Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The 2015 Steelers 1st-Round NFL Draft Possibles, Alternates and the Borgias.

Approximately a month ago we were asked to post our thoughts on whom the Pittsburgh Steelers might and/or should take in the first round of April's 2015 NFL Draft. Well, going over each of the players we believe would be viable choices for the Steelers turned out to take longer than expected as well as causing data to accumulate. In doing so, either we needed empirical data to back up what we already believed, or we needed to masticate on whether a potential draftee was deserving of his post-NFL Combine and pre-Draft rise. We may not have been writing under the If It Ain't Steel Blog umbrella, but it didn't mean that the work wasn't going into the evaluations. So, barring a trade down, and without further ado, here are the 10 men we feel may hear their names called in association with the team in Steel Town, USA.

EDGE RUSHERS -
ALVIN "BUD" DUPREE: 6'4" 269 LBs, 4.56/40, 42" Vertical -
Many of you whom we have interacted with on social media are probably thinking we must've been drinking the Kool-Aid regarding this one. Bear with us, though, there is something that puts him over the edge. Our original thoughts were that the game film dictated his being better with his hand on the ground than he is standing up. Also, that he's an inconsistent pass rusher who doesn’t always exhibit good hand use, his speed rush can be a little out of control, he doesn't have a good amount of pass rushes in his repertoire even causing him to being pancaked a couple of times (from the right side) and has trouble anchoring against the run.

BUT....Dupree has an excellent and explosive first step, his speed rush has at times forced tackles to cheat their kick-slide which allowed them to be beaten inside, he also has explosive speed, his long arms cover over other ills in his run defense, and we fully admit to loving his motor and hustle.

Unfortunately, we saw a player who we felt translated better to an NFL 4-3 DE than to a 3-4 OLB because of his being so very raw. What pushed us, though, over from the Con to the Pro side is something his bio at NFL.com said. And we quote, "He must continue to improve as a pass rusher, but his traits are undeniable. Difference between being good and great might be his coordinator." Sage words that could be prophetically descriptive of defensive line coach John Mitchell, outside linebackers coach Joey Porter and defensive coordinator (and former linebackers coach) Keith Butler. All of that and his being an underclassman, something the Steelers love, he is slightly ahead of the other edge rushers.

OWAMAGHBE ODIGHIZUWA: 6'3" 267 LBs, 4.62/40, 39 Vert., 25 reps Bench Press -
Personal choice. A huge and ripped Zulu Warrior-built weapon who can get off the ball and convert speed to power. He has huge (11") hands making him very strong at the point of attack, especially against the run. He is relentless and versatile, but he has one definite downside in that he isn't really a pass rusher. That, also, could be what very well keeps the Steelers from drafting him.

PRESTON SMITH: 6'5" 271 LBs, 4.74/40, 34" Vert. -
Certain pundits and mocks have chosen defensive end Nate Orchard as a possible pick here, presumably if the other edge rushers are gone. We prefer, though, to go farther south to get DE/OLB Preston Smith in such a "best player available" eventuality. Why? He's bigger and faster than Orchard, and he uses that power and speed well. He comes off the edge with the intent to do harm and looks like he's always in a bad mood on the field. He can even slide inside to the one-technique and attack the A-gap. And while he has the quickness to do so, he still doesn't have the quickness of some, say like that of the aforementioned Orchard. He also has the tendency to give up on a play that goes away from him. This one is possible, but not necessarily probable.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES/NOSE TACKLES -
DANNY SHELTON: 6'2" 340 LBs, 5.64/40, 34 reps Bench Press -
Look, we don't expect Shelton to fall to no. 22 to begin with, but the idea has been tossed around that a run on other positions, like edge rusher, cornerback and/or offensive lineman, could push him down the line. In such a scenario, he'd likely be the best athlete available and could fall to the Steelers. Now, we don't believe this is overly likely as we are not down on current Steelers NT Steve McLendon as others are. But the best player available is the best player available. Especially one who is a bona fide run stuffer, often faced and handled double teams, plays the requisite gaps and techniques and even got to the quarterback (9 sacks in 2014).

