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

January 18, 2018
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Armchair GM – Steelers 2018 Pre-Combine Mock Draft with Video!

A Blockbuster Trade

I have the Steelers starting their draft with a blockbuster trade. There is no way Le’Veon Bell is ever coming to terms with the Steelers’ brass. The highest paid Running Back not franchised makes 8.25 million a year. The Steelers reportedly offered Bell 12 million and he wants to be paid as both a RB and Wide Receiver and get 17 million. I think Bell’s numbers are inflated because of Haley’s over reliance on him and the Steelers’ O-line. And with his latest threats of sitting out or retiring it’s time to unload him.

According to Williamhill sports page, San Francisco has the most cap space and they LUV Jimmy Garropolo. I’m guessing they would jump at the chance of getting what appears to be a future Hall of Famer. If the Steelers just wait this out until next year the most they’d get with Bell walking is a 3rd Rd compensatory pick. The time to cash out is now. I really think the Steelers could make a Herschel Walker type trade but I’m being more conservative and have Bell going to San Fran along with WR Martavis Bryant, who could use a change of scenery, for the 49er’s 1st Rd, 9th overall pick and a 3rd and 4th Rounder.

Hey, my columns called, Armchair GM, I have to earn my money somehow.

With Bell gone I see the Steelers going to Running Back by Committee. This draft reflects the need to get runners with varying skills to augment James Conner.

There are two major areas on defense that need to be addressed. We may never see our beloved Ryan Shazier playing on the field again. I have the Steelers bringing back Miami malcontent and former Steeler, ILB Lawrence Timmons 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/competition at the position.

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 has been picking up of late but the Steelers still need a new starter at Tight End. 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. If it’s HB that’d leave James and Vance McDonald as the backups, which is a good situation to be in. The Steelers could use two Tight End sets and create match up problems. We could use them on power blocking schemes, too. That’s if we had an Offensive Coordinator with imagination. (but that is a subject for another time).

The 2018 Draft

1st Rd (from Bell/Bryant trade) – QB – Mason Rudolph – Oklahoma St. – 6′-5″, 230# – 4.70/40 – Darnold and Rosen are getting all the attention but Rudolph will be raising come the Combine. I have the Browns taking Darnold the Giants or Jets taking Rosen, Baker Mayfield or Lamar Jackson and the Broncos taking Josh Allen. And I’ll take Mason Rudolph over all of them.

Rudolph’s leadership and intangibles are top rate. He’s a team captain and is unflappable under pressure. The arm talent is undeniable. Rudolph is the most accurate passer from inside 25 yards in this draft. He consistently fits the ball into tight windows. If I was going to give him a knock it’d have to be he latches on to the intended receiver and telegraphs his intent but the more film I watch the more I think it’s just confidence. He doesn’t care the defense knows where the ball is going. He has confidence in his arm and receivers to believe there will be a completion. Going through reads and looking off defenders is something Steelers very good QB coach and new offensive coordinator, Randy Fitchner, can help him with.

Rudolph shows great touch on long balls and throws some very nice back shoulder fades. He can hit his man in stride and drop it in the bucket. He tends to put air under some of his long passes which causes them to hang but he only seems to do this when his man is clearly beating the defender down the field.

Rudolph threw with a 65.0% accuracy for 4904 yards and 37 touchdowns against 9 interceptions in 2017.

Whatever the opposite of ‘happy feet’ is, that’s what Rudolph has got. He sets his feet and barely moves them. When he does move he slides or shuffles them so they are almost always in contact with the ground. This means his feet are always set to make a throw.  This shows his fundamentals are very solid. Feels pressure and makes minimal adjustments to escape, always keeping his eyes down field. Can run and make things happen if flushed out the pocket and had 10 touchdowns on designed run plays in 2017. Can shake off arm tackles and will lower his shoulder and ram forward on quarterback sneaks or short yardage.

Ben says he’ll be back but that is this week. The Steelers have to start planning for the future now.

 

 

1st Rd – 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 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. He has good ability to spot the hole and an extra gear to get through it. Will bounce along the line if there’s no opening and then zip through when he sees his chance. Has quicker 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 an 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. (That’s if Munchak doesn’t take the Cardinals HC job)

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# – 4.52/40 – 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 RdTE – Troy Fumagalli – Wisconsin – 6′-6″, 230# – 4.67/40 – The sure-handed Fumagalli has the same height as Jesse James but he’s a couple steps faster and a better blocker. He’s made some spectacular one-handed catches and is good at high pointing the ball. He also puts some pop and/or drive in his blocks and is good in pass protection.

