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Armchair GM – Steelers 2018 Pre-Combine Mock Draft 2.0 with Video!

February 14, 2018
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Armchair GM – Steelers 2018 Pre-Combine Mock Draft 2.0 with Video!

A DIFFERENT Blockbuster Trade

I know there is talk about the Steelers restructuring contracts to sign LeVeon Bell but the fact is the team was in the red (no money!) area as far as salary cap. They will have to do some restructuring, anyway. Bottom line, I don’t know if they can find the money to sign Bell to a long term contract at the rate he’s asking.

I had  the Steelers starting their draft with a blockbuster trade to the 49ers in my previous Mock Draft. Given the fact that Bell is taking career advice from Odell Beckham Jr. now, I’ve changed it to the Giants. They are not as good looking a trade partner as the 49ers in regard to salary cap but they have the #2 pick and they have renewed faith in Eli Manning. Getting two big offensive weapons could be very attractive to them.

I get into the reasons on why the Steelers need to unload Bell, now, in my previous Mock Draft. You can read that here.

I still think the Steelers could make a Herschel Walker type trade but I’m being more conservative and have Bell going to the Giants along with WR Martavis Bryant, who could use a change of scenery, for the Giants’ 1st Rd, 2nd overall pick and their 3rd Rounder, 66th overall. No, Martavis Bryant isn’t worth a 3rd Rd pick but Bell is worth more than a single 1st Rounder so it evens out. With the addition of Bryant this deal should be too good for the Giants to pass up.

Regarding Ben wanting a contract extension. He has made the Steelers’ brass sweat. I would wait until the final year of his contract to extend him. The whole retirement thing was obviously Ben’s passive-aggressive move to get rid of OC Todd Haley but he played early in the season like he was semi-retired and it took more than one humiliating performance to snap him out of it. My point is the Steelers have  a player of value now, in Bell, who shows no allegiance to anything other than money. Why not take advantage of the situation to secure the QB of the Future?

With that I feel I fulfilled my obligation as Armchair GM.

There are two major areas on defense that need to be addressed. Though he’s walking and standing, we may never see our beloved Ryan Shazier playing on the field again. I have the Steelers going to the Draft to help fill the void. The other area is Safety play. Mike Mitchell doesn’t understand the duties of Free Safety and has been responsible for a number of the ‘neck up’ problems that have resulted in big plays. Sean Davis’ coverage skills are horrible. They were horrible in college and they are horrible as a pro. To quote NFL.com “At times, was disastrous in man coverage. Dinged for 614 yards receiving against him. Slow, upright backpedal and clunky when turning to run.” His utter futility attempting to cover Gronkowski made this crystal clear. They are both liabilities  and the Steelers really need an upgrade and/or competition at Safety.

The Steelers return teams were one of the worst in the league in 2017.

If the Steelers could waste a draft pick on a long snapper they cut, last season, I can spend one on an explosive kickoff returner, this season. The Steelers haven’t had a return game since Stefan Logan. A number of the players I have selected have return experience and a few of them were standouts.

Jesse James and Vance McDonald’s game picked up at the end of the year and the Steelers may be able to go to TE by committee. I know they re-signed him but I think the Steelers will scrap Xavier Grimble in the off-season. He’s an afterthought at this point. They will probably bring up the hard blocking Jake McGee from the practice squad as either TE or HB. I would make it HB, since McGee would be a definite upgrade from Roosevelt Nix in the passing game. (I know the Steelers just gave Nix a 4 year extension and he’s a sentimental favorite but he really doesn’t bring anything other than blocking)  I’m looking to add a vertical threat WR/TE hybrid to the mix. This would leave the Steelers in a pretty good situation at the position.

The 2018 Draft 2.0

1st Rd (from Bell/Bryant trade) – QB – Josh Rosen – UCLA. – 6′-4″, 210# – 4.74/40. – Rosen has all but told the Browns not to draft him and they will probably listen. I did some hemmin’ and hawin’ around this pick, about going for whoever would be left after the Browns pick, Sam Darnold or Josh Allen. Both players are projects. Bottom line, it’s really difficult to not pick the best pure passer in the Draft. Rosen also displays intelligence, good leadership qualities and toughness.