EDDIE GOLDMAN: 6'4" 336 LBs, 5.27/40, 26" Vert. -
Take every argument and superlative just said about Shelton and apply it to Goldman. Then add that he's actually much more explosive than Shelton, but take away from him the fact that he's nowhere near as polished, nor is he as mighty a pass rusher. But, his raw qualities make him enough of a tabula rasa that he could be molded into exactly what would be desired. You have to have at least one out-of-the-box pick in any mock or breakdown and this is ours. (What? Did you think Mike Tomlin was at Florida State's Pro Day just for cornerbacks Ron Darby and P.J. "Joyride" Williams???)

DEFENSIVE BACKS -
KEVIN JOHNSON: 6'0" 188 LBs, 4.52/40, 41.5" Vert., 6.79 3-Cone Drill -
Pardon me while I wipe the drool away...
Personal choice to say the least. We love Johnson. Great feet, is great at flipping his hips, is smooth with great balance, squares up greatly, has a great backpedal...aww, hell, he's just great. Yes, we know that Trae Waynes is the consensus top cornerback, and for good reason, but there are three CBs who are just head-and-shoulders above the rest. Johnson fits the Steelers' mold, though: he uses great technique, he likes to throw his body into ball carriers, and he is a natural athlete - maybe the best athlete at the position. There are only two knocks to him and his game - he has a bit of a thin frame for an NFL CB, especially in the legs, and while he played both man and off coverage, he had the tendency to be too aggressive resulting in pass interference calls. - http://draftbreakdown.com/players/kevin-johnson/

MARCUS PETERS: 6'0" 197 LBs,4.53/40, 37.5" Vert. -
If not for being kicked off of his college team, amongst other run-ins, Peters would be ahead of Waynes as the top CB pick in 2015. Pure talent. Prototype body. As fluid and as natural a pair of hips as you will find. An intimidator. Virtual textbook man-cover corner. Tracks and high-points the ball with the best of them allowing him to come away with the interception. Honestly, not too much negative can be said of him. Though, maybe, his long speed isn't the best, and he actually is a bit handsy at times when in tight spaces, but that's about it. If Peters drops to, or past, the Steelers, it's purely because of his behavioral/emotional issues.

ALTERNATES -
T.J. CLEMMINGS: 6'5" 309 LBs, 5.14/40, 22 reps Bench Press -
Local kid, long and athletic, versatile- can play 3 positions, has a fluid kick-slide and has the strength to make virtually any block ... yeah, we could see it. After all, the Steelers are known to stay close to the ball in there first pick. Check their last 15 first rounders.

SHAQ THOMPSON: 6'0" 228 LBs, 4.64/40, 20 reps Bench Press, 6.99 3-Cone Drill -
The limb will probably break beneath us, but we're out here nonetheless. Thompson is talented, athletic and relentless. His biggest impact in pass coverage rather than as a pass rusher. He'll also be better in pursuit (including backside pursuit) as a run defender. Bulk up and play inside/middle linebacker? Slim down even more and stay light and quick? How about stay where you are and be the hybrid defender that the NFL is going to anyway? He could be the right team's X-factor. But if you're going to be a 6'0" 228-pound hard-hitting safety type, then why not just take...

LANDON COLLINS: 6'0" 228 LBs, 4.53/40, 35" Vert., 16 reps Bench Press -
Easily the best safety in a year wanting of safeties. Plays down in the box a lot, but can cover with good speed. Lacks recovery speed, though, and has hands of stone - good for Roberto Duran, bad for a defensive back (just ask Ike Taylor). But Collins has a definite career on Sundays. Will it be with the Steelers? That depends on Shamarko Thomas' hamstrings.

There you have it, the players we feel are amongst those on the Steelers board. If you were looking for particular names that weren't here, there was likely good reason. Names such as the aforementioned Waynes (gone), Vic Beasley (gone), Shane Ray (gone), Eli Harold (2nd rounder) or Maxx Williams (LOL). But, depending on the reception this receives, a follow-up piece covering rounds two and three might just cover them as well. Stay tuned.