength program, but he is physical enough to project as a high floor prospect with a ceiling held back only by the size limitations. Super quick, very sound (especially in off coverage), and well ahead of the game in the smarts department. The Steelers have luxuriated in the 1-2 punch of Hilton and Sutton as multipurpose, slot-capable Corners. Samuel Jr. would fit right in. James Wilford’s gif-supported Depot scouting report from late January ends in a late-1st grade based on the pro ready skill set.
2:12 T/G Jackson Carman, Clemson. (Junior). 6’5”, 345 lbs. Carman would be ranked even higher if he hadn’t been consistently vulnerable to elite, very bendy pass rushers who can get the corner and then dip beneath him (Chase Young stole his breakfast in 2019). There are a lot more of those in the NFL than he’s seen in college, and draftniks worry that he may not have that extra gear to deal with them. OTOH, he has the physical assets you want, and he has them in abundance. Great size, very good feet, good hand fighting skills, and the sort of overall athleticism that made him a five star recruit coming out of H.S. But can he handle top NFL-level speed and bend? If not, he projects as a superb Guard, so there is a very high floor. FWIW, the situation “smells” like the sort of prospect who disappoints for 3-4 years as his technique slowly improves, and then suddenly ‘arrives’ as a star when things finally gel just in time for his second contract. Josh Carney’s late February, gif-supported scouting report shows few doubts about his ability to learn the Tackle game eventually.
2:12 OT Dillon Radunz, N. Dak. St. (RS Senior). 6’5⅝”, 304 lbs. with 33¼” arms and 9⅛” hands. The blindside protector from that small school superpower that keeps on producing NFL talent. Radunz profiles as a small-town, all-football, all-grit, long term starter who could make Pro Bowls, but lacks the supreme athletic genius to leave reviewers with HOF stars in their predraft eyes. His technique is already up to low NFL standards. Classic high floor, low ceiling. This goes to a valuable February interview he did with TDN writer.
2:12 C Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma. (Senior). 6’4½”, 312 lbs. with shorter 31¾” arms and 9⅝” hands. The spiritual and physical core of an Oklahoma team that’s given the league a series of top OL picks for the past several years, Humphrey is a Center who’s more in the Mike Webster mold than a miracle athlete like Dawson or Pouncey. Smart, tough, immensely strong, and possessing every asset you want except for suffering from a case of T-rex arms. He comes from a family of national-level wrestlers, and his understanding of force, balance, and leverage really shows. Fully capable of playing Guard when he isn’t snapping the ball, but probably not full time due to the arm length
2:12 RB Javonte Williams, N. Car. (Junior). 5’10”, 220 lbs. The thunder to Michael Carter’s lightning in NC’s powerful, 2-headed running attack, Williams has been compared by supporters to a young Cadillac Williams. He hits top speed in an instant, runs hard, has good vision, will maximize the available yards, and has a serious nose for the end zone. Contact balance is a particular asset, and he also has nice hands coming out of the backfield. Middling as a pass protector. Sounds like Conner and Snell, no? But he’s got at least as much wiggle as Conner, and maybe a little more, which makes him a target for Day 2 who probably won’t last to Round 4. Josh Carney’s gif-supported January scouting report compares him to Nick Chubb, emphasizing his overall game, burts, physicality, and ability to always make his blockers right.
2:12 EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia. (RS Sophomore). 6’2”, 240 lbs. Ojulari would be a Round 1 lock if he was 2” and 15-20 lbs. bigger. Film watchers love what he does because it checks every other box. He is bendy as all get out, has pro-level skills as a hand fighter, strength-to-power assets well beyond his weight class, and the athletic talent to play in space. Needs to work on setting the edge better, but that is all but expected for young players who have these measurements. Deserves a late-1st grade as a situational pass rusher, but earns a small discount too because of the question marks about whether he can be a complete OLB as Pittsburgh uses them. This nice, Panthers-oriented SI scouting profile notes the size issue, but also points out that Ojulari has had great success as a run stuffer nevertheless. He is “the best pure speed rusher in the draft” according to this Raiders-oriented, late January scouting profile. The gif-supported February scouting profile by James Wilford calls him a complete player with surprising power to complement his speed and bend, allowing him to both rush the passer and stop the run.