Rosen is at pro level when it comes to the more subtle parts of the game. He sells the play/action very effectively, knows how to look off defenders and has great field vision. His throwing motion is perfect. No wasted movement and the ball comes out of his hand with a high release point. He can make all the NFL throws. His throwing motion most closely mimics Tom Brady’s. He’s strong enough to shake off arm tackles and moves well in the pocket. Rosen could be a first year starter in the pros but I have him sitting out the first two years as Ben finishes out his contract . A little extra seasoning can’t hurt since Rosen declared as a Junior. There have been a few red flags raised by Rosen’s interviews but with a stable team like the Steelers he would have solid support to keep his mind on football.

Rosen had a soft tissue shoulder injury that cut short his sophomore year. He had two full seasons playing, his first and last. As a freshman he had a 60.0% completion rate for 3669, 23 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. In 11 games as a Junior Rosen threw for 62.6%, 3756 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 ints. He never had a very good supporting cast at UCLA and his numbers suffered as a result. Rosen has all the tools and talent to be a premier NFL Quarterback.

 

 

1st Rd – Strong Safety – Ronnie Harrison – Alabama – 6′-3″, 215# – 4.54/40 – There’s something about this guy that screams, ‘Steeler!’. Harrison is my pick to be the Anti-Gronk. He’s is big, intimidating and very athletic. He’s good in coverage. While Harrison is very fast for a big guy, he probably won’t be able to handle the faster NFL Wide Receivers. However, he can run with the bigger NFL wideouts and move Tight Ends and man up very well against them. He should excel at underneath coverage, which is a bonus in redzone situations. In high school Harrison played both Quarterback and Safety. His experience playing QB shows up in his ability to read a passer’s intentions and move to the play.

Harrison almost looks like a Linebacker. I think he’s closer to 220 than his listed 215. He hits like a freight train but doesn’t play stupid. He never sells out for the big hit if he needs to wrap someone up. He plays tough near the line of scrimmage and will be a great wild card to bring on blitzes as well as playing tough against the run. Has experience at Free Safety but fits the pro level Strong Safety mold to a T.

The Alabama Junior is a two year starter. He had 68 tackles 3.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks, 3 Ints and 3 pass deflections in 2017.  As a Sophomore Harrison tallied 83 tackles 1.5 for loss. He had no sacks but did have 2 interceptions, 1 returned for a TD and 2 fumble recoveries resulting in 1 TD.

 

 

2nd Rd – RB/KR – Raashad Penny – San Diego St. – 5′-10″, 220# – 4.52/40 –  Penny has a non-flashy, north-south running style that makes him look like a one-cut, down hill runner. But if you look from another angle you see a patient runner with good acceleration who makes quick and smooth cuts. Will bounce along the line if there’s no opening and then zip through when he sees his chance. Has more quick cut ability than what readily appears on film. Good at making approaching defenders commit, then flipping his hips and heading in the opposite direction. Can ‘get skinny’. Has good vision and field awareness.

Plenty of  power to run between the tackles. Can drive a pile, taking two or three defenders with him. Sure-handed receiver coming out of the backfield and makes things happen after the catch. Has the build and game to be a every down back.

Though not very polished, Penny is a tough and hard working blocker who keeps going until the whistle blows. He hasn’t been asked to block much since he was a featured back for the Aztecs. With a little Munchak coaching Penny could be a dominating blocker.

Penny’s quick decisions and field vision should make him a standout on returns. He had 79 kick returns for 2387 yards and a very impressive 30.2 yards per return avg. with 7 touchdowns on his career. He also had 2 punt returns for 70 yards and 35.0 ypr for 1 TD in 2017.

In 2017 Penny had 275 carries for 2027 yards and a 7.4 avg per carry with 19 touchdowns. He added 18       catches for 142 yards, 7.9 ypc and 2 touchdowns. As a junior he had 136 carries for 1018 yards, 7.5 ypc and 11 TDS. Penny also had 15 catches for 224 yards 14.9 ypc and 3        TDs.

 

 

3rd Rd – (from Bell/Bryant trade) WR/SB – Anthony Miller – Memphis – 5′-11″, 195# – 4.50/40 – Not to over-hype but the player Miller reminds me of is Antonio Brown. He’s a scrappy receiver who makes great catches, fights for the ball and runs aggressive routes. Miller is very solidly built and had a number of Scat Back style run plays for Memphis. Miller is a natural fit for the slot.

