5 Late-Round Sleepers That Would Be Perfect for the Steelers
For all of the fanfare that early-round picks get in the NFL draft, no team can be successful if it doesn't win in the late rounds. Getting a player on that third day who can impact the team either as a starter or key backup is a big win for an NFL front office. The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have a great recent track record with late picks, but this is a deep class and that should help.
This list is a long way from comprehensive, and it really doesn’t represent an order from best to worst prospects by any means. Instead, I chose to order it in terms of the positions that are of greatest need for the Steelers. On the right team, any or all of these players have starter potential. And all of them have strengths that really fit what the Steelers want and need out of these players.
Read on and check out these five late-round sleepers the Steelers need to target in the 2015 NFL draft.
All player data courtesy of the college football section of sports-reference.com.
Zack Wagenmann, DE/OLB Montana
I understand that even though I am including a pass-rushing outside linebacker here, that does not preclude the Steelers from drafting one early. In fact, I am hopeful that the Steelers do double up on pass-rushers in 2015.
The only outside linebacker with any real experience currently under contract is Jarvis Jones, and he hasn’t lived up to expectations to this point. So, why not bring in a couple of guys in hopes of finding a couple of quality players?
Unfortunately, many of the guys who were sleeper prospects during the season like Norfolk State’s Lynden Trail and UCLA’s Owamagbe Odighizuwa have been creating a buzz since the season ended.
That means the Steelers must look to the sky. And by sky I mean the Big Sky Conference and Montana pass-rush maniac Zack Wagenmann. If you are scouting the Internet for gaudy triangle numbers and ridiculous measurables, you are going to be disappointed. That’s not what Wagenmann’s game is about.
Wagemann is everything that fans wanted last year’s sixth-round pick Jordan Zumwalt to be and so much more. Wagenmann is all-out effort all the time, and that’s just the type of player new defensive coordinator Keith Butler likes. Wagenmann has a nice first step, but his strength is in his relentless motor and violent hands.
Wagenmann is quite polished in terms of multiple pass-rush techniques and often wins early because he is able to extend his arms quickly and use that punch to jar the offensive lineman. His lack of ideal triangle numbers and level of competition will push him down, but Wagenmann would look great in the black and gold.
Deshazor Everett, CB/S Texas A&M
Coming in second on the needs list for the Steelers are defensive backs. Whether it is a safety or a cornerback, the Steelers secondary needs an upgrade. The current group took a beating in 2014, but things can get better.
A first step is finding a cornerback early in the draft. I have confidence that the Steelers will buck the trend of avoiding cornerbacks early and go after a top prospect early. This would provide them with the leverage to take a shot on a player later on.
And that player could be Texas A&M cornerback/safety Deshazor Everett. Everett has moved between cornerback and safety during his time with the Aggies and has put together an impressive resume. Let’s not beat around the bush. Everett is a safety in the NFL, not a cornerback. His style of play is physical and aggressive, but he lacks polish in coverage and gets beat too often to be counted on consistently.
Nevertheless, that isn’t why you draft Everett. You draft Everett to be an enforcer over the middle, striking fear in running backs and tight ends. You draft Everett to crowd the line of scrimmage and deliver hits on running backs. There’s nothing to say Everett cannot become a steady nickel cornerback, but for the Steelers, Everett looks like an improved version of safety Mike Mitchell, and anything that can get Mitchell off the roster is a good thing for me.
Malcolm Agnew, RB Southern Illinois
The lack of depth at running back for the Steelers was exposed severely when star running back Le’Veon Bell suffered an injury just before the playoffs. The Steelers coaching staff thought Bell was indestructible and never properly addressed the lack of depth after releasing LeGarrette Blount. The Steelers are going to have to find a player or two to compete for that backup spot in the upcoming season.
There’s no harm in having Southern Illinois running back Malcolm Agnew. Agnew is a hard-nosed runner with exceptional pad level and some really shifty feel. Angew plays low to the ground, which makes him really challenging to tackle. His quick feet get him through the hole in a hurry, and he shows excellent balance in the open field.
Along with all those pluses, Agnew is going to be crammed in a very talented and crowded third day, which will push him down. For the Steelers, it is Agnew’s ability to not only carry the load at running back, but also stay on the field on third down as a receiver. The Salukis like to use that inside-zone delay that Bell gashed teams for. Agnew is a natural for it with his vision and burst.
James Castleman, DE/DT Oklahoma State
There hasn’t been as much conversation about the need for a defensive end, but it seems that there definitely is. The Steelers have Cameron Heyward, who is a fantastic young player. However, beyond him, things are just a little dicey. Cam Thomas was a disappointment in 2014, and Brett Keisel can’t play forever. Even if second-year player Stephon Tuitt is prepared to step in and start, adding quality depth would allow them to trim the fat, so to speak.
If you haven’t had a chance to see Oklahoma State defensive tackle James Castleman play, I advise you to go back and catch a game or two. Castleman is listed at 6’2”, 300 pounds, but he looks and plays like a guy much leaner and more fit. Castleman is one of the best all-around athletes on the team, which you see in the video that accompanies this breakdown.
With his long arms and great first step, Castleman could work into the rotation at defensive end and kick inside in sub packages as a two-gap tackle. Castleman does a great job playing with his head up and breaks down the play well. He's a sure tackler and, with his strength, once he gets his hands on you it is over. If there’s a player to wow at the NFL Scouting Combine, it might just be Castleman.
Wes Saxton, TE South Alabama
We wrap up this list with a position that many Steelers fans clamor for in the comments sections of my other articles. Pittsburgh fans are waiting for another receiving threat at tight end. I can’t say that I blame them.
Heath Miller is easily the greatest tight end in franchise history, but even he can’t play forever. The rest of the Steelers tight end depth chart is comprised mainly of blockers with limited athleticism and receiving ability.
Pittsburgh tried last season to bring an athletic guy in Eric Waters, but he did not have the opportunity to impress quickly enough to find his way onto the final roster—or even the practice squad for that matter. However, the Steelers can try again, this time with South Alabama’s Wes Saxton. Saxton isn’t a huge target (6’4”, 235 lbs), but he is an impressive athlete with great speed and dynamic leaping.
What Saxton isn’t is a polished route-runner or receiver. Saxton will wow you with one catch, then drop the easy one. Rather than crisp breaks, Saxton tries to bully his way into his routes. However, even though Saxton is raw, his athleticism and upside are more than worth a late pick late. Saxton could even develop into a fullback/H-back type of player working out of the backfield.