1). Darius Leonard, MIKE, South Carolina State. 6'2" 229 lbs.
After looking at the NFL Combine; we are seeing a really bad class for the dire needs and a great class for the positions we are either good at or could be "upgradable" which means this draft won't be an attractive one. I don't expect to see a sexy pick or highly-touted player falling to us. It's clear we are going to overhaul our defense a bit, those positions we directly need we will upgrade via the free agency (free safety or and an edge) I don't think we can upgrade the inside linebacker with how much it would cost, which makes this pick interesting. First thing I did when looking was looking into the past of James Farrior. What made him who he was when he played for us? What happened with the Jets? What're his projections?
Needlessly to say, it was fun reading the contents about how Bill Parcells messed up by playing Farrior as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme and how Farrior felt and why he came to the Steelers- anyway the point is, I looked for any players that can be schematically a MIKE LB for us outside of three linebackers (Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds, and Rashaan Evans) and Malik Jefferson too. Not many players have their reports pegged down as the "communicator" or "leader", sure Vince Williams displayed that leadership, doesn't mean he can efficiently break down the plays and communicate with other players. Also, other linebackers are either in the mold of Ryan Shazier (Smith or Edmunds) or Vince Williams clones (Micah Kiser, etc.) we need somebody who is a really great zone ILB who also can excel in man coverage, albeit, traits of the Cover 2 and 3-4 inside linebacker. Leonard has the length and athleticism that you would want in an inside linebacker if anything he's practically a TJ Watt at inside linebacker. He will stay for full 3 downs.
Leonard will take over the MIKE role; shifting Vince Williams to the MACK role which he will compete against an FA and maybe Ryan Shazier
NFL Comparison: James Farrior or Lavonte David
2).Tim Settle, NT, Virginia Tech. 6'4" 335 lbs.
We have stocked up the linebackers position, now we need a nose tackle for Dunbar's preference. We have players like Tuitt and Alualu who can be 1 or 2-gaps, that being said aside from them we have two versatile defense tackle/end in Hargraves and Heyward. It would make more sense to stock up the defensive line, providing better versatility and depth, we want to get a nose tackle who potentially can play 3-downs. I'm fully expecting if we do draft Settle, we will be making him and Hargrave co-starters, seeing more 4-2-5 or 3-3-5. We can definitely use a player like Settle against power run (think the Ravens or Jaguars). This is a much-needed pick as we gave up McCullers.
Tim Settle will be co-starter, essentially have 4 defensive linemen starting. Depends on the scheme; Settle will start over Hargrave or play a lot of downs as a defensive end as well.
NFL Comparison: Eddie Goldman or Vince Wilfork (athletically and size-wise)
3). Jordan Whitehead, Free Safety, Pittsburgh. 5'11" 195 lbs.
By now, we have got two defensive starters from the draft alone, we signed a free agent free safety to be our stop-gap, which we are afforded a chance to draft a developmental prospect who is really young and have the potentials to be really good. Whitehead fits the bill; he's the best coverage safety in the draft. His ability to stay on his man is incredible- it's his ego, size, and raw talents making him a day 2 prospects. If he stayed in the school I have no question he would have been a day one. It's possible James Connor told him to declare so the Steelers would get him. Okay, I'm joking- jokingly aside, Whitehead is somebody who I feel comfortable with seeing playing right away in 3 and long situations due to his coverage skills. His tackling, however, can be improved. I'd like to see Whitehead work on his form and tackle and get the opponent down right away, don't give them a hip bump.
Whitehead should be a second-string for now, eventually, he should overtake the free safety position or play as a dime DB. My expectation of him is high.
NFL Comparison: Jalen Mills.
5a). Quin Blanding, Strong Safety, Virginia. 6'2" 215 lbs.
Yep, we are double-dipping the safety position. As you saw, our depth was so bad we had awful starter starting because nobody else can step up and play. Wilcox and Mitchell both will be gone. Robert Golden is strictly a special team player. We only have Sean Davis as the "playable safety" we will see how he develops, that being said- we still need to stock up the safety positions and at this point, Blanding is a legit "inside the box" safety. His biggest liability is the coverage, I'm not sure whether that's his fault of the scheme he was placed at Virginia. He's not a great of athletic safety, but he's a cerebral tackler who can attack the running backs with an ease. I don't expect him to start but he will be a quick contributor as a special team player and hopefully, he can develop as a third safety or situational downs.
