Steelers Grab Big WR In First Round

The publishers held a mock draft last week and in the first round the Steelers chose WR Mike Evans. Here's the analysis:

To take off on an old song that's rattling around my brain: What the world needs now is another mock draftor, like I need a hole in my head.

I think that's how it went.

Anyway, the publishers got together for an old-fashioned e-mail mock draft last week, and I like these mock drafts better than those from the mind of one man, no matter how intelligent, because each publisher covers a team and knows the ins and outs, the depth charts, the contract statuses of that team.

So I'm going to break this analysis of my picks -- the Steelers' picks -- into three parts. I didn't have a third-round pick, of course, due to the Steelers trading it away to the Cleveland Browns last year to draft Shamarko Thomas in the fourth round, but I will have a third-round pick for readers here since the Steelers have been awarded the first compensatory pick of that third round.

But back to the first round, in which I was looking at a solid list of Beasts after only the first six on my board had been taken. And I was determined to stick to my board -- as published here on March 5 -- and was looking primarily at Mike Evans (7), C.J. Mosley (9), Kelvin Benjamin (11) and Kyle Fuller (12).

The only other two still available from my Beasts list -- Ra'shede Hageman (14) and Louis Nix (15) -- are there for trade-down purposes only.

The first of the four I ruled out was Mosley, because I've since learned that he's not only quiet on the field, but he isn't comfortable making the pre-snap calls. That's not what the Steelers need next to the similarly shy Lawrence Timmons.

Next to go, of course, was Fuller, since he ranked fourth among the group. But I gave him genuine consideration since I believe he's more physical than Justin Gilbert and better out of zone coverage than Darqueze Dennard.

But, I stuck to my board and once again it came down to the big receivers -- the guys who can play above the defense with a similarly sized quarterback -- Evans and Benjamin, and I took Evans.

My heart always tells me Benjamin because I like his body control, his happy-go-lucky attitude, and the way he's performed on big stages against the likes of Florida and Auburn.

Evans, of course, performed well on a big stage against Alabama, but there was one thing in that game that bothered me: He didn't jump.

On one jump ball in the middle of the field, Evans was not only outjumped by safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, but also by a teammate who made the catch. Evans didn't leave the ground on another pass at the sideline.

I complained about this in the forum one day, that maybe he's been so much bigger than everybody throughout his career that jumping is not an instinct. And then someone posted this picture in response, which illustrated the incredible catch radius of a man who's 6-4 3/4 with 35 1/8 arms and a 37-inch vertical jump.

By comparison, Benjamin's catch-radius numbers at the combine were 6-5 height, 34 7/8 arms and a disappointing 32 1/2 vertical jump.

The two other issues I had with Evans were 1.) his poor performance against pro prospect E.J. Gaines, in which Evans only caught 4 passes for 8 yards in A&M's loss, and 2.) his two personal fouls early in his bowl game against another pro prospect, Ross Cockrell of Duke.

In the latter game, the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve, Evans failed to catch a pass in the end zone, from the Duke 23, on the first series and demanded a flag be thrown on Cockrell. Evans was so demonstrative that he drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty and the drive ended with a missed 54-yard field goal.

On A&M's third possession, Evans, apparently in retaliation against Cockrell, was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a first-down play that resulted in a blocked punt and a 21-3 Duke lead.

Quarterback Johnny Manziel slammed his helmet to the ground after the second penalty and had a televised sideline chat with Evans, who had 1 catch for 15 yards and two penalties for 30 to that point. The talk seemed to work as Evans finished with 4 catches for 72 yards and A&M rallied for a 52-48 win.

At the combine, Evans explained why he was so excited so early in the game.

"Thinking it was my last game I was overly emotional, trying to get a pass interference call," he said. "It was a bonehead play by me. The second personal foul, I was upset, didn't know why I got that one. Johnny came to the sideline, him being a leader, myself being a leader, we talked it over, and then he told me he needed me to win the game. He came to me in the second half and ended a great career."

Evans said that since the game he's been working with former NFL great James Lofton, who has "helped me grow up as a man. He's teaching me to be a better football player as well, but he's teaching me a lot of off-the-field things, too."

Evans, it should be remembered, won't turn 21 until August 21.

Cockrell, a mid-round prospect who's being scouted by Steelers GM Kevin Colbert today at Duke, said he "didn't do anything different or special" to get inside Evans' head, and said of Evans, "He's very physical, probably one of the most gifted receivers I've played this year. I loved every second of it. It was like going against the best. It made me better."

I also had the chance at the combine to talk to Gaines, the mid-round CB prospect out of Missouri. I asked about holding Evans to 8 receiving yards.

"I had a good game against Mike Evans," Gaines admitted. "I love the competition. I think he does too. Anytime I've got competition like that, it's definitely a fun game."

But how did a 5-10 cornerback play so well against a 6-5 receiver?

"Playing at Missouri, big receivers," he said before chuckling, "is what we go against. It's not something I don't see every day."

Of course, Missouri's top three receivers are 6-4 or taller, led by the 6-6 Dorial Green-Beckham.

"But Mike Evans is definitely a great receiver," Gaines continued, "and I think it was the film study I put in that week. Going against somebody like that, you have to. So watching him and Johnny Manziel really put me on top of my game."

(Tomorrow: Mock Analysis, Part II.)

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