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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Interesting mock draft

I readily admit that I look at other people's mock drafts. Of course, the first thing I do is glance at who the mocker has the Steelers selecting.

If it's an outlandish pick - this year that would be any mock that has the Steelers taking an offensive lineman first - I quit reading. Otherwise, I'll continue and take in the rest of the mock.

Of course, most mocks, after having the Steelers focusing on nose tackle Louis Nix early, have settled in on the Steelers taking a cornerback or wide receiver of late.

Those wouldn't be bad picks.

But lately, another name has started to surface that makes some sense, North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron.

In fact, Lance Zierlein, a Houston-based media member whose father also happens to be former Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein, threw Ebron's name out last week on Twitter in connection with the Steelers.

I went back and forth with him a bit on it and it made sense.

Then, while perusing the internet, I found the Walter's Football site five-round mock and lo and behold, there was Ebron going to the Steelers again.

Looking at that draft, again, it made sense.

Here's what Walter's had for the Steelers through five rounds:

1. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
2. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
3. Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
4. Brent Urban, DE, Virginia
5A. Anthony Steen, G, Alabama
5B. Ron Powell, OLB, Florida

I think the Steelers would be thrilled with that haul.

Ebron would be an immediate matchup problem for opponents when paired with Heath Miller. Do you stay in a base defense with both tight ends on the field or go to a sub-package?

Verrett, at 5-10, 189 pounds, is a little undersized, but he's fast (sub-4.4 40) and feisty enough to get the job done at the NFL level.

I've long been a fan of Moncreif and couldn't believe he'd last until the end of the third round, but looking at this mock, it made sense. This WR draft is just that deep.

Urban has also been on my radar as a 3-4 end. He's 6-7, 295 pounds and played out of position at DT the last two seasons after Virginia switched from a 3-4, where he was an end, to a 4-3.

He's not an outstanding athlete, but he's active and gets his hands in the passing lanes.

Steen, of course, was a three-year starter at RG for Alabama, which is no small feat.

Powell, meanwhile, has outstanding upside. He tore his ACL twice in 2012, but rebounded with a solid season in 2013. His arrow, as Mike Tomlin likes to say, is definitely pointed up.


Anonymous said...

Ebron would be an immediate matchup problem for opponents when paired with Heath Miller.

Depends on what direction they go with the offense next year. The flaccid one that started the season or the virile one that ended the season. The one they started with was multiple, but still heavy on two-TEs. They finished leaning heavily on the no-huddle package, which features no twin-TE plays. It was all 3 and 4 WR sets from shotgun, and I'm guessing about a 20 play package. Not a complete offense or open playbook. Just a package, and as such Tomlin was rightly concerned teams would adapt to them. That didn't happen before the season ended. But if they continue with that next year as is, it will catch up with them. So, imo, it's not a matter of the offense picking up where they left off. They have to decide either open up the playbook to the no-huddle, or go back to what they wanted to be at the start of last year.

The biggest reason outside zone didn't work last year was the playside TE, who is the RBs read/landmark, routinely got blown backwards 2-3 yards, forcing a cutback into nothing because (reason #2) nobody knew how to cutblock on the backside. Doubtful Ebron is gonna help them there. Niklas does, and has more complete upside, better value too.

Be interesting to see early signs of where they intend to go with the offense. As of now, I have no idea. An apologetically long way of saying I don't know how Ebron would fit in this offense until I know what this offense is.

Anonymous said...

I think if they have Ebron/Miller on the field at the same time opposing teams will have to go to a sub package unless their LB's are gifted in pass coverage.

obviously, the direction of the offense will dictate Ebron's effectiveness. but, regardless, both TE's on the field at the same time gives the offense greater flexibility and causes more questions for the defense. depending on how the defense reacts, #7 would have the option to audible to the more favorable run/pass play (presumably that is).

the more I think about it, the more the Ebron pick makes sense, both short term and long term. I also think getting ebron and verrett in the first 2 rounds is very reasonable. moncreif will be gone by the end of the 3rd, but the steelers have shown the ability to get highly productive mid-round WR's in the past.

Anonymous said...