Blanding will be fourth/fifth safety, depends on how the Steelers feel about him. If he doesn't face issues with the playbook he will be fourth safety on gameday.
NFL Comparision: Montae Nicholson.
5b). J'mon Moore, Wide Receiver, Mizzou. 6'3" 204 lbs.
Finally, we address an offensive pick. Frankly, our offense doesn't have much of holes, it wouldn't make any sense to draft a player and stuck him on the practice squad. It's clear that the Steelers want to keep Martavis Bryant for one more year and likely will let him walk, which makes this pick a valuable developmental pick. J'Mon Moore talked to the Steelers during Senior Bowl and his rawness, size, deep-threat ability is attractive to the Steelers. J'mon is a team-first player and we can afford to develop him for where Bryant leaves, having a back-up replacing him. I also should remind everybody; J'mon is actually a fantastic special team player which means the player he could be replacing is Heyward-Bey. Hey, I like Heyward-Bey and he probably will be playing little more than we would want with Eli Rogers probably being out for a little longer. Justin Hunter also will walk. The ideal pick for the ideal type of player.
Moore will be 5th or 6th receiver, being a special team player or gameday inactive
NFL Comparison: Josh Malone.
7a). Brian Allen, Center, Michigan State. 6'1" 304 lbs.
This pick is probably the most important offensive pick of the entire draft. Here's the situation- we will let Hubbard walk. Ramon Foster is getting up there in ages, B. Finney is the likely replacement for Foster. We have solid offensive tackle depth in both Hawkins and Feiler. Feiler also can play guard, which means in the event where Finney actually takes over, we sorely need a backup center. Brian Allen is your blue-collar, demeanor, physical, and good run blocker center. You would think I'd have an aim for somebody with higher or better potentials, Pouncey is still considerably young and will play for many years- we just need a backup center who can step in when Pouncey gets hurt. When Pouncey does gets back, we aren't replacing him. Brian struck me as somebody who will be on a roster for a long time as a back-up.
Allen will be a direct backup to Pouncey as Finney starts.
NFL Comparison: Doug Legursky.
7b). Walter Brady, pass rusher, Middle Tennessee State. 6'3" 268 lbs.
Have you heard of this "upcoming star" at Mizzou who was going to terrorize the quarterbacks who were dismissed from his team for "disclosed, breaking team rule" and transfer to other school and wasn't a good fit at all? Meet Walter Brady, what a story. As a freshman, he got 7 sacks (by the way, he was tied with Charles Harris for sacks total on team) and was looking pretty good, was going to be the next line of strong pass rushers university production under Mizzou then got dismissed from the team, transferring to the Middle Tennessee State. Now, I can't be sure what went down, I know the Middle Tennessee State spoke highly of him and saw him as a leader. While his production wasn't there as it was for Mizzou, his leadership was there. I don't think he regressed as a player, likely he was misused and limited to the scheme itself. We don't know anything much about Brady, whether he has transformed the other aspects of the game itself, he's a proven pass-rusher and that's what we are drafting him for exactly. I expect us to at least have a pass-rushing specialist on the roster that can play in the dirt too. Brady seems like a good prospect for this.
NFL Comparison: Darius English.
*We didn't draft any tight ends because Vance McDonald is coming back and we don't need a pick, somebody who likely won't outplay Xavier Grimble.
*No Running back as well; we are going to sign or tag Bell, either way; we have James Connor and can see Steve Ridley come back.
*No quarterback- just... Do I need to explain?
I'm expecting to see a bunch of free agents signed to the squad, specifically: CB, FS, OLB, WR, RB, OG
*I hesitated on getting a cornerback, I do think the Steelers really like Brian Allen a lot and don't see Willie Gay retiring. I think it's too much of overhaul to be done in a year. If things doesn't work out after the 2018 season, expect us to target a CB or OLB.