Riley Ferguson’s favorite target, Miller put up big numbers in his Senior year. 78 catches for 1212 yards and a big 15.5 yards per catch with 14 touchdowns. He also ran 9 times for 27 yards. As a Junior, Miller had an eye popping 95 grabs for 1434 yards at a 15.1 yard avg. with 14 TDs and 12 runs for 69 yards and 1 TD. He also has returned 20 punts in his career for 136 yards and 4 kickoffs for a 26.4 yard average.

 

 

3rd Rd – ILB/OLB – Josey Jewell – Iowa – 6′-2″, 230# – 4.74/40 – Though Ryan Shazier (continued prayers) is steadily improving, he is not on schedule to return next season. We need help at ILB. Vince Williams likes to get after the QB and make big plays. With Ryan gone he is a natural to fill the role of interior spark player. We need someone to stay at home and make the contain tackles. Josey Jewell is that guy.

Jewell does a little bit of everything. He’s a good stay at home run stuffer, side to side defender and has the motor to get in the backfield. He’s a good pass defender both near the line of scrimmage with deflections and in coverage on RBs and TEs. He can also be an effective pass rusher.

A team captain and three year starter, Jewell had 121 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 4.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 11 pass deflections and 1 forced fumble in 2017. In his Junior year he had 124 tackles, 6.0 for loss, 1.5 sacks, 9 pass deflections and 1 forced fumble.

 

 

3rd Rd  – (Comp for Lawrence Timmons) Free Safety – Jessie Bates III – Wake Forest – 6′-2″, 195#, .4.47/40 – Bates is a good centerfielder with great field vision. He is a sure tackler and takes good angles when closing. He understands the duties of Free Safety which gives him one up on Mike Mitchell. He had 5 interceptions in his Junior year and does a great job of closing on the high receiver. Bates never sells out for the big hit but can deliver one given the opportunity. Plays a very smart game and is good at reading the QB’s intentions. He was rarely out of position when his team needed him to be the last line of defense. He did show speed to run some players down from behind. He will add much needed competition at the Free Safety position and may emerge as a starter.

In his Junior year Bates had 100 tackles with 3.5 for a loss. He added to that with 5 interceptions, 2 of them pick sixes and 4 pass deflections and 1 forced fumble. As a Senior he had 77 tackles, 6.0 for loss, 1 interception, 6    pass deflections and 1 forced fumble in 11 games, when he missed 2 with injury.

Bates also returned punts having an outstanding 2017 season with 9 returns for a 17.9 yard average. Looks to be a great broken field runner on interceptions and returns. On his career Bates had 27 punt returns for 234 yards, 8.7 ypr and 1 touchdown.

 

 

4th Rd – Traded to 49ers for TE Vance McDonald

5th Rd WR/RB/ TE/HB – Jaylen Samuels – North Carolina State – 5′-11″, 225# – 4.54/40 – Called the ‘Human Swiss Army Knife’ at N.C. State, Samuels doesn’t really fit any position. He is, however a roster versatile player who can be a nice offensive weapon in a number of different looks. This pick is a direct challenge to WR Eli Roger’s roster spot but Samuels could also be kept as a 3rd TE or RB. Samuels should be able to fill Roger’s role at WR quite capably, while adding versatility and upside.

In the pros, Samuels can stretch the field as a move TE but he figures to be of most value in short yardage situations where his versatility could give Randy Fichtner a lot of options. Proven as a runner and receiver, Samuels still needs to show he’s a blocker. He should be a Special Teams asset as a Gunner and lead blocker. The other thing that’s good about Samuels is he can fill in at 3 positions in a pinch, as well as being a core ST player.

As a Junior Samuels had 55 catches for 565 yards at 10.3 ypc with 7 TDs. He had 33 rushes for 189 yard and 5.7 yard average with 6 TDs. In 2018 he had 76 catches for 597 yards, 7.9 ypc and 4 TDs, as well as 77 rushes for 403 yards, 5.2 ypr and 12 TDs.

