2023 NFL Draft

Steelers Take Pass Rusher In Small School-Only Mock Draft

Most mock drafts consist of the typical names. The Will Anderson’s, the slew of top quarterbacks, all the big-name players from the Power 5. But some like an extra challenge and for the small school and sleeper junkies, they’ll love this mock. Opta Analyst’s Craig Haley had his own spin on a mock, limiting himself to only small school players for the Top 31 picks, players who either played or partially played at the FCS or below level. A fun exercise to focus solely on those players, there’s no Bryce Young or Anthony Richardson here.

Instead, for example, with the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft the Carolina Panthers select…North Dakota State OG Cody Mauch. He’s widely considered the top FCS player in the class and in reality, could be a Top 40 pick in this month’s draft. A college tackle, he showcased versatility and willingness to play all three interior positions.

So what about Pittsburgh? With the 17th pick in a small school draft, you’d expect it to be a less-than-familiar name. Here, the team takes Wagner LB/EDGE Titus Leo with Haley providing this interesting nugget about Leo’s background.

“After Leo was recruited as a wide receiver and played cornerback as a freshman, the position change agreed quite well with a pass rusher who made Bruce Feldman’s famed “freaks” list.”

Expanding on the mention of Leo being part of Feldman’s “freaks” list, here’s what he wrote over the summer. 

“A first-team FCS All-American, Leo was the Northeast Conference defensive player of the year for the second consecutive season. The 6-4, 250-pound Leo bench pressed 375 pounds and can do 30 pull-ups. This offseason, the former high school wide receiver vertical-jumped 34 inches, did a 10-5 broad jump and clocked a 4.41 shuttle.”

At the Army Pro Day (which Pittsburgh attended), Leo ran a 4.69 40, put up 20 reps on the bench press, registered a 34 inch vertical, a 10’9″ broad and 4.37 short shuttle. Numbers similar or better than what Feldman listed, the benefit of training helping Leo improve and have a good workout.

Leo is coming off a solid 2022 season for FCS Wagner, finishing up with 65 tackles (14 TFL), three sacks, two forced fumbles, and a pair of blocked kicks. Sure is a colorful stat line. An impact player throughout his career, he registered 234 career tackles, 40 of those going for a loss, with thirteen sacks. If there is such a thing, that’s good value at #17. In the real world, he’s projected to be a late Day Three pick or priority free agent.

While we don’t currently have a profile on Leo, we do have an interview with him. Check out his conversation with our Melanie Friedlander below.

Rounding out the rest of Haley’s mock, the Houston Texans take South Dakota State TE Tucker Kraft second overall while the first QB isn’t selected until pick 15, Incarnate Word’s Lindsey Scott, who put up video game numbers a year ago. There are two players who played in the FBS last year, FCS transfers who played up. Those include Wake Forest DT Kobie Turner from Richmond and La Tech CB Myles Brooks from Stephen F. Austin.

Again, check out Haley’s full mock draft below. It’s obviously just an exercise but it’s something different and I’ll happily take that after reading my 78th mock draft this month.

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