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Old 12-31-2013, 03:58 PM   #1
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Default Top Prospects at Positions of Need, Additional End of Season Mock

I'm really excited about this draft in May. We're picking 15th which is a little higher than I expected, but we're in a solid position to grab a true play maker this year. With the run on Quarterbacks that is expected to happen in the first 6 - 7 picks, a play maker will fall to us. The only question is, which one?

Here are, in my opinion, the positions of need on our roster with the best prospects to help fill those needs and their projected round.

1. Free Safety

(1) Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama

A big, play making Safety that can roam around our secondary and act as the ball hawk we haven't had in a long, long time. He can be physical as well, but struggles in run support. He's a sure tackler that can track the ball and get turnovers - something this defense has been lacking as of late.

Free Safety is a weird position for us this year. There aren't a lot of top tier prospects here aside from Clinton-Dix. He's really a stand alone guy at this position this year. If we're going to grab the Safety of the future to play alongside Shamarko this year, it's Clinton-Dix or bust.

2. Cornerback

(1) Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

He's athletic and fluid. He can lock down receivers and possess excellent outside and interior speed. Earlier this year, Dennard consistently shut down one side of the field for a top ranked Spartan's defense. He allowed 3 completions on 31 attempts for passes 15 yards or deeper this season. He has phenomenal footwork on the outside and can be physical with receivers at the line, jamming and disrupting their routes. The Spartan's had the top ranked pass defense in the country this year and Dennard had a lot to do with that. He'd be a day 1 starter for our defense and allow Willie Gay to continue playing the Nickle while Cortez was on every teams number one receiver.

(1) Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

The only CB I have that even comes close to Darqueze Dennard is Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State. By close, I mean neck and neck. Dennard is more of Darrelle Revis while Justin Gilbert is more Richard Sherman. The guy just makes plays and creates turnovers. He has by far the best vision and ability to read and react to a receiver and make the interception of any CB I've seen in recent memory. While he might allow an explosive play, he'll make up for it on the following drive with an interception. He's not physical against the run which can be frustrating, but he's a sure tackler.

Beyond these two, there's little day 1 starting talent. Roby, Purifoy and Roberson have all dropped off significantly and have struggled this season. If we're going CB, one of these two would make an instant impact for our defense. Either one would be a starter for this team when they walked on.

3. Defensive End

(2) Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

26 1/2 TFL. 10 sacks. 16 QB hurries. ACC DPOY. Aaron Donald is a monster on the interior of the line for Pittsburgh's defense. He uses his explosive ability, quick hands and burst to disrupt and crash the pocket. He lacks significant size for a 3-4 DE, being as he's only 6'0 285 lbs. I see this as semantics, however. He penetrates the pocket and creates pressure immediately at the snap. While he can struggle at the point of attack and shed blocks to stop the run, this needs to be taken into account with his immense pass rushing ability. The kids ceiling is Geno Atkins. If coached correctly and allowed to rush the passer, he'd make an excellent piece to have on the line with Cameron Heyward, anchored by McLendon.

(2) Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame

Tuitt remains a mystery to me for many reasons. Last year he was considered one of the best Defensive Ends at the collegiate level, but this year his play dropped off. He can shed blocks and is extremely powerful at the point of attack, but struggles with consistency. He can split double teams with seemingly no issue, but can struggle one on one against sub par competition the next snap. He already possesses an excellent swim move in getting around Guards and Centers. The big knock on him was his inability to bend the edge, but that's not something he'd be ask to do here. Penetrating the line with Heyward on the other side would be quite the sight to see. If he can get his weight back down into the 300 - 305 range rather than the 320 range he's currently at, he could be a starting 'End for this team. If not, a change of diet and physical training after being drafted would be an absolute necessity.

4. Wide Receiver

(1) Sammy Watkins, Clemson

Watkins is explosive. He's fluid and possesses the ability to pluck the ball out of the air, then make defenders miss and gallop for a touchdown. He did it countless times this season. His acceleration and athletic ability are almost of the charts. His ability to be quick and physical at the line makes CBs who try and play bump and run with him look silly. His vision and athletic ability make route running seamless. He played with Tajh Boyd, a Quarterback in the same mold as Roethlisberger in that the play doesn't really start until chaos ensues. He uses his legs and finds the open receiver which 99% of the time is Sammy Watkins. The best receiver in the draft class may not be there at 15, but if he is, we have to go running to the podium. They can't double AB and Watkins.

