Armchair GM – Early Steelers' 2016 Mock Draft!!!
The State of the Steelers
It’s all about the secondary. That and maybe it’s time to start thinking about another Head Coach, but that just might be me. It’s too soon to know if what he and Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler are trying on Defense is working BUT the Steelers are ranked 23rd in the league. This is not a place they are used to being. The secondary has given up 3,627 yards through the air, which ranks them 31st in the NFL in pass defense. That is only one rung up from dead last. That is most sucky. They need to be desuckified.
The Cover 2 era lasted one game. The season opener where Brady and company abused us by the air put it to an end. There are some very promising things happening in it’s stead. While the Steelers are definitely playing more cover packages under Butler, he has wisely opted to have the linebacking corps running towards the Quarterback. He seems to be good at mixing things up and keeping the offense guessing. Lot’s of exotic blitz schemes and disguising of the D’s intent. And bet on Euro 2016 he blitzes a lot! It’s made for a lot of excitement and it would seem, the Steelers, with a few key players and a little seasoning, could return to dominance in the near future.
Inside Linebacker, Ryan Shazier, is a beast (when he is healthy). I think it’s a matter of time until he wises up, stops throwing his body around and settles into being a perennial All-Pro. Ryan is the type of player whose contribution isn’t dictated by his position. He has a little bit of what our beloved Troy had in spades. You can put him anywhere near the line of scrimmage and he’s going to give teams fits.
OLB Bud Dupree has had a very impressive rookie season, as he’s been eased in with Arthur Moats taking the most of the snaps. He has 4 sacks and a number of QB hurries. Butler is stunting him a lot. He looks very strong at the point of attack and has a quick step once he locks in on the quarterback. He should be a starter next year.
ILB Sean Spence could be starting for another team after his miracle recovery from a devastating knee injury. Jarvis Jones still looks like a bust. He is near the bottom with 23 tackles and has 2 sacks that were mostly ‘gimmes’. This was supposed to be his season to prove it. I was never a fan of the draft pick. At the time we had other positions of need. We have the man he was supposed to replace, my Facebook friend, Mr. James Harrison, returning for another year, since he signed a two year deal and has been performing at a high level, with 5 sacks and tons of leadership and good old fashioned Steeler attitude.
With team tackle leader, ILB Lawrence Timmons, getting a little older, we will eventually need to look for a replacement but the Linebacker position has had an infusion of fresh blood with three consecutive 1st Round draft picks. It could hardly be called a position of need.
If it was up to me, I’d move Ryan Shazier to ROLB, where his intelligence, unpredictability and quickness could burn LT’s and give Offensive Coordinators left side issues in general. There his body would take less of a pounding, and you could start Spence at RILB and go with Timmons and Dupree, respectively. I think it could be the best Steelers linebacking corps since Harrison, Farrior, Timmons and Woodley in their prime. With Harrison, Moats. Vince Williams and Jones as backups, we’d have the best group of linebackers in the league.
The Steelers rank 6th against the rush. The Defensive Line will need some attention but second year, Defensive End Stephen Tuitt continues to develop with 4.5 sacks on the year. DE Cam Heyward is the undoubted leader of the defense and plays with great fire. He’s team leader with 6 sacks. NT/DT/DE Steve McClendon has shown impressive slash ability this season and while he’s not a prototypical Nose Tackle, can handle the job just fine. The Steelers are no longer primarily a 3-4 defense, so, an interior line prospect doesn’t need to conform to Nose Tackle specifications. This gives a lot more flexibility when trying to narrow down prospects. But nonetheless we are looking for a big inside mauler. Some mid to late round help will be needed here.
As for the Offense, fuhgedaboutit. We may need to address Running Back, either through free agency or the Draft and some Offensive Line depth. I was very impressed with LT Kelvin Beachum this year after NOT being one of his bandwagon riders. I watch every play of the game when I’m evaluating players (because I’m loser, with no live) and he had a lot of help his first few seasons in the position. He also had ton of problems all of which, with a couple years with Coach Mike Munchak, seemed to have gone away.
The other great feel good story, Army veteran, Captain Alejandro Villanueva has played very well in his stead. I would rank Villanueva’s progress at the position FAR ahead of Beachum’s at a comparable time. The Steelers are already confident to leave him on his own against some of the top NFL’s edge rushers. He’s a little stiff at times but he has such a big wing span it’s difficult to get around him. His ex-Tight End athleticism is on display on virtually every play. He may be able to challenge Beachum, or Marcus Gilbert at RT, next year, if the Steelers are so inclined. It’s a contract year for Beachum, so a big decision is going to have to be made. C/G Cody Wallace has done a great job playing for the injured Maurkice Pouncey. So, with RG David DeCastro’s outstanding play and LG Ramon Foster’s veteran presence the O-line looks better than it has in almost a decade.
We have a wealth of talent at wide receiver. I’ve been thinking if Martavis Bryant can keep his nose clean and Sammie Coates develops, we might be able to offer Markus Wheaton as trade bait. Denver sure liked Emmanuel Sanders after his so-so Steelers career, so who knows?
Jordan Berry is only averaging 42.2 yards per punt but his hang time is yielding an impressive 38.8 yard net. Not much to worry about there. Shaun Suisham should be back next year but he’ll have to vie for the job with Chris Boswell who is getting better as the season progresses. 24 of 26 from the field for 92.3% with a longest of 51 yards. If the Steelers are looking to the future it might be the end of the line for Shaun.
