Visiting the Prospects: Momma’s Mock Draft Part 2—Rounds 1-2

In Part 1 I put forward for your consideration three players I haven’t seen mocked to the Steelers in my fairly wide-ranging survey of the most recent mock drafts. These players were judged on a combination of BLA [aka Best Looking Player Available] and potential usefulness to the Steelers.

Before I start my discussion of the players who various draft pundits think the Steelers could use, I thought it might be interesting to look over the players the Steelers themselves appear to be interested in.

Of course, teams play their cards pretty close to the chest, but it’s pretty difficult to obscure the fact that they have taken the time to talk to a given player.

Dropthehammer (from Behind the Steel Curtain) just put up a comprehensive list and discussion of the players the Steelers have shown interest in, and it’s a great read, so check it out. He naturally focuses on the footbally aspects of the players. I’m going to look at them from a more broad perspective, as is my wont. If a player is likely to show up in one of my mocks (such as the two players most widely mocked to the Steelers in Round 1, Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch) I won’t cover them here.

And finally, it’s worth noting that the Steelers have been known to show no apparent interest in a player and then draft them rather high (as with JuJu Smith-Schuster last year—according to Dropthehammer there was a “speed date” at the Combine.) And it wouldn’t surprise me if, given the Steelers’ incredible record of success in drafting wide receivers, they feel it behooves them to show as little interest as possible in wideouts they might want to draft. (And as a by-the-way, it will also be interesting to see if this spectacular record continues now that Richard Mann is gone.)

But enough chatting—on to the prospects.

Let’s begin with Round 1. Some of the players on this list don’t have a first-round “grade,” but they project to be drafted high enough that the Steelers would almost certainly have to grab them in the first round, unless they trade down into the top of the second round. With that in mind, here’s the list:

  • CB Jaire Alexander
  • DL Da’ron Payne
  • DL Harrison Phillips
  • FS/CB Minkah Fitpztrick
  • QB Lamar Jackson
  • QB Mason Rudolph
  • RB Derrius Guice
  • RB Kerryon Johnson
  • S Justin Reid
  • TE Mike Gesicki

Some notes:

Mike Gesicki may well be out of reach even in the first round. Both D-linemen, Da’ron Payne and Harrison Phillips, would probably be considered a “reach” in the first round. (This didn’t seem to bother the Steelers when they took Ryan Shazier there…)

If Minkah Fitzpatrick were he to fall to the Steelers, it would not be like getting a pony for Christmas—more like getting a Lamborghini. Derrius Guice would be in the pony category.

As for the QBs, nobody knows, because QBs can go anywhere.

Of the above list, the ones who meet Momma’s criteria are Gesicki, Fitzpatrick, Reid, Rudolph, Guice, Phillips, (although this requires me to overlook his belly, something he himself may have trouble doing,) and Johnson. So how much interest have the Steelers shown?

Several of these players only got a Combine meeting—Gesicki, Johnson, Harrison and Fitzpatrick. Rudolph was also visited on his Pro Day, Guice got a dinner out of it, and Reid was invited to Pittsburgh for a visit.

Since I’m not a big fan of living beyond my means, I think, despite the dinner, I’m going to eliminate Mr. Guice. As Dropthehammer notes, the stunning lack of interest in the running back class would appear to mean the Steelers are set on signing Bell to a long-term deal, and thus they aren’t likely to be in the market for another expensive back.

As we know, though, anything can happen in the draft, and if Guice happened to fall to No. 28 and all of the good ILBs and DBs were gone, the Steelers might decide not to pass up the chance. Which is probably why they took a longer look. But it seems highly unlikely they are going to spend their first-round pick on a running back, so we can also eliminate Mr. Kerryon, which is a pity. Were we to draft him and WR Michael Gallup, (who I suggested in my previous article,) we would have the best-named back/WR tandem in the league.

As for Fitzpatrick, in the name of not setting the bar too high I’m going to eliminate him. And given that the Steelers seem highly unlikely to draft a QB high, let’s say a fond farewell to Mr. Rudolph.

If I were to be honest, Mike Gesicki is a) unlikely to fall to the Steelers, and b) isn’t really a Steelers-type TE anyhow. But it would be lovely. He is without a doubt one of the finest-looking men in this class.

