We are into March now and about four weeks from the 2021 NFL draft. Teams are well into free agency and some players have moved on, some have been signed on and some have left and come back. I’m looking at you Tyson Alualu. With the re-signings and player changes the team needs have changed as well.
Wide receiver and defensive tackle look like they will not be addressed with all members of those position groups returning. Draft boards have changed since my last mock as well and there has been some interesting movement out there.
Team needs include center, tackle, running back and tight end on offense. Defensively linebacker, slot corner, safety and edge rusher.
Round 1 (Pick 24): Eric Stokes, DB, Georgia 6010 185
Analysis: We have a couple of weeks of Pro Days left to go but by looking at the painstaking work of Alex Kozora in putting together the Pro Day Tracker there may be a pattern. Of the top 7 consensus cornerbacks on the board the Steelers have had contact with all of them already. They sent GM Kevin Colbert and HC Mike Tomlin to four of the Pro Days. It’s unconfirmed but they may have sent DB coach Teryl Austin to Northwestern and they had zoom calls with the other two corners. I had him graded as a high second round pick and that was before he ran a sub 4.3. 40. Stokes can play on the outside in sub packages and move Cam Sutton inside and if they move on from Joe Haden next year he can slide into the starter role.
Previous pick: Nick Bolton LB Missouri
Also considered: DB Greg Newsome, RB Javonte Williams, OC Creed Humphrey
Round 2 (Pick 55): Jamin Davis ILB Kentucky 6040 234
Analysis: The hope was one of the top two centers or top 3 running backs would fall to this spot but it this scenario it doesn’t happen. Instead, the Steelers take their future BUCK linebacker in Davis. Behind the tandem of Devin Bush and Robert Spillane there is a hole that Davis can fill. He can take the year to learn at the NFL level and in the end you’ll have two three down linebackers in Bush and Davis. He can play with physicality to fill gaps, has the athleticism to be used as a blitzer and is a long defender for quarterbacks to try to throw over.
Previous pick: Creed Humphrey OC Oklahoma
Also considered: DB Elijah Molden, EDGE Joe Tryon, OT Jackson Carman
Round 3 (Pick 87): Trey Hill OC Georgia 6034 319
Analysis: After missing out on the top centers I don’t want to wait any further so Hill is the selection. The Steelers need someone they can play right away and Hill fits. He was a two year starter in college and entered the draft as a junior. Kozora said in his report, “Hill is the type of center the Steelers are looking for. If you want to have a more physical, dominating, get-a-yard line, Hill is a great step in solving that problem. He’s still young, a mauler, and you’re not going to find a talented, 330 pound, battle tested center like him too often” Sounds good to me.
Previous pick: Joshuah Bledsoe S Missouri
Also considered: OT Spencer Brown, OT Brady Christensen, CB Paulson Adebo
Round 4 (Pick 128): Stone Forsythe OT Florida 6090 315
Analysis: This was a player I had heard nothing about in this draft season before coming across his name on NFL.com. Lance Zierlein in his annual list had him graded right along with Liam Eichenberg and Alex Leatherwood. That definitely made him worth looking at and he was pretty impressive. He has a similar build to Alejandro Villanueva and is a two year starter at left tackle. He also has experience at right tackle and some guard as well. The Steelers signed Joe Haeg and he’ll be in the mix to be depth at the position but Forsythe can come in and be the swing tackle in year one and compete for a starting in spot year two if the starters underperform in 2021. Watch him against Georgia and you’ll see how well he handled potential first round pick Azeez Ojulari.
Previous pick: Chuba Hubbard RB Oklahoma State
Also considered: RB Kylin Hill, OT D’Ante Smith, EDGE Jonathon Cooper
Round 4 (Pick 140): Jermar Jefferson RB Oregon State 5100 217
Analysis: Running back will be in consideration for the top two picks but if it doesn’t work out right they will still need to bring in completion for Benny Snell, Jr and Anthony McFarland. Playing in the Pacific Northwest Jefferson didn’t get a lot of attention but he was quite productive with over 2,900 yards rushing, 43 career receptions and 29 total touchdowns. Jefferson isn’t overly dynamic in his game but he has good vision, patience and the speed to take it the distance. If the Steelers build up their offensive line they won’t need a superstar running back to produce a 1,200 yard rusher.
Previous pick: Dazz Newsome WR North Carolina
Also considered: QB Davis Mills, OL David Moore, EDGE Elerson Smith
Round 6 (Pick 216): Luke Farrell TE Ohio State 6060 258
Analysis: I am keeping Farrell in my mock and I’m even moving him up a round and you can’t stop me. From the guys I’ve watched he is easily the best blocking tight end in the draft and unless the Steelers think Kevin Rader can be that guy then they need to draft one. He will be an asset in the running game which they seem to be making a priority. Ohio State in general doesn’t use the tight ends often in the passing game so there may be more there than what we have seen of him as a receiver. His hands are good; he can box out defenders and is good at finding gaps versus Zone coverage.
Previous pick: D’Ante Smith OT East Carolina
Also considered: S Divine Deablo, IOL Tommy Kraemer, EDGE Patrick Johnson
Round 7 (Pick 245): William Bradley-King EDGE Baylor 6033 254
Analysis: There is a major lack of depth behind the starting outside linebackers so the position probably should be addressed earlier than this but Bradley-King would be a good fit. He is very strong and plays much bigger than his size. He has a great motor, heavy hands and sets the edge well. He is a power pass rusher and has the strength to collapse the pocket. Zierlein says, “He plays a mature brand of football, with a turned-up motor and good toughness at the point of attack.” The OLB3 usually plays sparingly (12-15snaps) and he can fill that void.
Previous pick: Jonathon Cooper EDGE Ohio State
Also considered: OT Cole Van Lanen, DB Darren Hall, TE Shaun Beyer
Round 7 (Pick 254): Shawn Davis S Florida 5105 199
Analysis: Safety is another position where they need depth and need more athleticism and Davis seems to have some good tools. I haven’t watched him yet but from what I read he has some ability. Zierlein said, “Hard-hitting safety whose size, toughness and urgent demeanor will be appealing for NFL teams looking to add some attitude on the back end.” And “He’s rangy over the top in two-deep and can play interchangeably in the box. His aggressiveness and versatility should create an opportunity as a good backup and eventual starter.” Hard hitting, tough and rangy? Sounds interesting. At minimum you have someone who can play on your core special teams and be a backup in year one.
Previous pick: Luke Farrell TE Ohio State
Also considered: DT Ta’Quon Graham, P Pressley Harvin III, QB Zac Thomas