The one positive that comes out of a poor season is a good draft pick. After finishing 8-8 in 2012 the Steelers will pick at number seventeen in the 2013 NFL Draft. That is the highest pick they have had since 2004 when they drafted Ben Roethlisberger at number eleven. With the seventeenth pick in the draft the Steelers should be able to find a player that can instantly help their offense or defense and become a play-maker in the future.
Right now there are multiple positions that the Steelers could use help at, but it’s hard to say just what position they will target until they start making some actual cuts and signings. For instance if they re-sign Keenan Lewis corner is not much of a concern, but if Lewis leaves in free agency the position may need some early attention in the draft. Same goes for James Harrison, who is expected to be a cap casualty in the coming weeks. With Harrison likely to cut do the Steelers feel comfortable with their back-ups stepping in or will they look to draft a rush linebacker in the early rounds of the draft.
Once these, and many other, questions have been answered the Steelers can start to narrow down their draft board and find “their guy” in the first round, but until then here is a list of ten players that the Steelers could target on the first day of the draft:
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia - Jones was at one time considered the best prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft and he may still be. However, Jones suffers from spinal stenosis and there is some concern as to whether it will affect his NFL career. The injury caused USC, Jones first school, to declare him unfit to play. That forced Jones to leave for Georgia who cleared him to return to football. During the 2011 and 2012 seasons Jones totaled 28 sacks and nine forced fumbles. His draft profile labels him as a dominant pass rusher off the edge and one of the best players in the draft. CBSSports has him ranked as the eighth best player overall. So how would the eighth best player still be around at number seventeen? Well as stated above some teams are worried about his health risks and some scouts are starting to think he will fall. If he falls to seventeen the Steelers are smart enough keep him from falling any further.
Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon - Jordan is being mocked all across the board right now anywhere from number six to the Cleveland Browns all the way to the mid-twenties. Jordan is a speed rusher and projects as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. He reminds some of 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith due to his size and speed. Jordan will solidify his draft stock at the combine based on his number which should be very good based on his athleticism. Right now I have Jordan mocked to the Steelers in the first round of my mock draft, but as we all know things can change in a hurry when it comes to the NFL draft.
Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU - Mingo is flying up draft boards currently and many mock drafters have him going in the top nine picks. Like Jordan, Mingo is a speed rusher and projects as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. Mingo and Jordan are both very tall 6’5″ and that length helps them to get around the edge. Mingo could be the next Jevon Kearse, but he does need to add some weight to his frame. He is the type of player that could use some coaching, but he could also step in and play as a rookie. Some downfalls with Mingo are that he doesn’t really have any rushing techniques he just races for the edge and he may be a liability in the run game early on, but he is still a very good prospect and should be putting pressure on the quarterback early and often in his career.
Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame - Te’o had a bad National Championship game and the fake girlfriend story has caused a lot of people to turn on him, but he is still the best inside linebacker in the draft. One bad game against one of the best college offensive lines maybe ever does not discredit an entire season of very strong play. One of the best things about Te’o is that he is a play-maker. During the 2012 season Te’o had seven interceptions; the Steelers as a team had 10. Te’o is also known for his leadership which is something the Steelers may need if they have to purge multiple veterans as is expected. There are some good inside linebacker prospects in the mid-rounds so the Steelers may wait until later on to select one, but if they like Te’o it wouldn’t be a bad pick.
Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia - Ogletree is another player that will move up draft boards after the combine. He is very athletic and has tremendous speed for a linebacker. If the Steelers decide to find a partner for Lawrence Timmons in the first round of the draft they will be selecting between Te’o and Ogletree. Ogletree is the more athletic of the two players, but Te’o is more polished and ready to step in right away. However, there are some that think Ogletree may not be best suited for middle linebacker in the 3-4 because of his struggled to shed blocks. That is also the same question that surrounds Te’o. The Steelers will have to be sure they are getting a player that is better than Sean Spence and Stevenson Sylvester if they draft an inside linebacker in the first round.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee - There have been some good arguments made about the Steelers need to draft a big play wide receiver. Who is the best player on the Steelers roster? The easiest, and probably right, answer to that question is Ben Roethlisberger. So with the Steelers top receiver from 2012, Mike Wallace, expected to leave in free agency the Steelers better reload Roethlisberger’s weapons. The defense ranked first in 2012 and if the offense can pick up their game the team will be much better in 2013. Patterson is probably the best wide receiver in the 2013 draft class. He would also bring something to the Steelers receiving core that has been lacking, size. Patterson is 6’3″ and 205 pounds. He runs very good routes and has the ability to get over the top on the defense. He has very good hands and can return kicks. Right now Patterson is being compared to Denver Bronco’s receiver Demaryius Thomas; if he can make good on that comparison he would be a huge asset to the Steelers offense.
Keenan Allen, WR, Cal - If Patterson isn’t the best wide receiver in this class than it is Allen. Allen is the exact same size as Patterson, 6’3″ 205, and has a knack for attacking the ball in the air. He is also able to return kicks so he could fill that roll for the Steelers in 2013. Allen, like Patterson, is a true number one receiver and would help make Roethlisberger’s life much easier. One thing that Allen is no quite as good as is taking the top off of the defense with his speed, but in Todd Haley’s offense speed is not as important. Allen runs very good routes and is being compared to Jordy Nelson. If the Steelers decide to take Allen or Patterson it will definitely help improve the offense and it will be sure to make Roethlisberger happy.
Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State - Banks in the second best corner in the draft and he may not make it to pick seventeen. However, if Lewis leaves in free agency and Banks falls to number seventeen the Steelers may have to at least consider drafting him. There is a lot of youth at corner for the Steelers, but finding a true number one corner to eventually replace Ike Taylor could be a solid pick. The only issue with draft Banks is that it would be hard for him to get on the field as a rookie and the Steelers need a player that can impact the team in 2013. Banks does however have great size at 6’3″ is a great play-maker and would be a solid player down the road along side Cortez Allen in the Steelers secondary. Let’s for now hope that the Steelers sign Lewis and can select another player in the first round.
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas - Vacarro is considered the top safety in the 2013 draft class and is being mocked as high as number twelve. The Steelers are going to have to address safety during this years draft with both Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark aging. Clark is entering his contract year and is likely to be gone in 2014. That means a replacement needs to be found and having someone who can spend a year learning the defense before becoming a starter would be a positive. Vaccaro is very good in man coverage, but needs to work on being a true over the top safety. His size and athleticism make him a perfect match for a first year starter. If the Steelers are forced to cut Clark to save money this pick would make more sense because Vacarro could step in as a rookie. If Clark and Polamalu are both staying in 2013, as is expected, then it is more likely the Steelers will draft a safety in the second or third rounds. Safety is one of the best and deepest positions in this draft and the Steelers will find a future starter with one of their picks.
John Jenkins, NT, Georgia - Casey Hampton is a free agent and is highly unlikely to return to the Steelers for the 2013 season. That means the Steelers need to find their new starting nose tackle. Steve McLendon is the most logical choice and if I was put in charge he would be my nose tackle in 2013, but the Steelers will have to make that decision for themselves. They also have Alameda Ta’amu and Hebron Fangupo on the roster both of whom are nose tackles. However, Dick LeBeau and the Steelers are adamant about how important the 3-4 nose tackle is and if they feel that replacing Hampton is a top priority then Jenkins may be the guy. Jenkins is a monster in the middle at 6’3″ and 360 pounds (that’s not a typo he is listed between 360-370 pounds). He held down the middle of the Georgia defense and is one of the reasons that many of the Georgia defenders are going to go in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Jenkins still has some things to work on, but he may be the best 3-4 nose tackle prospect in the draft and he should be available at number seventeen.
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