And please, for the love of God, do not pick Deshone Kizer..
Let’s get this out of the way: nobody outside of the Steelers front office has the slightest idea what Pittsburgh plans to do with the 30th selection in tonight’s NFL draft. Not me, not my friends, and especially not the owners of the approximately 8,364 mock drafts I’ve seen over the past few days that somehow all seem to have us taking someone different. With that being said, here are some quick thoughts on some of the suggestions I’ve seen.
The Gold Domer
Some rumors have surfaced over the past few days that the Steelers quietly covet Notre Dame quarterback Deshone Kizer. I hate this idea, and not just because I harbor a hatred of the school that burns with the fiery passion of 1000 suns. I just don’t think he’s that good, and it’s not clear to me what he’s done over the past few years to warrant a first round selection outside of attending Notre Dame and being 6’4 230.
Statistically speaking, he was barely a 60% passer over his two years in college and regressed in this regard from year 1 to year 2, with completion percentage, yards per attempt, and passer rating all declining as a junior. To put his accuracy numbers in perspective, Skyler Howard was statistically more reliable, which any Mountaineer fan can tell you should be an aircraft carrier-sized red flag. Even more worrying is that there was a considerable disparity in his performances against P5 (58% completions, 9-10 W-L) and non-P5 schools (69% completions, 5-1 W-L), suggesting that his stats may have been padded against sub-par competition.
So he’s not a stat-whore, and he’s not a big-time winner. I don’t get it. Maybe he just looks really really good in pads? Either way, if we decide to go QB tonight, I’d much rather we go with…
The Little Ben
AKA Pat Mahomes. Mahomes wasn’t a huge winner in college either, but then again, he did go to Texas Tech. What he is, though, is an absolutely spectacular playmaker. The guy is like the love-child of Johnny Football and the dear Roethlisberger, and he does the best Houdini act of any QB in the country. In my mind, this makes him the perfect understudy for Big Ben. Roethlisberger has made a career out of making the exact same types of plays that Mahomes does, and speaking personally, no QB on West Virginia’s schedule scared me more. Earlier this year I was hopeful that we’d be able to snag him in round 2, but if we end up having to take him tonight I wouldn’t mind one bit.
The Search for Silverback
As much as we may refuse to believe, James Harrison will eventually succumb to old age and retire. Fortunately, edge rusher is one of the deepest positions in the draft. TJ Watt, Tak McKinley, and Tim Williams are all viable options here, and all 3 look like studs that could step in and help right away. Personal preference here would be TJ. He has lingering injury concerns, but was very productive last year in just his second full season playing defense, and he blew everyone away by flashing some elite athleticism at the combine. And the pedigree should speak for itself. He will never be his brother, but he can get even 85% of the way there he’ll have been worth the pick.
The Insurance Policy
This is once-in-a-generation tight end class, with several guys worthy of a first round selection. Howard will be long gone by 30, but if one of Njoku or Engram slides then I don’t hate the idea of taking a flier on one. Ladarius Green played approximately 3 snaps last year and lingering injury concerns make drafting a similarly big, athletic target that can help stretch the middle of the field an attractive idea. However, I do think we have more pressing needs and probably won’t go this route unless a lot of these other options have come off the board.
The Jabrill Peppers circle-jerk has swung about 17 times over the last 12 months. Polarizing echo chambers couldn’t seem to decide whether he’s the can’t-miss prospect that was a dark horse Heisman candidate or an unproductive hybrid with no NFL position. The truth is that these are not mutually exclusive ideas, and both are probably true. He is a bona-fide, blue chip, can’t-miss athlete, and he’s also a hybrid without a traditional position. Your opinion on what that means can vary, but in my opinion, that’s what makes him special. The NFL is transitioning to an era of hybrid defenders to combat constantly evolving NFL offenses, and Peppers checks a lot of the boxes required to survive in that landscape. If he’s still around at 30 we could do a hell of a lot worse.
The Pipe Dream
I’d guess that there’s less than a 0% chance of this happening (Jarrod Davis is far more likely, and that’s fine) but I’d love it if we could somehow get Reuben Foster. The guy is far and away the best ILB in the draft, and the idea of lining him up next to Ryan Shazier is absolutely mouth-watering. Not only do I think he’s ready to step straight into Timmons’ shoes based on skill-set, but the attitude he brings would give us one of the most swag-filled backer groups in the entire league. A lot of stuff would have to go down for this to happen and I don’t realistically see him sliding past 12 or 13, but if he gets to 15 I think we should throw the kitchen sink at somebody to move up and take him. The middle of our defense would be set for the next 5-10 years.