This leaves us with Phillips and Justin Reid as our first round picks. And I’m going to bid adieu to Mr. Phillips as well. I really didn’t want to. First off, I’m tired of automatically eliminating anyone who plays in the middle of the trenches based upon such a superficial flaw as a bit of excess poundage in the mid-section. (It is, after all, rather hypocritical of me.) And if you play in the middle of the defensive line, it may not even be excessive.

But it’s hard to see the Steelers spending a first round pick on a guy who isn’t an every-down player, even if he is from Stanford and was extremely productive last season. Should he fall to their second-round slot, they might be more inclined. As would I…

Let’s do the same exercise with the second round, and I will finish up with a better look at each of the winners.

Once again I’m also including some players with high 3rd round grades, since the Steelers pick so late in the round. (And honestly, I’m not sure the grades mean as much as the people giving them think they do.) The players the Steelers have kicked the tires on are:

  • CB M.J. Stewart
  • DB Duke Dawson
  • ILB Fred Warner
  • ILB Shaun Dion-Hamilton
  • ILB Malik Jefferson
  • ILB Terrell Edmunds
  • OT Brian O’Neill
  • S/ILB Kyzir White
  • S Jessie Bates III,
  • S Ronnie Harrison
  • TE Ian Thomas
  • WR James Washington.

For one reason or another a number of these young men don’t make the cut. Of those who do, all of them (Dawson, Stewart, White, and Jefferson) were invited for a visit.

Any of these could be available to the Steelers (as, theoretically, could one or two of the first-round guys.) So there’s no reason to eliminate any of them on that account. Some of them might even fall to the Steelers in the 3rd round. So I’m going to have to get creative.

I’m going to eliminate White for footbally reasons, as he is a tweener, and the second round seems too high to draft a special teams player. M.J. Stewart’s dream team to be drafted by is the Eagles, which makes him seem like a bandwagon kind of guy. (He isn’t from Philly—I checked.) Jefferson, according to Lance Zierlein, “plays through a straw,” whatever that means,and is “lacking in instincts.” Which means our default winner in Round 2 is Duke Dawson.

Here’s the deal about these guys:

S Justin Reid

You may have noticed I have a thing about Stanford guys. Especially ones majoring in “Management Science and Engineering.” I also like guys whose older brothers already play in the NFL. (You may have heard of his older brother Eric.)

I also like a guy who can rock a red tie the way he does. So what’s not to love?

For Lance Zierlein, who inexplicably doesn’t seem to take the tie into consideration, there’s a great deal to love. Here are some of what he considers Reids’ strengths to be:

  • Good football intelligence—rarely caught out of position
  • Able to line up over the top of slots and drag tight ends around the field as well [I can think of a few I’d like to see dragged around…]
  • Works with NFL-caliber recognition to reaction time—has speed and anticipation to range over top and challenge the catch
  • Impressive ball skills—And perhaps my favorite:
  • Reliable wrap and drag tackler

We could use a few of the latter.

Perhaps the most telling comment, though, was from someone identified as an “NFC General Manager:”

“He’s better in coverage than his brother.” That would be his Pro Bowl safety brother. Works for me.

Okay, he’s got some weaknesses, too. For one thing, I have no idea how he would look in a teal-colored tie. Fortunately he wouldn’t need one in the Steelers organization. Here’s an example of the footbally weaknesses:

Comes in hot as a tackler.

Wait, that’s a weakness? Oh well, they all have some weaknesses. He’s also apparently willing to “gamble with his eyes.” There’s help for that, as anyone who has ever listened to a Riverside Casino advertisement knows. I’m sure this can be fixed.

All I know is, Mike Mitchell’s spot is open. Reid projects as a Day One starter. Works for me!

DB Duke Dawson

One thing I really appreciate about Dawson is something that sets him apart from a lot of other NFL prospects—he has graduated (last December.) I love seeing guys who take advantage of the college part of their college football experience. It shows an ability to take a long view. He also is reportedly not a trash talker, which certainly sets him apart from most defensive backs.

And speaking of a long view, let’s begin with some of what Lance Zierlein considers to be his strengths:

  • Impedes receiver release with patient, mirrored footwork
  • Football intelligence and instincts are a plus
  • Allowed less than 40 percent completion rate in each of the last two seasons

He has, naturally, plenty of weakness. Don’t we all? But I really liked what an NFC regional scout had to say:

“Good football player. He just has a natural feel for the game no matter where they have lined him up. Florida has had better athletes for sure, but he’s going to be an NFL contributor for sure.”

That’s it for today. Tune in later this week for Rounds 3, 5, and 7…

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