Stock Up, Stock Down for Pittsburgh Steelers' Top Draft Targets
Even with the 2014 NFL draft mere days away, many prospective pro’s have seen their stocks continue to rise or fall.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans were once hopeful that Mike Evans could slide to their team, but it’s now more likely that he’s gone in the top five selections. Similarly, Taylor Lewan would’ve been seen as a great pick at 15 a few months ago, but some teams may now consider him undraftable.
Of course, things are only getting more intense as draft day looms ever closer. Teams are crossing names off their list and elevating others.
The following are just some incoming pros that could be pleasantly surprised or incredibly disappointed in the days to come.
Stock Up: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
When news that Mike Evans would be entering the NFL draft came out, it was expected that he’d be one of the Steelers biggest (literally) targets. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, his ever-rising draft stock has made that little more than a pipe dream.
The odds that Evans falls out of the top 10, let alone to pick 15, have decreased greatly throughout the evaluation process.
Many draft analysts, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller included, see Evans as one of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers top targets at seventh overall. That pick would definitely make sense after the team jettisoned four-year starter Mike Williams this offseason.
WalterFootball.com has the 231-pound Evans going higher at fifth overall to the Oakland Raiders in their latest mock draft. According to CBS Cleveland, DraftInsider.net’s Tony Pauline has heard that the Cleveland Browns even have Evans ahead of Sammy Watkins on their draft board.
Many teams still see Watkins as the better prospect, but all it takes is one to become enamored with Evans’ measurables, and he could wind up being a top-five pick.
Stock Down: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
It surprised many that Taylor Lewan didn’t declare for the 2013 NFL draft.
Sure, the class was loaded at the tackle spot, but a stalwart left tackle never goes out of style. That draft saw eight offensive lineman selected in the top 20 and Lewan almost certainly could’ve jumped at least half of them.
As it turns out, Lewan may live to regret that decision. His aggressive, on-field demeanor once would’ve endeared him to personnel men, but when that confrontational temperment supposedly reared its head off the field, Lewan’s draft stock took a blow.
It was announced in March, per ESPN's Michael Rothstein, that Lewan is being charged with three misdemeanors stemming from an alleged assault on two Ohio State fans in early December. In fact, the incident was mere hours after Lewan’s Wolverines suffered a gut-wrenching one-point loss to the Buckeyes.
Obviously, NFL teams want their guys up front to be aggressive, mean and yes, in a sense, bullyish. But in the wake of the Richie Incognito scandal, some teams may be hesitant to spend a first-rounder on a player with a track record.
That includes a Steelers team that, though tackle isn't its greatest need, would otherwise have to consider Lewan if available.
Stock Up: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The talk of cornerbacks at the Steelers’ draft spot has centered largely around two names: Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard. However, it’s entirely possible that both will be off the board when it’s Pittsburgh’s turn to pick.
If so, there are still a few names to consider at the cornerback spot. Bradley Roby and Jason Verrett are both expected Day 1 picks, but issues with character and size, respectively, may deter the Steelers.
One player with no such concerns is Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller.
Similar to Ike Taylor, Fuller won’t pull down many interceptions. But, like Taylor, he’s got the size, speed and competitiveness to hang with any receiver and is more than willing to help in run support.
Stock Down: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Perhaps no player has seen his draft stock fluctuate more over the past few months than Alabama’s C.J. Mosley. Mosley could be drafted in the first half of Round 1 or fall out of the first day altogether and few would bat an eye.
WalterFootball.com’s Charlie Campbell discussed the multitude of reasons that could trigger a slide for Mosley. For starters, inside linebacker just isn’t a sought after position in this year’s draft.
Another issue hurting Mosley’s draft stock is getting hurt. Mosley’s been hampered by elbow, hip and shoulder injuries throughout his collegiate career.
And as Campbell noted, there’s some concern as to why he didn’t run the full gamut of workouts at the combine. He did alleviate some of those concerns with a 4.63 40-yard dash at Alabama’s pro day.
Lastly, there’s a growing stigma with Alabama players. The program’s been historically dominant in recent years, but that hasn’t translated to individual success at the next level (Trent Richardson, Mark Ingram and Dre Kirkpatrick being prime examples).
It’s fair to wonder if much of the Tide’s recent success isn’t the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
Stock Up: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The top two wide receivers in this year’s draft class, Watkins and Evans, have been cemented in those spots since they declared. After those two, however, there's a bit more uncertainty at the wideout position.
You could make a case for Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee or Kelvin Benjamin as the third-best in what’s undeniably a stacked group at the position. Another young man who’s seen his name come up more and more often in that discussion recently is LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham was very good in his last collegiate season with 1,152 yards on just 59 catches. His impressive combine performances in the 20- and 60-yard shuttles as well as the 40-yard dash only heightened his draft stock.
According to NOLA.com's Jim Kleinpeter, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. previously had Beckham going to the Steelers, but his latest mock draft has him jumping a few spots to the Detroit Lions at No. 10 overall. Also per Kleinpeter, Kiper's colleague Todd McShay, bumped the receiver up all the way from No. 21 (Green Bay Packers) to No. 12 (New York Giants).