Steelers fans vary in their opinion of who we should take with the #15 overall pick. The two most popular opinions are that we will take a blue chip cornerback or a wide receiver, but some draft pundits have Pittsburgh taking a defensive tackle or a defensive end.© 2014 Steelers Universe
So what's to be done if the Steelers miss out on your favorite player? Here are some consolation prizes to consider in the later rounds.
Wide Receiver: On many draft boards, draft experts have Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans penciled in as a possible choice. The pick makes all the sense in the world, due to Pittsburgh losing Emmanuel Sanders and Jericho Cotchery to free agency. There are high expectations for 2nd year player Markus Wheaton, and the Steelers have brought in former Saints receiver Lance Moore to play the slot, but the reality is that we have no one on the roster at this point, besides Antonio Brown, who has earned a starting position.
Evans is 6'5" and 230 pounds, and ran a respectable 4.54 forty. There are always rumors about how quarterback Ben Roethlisberger yearns for, and evens begs for, the front office to supply him with a tall receiving threat. So if Evans goes earlier in the draft, which is probable, then who should the team be looking at?
I think the wide receiver position will be addressed in the first two rounds and this draft class is incredibly deep at the position. In the 2nd round the Steelers may be eyeing Donte Moncrief from Ole Miss or Martavis Bryant of Clemson. Both prospects have the size/speed ratio that the Steelers may covet. Donte Moncrief is 6'2" and built solidly. He ran a 4.40 forty at the combine, but more impressive is his ability to separate from defenders. He is a polished route runner and has exceptional hands. Martavis Bryant is a towering 6'4" and surprised many by running a 4.42 forty. He is lean, and has long arms and a wide receiver radius. Though not asked to run as much of the route tree as Moncrief, Bryant still shows the athleticism and drive to succeed as a NFL starter.
Cornerback: The Steelers struggled last year with sub-par play from Ike Taylor, and with first year jitters from Cortez Allen. Allen ended the season on a positive note, but Pittsburgh has to start looking for Taylor's replacement in this draft.
The two most obvious choices are Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State. Gilbert is the more athletic of the two, with Dennard being the more fundamentally sound. There is a better-than-average chance that one of them may still be available when the Steelers pick, but if not there are some later round options.
In the 2nd round the Steelers may target Phillip Gaines of Rice University. They brought the 6'0", 193-pound cornerback in for a visit, possibly to get a better idea of his maturity. Though Gaines possesses the speed and size that would fit our system, there are some legitimate questions about his personal life while in college. Gaines boasts a 4.38 forty and is a hard worker, so the front office will have to decide if his character issues are overshadowed by his potential.
Jaylen Watkins of Florida is also a possibility in the 3rd round. He is the definition of a true sleeper. He sizes up at 6'0" and 194 pounds and runs a 4.41 forty, but it's his versatility that may catch the eye of the Steelers' brass. Watkins has played every defensive back position and has been described as dedicated and tenacious, with a team first outlook.
Defensive Line: Pittsburgh's defensive line was depleted in the offseason with the loss of Ziggy Hood and Al Woods to free agency and with the team not resigning veteran starter Brett Keisel. I would not be surprised to see Keisel brought back after the dust settles but it’s not a matter of if the Steelers will draft defensive linemen next month, only what round they will do it in.
The defensive lineman that seems to be mentioned the most with this year's Steelers draft is Louis Nix of Notre Dame. Nix is 6'2" and 331 pounds and will remind some of former Steelers' NT Casey Hampton. Nix isn't as strong as "Big Snack" but still has the power to stack blockers and demand a double team.
6'6" 310-pound Minnesota prospect RaShede Hageman, and 6'4" 273-pound DE Kony Ealy of Missouri also show up here and there as possible first round picks. I think #15 is much too high for either of those prospects though they are both legitimate possibilities at the end of the first if we should trade down.
It's more likely that players such as Notre Dame's defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt, or South Carolina defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles will be looked at in the 2nd to 3rd round. Tuitt is 6'6" and 304 pounds and Quarles measures in at 6'4" and 297 pounds. Both probably grade out as defensive ends in our system due to their strength, size, and motor. Tuitt is the more athletic, while Quarles has the better core strength. Both players are versatile enough to line up at defensive end and then slide over to defensive tackle when needed.
The NFL draft is more fluid and unpredictable than it is an exact science, so as always, it will be interesting to see how everything unfolds. Though the picture gets clearer with each passing day, you can still expect changes, surprises, and for some, even disappointment when the draft picks are announced. Until then, we will have to keep an eye on draft prospects, workouts, and visits to get some idea as to what the front office may do.