Longtime NFL insider Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports has certainly covered a few NFL drafts during his career. It wasn’t surprising to hear him as a Tuesday guest on 93.7 The Fan to discuss who the Pittsburgh Steelers might use their first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on. La Canfora was first asked on Tuesday if he believes the Steelers will take Alabama running back Najee Harris in the first round at 24th overall if given the opportunity to do so.
“Yeah, I do at this point think that would be the pick,” La Canfora said of Harris. “If it was down to him and Zaven Collins, I think things, you know, there’d be some interesting chatter to make that conclusion because I get the sense they have those players rated pretty high in the same sort of vein, but obviously at different positions.”
La Canfora, however, isn’t totally convinced that the Steelers will even get an opportunity to choose between Harris and Tulsa inside linebacker Zaven Collins in the first round Thursday night.
“But I gotta be honest with you, I don’t think they’re going to be able to make that call and I don’t think either will be there, to be perfectly honest with you,” La Canfora said. “I think it’s far from certain either of those guys are there and I think in that scenario.”
So, what if indeed Harris and Collins are already selected come time the Steelers get on the clock in the first round? La Canfora addressed that possibility as well on Tuesday.
“I know that they feel pretty strongly about the running back Javonte Williams from UNC,” La Canfora said. “I know that Landon Dickerson’s medicals aren’t a hundred percent ideal, but that’s a hell of a football player who might be a standout offensive lineman at three different positions if given the opportunity and who has earned some comparisons for his on-field play and demeanor to Quenton Nelson, which is about as high praise as you’re going to get as an interior offensive lineman. And again, that kid might be a right tackle if he puts his mind to it as well.
“And then it could be also that versus what pass rusher’s out there and what do we think of him and that is not a particularly robust group and certainly beauty’s in the eye of the beholder with that stuff. But I think that’s probably more likely to be the terrain there in then being able to pick between Najee Harris and Zaven Collins.”
As you can see, speculation about Harris being available for the Steelers to select in the first round has been all over the place these last few days. La Canfora has his thoughts on which team might draft Harris before the Steelers are on the clock Thursday night.
“Miami at 18,” La Canfora said. “He’s absolutely in play there. And I think all things being equal, they would probably lean that way.”
La Canfora also feels strongly about Collins getting picked before the Steelers are on the clock.
“Arizona really likes Jaycee Horn, but I don’t think he’ll be there,” La Canfora said. “There’s a few other corners they like, but I don’t know if they like them as much as Zaven Collins. And I know they’ve done a lot of work on Zaven Collins for a while. I’ve just continually heard them linked to Zaven Collins. Other GM’s picking in that region think there’s a very good shot that Zaven Collins is going right around between Arizona, between the Raiders between Washington, I don’t know that that player gets past all those teams to get to Pittsburgh.”
Assuming Harris and Collins are both gone, and the Steelers are dead set on picking a running back in the first round, La Canfora believes the team would choose North Carolina running back Javonte Williams over Clemson running back Travis Etienne.
“All things being equal could, yes, I think they could go UNC over Clemson there, yes,” La Canfora said.
While La Canfora definitely feels there’s a chance the Steelers could spend a first round pick on an offensive lineman this year, he isn’t totally sure they would use that selection on a tackle.
“I mean, offensive line is certainly an area that they’re going to look at,” La Canfora said. “I don’t know that it necessarily has to be a tackle. Again, if you’re comfortable with Landon Dickerson’s medicals, the tape, I mean, you watch the tape and he’s destroying people. I mean, he’s mauling people and he’s doing it at center, and he can do it at guard. And so, I mean, they obviously have a potential Hall of Fame center who retired and they’re reshuffling a lot of things up front. I get the sense at tackle they feel like they, you know, there’s some kids here who might be all right. But certainly there’s no one sitting there saying we absolutely positively have the best five guys we could possibly have to go into the season up front right now.”
That’s a lot to chew on so far, sure. So, push comes to shove and forced to predict and stake his reputation on who the Steelers will ultimately pick in the first round Thursday night, what would La Canfora’s best guess be?
“Again, I think Dickerson, Collins, one of a couple of running backs,” La Canfora said. “I think it’s most likely they go that way if one of those guys is there.”