(1) Mike Evans, Texas A&M

I've been hearing a lot lately that people want a bigger, more physical receiver that can compliment AB's skill set. Fans, meet Mike Evans from Texas A&M. 6'5, 225 lbs. receiver that can play downfield as well as any receiver in college football. He's not a burner by any stretch of the imagination, but the "deceptive quickness" he possesses can be eyepopping. His ability to jump, locate the ball and bring it down with contested throws reminds me a lot of what Calvin Johnson is able to do with Matthew Stafford. His size and physical ability allows him to ragdoll any CBs that try to play bump and run with him at the line. What the most intriguing thing about Mike Evans is to the Steelers is going to be his ability to realize when the play is breaking down and get open. He did this with Johnny Manziel every single game this season and acted as his safety blanket. When Johnny decided it was time to scramble and find a receiver, Evans was open. While he won't always get separation, his frame allows him to be physical in the red zone and in the middle of the field. Imagine a slightly smaller Heath Miller at receiver and you're starting to see what Mike Evans brings to the table.

(2) Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

If we want to go defense in the first round (something I'm heavily advocating for) then Benjamin in the second might be the best option. Benjamin's 6'5, 235 lbs. frame matches Calvin Johnson's exactly. They're both built like robots. That's not where the comparisons end, however - Benjamin possesses a wingspan that would rival Johnson's and makes his catch radius silly in all the right ways. Route running isn't going to be his forte by any means, but he's slowly and surely developing his route running ability and has shown flashes of crisp routes here and there. In the same vein as Mike Evans, Benjamin possesses that deceptive quickness and elusiveness that make receivers like him rare. Combine his quickness with his physical ability to knock CBs off at the line and break tackles, and you have quite possibility the receiver with the highest ceiling in the draft. Playing with Winston also allowed him to find the open holes in a defense when Jameis began scrambling - something he'd be very comfortable with in the black and gold.

5. Linebacker

Inside

(1) C.J Mosley, Alabama

The second best Linebacker and third overall defensive prospect in the draft, Mosley may indeed be the most pro ready player on defense in the '14 draft. I have never seen a Linebacker's coverage ability so refined and pro ready as Mosley's at the collegiate level. I've wanted a player like Mosley to play with Timmons on the inside of our defense for years. He's almost like having a coach on the field with his ability to diagnose plays and perhaps call audibles for the defense. His ability to communicate is second to none, and would fit in well with our current defense. His phenomenal, almost Madden create-a-player like athleticism at Linebacker make him as dangerous against the pass as he is against the run. He can stuff runs at the point of attack, but also blanket TEs and slot receivers. I don't have a negative aspect to put here. Anything I could come up with would be nitpicking and somewhat dishonest. He could be as good, if not better than Luke Kuechly.

Bowman and Willis, meet Timmons and Mosley.

(4) Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut

Smallwood is a Timmons-like clone. His athletic ability and fluidity at Linebacker almost makes him appear as an Outside Linebacker. Something I've seen him do a lot -- with great success the majority of the time -- are stunts and delayed blitzes off the edge. In our current scheme, he'd fit right in. He has Sean Spence type speed on the interior, but is a run stopping Linebacker that doesn't miss tackles. For the Huskies, he was asked game in and game out to cover TEs and receivers as well as 'Backs out of the backfield and he did so seamlessly. He's a prospect that might fall on draft day, but would be worth a third round compensatory pick if we decide to go that route.

Outside

(1) Anthony Barr, UCLA

The man, the myth, the legend - Anthony Barr is ridiculous. My man crush for him knows no bounds. He's the top ranked defensive player on my board. Yes, that means he's ahead of Jadeveon Clowney. His elite athleticism and explosiveness off the edge make him as pro ready as I've seen a pass rusher... ever. He uses his arms and can shed blocks by using more than just his motor and speed. He's excellent against the run as he possesses the power and ability to move tackles and bring down the Running Back in the backfield, as evidenced by his 20 TFL this past season. He's also phenomenal in coverage, and uses that 4.47 40 speed to his advantage and can cover TEs and receivers on the edges as well as the middle of the field. He's the most pro ready pass rushing prospect I've seen in a long, long time and he's been an OLB for two seasons.

Sadly, Barr is almost a surefire top 7 pick. If he slides for whatever reason into the 10-11 area, trading up for him becomes a necessity.

MOCK

After the rundown of prospects, here's my end of season mock prior to the combine:

(1) Darqueze Dennard, Defensive Back, Michigan State
(2) Aaron Donald, Defensive Tackle/End, University of Pittsburgh
(Compensatory Selection - 3) Yawin Smallwood, Linebacker, UCONN
(4) Anton Exum, Defensive Back, Virginia Tech
(5) Telvin Smith, Linebacker, Florida State
(6) Marqueston Huff, Free Safety, University of Wyoming
(7) Colt Lyerla, Tight End, Oregon
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Old 01-02-2014, 10:39 PM   #2
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Default Re: Top Prospects at Positions of Need, Additional End of Season Mock

how did I miss this post? Great post brother!

