Steelers' Mock Draft: Instant Contributors Pittsburgh Can Find in Every Round
There have been some big changes in the last week for the NFL from a draft perspective. The league handed out compensatory picks for every team who qualified. Compensatory picks are given as compensation for free agents who were lost without compensatory signings from the season before.
If a team loses sufficient players and fails to re-sign adequate talent, the league gives them selections between the third and seventh round.
These picks are expected to be commensurate to the players lost. This year, the Pittsburgh Steelers were fortunate to land three picks, including the golden egg that is a third-round pick. The Steelers were also awarded an additional fifth-round selection as well as an additional sixth.
Here's how the Steelers' picks break down as of now:
- First Round-15th pick overall
- Second Round-46th overall
- Third Round-97th overall (compensatory pick)
- Fourth Round-118th overall
- Fifth Round-157th overall
- Fifth Round-173rd overall (compensatory pick)
- Sixth Round-192nd overall
- Sixth Round-215th overall (compensatory pick)
- Seventh Round-230th overall
With nine picks, including three in the Top 100, it would stand to reason the Steelers might want to make some moves. Compensatory picks cannot be traded, but Pittsburgh does have adequate ammunition to move up if there was a player they coveted.
However, if they stay put, they have the opportunity to bring in plenty of young athletes to help this team win. Here is a latest projection for all nine of the Steelers’ picks, with some immediate impact players.
The pick: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Most projections for the Steelers have them drafting either a wide receiver or a cornerback in this spot. It makes sense that either position would be a key priority. However, both classes are expected to be very deep—probably the deepest positions in the entire draft.
This means the Steelers can focus on drafting the highest-rated player on their board, without being locked into a single position. So, for this, the pick is linebacker Anthony Barr from UCLA. The Steelers made a point to sign Arthur Moats to provide depth at linebacker. However, he is a better fit on the inside, leaving the Steelers lacking for pass-rushing linebackers.
Barr is one of the most explosive edge players in the entire draft. While raw, Barr’s physical tools are undeniable. There’s no player who could benefit more from the coaching of Joey Porter and Dick LeBeau than Barr could. With Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones as the starters, Barr would have some time to learn the subtleties of the position before the Steelers unleash him.
The pick: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
One position the Steelers have not addressed in free agency as of yet is cornerback. Ike Taylor has one more year, and then it is Cortez Allen and very little else. That means the pick the Steelers make here will likely be a nickel cornerback in 2014, but expected to start in 2015.
Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir is the top small-school prospect in the draft. While playing at Lindenwood, Desir was rarely tested, and when he was, the rangy corner typically rose to the occasion. The Steelers like tall cornerbacks with man coverage skills, making Desir tailor-made for what they like to do.
Another strength to Desir’s game is his ball skills. Desir does a great job tracking the football in the air. He is able to go up and fight for the ball, and has the hands to take it away from wide receivers. Desir is talented enough, and if he can pick up the defense, could find himself in the starting lineup in 2013, pushing Taylor to nickel corner.
The Pick: Donte Moncrief, WR Mississippi
After passing on a wide receiver in the first round, the Steelers turn their attention to it here. The Steelers have a talented group of wide receivers now, led by Antonio Brown. Brown is one of the most explosive players in the entire league. Even the receivers behind him, Lance Moore and Markus Wheaton, are tremendous.
However, they all lack one key attribute: height. The tallest of the three is barely 5’11”. There are those times when a big, tall target is a must, and Pittsburgh gets theirs here. Mississippi wide receiver Donte Moncrief slips a little due to some inconsistency in his game, but make no mistake, he can play.
Moncrief is nearly 6’3” with 32-inch arms. This gives him a tremendous plus catch radius. Moncrief is more than just a big possession-type of wide receiver. With a nice burst off the line and legit 4.4 speed, Moncrief can be an outside-the-hashes receiver right out of the gate.