Would be okay with this draft as long as we also get another CB and a change of pace RB somewhere in there.

I'm curious as to how much the Steelers are looking at Shaquil Barrett from Colorado with their connection via Joey Porter. I don't know anything about Ron Powell, but Barrett seems like a good match.

I've also seen people mock Aaron Colvin as a later pick, not helpful for this year due to injury, but good to stash for next year.

kyle said...

I don't like Ebron for the same reason I don't like Kelvin Benjamin - drops.

Drops aren't the end all be all of evaluation but in Ebron's case, he has not shown he's a capable blocker so he would start off as primarily a pass-catcher. If his hands are suspect, what is he bringing to the table? People talk about his athleticism. I don't care how fast he gets downfield if he can't catch the ball when he gets there.

It's getting to the point where the only player I'd be excited for the Steelers to pick at 1.15 is Aaron Donald. He isn't a "fit" but he's a top-tier playmaker. I'd rather find/make a spot for a disruptive force than take a "solid" player who fits the scheme.

datruth4life said...


To piggy-back off of Kyle, what about DT/DE Aaron Donald as a 5-technique at pick no. 15? I know, at first glance he doesn't fit the Steelers blueprint for a 5-technique. However, he played the 5-technique (and all the DL positions in a 3-4) during his sophomore season under Dave Wandstedt and had 47 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. At first blush, he wouldn't be a fit but with the NFL now being a passing league, he'd probably be an upgrade over Ziggy Hood in the base D and would be phenomanal next to Cam Heyward as the 2 DL in the nickel pkg. Some scouts have said that Donald reminds them of former Tampa Bay Bucs DL Booger McFarland. As I recall, Tomlin had quite a love affair with McFarland and was even interested in bringing him here after his knee injury but it didn't work out. Finally, what NFL team knows more about Donald than the Steelers? He's been in the same practice facility as the Steelers for the past 4 years. I think Donald could be a really nice piece to grow with on D along with Cam, Worilds, J. Jones, S. Thomas & Cortez Allen. BTW, I still think I might take WR Odell Beckham over TE Ebron in the first round simply because Beckham could also be your no. 1 KR & PR. Even if he only played as a sub WR the whole season, he could greatly help the team's fortune's next year by flipping field position. Thoughts on A. Donald as a potential pick at no. 15? Thoughts on TE Ebron vs. WR Beckam as well?

datruth4life said...

Dale, my latest mock:

1 – DT A. Donald, Pittsburgh
2 – CB J. Verrett, TCU
3 – WR D. Moncrief, Mississippi
4 – OT A. Richardson, Tennessee
5 – ILB, J. Zumwalt, UCLA
5 – CB W. Aikens, Liberty
6 – WR J. Brown, Pittsburgh State
6 – OLB L. Webster, Bloomsburg
7 – NT R. Carrethers, Arkansas State

Anonymous said...

would have no problem if they brought in Donald at 1.15, the DL definitely could use the help.

regarding ebron, he has shown some "drops" issues, but he has also shown very nice hands when going up for the ball. I put that more on concentration than anything else, and that I feel can be improved through coaching.

Eric T said...

DE is a position that does need addressing, but Donald is too small to be an effective End in the 3-4, especially the way Lebeau runs it. I'd rather have Tuitt from ND, though not at 15. He could be an option if they trade back.

Ebron's combo of drops and cockiness gives me pause for using the 15th pick on him. He definitely has sills and could be a play maker, but I wonder how many head aches he will cause along the way. I'd prefer if he was a fall back option if Evans, Gilbert, Dennard are gone, with no other elite guys falling (i.e Barr) and no viable trade to be made.

kyle said...

A couple months ago, I would have agreed with you, Eric T but I've come around.

Donald played DE and NT in a 3-4 and played pretty much everything in a 4-3 and he produced from everywhere. Sure, I don't think he'll be able to do that in the NFL but this past season the DE position was used a lot more to penetrate into the backfield and Donald's strength, quickness, and first step are unmatched in this draft.

Dale Lolley said...

You can run a two-tight end package out of the no-huddle. Just split one of the tight ends wide like a receiver. They didn't do that last year because they didn't have a second tight end that would challenge anyone in that formation.

