Assigning Odds to Every Potential Pittsburgh Steelers 1st-Round Pick
Many of us don't do a lot of gambling. And betting on something like the NFL draft would be considered risky at best, and just nuts at worst. The randomness of the first order of the NFL draft is sufficient to make even the most committed analysts and writers pull their hair out.
Everyone, and I mean everyone wants to be right about their teams' picks, especially that elusive first-round choice. However, the fact of the matter is, unless you are privy to the inside of your favorite team's war room, an educated guess is all anyone will muster.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have some pretty clear, albeit broad team needs. There are multiple positions that could be construed as a first-round priority. Because of that, trying to apply any sort of odds to a particular player takes some creativity and a little work.
If you are an NFL draft fan, it is encouraged that you find your way to the Fanspeak.com mock draft simulator. While not a perfect tool by any means, it provides an interesting look at the draft process, from multiple points of view. Each run through is random and gave a fascinating group of players who made this list.
Determination of the odds for these particular players being selected was generated by the Fanspeak mock draft simulator. The odds were determined by 75 runs with the simulator (25 for each of the provided player lists). Is it a perfect system? Nope, not at all. But it did provide some very interesting results based on the lists of three prominent draft sites (Fanspeak, Walter Football and Optimum Scouting).
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
For this exercise, Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan was the favorite. In 75 trials, Lewan was the pick for the Steelers 26 times. This was well ahead of any other player who appeared in this list.
Lewan makes perfect sense as a pick for the Steelers, especially when the top cornerback and wide receivers are off the board. Lewan is a safe pick, and a long-term solution at left tackle. There might be selections that would be considered flashier, but Lewan is very much a Steelers-type of pick.
Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Next up on the list is a different offensive lineman. This time it is multi-purpose offensive tackle Zack Martin of Notre Dame. Martin showed up in the runs 18 times.
Martin at pick 15 feels a little early, but if he can really start at either guard or tackle spot, he would make a lot of sense. Again, Martin is a safe pick. He came off the board to Pittsburgh when the trials fell so that Lewan was already off the board, which might make this pick look like something of a reach. However, as the Steelers learned last year, you can never have enough talented offensive linemen.
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Finally a jump from offense to defense with this pick. Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III showed up 17 times in the 75 runs. One less than Martin, but he netted essentially the same odds of being chosen.
Nix is the best pure nose tackle prospect in the draft, and he would certainly fill a huge need. Is 15 too soon for Nix? Perhaps, but if the goal is to move defensive tackle Steve McLendon outside, Nix could be an opening day starter.
Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
At this point, the numbers really kind of fall off the table. This isn’t a flaw of the system in terms of the Steelers. However, in almost every instance, the top cornerbacks go well before the Steelers’ pick. But in three instances, the system generated Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert as the pick.
Of all the top cornerbacks in this draft, Gilbert has the most enticing set of skills that fit the Steelers. He’s got a significant edge in height and length over the other top man coverage cornerbacks in this draft. Gilbert also plays with elite speed, which is something the Steelers look for in their cornerbacks.
Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
How great a need a pass-rushing outside linebacker is for Pittsburgh is a matter of some debate. However, with Jarvis Jones coming along slowly and Jason Worilds playing on a one-year contract, they can always use another pass-rusher.
Auburn defensive end Dee Ford made the list only three times, but could be a sneaky pick for the Steelers. Pittsburgh didn’t have any problem spending a first-round pick on a pass-rushing linebacker in 2013, and their situation right now is just as tenuous.
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Interestingly, in three of the runs, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald showed up as the selection. In all three cases, Nix was still on the board when the pick came in. By comparison, when Nix was the pick, Donald had been drafted every time.
A Donald pick would certainly excite the fanbase, as Donald is a local star. However, his role with the team is cloudy. Donald lacks the length to play defensive end in a 3-4 defense. Moving him inside as a nose tackle appears to be a waste of his more natural abilities. There’s no doubt Donald has the potential to be a special player, but he would be a situational one in Pittsburgh.
Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Now, we are getting down to the real long shots of the list. Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman only showed up twice in the runs, even though he was still on the board in more than half of them when the Steelers made their selection.
If the Steelers are looking for an immediate impact player along the defensive line, Hageman might be the one. He has the requisite length and power to line up at defensive end opposite Cameron Heyward. And on passing downs, Hageman has the hands and quickness to rush the passer from the inside.
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The next long shot on the list is Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy. Ealy, like Hageman, only found his way to the Steelers twice. This means the odds of the Steelers taking a shot on Ealy are slim, but perhaps it would be a wise move.
At 263 pounds, Ealy has trimmed down to the point where he would make an ideal pass-rushing outside linebacker on the right side. His ability to come off the edge on that left tackle is his strength. However, as we have seen during his career, Ealy is more than capable of getting up to around 280 pounds and still being dynamic. His versatility makes him a very interesting pick.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The longest of the long shots on this list is Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard. In 75 runs, the simulator only gave the Steelers the Michigan State star a single time. And this was not a case where Dennard wasn’t the choice because he was already picked. Dennard was only taken ahead of the Steelers’ pick around half of the time.
This could be a consequence of the potential drop Dennard is making in the eyes of the public. Honestly, Dennard’s game is somewhat overrated compared to his peers. Most of the top cornerbacks in the first-round mix are some combination of taller, faster or more skilled to varying degrees. Don’t be shocked if Pittsburgh passes on Dennard altogether in May.