Fumagalli was a walk-on. He had a broken thumb and ankle injury in his Sophomore year but has been mostly injury free since. In 2017 he had 43 catches for 516 yards at 12.0 ypc and 4 touchdowns. In his Junior year his numbers were 47 catches, 580 ypc, 12.3 ypc with 2 TDs. Wisconsin’s run heavy offense belies Fumagalli’s impact in the passing game. He was their go to guy and the Badgers air attack revolved around him.

 

 

3rd Rd – (Comp for Lawrence Timmons) ILB/OLB – Josey Jewell – Iowa – 6′-2″, 230# – 4.74/40 – I have Timmons returning so this is for swing depth to begin with and maybe a future starter. Jewell has the skill set to be the next Arthur Moats. An intelligent tackling machine, he could develop into the QB of the front seven.

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. This pick is direct competition for L.J. Fort’s roster spot.

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.

 

 

4th Rd – (We get back our 4th Rder from San Fran) RB/WR – Akrum Wadley – Iowa – 5′-11″, 195# – 4.44/40 – Wadley is a Christian McCaffrey type player who is a very elusive runner and a talented receiver coming out to the backfield. His versatility also means he could be lined up in the slot with a runner in the backfield. Doesn’t have the build or game of an every down back. Figures as a ‘spark’ player whose versatility will make him an OC’s favorite.

Wadley’s numbers, while still good, were down in 2017. He had 252 rushes for 11091 for a 4.4-yard avg and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 28 passes for 353 yards and a very healthy 12.6 ypc with 3 TD’s. In 2016 he had 1081 yards for a 6.4 avg and 10 TDs with 36 receptions for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns. Wadley also has some kick return experience with 9 in 2017 for a 30.1-yard avg. His speed and short area quickness indicates he could be effective in the return game.

 

 

5th 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 which is why he should be available in the 5th Rd. Chris Hubbard has been doing a great job subbing at Right Tackle but he’s a Free Agent in 2018 and may leave for a starting job somewhere else.

 

 

5th Rd – FS/CB/PR – Sean Chandler – Temple – 5′-11, 195# – 4.52/40 – Chandler understands the duties of the Free Safety position which gives him a leg up on Mike Mitchell. Chandler started at Corner Back up until his Junior year. As a Free Safety he covers a lot of area and takes good angles. He doesn’t over commit and get himself out of being the last line of defense. He reads the QB’s eyes well and makes good adjustments. Can deliver a hit and is a sure tackler.

Chandler was raised in homeless shelters with his family and is a strong character guy. Called ‘the undisputed leader’ of the Secondary. Temple’s Defensive Coordinator who coached with the Eagles compared him to Malcolm Jenkins. Serious student both in the classroom and of the game.

A four-year starter, Chandler had 74 tackles, 1.5 for loss, 2 ints, 3 pass deflections and 1 forced fumble in his Senior year. As a junior he put up 51 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 1.0 sack, 2 interceptions and 1 force fumble in a 10-game season cut short by a bruised knee. He had 24 punt returns for 269 yards and a solid 11.2-yard average on his career. Chandler’s scheme versatility on defense and special teams value make him a good depth prospect.

 

 

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

7th Rd – NT/DT – Greg Gilmore – LSU – 6’3″, 320# – 5.20/40 – Gilmore is a big run stuffer who draws double teams. He could be more effective if he made better use of his hands. He began starting in the middle of his Junior year and only has one year of quality production. The Steelers have good subs at both ends with Tyson Alualu and L.T. Walton. Daniel McCullers has never developed so competition is needed at Nose Tackle. Gilmore is mobile enough to sub across the line so he has the versatility the Steelers like in their second stringers.

Gilmore tallied 51 tackles, 9.0 for loss with 6.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble in 2017. In 2015 he put up 34 tackles, 1 for a loss and 1 sack.

 

 

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 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. 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.

 

 

Whether you agree with the big trade or not these are some great prospects in positions of need. What do you think? Are there any prospects you love? If so who are they and what round do you think they should go in?

Go Steelers!

Jeffrey Burton

92 posts
19 comments

2 Comments

  1. Mr. McBlitzface

    If Rosen is still available at the 9th pick the Steelers should get him. Best pure passer in this year’s draft.

  2. This is all utter nonsense.

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