Ebron is a better blocker than he's being given credit for. He's certainly willing.

Aaron Donald would be a wasted pick for the Steelers. He's a good player, but they would have to totally rework what they do defensively for him to fit. He's not the kind of player you do that for.

Anonymous said...

Dale, would Donald be an upgrade over ziggy hood?

Anonymous said...

They'd be "happy with that haul" if they pulled that off. The top three picks are all rated as top 40 overall prospects.

In other words, the chances of them landing the first two guys assigned to them in that mock, let alone all three, are remote.

datruth4life said...

Dale, I have to disagree with you on Aaron Donald. At worst, I think he could team with Cam Heyward in the nickel pkgs and give the Steelers D a lot of pressures and some sacks on the QB. If you don't like him against the run, then throw Cam or McClendon out there in the base D and let McDonald do what he does best - get after the QB. The Steelers spend more time in sub pkgs on D than they do their base D in this new pass happy NFL. It's not like Donald is small, he's just short. Last time I checked, that's not such a bad thing when the game is leverage in the trenches. Somehow, I don't think the best DT who has played all three positions in a 3-4 during his college career and excelled and who is the best DT pass rusher in this draft would be a wasted pick by a team that had 32 sacks last season. Let's think out of the box a little bit, Dale. Tomlin had a plan for DT Booger McFarland if he would have been healthy coming from Tampa Bay. Maybe he and LeBeau envision something similar with A. Donald. In my opinion, A. Donald and Cam Heyward would look pretty darn good to me as two-thirds of your starting DL next year.

kyle said...

Ebron is a better than awful blocker from what I can tell. From what I understand he was not asked to block enough to say he's anything more than "willing." That's kinda my point. If he isn't a finished product as a blocker he better be great at catching the ball. He isn't. He has some circus catches because of his athletic ability but he gets the drops too much for my taste. Maybe it was the QB and he'll hold onto the ball better with an NFL QB throwing to him. I don't like a guy at 15 who is questionable at the thing he's supposed to excel at doing.

Donald isn't a tall, long-armed Aaron Smith clone. He's not the prototypical 3-4 DE or NT or OLB. You've said yourself on here many times that the Steelers have had to change the way they draft because they can't get the type of CB, NT, OLB, and DE they used to be able steal in the mid-rounds.

Donald is the only player who could conceivably be on the board who I think could really make a difference.

Gilbert doesn't tackle. Dennard is low-ceiling and grabs a lot. The safeties are nothing special. Ebron and Benjamin have the drops. Evans can't seem to keep his balance on a double move. Lewan might be a dirtball AND strictly a RT.

Donald is all I have left. Don't take that away from me, Dale. He gets into the backfield. I don't care where he lines up to do it. Plus, he visited the Steelers. I know that doesn't mean much/he's a local prospect so he doesn't count/smokescreen but they cared enough to talk to him.

When you're drafting this high you figure out how to use the best player. You don't reach for a "scheme fit."

Dale Lolley said...

No. They're basically the same style of player, only Ziggy is bigger.

Ziggy was miscast as a 3-4 DE when he was a 4-3 DT. Only difference is that he has the size to play outside in the 3-4. Donald does not.

As for taking Donald over Ebron, you would take a player who doesn't fit your scheme and make him a part-time player in the nickel, which is all he'd ever be, over a guy who would not only help you this season, but would be the eventual replacement for Heath Miller, who is 32, I might add.

You don't take a guy at 15 who will never be anything more than a situational pass rusher in your scheme.

Anonymous said...

Well, you would have to assume that if the steelers were to take Donald at 15 then they view him as a difference maker on the DL.

kyle said...

The difference between Hood and Donald is Donald played every position along the line in a 3-4 and a 4-3 and did it well. Ziggy didn't do that in college. Ziggy also was never the pass-rusher that Donald is.

Ebron is not Heath Miller. He can make catches (when he makes them) that Miller probably couldn't make when he was 25. He's faster. He will never in his life be half the blocker that Heath Miller is to this day. Ebron is a pass-catcher only. You just said that the advantage to having him in the no huddle is you can split him out wide. I don't want him to split out wide because he has a better chance of dropping the ball than the other top picks in this draft.

