Should the Steelers select Keenan Allen in the first round?
For only the third time since Mike Tomlin became head coach in 2007, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be drafting in the top 20. If the Steelers are to remain relevant in the AFC playoff picture, they must make the most of this draft.
The Steelers have made their picks count the previous two times drafting in the top 20.
The 2007 draft was headlined by star linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley while the 2010 draft was deep with talent as the Steelers netted five potential starters for the 2010 season.
Can the Steelers match this type of success with another top-20 selection in 2013? Absolutely, but only if the dominoes fall in the Steelers' favor. That is exactly what this mock draft will look at.
Here are the best-case scenarios for each round of the 2013 draft.
Note: All combine results and college stats are via NFL.com.
The Steelers rarely pass on value in the first round, and they should not pass up on the opportunity to select the top safety in the draft—Kenny Vaccaro.
With Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark both over 30 years old, the Steelers are in need of finding future replacements to take over at safety.
Besides needing a future starter, the Steelers’ depth at the position was depleted with backup safeties Will Allen and Ryan Mundy both leaving via free agency.
Vaccaro has terrific size at 6’0” and 214 pounds as well as adequate speed, running the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds.
As a rookie, Vaccaro would not need to start as a rookie but rather use the season to develop into an eventual starter. Given the lack of depth at safety, the Steelers would have Vaccaro play on passing downs.
Matt Miller compared Vaccaro to Adrian Wilson and praised him for his versatility as well as his “ball-hawking ability and hard hits playing center field.”
Vaccaro’s ability to play multiple positions will aid him in making an impact early in his professional career.
The Steelers will like his physical style of play—evident in his 92 tackles last season—as well as his playmaking ability as he had two interceptions and seven passes defended last season.
Sigmund Bloom classified Vaccaro’s style as “violent” and that he plays “with the mentality of a linebacker.”
That's exactly what the Steelers like out of their safeties, and there no better fit than Vaccaro.
Previous selection: Cordarelle Patterson, WR Tennessee
Keenan Allen in the second round? After a slow 40-yard dash time, it is possible.
Allen ran a slow 4.71 and 4.75 40-yard dash as he continues to recover from a knee injury. NFL.com’s Mike Mayock spoke to Allen’s trainers, and they said that his knee is 100 percent, but he has regained “only 75 to 85 percent of his explosion.”
With these concerns, Allen could fall to the second round where the Steelers would have no issues snatching him up.
Allen has ideal size—6’2”, 206 pounds—and production at the college level that will make him an attractive option to eventually start opposite of Antonio Brown at receiver.
Ryan Lownes had this to say about Allen:
As long as he can make a full physical and mental recovery from his season-ending knee injury, Allen has the blend of size and athleticism necessary to hold down a starting spot for a long time. He is versatile in terms of where he can line up in the formation and should be able to contribute immediately if healthy.
He fits well with a team like the Steelers due to his ability to improvise and find open areas of the field when the play breaks down.
Allen is the big, physical specimen that the Steelers need at the receiver position and will help ease the loss of Mike Wallace.
Previous selection: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
At 6’3”, 250 pounds, Jamie Collins has the size that the Steelers look for in their linebackers and would be a terrific developmental pass rusher in the middle of the draft.
Collins ran an impressive 4.64 40 at the combine and had a productive senior season at Southern Miss with 92 tackles, 10 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss.
While Jarvis Jones and other outside linebacker prospects have been the talk as potential first-round selections, the Steelers do not find their pass-rushers in the first. Players such as LaMarr Woodley and Joey Porter have been drafted in the second and third rounds, respectively.
Collins would provide the Steelers with a developmental outside linebacker who would immediately have to step in as the top backup on the team as well as a potential future starter at right outside linebacker.
Previous selection: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
With Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, the Steelers have more than enough power backs on the roster. Now they need to add a player with some speed and versatility.
Johnathan Franklin would provide just that.
Franklin ran a 4.49 40-yard dash and has the ability to make a cut and get the ball up the field quickly. He demonstrated this while rushing for 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns last year at UCLA.
Besides his running ability, Franklin is a good receiver who could really add a different dimension to the Steelers’ passing game as they continue to evolve under Todd Haley.
While Franklin is a bit undersized at 5’10”, 205 pounds, Sigmund Bloom believes he can become a starter in the league:
Franklin will probably be replaced in short yardage and some passing situations, especially early in his career. He projects as a strong 1A back on a zone-blocking running team, and he might be productive enough to become a primary back that gets 250-300 touches a season.
Previous selection: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M
After selecting a physical safety early, the Steelers should come back and take more of a role player at safety later.
Josh Evans allowed teammate Matt Elam to fly around the field to make plays while at Florida, and he could be paired with Vaccaro to do the same in the NFL. In essence, the Steelers would be trying to replicate their current pairing of Polamalu and Clark.
Evans has terrific size at 6’1”, 207 pounds and enough speed running the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds. He would project as a free safety for the Steelers.
Matt Miller believes that Evans can develop into a starter because of his instincts and agility to make up for his lack of elite speed.
The selection of Evans—paired with Vaccaro—will set the Steelers at safety for years to come.
Previous selection: Jonathan Cyprien, S, South Florida
With Doug Legursky as a free agent, the Steelers lack a true center to backup up Maurkice Pouncey. Enter Khaled Holmes.
Holmes would be a steal at this point of the draft as he can back up at both center and guard and has the upside as an eventual starter.
At 6’2”, 302 pounds, Holmes is big enough to handle the bigger interior defensive linemen in the league but is athletic enough to pull.
In fact, Ryan McCrystal wrote that athleticism is Holmes’ biggest strength.
With the effort to get more athletic on their offensive line, Holmes would be perfect for a reserve role and future starter.
Previous selection: B.W. Webb, CB, William & Mary
At this point of the draft, it would be a surprise if Marquis Goodwin is available, but this is a best-case scenario draft, and it is possible that Goodwin will fall to the sixth.
Earlier in the draft, the Steelers added size with Allen; now they would be getting a pure speedster with Goodwin.
Goodwin ran a blazing 4.27 40 and would be more than worth the risk this late in the draft. Despite his lack of size at only 5’9”, 183 pounds, he has more than enough speed to beat even the fastest defensive backs.
In addition to his receiving ability, Goodwin would also fill the return man position for the Steelers.
Sigmund Bloom had the following to say about Goodwin:
Goodwin will continue to return kicks and get used on jet sweeps, wide receiver screens, go routes and double moves, but he has shown the potential to do more. He may never be an every-down receiver, but he has flashed enough football skill to shrug the "gimmick"-player label.
Goodwin could go as high as the second or third round, but his lack of size and refinement could cause him to fall.
Previous selection: None
The Steelers will enter the 2013 season with Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote at inside linebacker. Behind them, Sean Spence may not be ready for the season so they must add depth.
Michael Mauti presents an interesting situation. He may not be ready to play this season either as he recovers from an ACL injury, but his value is too good here.
Watching Mauti at Penn State over the years, I have seen him as an intelligent player who is always in position to make plays. He does a lot very well but nothing great.
But there are few linebackers as well-rounded as Mauti. He is a tremendous leader and loves the game of football.
While Mauti may need a year on the injured list, he is more than worth a shot this late in the draft.
Previous selection: Tanner Hawkinson, OL, Kansas