So, with that being said, OUR SECONDARY SUCKS! We’ve got three members of our secondary near the top of the tackles stat. That’s not good. That means a lot of receivers are catching passes. We don’t have a clear #1 shutdown corner. CB Antwan Blake is fiery but lacks the height and at times the instincts to warrant a starting role in the NFL. Ross Cockrell is a rookie and he needs time to develop. I spent a lot of time looking at him before last year’s Draft. I think he will be good but a lock down guy? Who knows. William Gay should be doing what he does best, playing the slot but he’s not what you want as a starting outside Corner. And who the hell knows when Tomlin will get the FRIGATE out of his ass and give Brandon Boykin a try?
Now would be as good a time as any to get rid of… oh, crap. I can’t even remember his name. (A Google search: “Steelers cornerback 26 million’, later) Oh yeah, Cortez Allen. I’ve got some ideas on how that money could be better spent.
Safeties, Will Allen and Mike Mitchell, are playing out of position. The steady Allen should be the Free Safety ‘centerfielder’ and the testy, always wanting to smack someone, Mitchell, should be the ‘in the box’ Strong Safety. And in reality Allen is only an average player and I’m not so sure Mitchell doesn’t have a screw loose. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing on defense but he seems to do a good bit of stupid things for the sake of trying to act badass. Shamarko Thomas obviously doesn’t have what it takes. It’s been 3 years and he’s shown nothing. Time to move on. Oh, the days of Troy and Ryan. (“Don’t Cry Out Loud’ plays in the background)
So, that’s the analysis. Here’s the Draft. Due to the trade for Boykin (who we may never see) and Scobee, (who should have retired before the trade), the Steelers have no 5th and maybe not a 6th Round pick. The Brad Wing (Punter) trade to New York should bring at least a 7th Round pick, possibly a 6th. The details of the trade haven’t been confirmed other than ‘a conditional late round pick’. Brad is their Punter and has a 45.5 average, so I’m guessing 6th Rd.
On the highlight video’s, I’ve tried to pick the ones that got to the point with the least intrusive music and ‘production value’. It’s a good idea to turn down the volume. I don’t know what these people think they’re doing but I’m pretty sure nobody is interested in their rad slow motion of players coming onto the field accompanied by how many times one person can say the ‘N’ word.
And a special thanks, as usual, to WalterFootball.com and sadly to the CBS crappy version of NFLDraftScout.com that killed their great SportsXchange sponsored version of the site. They are great Draft geek websites.
1st Rd – Vernon Hargreaves III, CB – Florida 5’11”, 199 lbs
4.40/40, 31 tackles, 4 Int’s , 1 forced fumble in 2015. Quarterbacks were throwing away from Hargreaves most of the year so that’s why the stats aren’t spectacular. Hargreaves has great man skills and ball instincts. There are comparisons to Joe Hayden, though Vernon has a little more height. Not the hard hitter the Steelers are usually looking for but someone who can run with and defend the league’s bigger premier receivers. We would have to trade down to get him but that’s where some sort of a combo of a swap of 1st Rd picks plus Markus Wheaton and/or a conditional 2017 draft pick might come in.
2nd Rd – Darian Thompson, Safety – Boise St. 6’2″, 212 lbs
4.50/40, 53 tackles with 4 passes broken up and 5 interceptions. Tall, hard hitter with coverage skills and speed to run with big and fast NFL Tight Ends. Very good close to the line of scrimmage and has great potential for Safety blitz situations. May be a little over eager to load up for the big hit but a very coachable talented and physically impressive prospect.
3rd Rd – C.J. Procise, RB, – Notre Dame – 6’0″, 220 lbs
4.50/40, 6.6 yards per carry for 1,032 yards with 11 touchdowns. He also has 24 receptions for 308 yards and 1 touchdown. A convert from wide receiver, Procise is a smooth runner with good lateral movement, much in the mold of Le’Veon Bell. He brings extra value as a receiver out of the backfield or off the line of scrimmage. He is an effective Special Teams player as well.
4th Rd – Jarran Reed, DT/DE, Alabama – 6’4″, 313 lbs
4.82/40 – Reed had 45 tackles, 1 sack, 3.5 tackles for a loss and 2 passes batted in 2015. Big interior mauler. Reed drew a lot of double team attention in college. He has good lateral movement and vision and disengages well from blocks. Not a great pass rusher but the Steelers don’t look for much of that from interior guys. A great candidate for interior D-line depth.
5th Rd – For Brandon Boykin, who we may never see, because Tomlin is a butt flange with an attitude. The thing that pisses me off is this should be a HIGHLIGHT of this year’s Draft. It’s not often you get a starting caliber player in the 5th Rd.
6th Rd – (for Brad Wing) Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech – 6’5″, 316 lbs
Clark was starting Left Tackle for the Red Raiders. (No kidding, that’s their name) Probably more of a Right Tackle or Guard for the NFL He has the light feet and mirroring capability you like to see in an OT. Tech’s blocking scheme is odd, with the linemen going from a two point stance and generally moving backward. It will take a little time to unlearn that stupid technical idea but Clark looks good. He has the type of mobility that shows promise for a pulling Guard, as well.
7th Rd – Brian Poole*, CB/S, Florida, – 5’10”, 210 lbs
4.40/40 – 26 tackles and 10 passes broken up. Another one of the Gators very talented secondary. Poole switched to Cornerback from Safety for his Senior year. He has good ball instincts and great potential for Nickel packages. His versatility is a plus for reserve potential.
So, that’s it! What do you think? Do you think there are other needs? Are there any players out there you think we can’t live without?