Ray Fittipaldo's Steelers four-round mock draft: 4.19.17
April 19, 2017 9:18 AM
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Alabama's Marlon Humphrey
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The draft analysts say it’s probably better to grab an edge rusher in the first round and then a cornerback in the second because this class of corners is so deep. But who’s to say an outside linebacker can’t be had in Round 2? The edge rusher group has depth as well.
For the Steelers, who pick at No. 30 in the first round next week, it simply could be a matter of which player they have rated higher on their board at the time. Many of the top edge rushers will be off the board and some others might not fit their system.
It’s quite possible the highest-rated player on the Steelers’ board when it comes time for them to pick could be a defensive back. That would be OK. One could make a strong argument they need a corner just as badly as they need an edge rusher. Mike Tomlin noted after the AFC championship that he did not have the personnel at his disposal to play man-to-man coverage against the Patriots.
That’s a pretty big liability against the NFL’s best team. And if the Steelers want to beat the Patriots next season — in the regular season and the playoffs — they’ll need to add a player in the draft that can stick on New England’s receivers.
I selected edge rushers for the Steelers in my first two four-round mock drafts, first Charles Harris of Missouri and then Carl Lawson of Auburn. This time around, I’m going with a cornerback from the SEC.
This is the third of four four-round mock drafts. My final four-round mock will run on April 27, the morning of the day of the draft.
Here is 3.0:
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1. (No. 30 overall) CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama — After Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore, there are varying opinions about the second-best corner in the draft. Some say it is Lattimore’s Ohio State teammate Gareon Conley while others say it’s LSU Tre’Davious White, Washington’s Kevin King or Humphrey. The Steelers could use a player with Humphrey’s skill set. At 6 feet and 200 pounds, Humphrey gives the Steelers another young, tall corner to plug into their secondary that is being remade on the fly. Humphrey won’t turn 21 until July so he remains raw, but the upside he provides might be too much for the Steelers to pass on at No. 30 if he is available. He took a top 30 visit to the Steelers earlier this month, so they are interested.
Also considered: OLB Carl Lawson of Auburn and OLB Charles Harris of Missouri
(David J. Phillip/Associated Press)
2. (No. 62 overall) OLB Tarell Basham, Ohio University — If the Steelers do select a defensive back with their first-round pick, Basham very well could be their target in the second round. Even though he played in the Mid-American Conference, Basham has the size (6-4, 269) and athleticism to fit well into the Steelers defense. There is some question about the caliber of competition he faced in the MAC, but he can learn behind another MAC alumnus — James Harrison, who developed quite well after some early growing pains. Basham can get his feet wet as a situational pass rusher as a rookie before growing into the starter’s role once Harrison retires.
Also considered: OLB Derek Rivers of Youngstown State and CB Jourdan Lewis of Michigan
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3a. (No. 94 overall) — OLB/DE DeMarcus Walker of Florida State — Sure, everyone knows the Steelers need a replacement for James Harrison, which is why everyone has them taking an outside linebacker in the first or second round. But it has been somewhat overlooked at how badly they need depth at the position as well. Arthur Moats is entering the final year of a three-year contract. Anthony Chickillo will be a restricted free agent after next season. It might be time to replenish the depth with some young players. Walker might be a bit of a tweener at 6-4, 280, but the Steelers can decide if they want him to lose weight and transition full-time to outside linebacker or maintain his weight and contribute as a rotational defensive end. Walker played defensive end at Florida State, but most of his pass rushing production came when he bumped inside.
Also considered: WR Juju Smith-Schuster and WR Amara Darboh of Michigan
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3b. (compensatory pick No. 105 overall) S Justin Evans, Texas A&M — This pick remains the same as my mock 2.0 and 1.0. Mike Mitchell will turn 30 before the 2017 begins, and the Steelers can groom Evans as his replacement. Evans is a playmaker and a hitter, which makes him an attractive prospect. While Mitchell has doled out his share of hard hits in three years as the starter at free safety, he has only four interceptions in three seasons with the Steelers. Evans had four interceptions as a senior with the Aggies. Mitchell is the unquestioned starter in 2017, but he has a cap hit of more than $8 million in each of the next two seasons. Mitchell’s play this season will determine if it makes business sense to keep him in 2018. It will also give the Steelers a chance to see if Evans has what it takes to be a starter in 2018. In the short-term, he could be utilized in defensive packages that feature six defensive backs, provide some much-needed depth at safety and impact the special teams.
Also considered: CB Cameron Sutton of Tennessee
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4. (No. 135 overall) — WR Mack Hollins of North Carolina — A big and fast receiver (6-4 with 4.53 speed in the 40) who might be available here because his senior season ended after a collarbone injury that required surgery. In addition to his potential of developing into a deep threat, Hollins was a four-year special teams captain for the Tar Heels. At worst, he can take over the role that Darrius Heyward-Bey has had on special teams the past few years. And with some luck and development, he might become much more. The Steelers appear very interested. He took a predraft visit to the UMPC Rooney Sports Complex earlier this month.
Also considered: RB James Conner Pitt and WR Kenny Golladay of Northern Illinois
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