2:12 EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn. St. (RS Sophomore). 6’5”, 257 lbs. Turns 23 in December. Boom or bust baby! Oweh is a miracle athlete with the burst, bend, and length to grow into a really special player. What he lacks is the production and polish to have anything close to a sturdy floor. This point-by-point January scouting profile ends with a Round 1 grade and a comparison to Jadeveon Clowney. There is some good stuff in this Raiders-oriented scouting profile too, particularly on Oweh’s upward arc as an overall defensive player. Alex Kozora’s gif-supported February scouting report ends with the lowest grade I’ve seen (Day 3), based on objections that Oweh may have world class potential but isn’t ready to succeed as a football player. Here is a February article on PFF’s glowing endorsement of Oweh’s “freak show” athletic levels. Here is an intriguing, gif-supported February scouting report/mock critique from a Colts POV on whether Oweh should be considered at #21 overall.
2:12 EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan. (Senior). 6’4”, 277 lbs. A promising 4-3 DE who relies on his bull rush and really needs to play with his hand in the ground so he can maximize his ability as a run stuffer off the edge. He looked great on a bad team in 2020, so much so that he will almost certainly get picked in the Top 15. Which is awesome because his is a poor fit for the Steelers 3-4 defensive philosophy anyway. It would have been nice to see how he moved in open space if there’d been a Combine to watch. Not that we need more idle fantasies to chase. Here is a Raiders-oriented scouting profile from January.
2:12 EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami by way of UCLA. (RS Junior). 6’5”, 258 lbs. Turns 22 just after the draft. The perfect example of a boom or bust prospect, Phillips has every athletic talent you could ask for at obvious Round 1 levels, plus a well known work ethic and team-leading character. As noted in this late January scouting profile, he was a consensus #1 recruit in the country for the 2017 college class! But then you have to factor in the injury history going back to a nasty car crash, which wrecked one of his wrists (multiple surgeries). Then there was a serious off field concussion, followed by losing a game or two to another. And a transfer to Miami after he initially gave up on football completely, before coming back to look much like his old self. [Just imagine what Miami’s pass rush would have looked like if Rousseau hadn’t opted out!] Is there a doctor in the house on which to base our grade? This nice looking scouting profile from a Giants POV ends with a fringe-1st grade.
2:12 ILB Nick Bolton, Missouri (Junior). 6’0”, 232 lbs. A big hitter in the Vince Williams mold, with more athletic talent for playing out in space, and a dozen fewer pounds for taking the beating inside. (Williams is listed at 233 but numerous sources have said he plays at 245 or 250). Could Bolton add that weight and still maintain his mobility? That’s pretty much the only question. Like Williams, he excels as both a blitzer and a run stuffer/destroyer, and will definitely be an energy bringer to any defense that picks him up. Also brings a very high floor as a special teamer. Josh Carney’s gif-supported February scouting report ends in a Round 2 grade based on doubts about his actual size, length, and ability to be a true coverage linebacker. This solid, Giants-oriented scouting profile likes him too, but worries about his erratic tackling form and coverage skills (good in zone, too stiff for man). This gif-supported February scouting report from S.I. praises his physicality and likes the tackling skills, but worries about his overall range. This January scouting profile found a consistent theme: “he is hot or cold when it comes to each trait.”
2:12 ILB Baron Browning, Ohio St. (Senior). 6’3⅛”, 241 lbs. with 33” arms and 10” hands. A superior athlete even for Ohio State, Browning offers great size, speed, and upside. He is the very definition of “toolsy;” enough so that his extra gear showed out even among the Senior Bowl competition. His 0-to-60 burst would be special even in Round 1. Jim Nagy, the former scout who runs that operation, called him “the highest ceiling Linebacker in the draft.” Browning gets some criticism for his football IQ, but it did improve in 2020 season compared to 2019, even though he may have been held back by Ohio State experimenting with him at OLB instead of leaving him in the middle where he clearly belongs (see this late February, gif-supported scouting report from Tyler Wise). Bottom line: Baron Browning and Devin Bush would combine to give the Steelers a very special asset that could dominate the midfield for many years to come, though it might take Browning a year or three to “get it.” The January scouting profile from PFN sees a Round 2-3 prospect with the athletic potential to be a genuine star in any kind of defense. This January scouting profile is even more encouraging, ending with a mid-2nd grade and a comparison to Myles Jack. Ditto for this Giants-oriented scouting profile: strong Day 2 grade for any kind of defense.
