We’ve reached draft day, folks. Mock draft season is just about over.
With just hours before the final bell rings and pencils are placed on the desk, ESPN Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. and The Athletic Draft guru Dane Brugler dropped their final mock drafts Thursday morning.
While both went in a similar direction for the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 20 overall with the selection of a quarterback, the two differed on which quarterback that is for the black and gold.
As he has done before, Kiper Jr. stuck with Liberty’s Malik Willis at No. 20 overall for the Steelers, becoming the second quarterback off the board in his final mock draft, right behind Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett at No. 19 overall to the New Orleans Saints.
In a short run on QB at No. 19 and No. 20, the Steelers get the guy they’ve targeted heavily throughout the pre-draft process in Willis.
“The Steelers could get a quarterback and not have to trade up for him,” Kiper Jr. writes. “I have Willis ranked just slightly over Pickett, and I think he has the highest ceiling of the guys in this class. He’s super talented with a huge arm. We know Mike Tomlin & Co. heavily scouted the passers last month.”
Pittsburgh certainly has scouted quarterbacks heavily over the last month and change, none moreso than Willis, whom the Steelers met with extensively at the Senior Bowl, the NFL Scouting Combine, his Pro Day, and had in town for a pre-draft visit. There’s real interest in him, so we’ll see if he’s the selection if he’s on the board when the Steelers are on the clock.
As for Brugler, he differed slightly in his final mock. After pairing the Steelers with Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder earlier in April in his seven-round mock draft, Brugler went in a different direction Thursday morning, pairing the Steelers with Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, becoming the first QB off the board in his mock draft.
“No quarterbacks in the first 19 picks means the Steelers are able to draft their top guy here,” Brugler writes. “Is it Pickett? Or Malik Willis? Or Desmond Ridder? I’ll lean Pickett right now.”
There seems to be a bit of smoke late in the process that the Steelers really covet Pickett above the other quarterbacks, so that’s likely why Brugler went in the direction that he did. It makes sense overall as GM Kevin Colbert saw Pickett the most last season with him being a local guy playing in Heinz Field.
The start of the 2022 NFL Draft is just hours away, and what the Steelers will do is anyone’s guess, whether that’s at No. 20 overall, a trade up to get their guy at QB, or a trade down in the first round to accumulate draft picks.