I can smell it in the air. I can feel it in the winds. I can read it from every knucklehead or ne’er-do-well thinks they know what will happen near the end of April. Yes, it’s the time of year when expectations begin to build and speculation runs rampant. When the prognosticators begin to say anything and everything and logic itself simply goes on holiday.
It’s mock draft season.
Last season I started something called “Mock Draft Insanity”. The rules were pretty simple – I could do whatever I wanted to do, and speculate that through the most ridiculous of draft day scenarios the Steelers could somehow acquire an inordinate number of picks, and essentially fill any and every gap possible in a single draft.
Silliness, I know.
The point was twofold. First, to introduce prospects in a hurry (because with 15 or 16 picks in a single draft, that’s a lot of prospects). Secondly, to show just how silly most mock drafts are. It’s early in the season of Mocksanity, and for the most part, the drafts have been bordering on reasonable. Drafts had the Steelers filling a need by drafting a linebacker in the first round. I can get on board with that. I can see the logic in it
Then it happened. Bucky Brooks released his first Mock Draft of the season. Logic has left the building.
PICK 28 Derrius Guice - RB, LSU
"It might be time for the Steelers to move on from Le'Veon Bell. His contract demands could result in him receiving the franchise tag again this off-season. Guice gives the team a solid backup plan for his potential departure this year or next year.”
This on the heels of Bell announcing that he and the Steelers are making solid headway on a new contract. Fellow SCU contributor Zach Metkler created a “days without Steelers drama” chart, and this makes me wonder if maybe the folks NFL.com (or minimally Mr. Brooks) don’t also have a similar chart, but their goal is to keep that chart at “0 days”. Any threat to that must immediately be met by stirring stuff up.
So, it’s with the odoriferous fumes of that nonsense still wafting through my nose that I present to you my first “Mock Draft Insanity” of the season. Before we begin, here are the ground rules (for whatever those are worth):
- I use Fanspeak’s Mock Draft Simulator, and I select for ONLY the Steelers.
- Trades are allowed (and encouraged). I can trade picks for 2018, 19 and 20. I cannot trade players.
- I have to be able to give some theory for why a trade was accepted by another team. That reason does not have to be logical (because the point is that logic is on vacation).
- I have to sit through the movie “Draft Day” prior to starting in order to obtain the appropriate sense of lunacy.
That’s it. It’s a no-holds-barred draft throw down. Let’s get to it!
(And remember – this is supposed to be ridiculous)
In my mind, the primary needs the Steelers need to try and address in the draft are ILB, S, TE and depth at DL, OL, LB, and CB. I really don’t want ILB to be the primary need, and while I hope (as do we all) that Ryan Shazier makes a full recovery, it would be disingenuous to pretend that expectations are high he will be available next season. Mike Mitchell is in the last year of his contract, and while I’m not a Mitchell hater, the Steelers could use an upgrade there. Depending on if they can sign Vance McDonald to something team friendly, they may or may not be in need of a TE. Jesse James is a valuable contributor, but the Steelers showed how having a more dynamic pass-catcher in the position can be a huge boon to the offense. If no deal can be worked out with McDonald, drafting a tight end may be a good idea.
It’s time to start things off in the right vein. Aggression is what is required. I need to stock this club because Ben, Bell, and Brown will likely only be together for a few more years. I need to maximize that window, knowing that in 2021 (my target year for Ben’s retirement) the Steelers are going to stink. As it stands (as of this writing anyway) the Steelers have a first (28), a second, a third, 2 fifths and 2 sevenths. I need picks and I need them bad.
Time to call Cleveland.
I’m going all in. I offer Cleveland my next two first round picks (2019 and 2020), 2019’s second round and 2020’s third round. In return, I want their fourth pick in the first round, two of their second-round picks (1 and 3) and one of their third-round picks (1). They take the deal. Why? Seriously – it’s Cleveland. Isn’t that reason enough?
As the fourth pick approaches, offers roll in. The Jets appear to want Josh Rosen, and they have come to the table offering their first rounder (6), two second-round picks (5 and 17), and a second rounder for next year (2019). Sold! That’s not the end of it. As the sixth pick rolls around the Raiders make an offer which gives me their first round pick (10), their second (9) for the sixth pick. Again – sold! Why did the Raiders make this offer you ask?
Apparently, they have fallen in love with Denzel Ward (at least in the mind of the Fanspeak sim) from Ohio State, as they selected him with the sixth pick.
The Packers make a move next, and offer the fourteenth overall pick and their second (13) to move up so that they can take Minkah Fitzpatrick from Alabama). I’m tempted not to make this trade because I have my eye on Roquan Smith from Georgia, but I do it anyway after countering to get their second-round pick in 2020 as a part of the deal.