ILB/SS Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame (RS Junior). 6’2”, 216 lbs. A mid-1st prospect on other boards, JOK exemplifies the modern hybrid SS/ILB who can do both jobs at an acceptable level. He’s discounted here because Pittsburgh has less need for that player than other teams. It Ain’t Gonna Happen anyway. He’s too good.
2:12 CB Aaron Robinson, UCF by way of Alabama (RS Senior). 5’11½”, 190 lbs. with 30” arms. Has nice quick feet and nervy reaction time, but falls a bit because his COD is only average, and he lacks some on the physicality front. Originally recruited to Alabama, where he earned limited snaps as a freshman, he transferred back to his home state in search of more playing time. Daniel Jeremiah had him at #39 in his initial Top 50, calling him an immediate starter as a Nickel CB in the slot.
2:12 CB Eric Stokes, Georgia (RS Junior). 6’1”, 185 lbs. Will be 22 on draft day. A solid cover-Corner who projects as a long term NFL starter but maybe not a star. He rarely gets beat, especially deep, but doesn’t have a big rep as a playmaker either. Skills include every aspect of coverage: press, off, and zone.  Daniel Jeremiah had him at #47 in his initial Top 50, which was only that low due to a few concerns that he might be more of a straight line athlete than would be ideal for a Corner. They are minor concerns, but the sort that could inhibit his potential as a true shut-down guy. This point-by-point February scouting profile has a great summary: “For every flashy play, there is at least one unnecessary blatant penalty. With so many pluses and minuses, the future for Stokes is not just intriguing: it is nail-biting. Either he will be the next lockdown corner or he will be a serious liability.”
2:23 STEELERS ROUND 2 PICK (# 55 OVERALL)
2:24 OT James Hudson, Cincinnati. (RS Junior). 6’4⅜”, 302 lbs. with 33” arms and big 11” hands. A mauler with a nasty attitude and very quick feet, which adds up to a lot of upside. Great mobility when he’s pulling, but needs to work on technical aspects like maintaining his bend, which reportedly climbs from his knees to his waist when he gets weary or undisciplined. Made into Daniel Jeremiah’s initial Top 50 (as #46) before there was any buzz about him at all, and then he became an instant star at the Senior Bowl.
2:24 OT Walker Little, Stanford. (Senior). 6’7”, 309 lbs. Turns 22 just before the draft. The best comp may actually be Al Villanueva himself. Walker Little is an NFL caliber athlete who plays with sound but improvable technique and Stanford-level smarts. Earns a minor discount on this board because his stock is more speculative than you’d like. He lost 2019 to a knee injury in the opening game, and opted out of 2020 due to Covid-19, so there isn’t much in the way of recent tape to go on.
2:24 C/G Landon Dickerson, Alabama. (RS Senior). 6’6”, 326 lbs. with 32½” arms and big 10⅜” hands. This is a fringe 1st grade discounted by a round due to the medical red flags. Adjust accordingly as your M.D. instructs. Dickerson played 5 seasons in college, and finished only one of them (2019). 2020 ended with a torn ACL. 2018 and 2017 were lost to ankle injuries. And 2016 to another ACL. Is it a trend that will continue, or was he just snakebit? Yikes. As to the play, he may look like a Guard, but Dickerson is a true Center with versatility. If you want a nasty interior lineman to get down low and dig people out, this is your man. The limitations show when he’s asked to lumber in any direction but forward, or to deal with sneaky quickness. He moves fine, but those situations can bring out his issues staying on balance. Gets extra points for leadership. After tearing his ACL the week before, Alabama dressed him anyway for the BCS championship coin toss, and then lined him up for the final kneel-down snap. Respect. Alex Kozora’s mid-January, gif-supported scouting report highlights the long list of experience and assets, but also the alarming series of medical red flags. This tremendous, gif-supported scouting report from early February was written by a well respected H.S. coach and makes the case for Dickerson’s Round 1 talent.
2:24 C/G Josh Myers, Ohio St. (RS Junior). 6’5”, 312 lbs. He’s got all the tools you look for, and at NFL levels, but nothing that rises to the level of “special”. His anchor may already be better than Pouncey’s, but Steeler Nation tends to take inhuman mobility levels of mobility for granted. He’s mobile enough, sure, but he ain’t no Pouncey. Still, he can play all three interior positions and has a very solid floor at each of them. That alone should put him on our Day 2 radar.
