By Jeremy Hritz
After a long week of draft QB research, my Mock 5.0 is ready to go. Only 1 more version coming before the draft on Wednesday, April 27th that will include my final forecast for how the Steelers will roll. I hope you enjoy 5.0, and I would love to hear your comments below!
Round 1: Pick #20: Sam Howell, QB, University of North Carolina
I promise I am done with my quarterback obsession (yeah, right). However, after a ton of studying, reading, and research, I am finally set with my quarterback rankings. I have been on the Desmond Ridder train for the longest of time, and while I would still be supportive of the Steelers selecting him, Sam Howell to me offers the most in terms of productivity with his aggressive nature and propensity to throw the football down the field with success, and he is only 21 years old, not turning 22 until September. Howell would not be expected to come in and start right away, with Mitch Trubisky getting the nod this coming season, allowing him ample time to develop into a franchise quarterback. Positively, if that is the case, he would only be 23 years old in his first season as a starter, and even if Trubisky is solid and gets two years, Howell would only be 24 years old with several years of football ahead of him. Howell also provides the element of mobility, something the team is coveting, especially Mike Tomlin, and is a fit with the Matt Canada offense. Despite only being 21, none of the other top 5 passers have thrown more passes, more touchdowns, or for more yards combine between high school and college than Howell. Sure, we talk about the experience of Ridder and Pickett, but when it comes to actual throws in a game setting, Howell wears the crown. I should also mention that Howell was in the conversation for being a top 10 pick in this year’s draft prior to the start of the college football season, but a poor supporting cast hindered his campaign.
Round 2: Pick #52: Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan University
The Steelers are in desperate need for receivers, and to begin restocking the position, they select Moore with their second round pick. A Pittsburgh-native, Moore ran a 4.41 at the NFL Combine, and has the speed to make plays down the field, though that was not always on display in college. Moore is a focused-pass catcher in traffic, empowering him to make difficult catches in chaos, which led to 3 productive collegiate seasons. Not the biggest prospect at 5’10, 195 pounds, he makes up for his size with courage and fearlessness, with a desire to make any and every catch, regardless of whatever dangerous position it puts his body. Will have to continue to develop his game in the NFL, especially in achieving separation in his routes, but he has the athletic tools to be able to do so. A slot receiver who could contribute in year #1 with the Steelers.
Round 3: Pick #84: Nick Cross, S, University of Maryland
Only 11 days away from the NFL Draft, and still, the Steelers do not have a strong safety. If this holds true, the team will be forced to not only draft a safety, but more than likely insert them into the lineup as a starter. Maybe they see Karl Joseph as a legitimate starter opposite Minkah Fitzpatrick, but that seems unlikely. Tomlin has the Maryland connection to Cross through his son, Dino, and based on the athleticism Cross showed at the NFL Combine running a 4.34 forty-yard dash, the Steelers are intrigued as to what he could provide on the back end of this defense. His profile matches what the Steelers are looking for, a thumper who is aggressive in seeking out contact: Cross is all that plus tax. While he isn’t great in pass coverage and is a bit stiff despite his athleticism, the Steelers can develop that element of his game, and he will be called upon more to be the enforcer next to the ballhawking Fitzpatrick.
Round 4: Pick #138: Tariq Castro-Fields, CB, Penn State University
This may be wishful thinking on my part with Castro-Fields falling to the 4th round, but the Steelers need to begin now adding depth at the cornerback position. James Pierre and Justin Layne cannot be relied upon, and more talent is needed at the backend of the depth chart at corner. Decent size at 6′, 194, and solid speed (4.38 forty), his athleticism and natural traits make him a desirable prospect, but he does not have natural field vision which can put him in bad positions at times. However, if NFL coaching can help to bolster his deficits and emphasize his strengths, he can be an effective depth piece who can play a role in sub-package football.
Round 6: Pick #208: Marquan McCall, DL, University of Kentucky
The Steelers need a space eater at nose tackle, but it is not worth spending a high draft pick on a player who is only only the field for 20-30% of a game. Enter Marquan McCall at pick #208. At 6’3, 379 pounds, McCall is a one-trick defensive tackle: take up blockers and jumble the interior of the offensive line. Can effectively manage double teams and free himself to pursue the run. However, he offers nothing in terms of a pass rush and is raw and in need of development. In the 6th round, McCall fills a need and could be a nice surprise being that he would not be called upon for nothing other than owning the middle.
Round 7: Pick #225: Carson Wells, OLB, University of Colorado
The Steelers do not have any OLB depth after Derek Tuszka, as Taco Charlton signed with the Saints, but there is not a necessity to pursue a player early in the draft. Carson Wells is a late round Steelers-like prospect who is high-effort, intelligent, and durable. Wells possesses speed (4.56) and a skill on special teams, allowing to contribute early in such a role, allowing him to develop as a depth piece on the outside. Will need time to develop, but there is no need to rush him on to the field. Could be shine as a role player and become a Steelers Nation favorite.
Round 7: Pick #241: Dai’Jean Dixon, WR, Nicholls State University
I have Dixon mocked to the Steelers in several previous iterations, and I am sticking with him here. Sure-handed, big, physical, and a combat catcher, Dixon helps with the wide receiver re-stock. While not a burner, he can serve the team as a possession, jump ball receiver in the end zone to create matchup challenges for defenses. Check out my previous mocks for more of my thoughts.