I guess a lot depends on where the team is at after Free Agency. You list a lot of nice options. I don't know if I'd go with a DE so high, but again that depends if we re-sign Hood, Keisel, or Woods. And I'm still not sold on a CB so high, and it's not a position the Steelers draft in the 1st very often.
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Old 01-03-2014, 10:22 AM   #3
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Default Re: Top Prospects at Positions of Need, Additional End of Season Mock

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how did I miss this post? Great post brother!

I guess a lot depends on where the team is at after Free Agency. You list a lot of nice options. I don't know if I'd go with a DE so high, but again that depends if we re-sign Hood, Keisel, or Woods. And I'm still not sold on a CB so high, and it's not a position the Steelers draft in the 1st very often.
I'm definitely torn on that 15th overall pick. Clinton-Dix played amazingly well yesterday against Oklahoma, especially against the run which I noted was one of his weaknesses. On the flip side, CJ Mosley also played well.

Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard are just unbelievable talents that I'm not sure we can pass up on. The CB class, contrary to popular opinion, isn't deep. There aren't a lot of starting caliber CBs after Dennard and Gilbert. Olomu if he declares, but that's looking doubtful at this time.

You're absolutely right though - mocking prior to FA is difficult. Who knows, we might go out and sign Justin Houston to play DE for us and make my entire list moot.

I know that Linebacker isn't pressing and @teegre really likes Shayne Skov, but I've honestly been more impressed with what Yawin has brought to the table consistently than what Skov has. In my opinion, Smallwood is the better Linebacker for our scheme.
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Old 01-03-2014, 12:36 PM   #4
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Default Re: Top Prospects at Positions of Need, Additional End of Season Mock

Nice list but I hope we are going with either HaHa or Evans.... I want somebody that I know can shore up the DBs or a WR that can step right in if Sanders leaves!
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Old 01-03-2014, 01:03 PM   #5
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Default Re: Top Prospects at Positions of Need, Additional End of Season Mock

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Nice list but I hope we are going with either HaHa or Evans.... I want somebody that I know can shore up the DBs or a WR that can step right in if Sanders leaves!
Mike Evans at 15 might be a little high considering the red flags that come with him. He's a big, physical receiver, but is he Vincent Jackson or Mike Williams? The personal foul penalties killed A&M against Duke as well. He can be selfish at times and his "me first" attitude reminds me a lot of Wallace.

Evans comes with a lot of red flags, but huge potential and a high ceiling.
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Old 01-03-2014, 01:10 PM   #6
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Default Re: Top Prospects at Positions of Need, Additional End of Season Mock

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Mike Evans at 15 might be a little high considering the red flags that come with him. He's a big, physical receiver, but is he Vincent Jackson or Mike Williams? The personal foul penalties killed A&M against Duke as well. He can be selfish at times and his "me first" attitude reminds me a lot of Wallace.

Evans comes with a lot of red flags, but huge potential and a high ceiling.
He reminds me of a faster Plaxico with more upside!
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Old 01-03-2014, 01:49 PM   #7
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Default Re: Top Prospects at Positions of Need, Additional End of Season Mock

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I know that Linebacker isn't pressing and @teegre really likes Shayne Skov, but I've honestly been more impressed with what Yawin has brought to the table consistently than what Skov has. In my opinion, Smallwood is the better Linebacker for our scheme.
I haven't seen Smallwood play.

Do tell...
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Old 01-03-2014, 08:38 PM   #8
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Default Re: Top Prospects at Positions of Need, Additional End of Season Mock

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I haven't seen Smallwood play.

Do tell...
He plays a lot like a younger, faster Timmons. He's athletic and can stunt and blitz on the edge effectively while having the speed and quickness to cover slot receivers and Tight Ends across the middle. I hate using these words, but he has phenomenal instincts and great intangibles. He was overlooked on UConn due to the overall weakness of the defense, but he was the shining star of the squad.
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Old 01-03-2014, 10:23 PM   #9
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Default Re: Top Prospects at Positions of Need, Additional End of Season Mock

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He plays a lot like a younger, faster Timmons. He's athletic and can stunt and blitz on the edge effectively while having the speed and quickness to cover slot receivers and Tight Ends across the middle. I hate using these words, but he has phenomenal instincts and great intangibles. He was overlooked on UConn due to the overall weakness of the defense, but he was the shining star of the squad.
He sounds a lot like Sean Spence... (which is a good thing).
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Old 01-04-2014, 08:50 PM   #10
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Default Re: Top Prospects at Positions of Need, Additional End of Season Mock

A later round hybrid linebacker type that very few talk about is Telvin Smith from Florida State. He has a thinner build so he needs to add muscle but he's 6'2 220 and is a Sean Spence clone. Just more physical ability because he has a larger frame. Should he declare he would be in the late 3rd round to mid 4th discussion after the combine. YouTube him. I'm not a huge FSU fan but I saw him play a lot this year. The kid can do it all. I like Smallwood a ton as well and agree hes a better fit than Skov for the Steelers.
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