 

 

5th Rd – OLB/Edge – Hercules Mata’afa – 6′-2″, 252# – 4.74/40 – For reasons unbeknownst to me Washington State had Mata’afa playing with his hand in the dirt his entire career. He played Defensive Tackle and sometimes End, even though his body type and game wasn’t suited for that role. Amazingly, he did well. His wrestling background helped him hold his own at the point of attack against guys who outweighed him by 50 lbs. Washington State also used him on bizarre stunts where he would pull from DT to around the edge. As dumb as this sounds Mata’afa would often get pressure on the QB or cut off an outside run. I think he’s a pass rushing OLB and everything in his game backs that up. Mata’afa has a very fast first step. He beat a lot of linemen with that alone. He’s also got disruptive hands, great understanding of leverage, some drive power and a non-stop motor. He looks fast and athletic enough to handle running backs in pass coverage.

Tomlin created a depth problem where none existed at OLB, by his not playing and then cutting future HoFer, James Harrison. I see a lot of Anthony Chickillo’s game in Mata’afa. He could be a real steal.

Mata’afa declared early for the Draft. He had 47 tackles, 13.5 for loss and 5.0 sacks as a Sophomore. In 2018 he had 45 tackles, an astounding 22.5 for loss, 10.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.

 

 

6th Rd – Traded to Tampa Bay for FS J.J. Wilcox

7th Rd – Kick Returner/SS/ST/Offensive Weapon – Evan Berry – Tennessee – 5′-11″, 200# – 4.34/40 – What jumps out is Berry’s lack of hesitation once the ball is in his hands. He gets in one of his higher gears and goes forward as fast as he can while eyeing up defenders. Once he’s got any daylight he turns on the burners and flies. He can run through arm tackles and bounce off a pack. He’s got a mean stiff arm. I don’t know if he’s ever been tried at RB but he should be. He runs like a running back. Evan is the brother of Safety Eric Berry and that got him typecast. Berry is listed as a Strong Safety but he’s hardly played that position. I’m guessing with his size and speed he could be a contributor on the defensive side of the return game, as well. What I’m saying is with a little imagination there’d be all sort of ways for Berry to contribute.

Berry has been one of the leading returners in the nation his entire career. He has 53 returns for 1820 yards and an incredible 34.3 ypr with 4 touchdowns. He had a season ending upper body injury early in his Senior year. He had just returned from an ACL injury suffered in his Junior year. Berry still averaged 34 yards on the four returns he put in. Berry didn’t get a Combine invite. The injuries late in his college career has led most draft sites to deem him undraftable but what if he’s the next Devon Hester?

Just watch the video and try not to get excited. It would be nice to be starting from the 35 to 50 yard line instead of the Steelers’ standard 25 to 1.

 

 

7th Rd – OT/OG – Ike Boettger – Iowa – 6′-5″, 307# – 5.07/40 – Boettger began at Iowa as a Tight End and has started at Guard and Tackle on both the left and right sides. He’s a big road grader, who can drive a pile. Has enough mobility and athleticism to be a pulling Guard and make it to the second level. He’s good in pass protection with good hand checking and a decent kick slide. Iowa linemen are always well coached. Boetgger will bring the flexibility the Steelers like from their swing linemen. Had an Achilles injury that kept him out of most of 2017 and he got snubbed for the Combine which is why he should be available in the 7th Rd. Boettger is a real sleeper prospect and could have starting ability at the pro level. Chris Hubbard has been doing a great job subbing at Right Tackle but he’s a Free Agent in 2018 and will probably leave for a starting job and big money somewhere else.

 

 

Well, this is my 2.0 Mock Draft before the Combine. By the time the Combine has come and gone (Feb 27th – March 5th, NFL Network) we should know what is happening with Mr. No Longer Steelerrb26 Bell. Also if Ben gets an extension that will alter the need for the trade. Given that what do think of the Mock? Do you have any players you love? What do you think should be he highest priority?

Go Steelers!

Jeffrey Burton

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19 comments

One Comment

  1. Mr. McBlitzface

    I’m a little nervous about Rosen. I think Darnold would be good pick if the Clowns draft Josh Allen. Darnold needs a couple years behind Ben to learn the game but he could be another Elway.

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