2:24 QB Kyle Trask, Florida (RS Senior). 6’5”, 239 lbs. We saw real flashes in 2019, and video game domination in 2020, so why isn’t he on everyone’s lips as a top-of-the-first prospect? It goes back to the years before that, when he couldn’t earn his way onto the field. Trask was a backup in High School for heaven’s sake (to an all time, record-setting high school phenom, but still). Then he was a backup in college even as a true Junior. At which point he finally got his chance, and impressed all who watched in 2019. Size, poise, accuracy, and NFL-average arm strength (or at least close enough). This great background piece came out around that time. Enter 2020 and a year when he almost earned a Heisman trophy! So the first question is, how could a man with that many assets stay buried for all of those years? Then there are more. How much of the credit goes to a great set of receiving weapons? How hard a ceiling gets set by an NFL-average deep ball and mobility? Steeler fans should also remember that Mason Rudolph also put up amazing college numbers. Has Rudolph disappointed, or just progressed in that slow and steady way we all predicted in 2018 and then chose to forget when he donned the black and gold? If the latter, what does Trask offer in 2021 that Rudolph did not in 2018? Lots of questions equals a somewhat hesitant grade. This goes to a good article from December. Alex Kozora’s gif-supported February scouting report sees some Nick Foles in Trask’s game, and ends in a late-1st grade for him as an accurate but immobile QB who can help a team win a lot of games, but won’t necessarily be the reason.
2:24 DL Christian Barmore, Alabama (RS Sophomore). 6’5”, 310 lbs. He’s got the talent to be picked in Round 1, but hasn’t proven it on the field consistently, and still gets out-leveraged far too often. Many top notch flashes, but almost no games where he seemed to tilt the field. Production aside, he will get a lot of looks from the Steelers because he fits so well on paper. He has the native burst and quickness that Coach Butler prizes, and size enough to theoretically withstand double teams. He just hasn’t done it often enough, except for one particularly good day in the BCS championship win against Ohio State. Tom Mead’s gif-supported, late January scouting report ends in a fringe-1st grade consistent with many other pundits. Such as, e.g., this late January scouting profile from a Patriots site.
2:24 ILB/SS Dylan Moses, Alabama (Senior). 6’3”, 240 lbs. Here’s the lead on basically every scouting report you’ll see: “Dylan Moses is a freak athlete.” He has every talent you look for: size, speed, fluidity, etc. The physical potential is basically unlimited. And it’s been that way since he made the cover of ESPN’s magazine in 8th grade after receiving scholarship offers from both LSU and Alabama. The issues come down to the flip side of that coin. What would that do to you? Especially with a father who raised you for the gridiron like some colossal stage mom? Those question marks – and they are only that, questions – pervade the discussion. Does he love the game enough for itself? Will he go sideways when he becomes his own man? Will he retire young, or fight through injuries hard enough? Does he have enough fear and ambition to drive him on? Everyone seems to have an internal plotline even though no outsider can really know, and thus interviews are going to drive his stock more than film. Yes, he had a bad ACL tear that cost him 2019. Yes, he went into 2020 with Top 10 expectations, and failed to meet them. Yes, that may have been the injury… or was it [fill in your plot point]? James Wilford’s gif-supported February scouting profile, notes some slower processing time and what might be occasional failures to pursue 110% of the time. Which in due course leads to questions about the “why.” Daniel Jeremiah has compared him to Myles Jack, as the sort of limitless athlete who needs to grow into his powers, but will need some guidance in doing so. This January scouting profile from PFN has good background.
2:24 CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern. (Junior). 6’1”, 190 lbs. The #1 CB on a great college defense that gave Ohio State fits just one week before they tore up Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. His best feature may be the lack of holes. Newsome scores “B+ to A-” for size, length, quickness, transitions, and football IQ. The only real knock is a tendency to get grabby that may be caused by limited foot speed. The sort of prospect who will jump a lot of boards if his 40 time looks good. Devin Jackson’s gif-supported January scouting report also notes an extensive list of games missed due to a great variety of injuries. One worries that he might be the sort of player who has difficulty surviving what Mike Tomlin calls, “the bumps and bruises of the season.” The doctors and the strength coaches will accordingly have real input on his final grade – which we cannot access, of course. Daniel Jeremiah had him at #40 in his initial Top 50, calling him an early starter as one of those all important outside CB’s. Here is a fine late-February interview he did with TDN.

 

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