Don't Mock This

It's not a mock draft, but a Top 17 of college prospects who best fit the Pittsburgh Steelers. SCI's Jim Wexell starts with Chance Warmack.

A mock draft? Are you kidding?

Heck, it's hard enough zeroing in on the one pick the team I'm covering will make, let alone researching the needs and fits of the 31 others in the league.

So that's why I am doing this Steelers-style.

As the Steelers approach the draft, they list prospects they would pick at 1, 2, 3 and so on until their pick, which this year is scheduled to be 17th. And that's what I have here today, a Top 17 based on who fits the Steelers best.

These choices won't align with the consensus on most media boards, but that's OK because I've seen every player here and have my own opinions, and sometimes that's how it turns out in the end.

So without further adieu (or character issues or medical question marks or 4-3 defensive linemen), here is my pre-combine Top 17:

1. Chance Warmack, G, AlabamaYes, a guard tops the dream list. This was the main move-em-out guy for the best run-blocking line in college football. He slew all of the SEC beasts, and then whipped Louis Nix of Notre Dame. For all of Warmack's obvious power, he won't turn 22 until September. He also plays a position of Steelers need, LG, which would be cause for a bit of overkill, with three No. 1 picks in the interior, but they may as well finish the line with a true stud and be done with it.

2. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&MI hesitate to put a tackle this high since the Steelers are ready to roll with two young tackles of their own, but this is based strictly on value, and Joeckel won't turn 22 until November. Very few will pass, so it will be a moot point.

3. Eric Fisher, OT, Central MichiganThe above follows for Fisher as well. I actually like him a bit better than Joeckel, but Fisher's a year older and hasn't played the SEC competition Joeckel has.

4. Jonathan Cooper, G, North CarolinaIn attempting to play catch-up and take a close look at redshirt sophomore Giovani Bernard recently, I couldn't take my eyes off of the guy who repeatedly pulled out in front of him and knocked linebackers on their cans. Cooper might not produce the sure short-yardage hole that Warmack will, but the mobility of this young Steelers line with Cooper would be unprecedented.

5. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama – Combine time will be important for Milliner, who has the length and physicality the Steelers like in their cornerbacks. He's only 21, giving him the edge at this position over the ultra-physical 23-year-old Xavier Rhodes.

6. Bjoern Weaver, OLB, Florida StateHe'll fit best as a 4-3 end, but since he's still learning the game, why not learn a new position entirely? He's just too fast and powerful and is getting better too quickly to pass on.

7. Johnathan Hankins, NT, Ohio StateYes, he was disappointing in 2012, but only because expectations were so high. If you watched the Michigan game, you watched Hankins make the key plays down the stretch with thunderous, violent hits. He's only 21, giving him the edge for the only NT spot on this board over 23-year-old Star Lotulelei. Hankins' combine interview will be important, as will any recommendations – good or bad – from his coaches at Steelers-friendly OSU

8. Ziggy Ansah, DE/OLB, BYURarely are the Steelers interested in soon-to-be 24-year-olds in the first round because "men" should stand out against "boys." But Ansah is new to the game and showed great – albeit raw – skills as a disruptive and violent playmaker. BYU played him everywhere, from MLB to NT, but this guy's so athletic that he's the type you gear your scheme to, as opposed to the other way around. Ansah is a personal favorite, so I stuck with him over the skinny Barkevious Mingo and the small and medically questionable Jarvis Jones as one of only three pass-rushing candidates on this board.

9. Dion Jordan, OLB, OregonThis is the one who scares me, but even if he's not a safe and solid choice Jordan is a 6-6 pass-rusher who has proven coverage skills. My gut tells me he's more of a 4-3 OLB than a guy who can hold the point in the run game as a 3-4 OLB, but I put him here so I'm not laughed out of the war room. And I'll assume someone else will take him off the board before pick 17 anyway.

10. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, ClemsonRanked him ahead of another classic split end, Cordarrelle Patterson, because at 20 Hopkins is a year younger and he finished stronger, as opposed to Patterson's fast start and slow finish. Also, Patterson was a JC transfer who left after only one year at Tennessee, so character could – could – be an issue. Combine interviews might cause these players to trade places, but right now I'll take Hopkins, who dominated LSU in his bowl game. One problem is that he hasn't shown much in the return game, which is a Steelers need.

11. Tavon Austin, WR, WVU – There's no doubt this guy can return kicks, and if he was at least 6-1 he might top this board. But at 5-9 the worry is that he won't be able to fill the void at split end (assuming Mike Wallace leaves). Still, Austin, in my opinion, was the most electrifying playmaker in college football last season and he's a serious competitor in the mold of another of my favorites: Louisiana Tech WR Quinton Patton. These players are future team leaders, and in the first round the big picture should be taken into account as opposed to current team needs. A trade down to grab one of these WRs would suit me just fine.

12. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama – Very few will agree with me on this ranking, but I love his power, quick feet, vision, and his competitiveness on a championship team that was run-oriented. Was his production a result of Warmack and Company? Possibly. But when you watch from the other side – when you scout the linebackers he played – Lacy ran them all over. His 40 time will be important at the combine.

13. Kenny Vaccaro, S, TexasIt's a great crop of safeties, and the Steelers will be able to grab good value at the position in any round. That will end up hurting Vaccaro because teams can wait. But Vaccaro is not only tough and instinctive, he's proven he can play man coverage on slot receivers.

14. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame – He's shown he's a better blocker than Zach Ertz of Stanford, Jordan Reed of Florida and Gavin Escobar of San Diego State. All four tight ends are tall playmakers. A great 40 time would separate either from the others at this position.

15. Keenan Allen, WR, CaliforniaWon't turn 21 until draft weekend, Allen is another player who can make great strides up this board if he shows at the combine that he has deep speed. Will also make points with an expected strong display of character in interviews.

16. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State – As physical as they come and an ideal fit for Dick LeBeau's defense. If the Steelers don't re-sign Keenan Lewis, they'll have a greater need at the position on draft day.

17. Matt Barkley, QB, Southern California – Just threw him in to make a point that I believe he's the best QB coming out. His cool demeanor and leadership bring to mind Phil Simms. And if nothing else, the Steelers could trade this pick to a QB-hungry team and acquire more choices for the rich 15-45 range of the draft.

The OBR Top Stories