I would take the guy who is productive. Who has at least some experience in a D like the Steelers', even their base D, which they run less than half the time now. I also would take the guy who was very VERY good at getting to the QB which the Steelers have sucked at for three years.

Ebron is not a Miller replacement. He is a Jimmy Graham with bad hands.

Anonymous said...

If u think the steelers take Donald ur just stupid...

kyle said...

I didn't say I think they're going to take him. I said I like him as a player. They brought him in for a visit so they at least felt like talking to the kid.

Thanks for spelling correctly though.

Anonymous said...

Donald will be a very good player. As a DT in a 4-3.

kyle said...

He was a very good player his junior year...playing NT and DE in a 3-4 but oh well.

Unknown said...

Dale I agree with all your points except one possible OL.I know Robinson and Matthews will be gone by pick 15, but I feel that if Taylor Lewan is there the Steelers will take him. He has the tools to be a LT and those guys are hard to get. Gilbert is a UFA after this season and the Steelers will let him go. Adams plays better at RT than LT (despite having the tools of a LT and being left-handed). Adams goes to RT in 2014 and Lewan to LT. As you know, Colbert always likes to draft a guy a year ahead of needing to fill a position. I know Muncheck might be able to get Adams to play LT but I still see the Steelers taking him, even if Ebron is there. I do like Ebron if Lewan is gone.

Noel said...

I wouldn't cry if Ebron was the choice but I would much rather see a trade down (49ers might be willing right now) and take Tuitt or Hageman if they are available. We have had great defences with late-round corners when the D-line is solid. Having a solid line makes the linebackers better and that trickles down to DBs not needing to cover as long or being able to make picks because the QB needed to release early/had the pass tipped. Granted they might find those difference makers on the d-line later in the draft but Hageman looks to me like a guy who can contribute very quickly and make everyone else better. Even at 15 he would be my choice right now.

Dale Lolley said...

There's no sense in talking about Donald because it's not going to happen. Could he be a difference maker in the NFL? Sure. I like the kid. But he doesn't fit their scheme. And they're not going to rip up their defense to take him.

And he was playing the nose IN COLLEGE Kyle. Not the same as lining up there in the NFL.

I don't like Lewan at all. I think he's a stiff.

Dale Lolley said...

And I'm not saying Donald can't play the nose in the NFL. He just can't play it the way the Steelers want their nose to play. He's a penetration guy, not somebody who's going to hold the point and allow the linebackers to find the ball.

Penetration guys can be taken advantage of, especially when everyone else is staying in their gap. Leaves cutback lanes.

kyle said...

I'm not going to be in Radio City booing anyone who isn't Donald. But the way the Steelers had their DL play last season was way more penetration and way less occupying blockers. Maybe they did that because they weren't getting much pass rush from the OLB but I seem to remember Keisel talking in the preseason about it being a new point of emphasis.

McClendon is bigger than Donald but he doesn't play the nose the way the Steelers have traditionally had the position played. He's not a space-eating, collapse the pocket type guy. Cam Heyward is strong enough to hold the point but he was making plays by beating his guy or getting his hands in the air, not by stonewalling the edge.

This probably won't matter at all since even with free agent moves, I wouldn't be surprised if the Bears took Donald. I just don't see a defensive player who is better than he is (even Clowney was sleepwalking most of this past season). I don't think the Steelers would have to blow up their defense to get him on the field. And none of the offensive players who might be available at that spot do much for me.

I respect your opinion, Dale, and two months ago I was saying the same thing but strength and first step mean a lot to me on the DL and Donald has both of those moreso than just about any other prospect. I'm not saying he'd be a slam dunk pick for the Steelers. I'm saying I find way fewer flaws in him as a player than I find in any other "projected" picks at 1.15.

Anonymous said...

Ebron is a willing, but the effort isn't always there.

Regarding Donald, penetration is what kills zone blocking and cutback lanes. He did have a ton of TFL. And they did use Hampton that way with success when facing zone teams. They do play both one gap and two, and a hybrid with both.

