In his first mock draft, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein had the Pittsburgh Steelers taking Tulsa LB Zaven Collins at #24 overall. In his second mock draft right after free agency, he switched gears and mocked them Alabama RB Najee Harris. But in his latest mock released yesterday, Zierlein is going back to his roots and mocking Collins to the Steelers with their first round pick.
In explaining the pick, he writes:
“When the need matches the talent available, everyone is happy. Collins has throwback size, but new-school athleticism and coverage ability as a three-down player.”
That has been the Steelers’ philosophy picking in the first round. The point where value and need intersect at its highest point. Collins does fit. Pittsburgh could make a splashy move and draft Collins to be an immediate starter next to Devin Bush, giving them a fierce, athletic duo at off-ball linebacker. Collins is one of the freakiest dudes at 260 pounds.
In our scouting report on him, our Josh Carney wrote:
“He looks like a four-down player who can line up anywhere on defense and could be a special teams terror for someone early in his career. I do think he might fall to the second day of the draft due to his level of competition, but I get serious Anthony Barr vibes overall.”
Taking Collins would break some Steelers’ “draft rules.” They haven’t selected a non-Power 5 player in the first round since Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. And odds are, Mike Tomlin and/or Kevin Colbert won’t be at his April 2nd Pro Day. That would break a ten year streak of one of the Steelers’ decision-makers watching their first round pick in person. Of course, when you have a freaky talent like Collins, some rules can get broken.
In his latest mock, Zierlein has Harris falling out of the top 32 completely. Only one running back is mocked in the first round with Clemson RB Travis Etienne going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the final pick of the round. His mock also has three quarterbacks going with the top three picks: Trevor Lawrence at #1 to the Jaguars, Zach Wilson #2 to the Jets, and Trey Lance #3 to the 49ers, who recently traded up to that spot.