The Pick: George Uko, DT, USC
The Steelers made a point to reach out and in one instance sign some help for a depleted offensive line. Cam Thomas is built more like a 3-4 nose tackle, meaning the Steelers are still in the hunt for a five-technique defensive end. Sometimes, the best picks like these are made by drafting interior linemen and moving them outside.
USC defensive tackle George Uko is an undersized defensive tackle just built for that Steelers defensive line. At 284 pounds, Uko has the requisite beef for the spot. And with 32.25-inch arms, he can keep offensive linemen at bay while rushing the passer. Uko isn’t great in run support, but his ability to come off the edge would be very beneficial, especially in sub formations.
The Pick: Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State
Pittsburgh has been extremely fortunate to have Heath Miller around as long as they have. Miller has been a steady performer for the past nine seasons. However, the Steelers must look to the future of the position with this pick. The tight end depth chart doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
Colorado State tight end Crockett Gillmore really reminds one of Miller in how he plays. They are of the same stature, and both are more productive than athletic. Gillmore does a great job using his frame to box out defenders in the middle of the field.
He also has huge hands that allow him to reel in catches that are off the mark. The Steelers aren’t shy about using two tight ends, and Gillmore opposite Miller would create some real matchup problems in the deep middle of the field.
The Pick: Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
With the first of the Steelers’ two fifth-round picks, they go after a player who is a project, but has an impressive upside on the offensive line. The inclusion of Mike Munchak as offensive line coach means bringing in a high risk/high reward type of tackle is a safer bet.
Miami offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson plays like a first-round pick at times. However, he finds himself in the fifth round because at other times he plays more like a seventh-round selection. His physical stature cannot be denied. There aren’t many 6’7”, 331-pound human beings in the NFL. And there are even fewer who can move like Henderson at times.
The big question with Henderson is can he remain focused and put forth consistent effort to make use of all that talent. If he can, he will be a genuine steal in the fifth round.
The Pick: De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
The Steelers have put together a very nice one-two punch in the backfield with Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. Both are big, physical bruisers who will be the blunt instruments of this offense. So, why not add in a home-run threat that can come in when the defense has their hands on their hips and run right past them?
Enter Oregon offensive weapon De’Anthony Thomas. Thomas’ 2013 season went nothing like he hoped. With that, he opted to declare early for the NFL draft. At this point, a change of scenery and a new system might be just what he needs. From a Steelers perspective, Thomas would represent the lightning to Bell's and Blount’s thunder. He is an explosive and agile player who excels in the open field.
Thomas can also impact the passing game as well as special teams, almost assuring an instant impact even as a sixth-round pick.
The Pick: Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
Pittsburgh opts to dive back into this deep cornerback group by selecting Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell. This is one of those mid-round picks a team makes where you roll the dice on the measurables and hope you can coach up the game.
Cockrell is 6 feet tall and 191 pounds with elite field speed. When you get a package like that in the fifth round, you hope that with his attitude he can learn the subtleties of the position. Cockrell’s strength is in short and intermediate zone coverage where he does a nice job with assignment football, sometimes to a fault.
Cockrell isn’t a finished product at cornerback, but will be an immediate contributor on special teams with his speed and physical nature. At worst, he is likely a nickel/dime cornerback in sub formations.
The Pick: Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma
This late in the draft, all bets are off as far as picks go. So why not take a chance on a kid who can do a lot of things for a team? According to Ourlads, the Steelers starting fullback is Will Johnson, and their backup tight ends are David Paulson and Michael Palmer.
All fine contributors, but none of them is overly athletic or provides much in the way of production at any position. So, rather than roll with these guys, why not take a shot on a kid who can do everything they can do and more?
That’s what Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard did when he was healthy. Millard is built like a fullback at 6’2” and 247 pounds, but is something of a Swiss Army knife on offense. He is a punishing lead blocker in the run game, as well as an excellent route-runner with soft hands.
Millard can even get you short-yardage touches in a pinch. With roster spots tight, a player like Millard could have an immediate impact because he can do the work of two players.