And they have never used 2TE in no-huddle because it's never been a basic offense type package for them. It's always been a small package designed to either jumpstart the offense or score quickly because of time/score.

And it's not as simple as just splitting out one of the TEs and voila. As it is now, it is a small package of limited plays and personnel. If it's going to be featured, it needs to be broadened.

It was all gun with 3 WRs minimum. Ben reads the box, decides where the numbers work, and picks the best option for their 2-in-1, 3-in-1 play. WR screen/backside slant/run for example. It's not a very sophisticated package. Condensed. Right now it doesn't include 2TE or anything under center.

My guess is they go back to their offense, and fold in more no-huddle. But like every single person outside the PS coaching staff, it's just that. A guess.

Same goes for the Defense really. No idea what plan on doing next year. Tomlin says it's a package league. And that's true, and has been true for several years. For pretty much every team but the Steelers. Most teams employ nickel/dime 55% to 65% of the time, not coincidentally mirroring league Run/Pass ratios. And that was so last year for the Steelers. But that was the outlier, and not by design or desire. It was how they ultimately adjusted to life without Foote. But years past they were opposite of league trends going 60 to 65% base 34. That is who they have aspired to be. Big against the run, limit big plays. That has always been their identity on D. And that went out the window with Foote.

Can't really just say they spent 60% in dime last year, and try to fit the personnel to that. Who's to say they don't go back to a base-heavy D next year. It all depends on who they intend to be next year. Base heavy or packs heavy. Right now, that's uncertain.

This offseason, especially leading up to the draft, I'd think those would be two questions worth asking. O and D identity. Who exactly do they intend to be next year on both sides of the ball?

Anonymous said...

These posts prove that best player available does not exist in the NFL. Best player at a position of need is as close as teams get. That is why Evans would be the dream pick at 15. He fills a need and fits what the Steelers do. Donald might become the next John Randle, and Evans might become the next Limas Sweed. Only time will tell.

drinkyourmilkshake said...

My goodness. All this silly debate about a player who won't last until pick #10, let alone pick #15.

Anonymous said...

I am sure Donald's 3-4 NT and and DE dominance his Junior year against Youngstown State, Gardner-Webb, Buffalo and Temple will translate to NFL dominance in the Steelers 3-4........ Lets talk about someone the Steelers will actually draft.

kyle said...

You left out the four ranked teams they played including Notre Dame who went to the National Championship game that year. But you're right, what a draft pick does in college means nothing. It's all about how tall he is.

By all means, let's talk about the Steelers chances of drafting the slow corner, the non-hitting corner, the tall wideout, the tall slow wideout, the douchebag OT, or the TE with Sweed hands. That's a way more interesting conversation and nobody else is having it.

Patrick said...

Oh Kyle You re becoming the new patrick

Anonymous said...

Colbert / Steelers have also traded up in the past if there's a player they really want aka Polamalu.

kyle said...

I don't know, Patrick. I haven't flown off the handle and told Dale to start banning people or to delete comments. So I might have a ways to go.

Patrick said...

thanks for the insult to a lighthearted joke.

kyle said...

I was certainly joking but please don't take it as an insult. People disagreeing with me about Aaron Donald does not rise to the level of fake accounts (like it was around here a few years back).

I like the kid. I think he's going to play well and could play well from any spot on the field. I didn't mean to take your comment as piling on but I can see how it looks like I did.

Patrick said...

Steelers aren't drafting Donald I also think there's a decent chance the giants take him at 10

Regardless I accept your insulting joke. Let's do lunch

Anonymous said...

I really don't like Ebron much. I think he is extremely soft. I watched the Duke & Cincinnati games on youtube and he shies away from contract, is below average in-line (gets pushed back a LOT) and is pretty much just a big WR (and I've seen WR's block better than him and with more effort downfield). And when the play doesn't come his way, I'm not even sure he gives 100%. He's a dangerous, risky pick at #15. There's enough of an athlete there to help at times (certainly a huge upgrade from Spaeth), but it will be inconsistent and you're going to have to know if Ebron can be team-first type player. I don't know what's up with him trying to hurdle everyone either.