Ryan Lippert’s 2018 Pre-Combine Mock Draft
The time has finally come! The 2018 NFL Combine is here and the draft is coming closer and closer. Although the Steelers had a great 2017 season, there are still many holes to fill.
This year’s draft is an intriguing one as there are many players who I believe could truly help this team early in their careers.
With that being said, here is my first mock draft for the 2018 offseason.
First Round: Ronnie Harrison – Safety, Alabama
I took a lot of thought into this selection and it was a toss up between Harrison and Rashaan Evans. To me, Harrison makes more sense both as a talent and because I think he will be the most realistic to fall to number 28 of the two.
Harrison is a big, athletic safety, measuring in a 6’3″, 214 pounds, who I can see starting in this defense immediately. At Alabama, Harrison tied for the team lead with 74 tackles as a senior and also had 2.5 sacks, along with three interceptions.
Second Round: Leighton Vander Esch – LB, Boise State
This pick is more of a “wishful thinking” selection for me as a lot of analysts have Vander Esch possibly rising to the first round. However, anything can happen, and this would be a steal if he falls to this selection for the Steelers.
With Shazier being out for at least the whole 2018 season and his future uncertain, Vander Esch is the big middle linebacker the Steelers need.
As a senior, Vander Esch was named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. He accounted for 141 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in 2017. Pairing a player like Vander Esch with an improving Vince Williams would bring this defense to another level.
Third Round: Dante Pettis – WR, Washington
Although the Steelers have an outstanding passing attack, I believe that they could still add one young receiver to the group.
I’ve been high on Pettis since the 2016 season when Washington made it to the College Football Playoff. He has tremendous speed and would be another deep threat added to this offense.
Pettis had his breakout season in 2016, finishing with 822 yards and 15 touchdowns. His numbers dropped a little in his senior season but he was still productive, accounting for 761 yards and 7 touchdowns.
He is also a threat in the return game, scoring four touchdowns on punt returns in his senior season.
With the future of Martavis Bryant and the Steelers being uncertain, it wouldn’t hurt to add another deep threat. If anything, Pettis can be a rotational guy and can serve as a playmaker on special teams.
Fifth Round: Troy Fumagalli – TE, Wisconsin
I’m making this pick with the assumption that the Steelers will likely look to take another tight end this year. I’m a big fan of the Vance McDonald addition and think that Jesse James is a nice threat in the passing game.
However, James is near the end of his rookie contract and McDonald has higher contract numbers. With that being said, they could look to take a look at Fumagalli just in case one of them doesn’t stay.
In his senior season at Wisconsin. Fumagalli finished with 547 yards and four touchdowns. He is also a great blocking tight end, so he can help when needed in the run game.
If he comes in and shows promise as a rookie, Fumagalli could possibly slip into a starting or TE2 role.
Fifth Round: Rashaan Gaulden – CB, Tennessee
As the case has been for the past few season, the Steelers secondary can always use some help. I fully expect them to add at least one corner, whether it be through the draft or free agency.
Gaulden caught the attention of the country with his gesture he made to Alabama fans after Tennessee scored their first touchdown against the Tide (note that it is a game the Volunteers ended up losing).
Despite that very immature move, Gaulden was a solid player for Tennessee in 2017, finishing with 63 tackles and one interception. He may not be starting material right now but Gaulden could be a solid rotational guy in this secondary.
Seventh Round: Lowell Lotulelei – DT, Utah
Another position on the defensive side of the ball for the Steelers that could use some depth is the interior defensive line.
With there being bigger needs to fill and the better linemen going too early for the Steelers, I look for them to draft at this position late. Lowell Lotulelei, younger brother of Panthers’ DT, Star, could be a nice addition to this defense. He was highly touted by some analysts coming into this season, but his numbers slipped to only 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks, causing some people to question his work ethic.
However, he still has potential and could eventually be a nice rotational player in the league if he comes to play.
Seventh Round: Skai Moore – OLB, South Carolina
To wrap up my mock draft, I’m going with another position that is good at the top but could use some depth. I believe the outside linebacker tandem of Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt can be great for many years to come.
However, they need some guys behind them. Anthony Chickillo has shown promise but they could still use more depth.
As a guy who followed SEC football a lot this year, I believe Skai Moore is a very underrated prospect. At South Carolina, Moore led the team in tackles all four years. In his senior season, he finished with 93 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 interceptions.
Many analysts have him low on their draft boards due to his lack of size, measuring in at 6’2″, 221 pounds. Regardless of his size, I believe that Moore would be a steal if he were to fall this low and could be another outstanding rotational guy for this defense.
So there you have it: my first mock draft of the 2018 offseason. After all of this research, one thing is for sure, a lot of these picks will probably change following the combine.
Here’s to looking forward to seeing all of the surprises and excitement the combine and rest of the offseason will have to offer!