With both the Senior Bowl and Combine in the books, we’ve reached a perfect time for an updated mock draft. As usual, we’ll go pick by pick to make sure we discuss each pick thoroughly enough, and as usual, we’re assuming I’m the GM, so I’m not making picks based off who I actually think will go where, but rather who I’d take with the slot. And no, no trade scenarios because they’re infinite.
Here’s a quick rundown of our draft so far: no. 1 Houston Texans (Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina), no. 2 St. Louis Rams (Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M), no. 3 Jacksonville Jaguars (Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville), no. 4 Cleveland Browns (Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M), no. 5 Oakland Raiders (Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn), no. 6 Atlanta Falcons (Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan), no. 7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson), no. 8 Minnesota Vikings (Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State), no. 9 Buffalo Bills (Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo), no. 10 Detroit Lions (Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M), no. 11 Tennessee Titans (Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA), no. 12 New York Giants (C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama), no. 13 St. Louis Rams (Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama) and no. 14 Chicago Bears (Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri). With the 15th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Pittsburgh Steelers select?
I originally picked Louis Nix (NT, Notre Dame) with this pick, and while I can still give you a hundred reasons why I’d still like that pick, I’m going to go with Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State) just because of the value.
It’s no secret our secondary has been getting old and only older in recent years. Would I love a FS like Clinton-Dix here to eventually take over for the soon to be 100 year-old Troy Polamalu? Yes, but he’s gone in this scenario. Much and more is made of Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville), but he’s not the kind of safety I’m looking for with a top-15 pick. He’s a hard hitter, yes, but since when are hard hitting safeties a rarity? I’d love a true cover safety here, but that’s not on the board, so I’ll address cornerback, where I’m just as old.
CB Ike Taylor is entering the last year of his deal, and he’s lost not one, but two steps, and William Gay shouldn’t be covering anyone but slot receivers. I need an infusion of young talent in my back end, particularly on the outside, and Dennard is the best cover corner in the draft.
He’s not as big or athletic as Gilbert, but he’s much more polished. He doesn’t have quite as high of ceiling, but a much higher floor. He’s got excellent instincts, reads routes at a mature level and isn’t afraid to mix it up. He’s got the fluid hips to turn and run with the best and enough strength to jam at the line of scrimmage. If he didn’t have quite the injury history he’d likely be a top-10 pick, especially after such a strong Combine, so to be able to take the best cover-corner in the Draft at 15, I’ll consider myself lucky and strike while the iron is hot.
Who else was considered here? Nix, plain and simple. NT is far and away the most important position in an odd front (which we’ve practically trademarked), and he’s the best to come along at that position since Vince Wilfork. Still, I can more-than get-by with Steve McLendon for the time being, the same of which cannot be said in the secondary.
Eric Ebron (TE, UNC) would also have to be considered here. Not only would this be a great value pick, but Heath Miller has seen the zenith of his career, and QB Ben ‘I Can Beat Any Rape Charge’ Roethlisberger can always use another weapon.
Speaking of other weapons, Marqise Lee (WR, USC) is also a possibility here. He’s as polished of a receiver there is in the draft, and like I just said, Big Ben can always use another weapon.
Still, this receiver class is deep, and I’ll be able to find first round talent in round two, and CB is a far greater need than TE.