Steelers Mock Draft: Final 7 Round Projections
The 2014 NFL draft is so close. An extra long offseason has been both a blessing and a curse. Teams have been granted an extended look at potential prospects. At the same time, paralysis by analysis has set in for many prospects by the media.
Looking at the draft from a Pittsburgh Steelers perspective, things are likely set. Team needs are relatively set. Here’s a quick rundown of the positions the Steelers are likely to address.
- Wide Receiver
- Defensive Line
- Outside Linebacker
- Offensive Line
- Running Back
- Tight End
Obviously, this situation is fluid and could change. However, breaking down the draft talent at these positions, look for the Steelers to go after cornerback, wide receiver and defensive line early on. After that, the Steelers’ front office will likely weigh out the value of each player in the round, and rather than reach for a particular position, draft the highest rated player on the board.
This final incarnation also includes a trade. But, not a trade back as you expect. Instead, the Steelers take some of their nine picks to go up and get a top player. Will it pay off? Can they fill their needs? Read on and find out.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
After making a trade with the Buffalo Bills to get them to the eighth pick, the Steelers go after a real playmaker on offense. It would break down like this:
Pittsburgh sends pick No. 15 and pick No. 46 to Buffalo for the No. 9 and pick No. 73. Losing a second-round pick isn’t ideal, however, if the goal is to improve in a hurry, this first-round selection must be an impact player.
The pick here is Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. Evans’ draft stock has fluctuated a great deal in the public, but his game hasn’t changed. He’s a huge target on the outside that can go up and go to get the football. His size (6’5”, 231 pounds) matched with shocking athleticism makes him the final puzzle piece for an ascending offense.
This wide receiver depth chart has plenty of speed and quickness. Evans gives them that added dimension that no other player available can give them. Even if he doesn't start from the very beginning, Evans' physical tools will be too much to keep him off the field.
Jaylen Watkins, CB Florida
Cornerback is likely the most pressing need this team has at this point. Ike Taylor is entering what is likely his final season, and Cortez Allen has yet to find the consistency to earn a full-time starting spot. Behind them, you have veteran William Gay, better suited as a nickel cornerback, and safety Shamarko Thomas, who was pressed into duty in 2013.
For all the talk that Florida cornerbacks Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy got early in the season, it was Jaylen Watkins who had proven to be the best all-around cornerback on the roster. Watkins is great in press-man coverage and is a physical, hard-nosed player. He’s got nice size, and he loves to stick his nose in the play and hit.
Watkins would certainly challenge for the nickel cornerback spot early on, and with a year under his belt, he could step into a starting spot.
Justin Ellis, DT, Louisiana Tech
The one thing this defensive line has been missing since defensive tackle Casey Hampton left was a true nose tackle. The beauty of Hampton’s game was he knew his role, and he not only embraced it, he excelled. Hampton could stuff the run, re-direct plays and, if the ball got too close, finish with authority.
There’s a real chance Pittsburgh can get another player like Hampton with La. Tech defensive tackle Justin Ellis. “Jelly Bean,” as he’s called, is a classic nose tackle prospect. Low center of gravity, impressive leverage and lots of power. Ellis even has a decent burst off the line and does a nice job with his hands.
Adding Ellis would mean they could have three players who could rotate along the interior, keeping a fresh body in the middle. This defense struggled last year, forcing lots of substitutions and lots of sub packages. Ellis could help keep this team in base defense where they are at their best.
Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota State
Last season, the Pittsburgh offensive line was littered with injuries. This forced players into service who normally wouldn’t play and forced players out of position. Adding some talent at this point in the draft would be a great idea.
North Dakota offensive tackle Billy Turner is an angry, physical football player who drives defenders down the field. While not the most technically sound player, when Turner gets his hands on you, he wishes to punish you.
With Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert as the incumbent starting tackles, Turner would be a definite upgrade on either side. He is a high-motor player who never takes a play off. There’s even a chance that Turner could kick inside at left guard in place of Ramon Foster. Either way, this pick makes a ton of sense.
George Uko, DE, USC
Other than starting defensive end Cameron Heyward, nothing is certain about the Pittsburgh defensive line to start this season. Starter Steve McLendon returns but underwhelmed in 2013. Cam Thomas looks the part of a 3-4 nose tackle but has struggled with consistency in his career. What is a team to do?
To start with, they can draft USC defensive lineman George Uko. At 6’3” and 285 pounds, Uko fits the mold perfectly as a 3-4 defensive end. He’s got great length and understands how to take advantage of his hands to manipulate defenders.
Uko is also an enticing choice because during his time at USC, he was moved all over the defensive line. He’d be asked to do something similar along the Steelers defensive front. Uko has excellent burst off the snap, which makes him value as a pass-rusher coming off the edge.
Prince Shembo, LB, Notre Dame
I am not sure why Notre Dame linebacker Prince Shembo doesn’t get more hype, but if the Steelers can get him in the fifth round, he would be a steal. Shembo is a steady performer as a pass-rushing outside linebacker, and he has the strength to set the edge against the run.
Shembo doesn’t have the measurables that some players have, which knocks him down a peg. Nonetheless, put on the film, and you see a player who brought it every single down. Even with some limitations, he found ways to be continually disruptive.
Pittsburgh needs a third outside linebacker to spell Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones, and Shembo has a tremendous amount of upside. He’s got a squatty, muscular frame and good length on his arms. He’d be a nice rotational player on the outside.
Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
There was a time when Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin was considered a first-round pick. However, after a torn ACL at the Senior Bowl, his draft stock took a nosedive, as his 2014-15 season is in jeopardy.
Colvin is a naturally gifted defensive back. He’s as comfortable at cornerback as he is at safety. Along those same lines, Colvin has tremendous experience in both man and zone coverage schemes. He is a smooth athlete with better field speed than he times.
Colvin is also a fearless run defender, even if he is a little undersized. Pittsburgh’s secondary needs some significant pieces, so adding Colvin as a multipurpose football player makes a lot of sense, even he cannot contribute in 2014.
Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Coastal Carolina
If you aren’t sure who Lorenzo Taliaferro is, I suggest you find some Coastal Carolina games and check out this talented running back. With all the big-conference backs getting all of the attention, a player like Taliaferro is going to slip, and some team is going to be able to snatch up a potential star.
Taliaferro has a tremendous physical build (6’0”, 229 pounds) but pairs it with surprising agility. With Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount already in the mix, Taliaferro could be a terrific third-down option. Film shows he is a solid route runner and has naturally soft hands.
The Coastal Carolina product plays with a great forward lean and is just as comfortable delivering a blow as he is avoiding one. If you subscribe to the notion of having a stable of backs that are all similar so as to keep continuity in the offense, Taliaferro is a great pick here.
Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
Sometimes a player’s slide has nothing to do with their ability to play. That’s the case for Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla. Judging him only on talent, Lyerla is as good as any tight end in the draft. That includes consensus top tight end pick Eric Ebron from North Carolina.
Nevertheless, it is no wonder that Lyerla is in the seventh-round mix, rather than the first-round mix. Here’s a nice summation of Lyerla’s off-field problems from the previous season. What all this means is that no matter how much potential he has, the team that drafts him is going to have to weigh the risk/reward of using a pick on him.
I can’t think of a team that would be a better fit for a talent like Lyerla that needs mentoring. Heath Miller would take him under his wing, and a player like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could be exactly what he needs to help his game grow and teach him the importance of learning from mistakes.