So now I’m sitting at 14. Smith is still on the board, but so is Baker Mayfield, and I am thinking that there might be some teams desperate for a quarterback that might want to move up. I am thinking of the Buffalo Bills, so I reach out to them and offer the pick for both the twenty-first and twenty-second picks, as well as one of their second-round picks (21). I’m hoping they aren’t sold on Nathan Peterman, but considering the unfortunate retirement of Eric Wood, they could also be looking for a center. This might be too high for them to take Billy Price from Ohio State, but desperate times call for desperate measure. I make the offer and they take it. They take Mayfield.
After all this wheeling and dealing, here is where I currently stand:
I’ve acquired picks twenty-one and twenty-two in the first round to go along with pick twenty-eight. I have a whole heaping helping of second rounders (1, 3, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21 and 28). I’ve got three third-round picks (1, 28). I still don’t have a pick in the fourth or the sixth, but who cares!
I’m done with dealing, so let’s start drafting.
Round 1 (Picks 21, 22 and 28)
Pick 21 – Derwin James – S (Florida State)
6’3”, 215 pounds
I was a bit surprised that James was still on the boards at 21. I would have loved to take Roquan Smith here but he’s off the boards, having gone at 15. Safety is another top need though, and James is monster. His size and athleticism would make him a great developmental player regardless, but James has fantastic range and great instincts already, and could push to be a starter immediately.
Pick 22 – Isaiah Oliver – CB (Colorado)
6’1”, 195 pounds
I’m taking a risk here. This may be too early for Oliver, and there are more pressing needs for the Steelers. I’m counting on one of them being around at 28 and taking a chance on Oliver here. The Steelers have Joe Haden, Artie Burns and Mike Hilton (as well as Brian Allen as a developmental player) so corner doesn’t seem to be a pressing need. Still, Oliver may be the best corner in this draft. 12 passes defensed and 2 picks last year show his skills, and he did all that while most opposing quarterbacks avoided throwing at him. He has high upside, and I can see him learning from Haden and eventually sliding into that spot in the coming years.
Pick 28 - Malik Jefferson – LB (Texas)
6’3”, 240 pounds
If I can’t have Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds, this is the guy I want. He’s big and strong, and yet has speed and range that belay his size. He is raw, much in the way Ryan Shazier was raw when he first came into the league, but his potential is limitless in my opinion. He has the position flexibility to play both inside and outside. I think he has the range to cover tight ends and running backs in the flat, and do it well. In 2017 Jefferson posted 10+ tackles in 6 games. He posted 14 (11 solo, 3 assists) in one game alone (against Oklahoma State). He fills a big need and is the kind of athlete the Steelers covet.
Round 2 (Picks 1, 3, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21 and 28)
Pick 1 – Rashaan Evans – LB (Alabama)
6’3”, 234 pounds
The LB depth was exposed pretty badly once Ryan Shazier went down. All my mechanizations make this pick one that is targeting that depth. Many draftniks have the Steelers taking Evans regardless, but Evans really only had one starting season at Alabama. He is a well-rounded prospect who will rise or fall depending on his combine efforts and how his pro-day goes. For now, picking him up at the top of the second round provides the Steelers with another solid player at LB and a potential playmaker.
Pick 3 – Billy Price – C/G (Ohio State
6’4”, 312 pounds
As an Ohio State fan, I got to watch Billy Price all season long. He is versatile, has position flexibility and it’s possible he is long gone by this pick. In this mock, he was still on the board, and the Steelers can use some depth on the O-line, considering that Ramon Foster is in the final year of his contract, and at 32 years of age it would be smart to start looking to bolster the line. Price can cover two positions, much as B.J. Finney (who is a restricted free agent) can. It’s a little bit of a luxury pick, but with two of the Steelers major needs already addressed, it feels solid.
Pick 5 – Marcus Davenport – EDGE (UTSA)
6’7”, 255 pounds
Marcus Davenport had an odd Senior Bowl week. He didn’t stand out in the practices leading up to the game, but that all changed once the game started. Finishing off the game with 2 sacks and a fumble recovery for a TD, Davenport showed why it’s unlikely he’ll be lingering on the board in the second round. Much like Jefferson, Davenport is raw but has unreal upside. His size alone makes him someone to watch. Davenport can play with a hand in the dirt, or standing up, and could be the kind of dominant edge rusher that the Steelers haven’t had in a while. However, considering the way the Steelers have been deploying their OLB’s lately, Davenport will have to show he can drop into coverage without being a liability to become a four-down player and not just a pass rushing specialist.
Pick 9 – Marcus Allen – S (Penn State)
6’2”, 207 pounds
I’ve got the luxury of an absurd number of picks in the second round, so I’m going to take talent where I find it, and if that means double or triple dipping at some positions, so be it. Allen is another solid player that can give the Steelers depth at safety, and he could even challenge first-round pick James for starter reps. He is a leader in the locker room and is a complete player. He’d be a steal here in my opinion.
Pick 13 – Leighton Vander Esch – LB (Boise State)
6’4”, 240 pounds
This is another depth pick, and the best way I can describe Vander Esch is that he’s Tyler Matakevitch, but better. He’s not the most athletic (although he is solidly athletic), not the fastest or strongest, but he is a knowledgeable guy with a nose for the football. He can play both inside and outside, has great instincts and has a great motor. 3 LB’s may be overkill, but outside of Vince Williams, I’m not sold on anyone who I think is on the roster right now and likely to be available next season.
