Though the NFL landscape is knee deep in the free agency frenzy and Pro Day circuits, it’s never not a good time to drop in some mock draft updates here and there.
That’s exactly what Pro Football Focus’s Michael Renner did Thursday, dropping his latest three-round mock draft following a number of significant moves in free agency.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were much more active in free agency than ever before under General Manage Kevin Colbert thanks to unprecedented cap space, which led to Colbert and Co. plugging a lot of holes on the roster, allowing them the flexibility to take the best player available at each pick in Renner’s mock draft.
Of course, in the end a lot of familiar names landed in Pittsburgh’s in Renner’s exercise, but it’s interesting to see how it could play out overall now that the Steelers have added some significant pieces in free agency.
In the first round of Renner’s mock draft at No. 20 overall, he has the Steelers grabbing Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett as the second quarterback off the board after Liberty’s Malik Willis went No. 6 overall to the Carolina Panthers, who have seemingly struck out in the trade market for a proven veteran.
Pickett, at 24 years old, doesn’t quite fit the Steelers’ timeline, in terms of sitting behind newly-signed veteran Mitchell Trubisky for a year like Willis or Sam Howell would, but it’s an intriguing fit, one that could see Pickett push for the starting job.
“Mitchell Trubisky is not the future. Kenny Pickett can be,” Renner writes. “The Panther legend stays home and gets a chance to compete for a starting job Day 1. Of all the quarterbacks in this draft class, Pickett had the highest overall grade last season.”
Of course, if Pickett is on the board at No. 20 overall and the Steelers feel strongly about him, he could easily be the selection, but it would be an odd fit overall as Pickett is on the older side for a prospect and is one of the more pro-ready quarterbacks in the class, meaning he’d need to play rather quickly instead of sitting. That could create a bit of a dilemma, but obviously it would be a good one to have at quarterback in the first year post-Ben Roethlisberger.
Following the selection of Pickett at No. 20, Renner has the Steelers grabbing Oklahoma defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey, the star of the Senior Bowl who ended up winning MVP in Mobile.
Winfrey is more of a pass rusher than run defender, so how exactly he fits into the Steelers’ scheme on paper is relatively unknown. That said, with the Steelers in sub package more than base at this point in time, he could fit as a potential three-technique opposite Cameron Heyward, should Stephon Tuitt not return. If Tuitt returns, Winfrey would be excellent depth that could give the Steelers’ two star defensive linemen much-needed breaks throughout games.
Interestingly enough, Renner had the Steelers grabbing Winfrey over the likes of Houston defensive lineman Logan Hall, whom the Steelers have shown interest in, as well as North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson, Western Michigan wide receiver Skyy Moore, and Tulsa offensive tackle Tyler Smith.
In the third round, Renner pairs the Steelers with Penn State offensive tackle Rasheed Walker at No. 84 overall, giving Pittsburgh a developmental tackle to work with moving forward.
Walker has an impressive blend of size (6-6, 320) and natural power, but might need to sit and develop for a year, even though he started 32 games for the Nittany Lions over three seasons. The selection would land a moldable piece of clay like Walker with first-year offensive line coach Pat Meyer and assistant OL coach Isaac Williams.