Oh, I hate mock drafts. I hate reading them. I hate writing about them. I hate making them. So why am I, exactly? I didn’t plan on doing one. I don’t believe I’ve done one in years. But we’re all doing one and I don’t want to be a poor sport, and they reserved me the draft-day slot to post mine, so I’m taking it seriously. In fact, I’ve done two mocks. And I’ve broken my own rule.
Back when I used to do mocks, and post them, my golden rule was not to mess around with trades. But I’ve made a trade this year, which I felt compelled to do after being unsatisfied with the results I was getting using Pro Football Focus’ most draft simulator. Too often I found myself just out of reach of prospects I wanted while taking players in the second round I could move down and still get.
So I did it. In my “official” mock draft, I made a trade. And I don’t care if you hate my mock. But here it is, all the same.
First Round (17th overall): OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
As it turns out, this also happens to be the player that I predicted earlier today would, in fact, be the Steelers’ draft choice at 17 overall. This is based partially on a growing buzz around Darnell Wright, with many now predicting that he could even go inside the top 10. That’s going to push one tackle down further, and it should be Jones.
And I’m totally fine with that. Short of Paris Johnson Jr., he’s probably the pure tackle prospect I felt most comfortable with, and I believe he has the best shot of being an opening-day starter. I have to say I would be pretty pleased if this is how it goes.
TRADE: Steelers deal picks 32 (2), 120 (4), and 251 (7) to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for 35 (2), 106 (4), 138 (5), 162 (5)
I move down three spots in the second round to move up 14 in the fourth, while getting two fifth-round picks for my second of two seventh-round picks. I net one total selection, add two mid-round picks, improve my fourth-round selection, while still getting the player I end up drafting at the top of the second round. This is based on Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator, which gave this trade an 80 percent chance of being accepted.
Second Round (35th overall): CB Cam Smith, South Carolina
I’m not in love with Smith, and I think a lot of people are possibly higher on him than I am, but I think the Steelers like him, and he doesn’t last until the middle of the second round. He can do anything the Steelers would ask him to do and he would contribute right away even if not in a full-time starting role. And he could develop into a high-level starter in a year or two.
Second Round (49th overall): DT Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin
Again, another guy I’m not necessarily in love with, but a guy I think the Steelers are, and this is where they would have to draft him, I think. But how high is his upside? Not as high as you’d like it to be, I believe. He should be able to contribute right away, however, fully integrated into what can be a complex defense.
Third Round (80th overall): LB Nick Herbig, Wisconsin
That’s right. Not just two Wisconsin players in a row, but one of them is a nepotism selection. But really, the Steelers need more linebackers, and the crowd starts to thin this deep in the class. For me. I don’t know how the Steelers view Herbig—people seem increasingly to be shunting him off to the inside—but he can be a versatile player who can move around as needed. Even if you question his ability to hold up on the edge on a long-term basis, he can rush the passer, and it’s not like the Steelers have avoided smaller edge rushers before, like Travis Feeney and Sutton Smith, even if they’re not glowing endorsements. So call him an inside linebacker, call him an outside linebacker, I don’t care. He’s the pick either way.
Fourth Round (106th overall): CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU
One thing I really wanted to accomplish in this draft was to double dip at the cornerback position with someone who can cover well and play the slot. That’s one of the reasons I predicted the trade, because it helps me to that in the middle rounds, and Hodges-Tomlinson fits the bill. He’s small, but the Steelers haven’t had a problem with that, have they?
Fifth Round (138th overall): C Olusegun Oluwatimi, Michigan
Another thing I wanted to accomplish this draft was to double dip on the offensive line, and I think getting the Michigan center here in the middle of the draft is good value. He would be the Steelers’ reserve center right away, something that they need immediately, with the long-term upside of being a quality starter. His results look better than his process, and the latter can be tuned.
Fifth Round (162nd overall): OLB Habakkuk Baldonado, Pittsburgh
The Steelers decide they still need more edge help and don’t want to risk Baldonado lasting all the way to the seventh round. I’m seeing him being drafted in this area in simulators, so take that for what it’s worth. I have to admit, there are a lot of directions they could go here. I could see them trading down again, but I’m not doing so here.
Seventh Round (241st overall): WR Jake Bobo, UCLA
You didn’t think the Steelers were going to make it out of this thing without taking a skill position player, did you? Not after collecting an extra pick. And even if it’s just a seventh-round pick, Jake Bobo comes in as a tall target who can at least play on special teams. Including possibly competing for the return job. They need one if they don’t trust Gunner Olszewski.
Conclusions: The Steelers addressed some of their principle needs and wants and hit them early, getting their franchise tackle in the first round, some potential starters on day two, and much-needed depth on the final day. They can’t address everything—frankly, I would have liked to take two tackles, but I think, if the players are there, this is a pretty realistic outlook on what the Steelers might like to do. Aside from that, looking at it in hindsight, I have to have one of the best all-time unintentional name drafts. The middle rounds are juicy and rounding it out with a Bobo at the end is the cherry on top.
And now, just for fun and as an afterthought, I decided to take one more swing at the PFF mock draft simulator and see what I can get without trading and without trying to tinker with the results. Although I didn’t get any of the top tackles in the first round, I could definitely live with this outcome:
17: CB Joey Porter Jr.
32: DL Bryan Bresee
49: OT Cody Mauch
80: LB Nick Herbig
120: ILB Ivan Pace Jr.
241: QB Clayton Tune
251: WR Jake Bobo