Pick 17 – Isaiah Wynn – G (Georgia)
6’2”, 302 pounds
Wynn is able to work at both guard and tackle. He’d be small for an NFL tackle, but the Steelers have had success with guys like this in the past (think Kelvin Beachum). The Steelers are likely to lose swing tackle Chris Hubbard to free agency this offseason, so picking up a guy who can fill that role seems like a good idea. Billy Price fills a C/G swing, and Wynn could be the guy who can provide the depth at tackle.
Pick 21 – Mike Gesicki - TE (Penn State)
6’6”, 250 pounds
Could the Steelers dip into the Penn State well again for another tight end? Maybe, and Gesicki would be the guy if they do. He’s a touchdown machine, having scored 14 over the past two seasons. He even had 4 multiple touchdown games in 2017. He needs work as a blocker, but he is a solid route runner, who is athletic and has solid instincts. His catch radius is huge, and that will help make him a monster red zone threat. I’m not sure he’s the answer at tight end, but I’m not sold that anyone is in this year’s draft, and I like what Gesicki brings to the table.
Pick 28 – Rasheem Green – DL (USC)
6’4”, 280 pounds
Green has elite size and power to go with explosive quickness. He is more a 3 or 5 technique kind of lineman, but that will work as depth for the Steelers. He’s a project, as are many of the picks in this draft, but this feels like a kid who John Mitchell can mold. He needs to play with better pad level and technique, but those things can be coached. It’s possible he could provide some solid depth for the Steelers on the D-line.
Round 3 (Picks 1 and 28)
Pick 1 – Marcell Ateman – WR (Oklahoma State)
6’4”, 216 pounds
Do the Steelers need more wide receivers? C’mon now, everyone needs more receivers. Ben will never argue with providing him with bigger tall weapons. I have a tendency to be enamored of big tall receivers myself. Ateman is a big target and could be a red zone specialist. He will make contested catches and he showed that in the Senior Bowl. He’s not super fast, but I can see him being a Jericho Cotchery type player. He’s got long arms giving him a huge catch radius to go along with his size. He’s a capable and willing blocker and the only real knock on him is his quickness coming out of breaks.
Pick 28 – Auden Tate – WR (Florida State)
6’5”, 225 pounds
I don’t think Tate will last this long, but if he does why not grab yet another big strong guy who can be a red zone target? Tate has more upside than does Ateman but also is a bit rawer at this point. I wouldn’t have a problem switching them and taking Tate early in the third and Ateman here. Either way, these picks restock the Steelers receiving corp with potential playmakers.
Pick 11 – Chase Litton – QB (Marshall)
6’5”, 232 pounds
Do the Steelers need to draft a QB? No, they don’t. But I have too many picks so I may as well. I like Litton’s size and arm strength. I didn’t watch enough Marshall games to really have a good sense of if this is too high or too low for Litton, but he’s on the board, and with nothing more pressing, I’m willing to take a chance and give him a shot at winning that coveted third-string QB position. If nothing else, it gives Josh Dobbs some competition for the spot.
Pick 28 – Micah Kiser – LB (Virginia)
6’0”, 236 pounds
Another LB? Why not? Kiser is another outstanding prospect in what appears to be a very deep LB draft class. Again, depending on his combine and pro-day performances, it’s really likely Kiser is long gone at this point. I considered drafting a running back here, but my mindset is all about a complete rebuild of the Steelers LB corps, so let’s throw another guy into the mix.
Pick 2 – Ike Boettger – OT (Iowa)
6’5”, 307 pounds
I’ll be honest, once you get into the seventh round, I am not going to pretend that I’m picking based on more than what cursory knowledge I can gain with a quick Bing search. Boettger showed a lot of position flexibility in 2016 but suffered an Achilles injury in 2017 that will probably push him down most draft boards. He could go in the fifth or sixth round, so picking him up in the seventh seems like decent value. He’s probably a practice squad prospect at best but has enough upside that he might turn into something more.
Pick 28 – Brian Allen – C (Michigan State)
6’ 2”, 302 pounds
I admit it. The only reason I’m drafting Brian Allen here is that we already got a Brian Allen and I think it would be funny to have two guys with the same name, just to confuse things. He’s a tough guy, and strong, but he’s probably only a center, so lacks position flexibility. It’s unlikely the Steelers even consider him, but I had to pick somebody so why not have some fun.
Let me remind everyone, in no way am I expecting anything I just predicted to actually happen. Not even close. However, the guys I targeted in the first three rounds I think all are legitimate prospects who could fit a need that the Steelers have. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Mock drafts are worthy of being mocked. Sure, they can be fun, and it’s interesting to try and guess who a team may select, but they are just guesses, and in many cases, not very good ones.
Hopefully, this exercise in silliness was entertaining and put a few names in your head that might not have been there before. Let the season of Mocksanity commence!