Don't Mock This III

In Part III of his Anti-Mock trilogy, Jim Wexell shares his pro day visions, along with his final list of Top 17 Steelers prospects.

In the third and final version of this draft season's Anti-Mock trilogy, I'm still waiting for the A-Ha moment in which I sense that Mike Tomlin has found his guy.

I mean, surely he's going to make sense of this madness, isn't he?

I thought I had found clarity on March 12 when Tomlin was in Florida while one of his lieutenants, Keith Butler, was having dinner with Kansas State middle linebacker Arthur Brown.

Brown strikes me as a Tomlin type, with the "twitchy-ness" and suddenness and all, but Brown's just not big enough or instinctive enough against the run to deserve being picked so early for a position that's not wide open.

After the prospect visits this week, it's becoming clear the Steelers will look to find Larry Foote's future replacement in the third or fourth round, and that makes more sense than reaching for one in the first.

And then, a week later, A-Ha, it will be Jarvis Jones.

He's an instinctive type who gets most of his sacks not from beating tackles off the edge but from hustling and sorting through the inside trash. He could become a blitzing inside backer, particularly with those leadership skills of his. And he hasn't had another problem with his stenosis since leaving USC. And Tomlin was there for his pro day.

The Steelers insisted for years that the similarly sized Lawrence Timmons could play outside linebacker in their scheme. Why wouldn't they want to revive those moribund fantasies with Jones? The production has to be worth more than all of the bad tape, doesn't it?

Nope. Not when you run a 4.92 40 and no one believes that you had a bad day. There shouldn't – shouldn't – be a chance the Steelers will draft a small AND slow outside linebacker at 17.

The third A-Ha moment began with a vision of Plaxico Burress. Except that it's not Plaxico. It only sounds like him. And he says he's from the Chesapeake Bay area. And he says Plax is his mentor.

Why, it's young Justin Hunter.

But why draft him?

Well, just as firmly as I believe they'll draft an ILB in the third or fourth, I believe they'll draft a running back in the second. So that leaves the other depth-chart holes at O-line, safety and wide receiver, and WR has the true opening in the starting lineup, considering my lack of confidence in Emmanuel Sanders.

But in the first round, Tavon Austin will be gone, DeAndre Hopkins doesn't return kicks, and Keenan Allen has yet to shake off his knee problem.

Cordarrelle Patterson does return kicks, but a combination of Patterson and Antonio Brown at WR would be the root of so many mental mistakes that offensive coordinator Todd Haley's head would finally blow for good.

That leaves the dinner meeting with Tennessee QB Tyler Bray to talk about the second coming of Plax, and this vision of reporters gathering around Burress in the locker room to talk about his protégé just won't leave my head.

Still, I refuse to put the erratic Hunter on my final list of the top 17 Steelers prospects in this draft. Last month's rankings are in parentheses:

1. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (3) – Probably because they want Kelvin Beachum to become a 5-position backup, the Steelers are listing him as a guard these days. That leaves Jake Long's little brother, Joe, as the team's only reserve tackle. Nuf said.

2. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan (2) – No, not nuf said. Even if Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams play as well as the Steelers dream they will, one of the two could play guard some day because …

3. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama (5) – … the Steelers don't have any guards on the depth chart, either …

4. Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina (1) – … since I'm not buying Beachum as being stout enough to become the interior player he needs to be right now. Yes, I do like Beachum's future – in the future.

5. Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon (11) – Maybe all the talk about him having the frame to gain weight and become stout at the point are affecting me.

6. Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma (4) – Again, it's the massive depth chart hole about which no one speaks.

7. Star Lotulelei, NT/DE, Utah (NR) – The heart of the Star has passed examination.

8. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (8) – He's a 4.2 playmaker who can play RB and return kicks.

9. Ziggy Ansah, OLB, BYU (6) – Can still see the Steelers passing on a guy who's probably better suited to playing 4-3 DE. But it's difficult for me to forget about my first love.

10. Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida (NR) – You know what you could do with Ansah? The same thing you could do if for some reason this 21-year-old 3-tech falls into your lap: change to a 4-3.

11. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State (13) – Yes, I've moved him ahead of Dee Milliner because Rhodes could turn into a great safety under the tutelage of former superstar CB-S Carnell Lake.

12. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU (NR) – The guy refuses to lift weights for scouts, but I've learned that he loves the game, so an NFL strength program could turn him into a monster.

13. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (9) – Someone's going to have to return kicks. This guy hasn't done it, but he does have 4.37 speed.

14. Keenan Allen, WR, Cal (14) – OK, in anticipation of his personal pro day next Tuesday, I'm settling on him ahead of DeAndre Hopkins because Allen's a better kick returner.

15. Eric Reid, FS, LSU (NR) – Yeah, a little surprise here. Maybe I'm just worn down by "Path to the Draft." Maybe it was analyst Charles Davis's analogy of Reid being to Tyrann Mathieu what Ryan Clark is to Troy Polamalu. Maybe it's Clark – who's always raved about Reid – showing up at his alma mater's pro day with Tomlin. Maybe it's the incredible interception Reid made two years ago against Alabama. Maybe it's my belief the Steelers need a young FS more than a young SS. And maybe, since I've already erased WR Hopkins, I'm better suited to erase how badly Hopkins burned Reid last New Year's Eve. Plus, Reid is that valued 21-year-old.

16. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas (10) – He's 23 years old and is more of a box safety. Maybe I've just strayed too far from the season … and reality.

17. D.J. Fluker, T/G, Alabama (NR) – Perhaps the Steelers have a quiet agreement with Max Starks that he'll agree to sign after the draft for minimum wage as a reserve. Perhaps they don't.

Dropped from list: Jarvis Jones (7), DeAndre Hopkins (12), Jonathan Cyprien (15), Bjoern Werner (16), Johnathan Hankins (17).

To read Part I, click here.

To read Part II, click here.


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