Watching drafts over the years, it's clear that once the first round ends, teams begin to draft positions of need. I think we can look at position of need and count down prospects from there.
V. TIGHT END
18. Austin Seferian-Jenkins -- With the talk of Eric Ebron in Round 1, the Steelers could look to a large red-zone target and an eventual Heath Miller successor in Round 2. I doubt it happens. But I'll put him here as a second-round possibility anyway.
IV. OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
17. Demarcus Lawrence -- Likely gone by this pick 46, which is why I have him behind the other linebackers.
16. Scott Crichton -- It's not definite that Jason Worilds will be extended. Crichton seems to fit more the LOLB spot, if there is a fit. Not sure if he's an end or linebacker. He seems more like an "Elephant" linebacker in the Patriots' scheme.
15. Jeremiah Attaochu -- I like his pass rushing upside.
14. Kyle Van Noy -- Instinctive player who has the capability of playing inside or outside. With Van Noy, the Steelers might be able to fill two needs with one stone.
I still believe OLB in Round 2 is a little rich. The Steelers are looking for starters in the first three rounds of the draft. They have two young starters they are not looking to replace. The cupboard isn't as thin as it was with Andre Frazier and Patrick Bailey as depth, and James Harrison approaching his mid thirties in 2010. If the Steelers draft OLB this high, it's a bad sign the prospects of re-signing Worilds aren't good.
The lack of a true second-round prospect beyond the top five projected corners is one of the reasons I think the Steelers draft a corner of value in Round 1. The prospects beyond the top five have concerns ranging from their speed, quality of opposition, and whether or not they project to corner or safety. Not drafting a corner in Round 1 could cause the Steelers to reach in Round 2. As of now, both starting corners will be free agents after the season. The only player with reliable experience beyond the current projected starters would be a 30-year-old William Gay. I don't think the Steelers would want to get stuck reaching for third-round talent in Round 2. If they pass on a corner in Round 1, and stay true to their board, then they are banking on a player who will be picked theoretically at the top of round 4 (pick # 97) to become a quality starter. That is quite a risk.
13. Stanley Jean-Baptiste and 12. Keith McGill -- Potentially large corners. Or are they safeties? Not sure I want to take the chance in Round 2 to find out, just to chase the Seahawks' style of play.
11. Phillip Gaines -- I see as the most likely second-round target should the Steelers draft another position in Round 1. Gaines has size, speed, agility, and production to match. The concern would be the quality of opponents he faced at Rice.
II. DEFENSIVE LINE
10. Ra'Shede Hageman -- Hageman will likely be gone, which is why I have him behind Stephon Tuitt. However, if he is available, then you know teams are concerned about him. Hageman's upside could be too intriguing to pass up at a position of need.
9. Stephon Tuitt -- Tuitt's height/weight makes him Taylor-made for the 3-4 DE position. I thought he would be a prime target in Round 2, but a friend of mine mentioned how Tuitt was a little stiff and how he came away unimpressed. I watched Tuitt against Stanford when he was healthy in 2012 and learned why he wasn't impressed. I noticed Tuitt didn't collapse the pocket (necessary in the Steelers' 3-4). The sacks and pressures Tuitt accumulated were primarily from beating his man with good hand usage. I also thought he struggled to redirect he body turning corners as well. But the Steelers brought him in. Maybe they see something I don't.
8. Louis Nix -- Nix will likely be gone by pick 46. Mel Kiper has him going to the Steelers at that pick. Bucky Brooks has him going to the Chargers at pick 57. Therefore, I have him listed as a possibility. Nix as the future NT and backup while Steve McLendon gets his feet wet at DE could upgrade two positions at once and turn a perceived weakness into a team strength. I would love for this to be the pick if Nix were available. Still, I have to remind myself that the Steelers were in their base defense just over one-third of their total defensive plays. And where there is smoke, usually there is fire. It is something I remind myself when thinking back to the rumor that the Steelers want to give Ben Roethlisberger a big receiving target.
I. WIDE RECEIVER
Several of these players I have listed have at one point been projected at the bottom of the first round. Unlike cornerback, the receiver position is loaded with good value in Round 2. I would be happy with any of the players listed below. For the sake of this piece, I am forced to put them in order.
7. Davante Adams -- An inch or two shorter than what I would prefer. The level of competition and the offense he played in padded his stats at Fresno State. Still, his red-zone production is hard to ignore.
6. Jordan Matthews -- At 6-3, he's faster than people realize (4.4 speed). He had some difficulty getting separation at the Senior Bowl. I wonder how much of his production was a result of Vanderbilt throwing to him on what seemed like every play. Reports on his ornery personality are a little concerning.
5. Martavis Bryant -- I could easily put Bryant at the top of the list. He has the height and athletic ability to catch jumps balls in the end zone, speed to stretch the field between the 20s, and he's used to being a No. 2 or No. 3 option. Inconsistent hands, maturity concerns, along with questionable ability to work between the numbers have him ranked fifth.
4. Allen Robinson -- Robinson can work between or outside the numbers. He's extremely shifty for a 6-3 receiver and has great hands. Shows he can execute Todd Haley's bubble screen/quick-throw passing game and be a red-zone threat. His outstanding pro day put him back on the radar. He seems like a good kid who "fits the room." His ability to stretch the field is questionable.
3. Donte Moncrief -- Is a threat inside or outside the numbers in the red zone because of his body size and width. Moncrief can also stretch the field between the 20s. He wasn't highly productive in the red zone in college. His ability to separate looks average. He's also not shifty like Robinson or the player I have No. 1.
2. Kelvin Benjamin -- A good number of analysts now project Benjamin to be available when the Steelers pick in Round 2. He seems like the perfect complement to Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton. A Plaxico Burress type of target Ben has long craved. I like what Benjamin can provide in terms of springing long runs while blocking. At this point, if he's there, I would think he would be the pick. I have him at No. 2 because I think I don't think he slides to 46.
1. Cody Latimer -- I'll preface this by saying I'll be surprised if Latimer is the pick. But since the message board has discussed the wide receivers ranked above at length, I thought this would be a good time to bring someone new into the fold. It seems like the Steelers have shown more interest in Bryant, Robinson, Moncrief, and Benjamin. However, it is always possible at this time of year that they are trying to throw teams off their scent. Coming off a foot injury and unable to participate at the combine, Latimer still clocked between 4.39 and 4.43 with a 39-inch vertical. At 6-3, 215, Latimer was the best player on arguably the best offense in the Big Ten. On tape, he shows the ability to make plays inside or outside the numbers. The former Indiana basketball player can go up and get the ball. The high point touchdown catch he made against Darqueze Dennard showed both his athleticism and strength. His strength showed up at the combine when he put up 225 pounds 23 times. His strength also shows up in the aggressive nature in which he blocks on running plays.
Latimer's tape against Penn State was very impressive. He made a couple of incredible catches that displayed his speed, leaping ability, hands, and ball skills. He's not afraid to go over the middle. He catches the ball with strength of hands and body in traffic and shows a good burst after the catch on bubble screens.
To see Latimer's athletic ability off the football field, I encourage readers to look at YouYube under the Indiana football dunk competition. Latimer's dunks are impressive, but I was more impressed with his body frame than the dunks. Latimer nearly has the build of a running back. Latimer's size, speed, strength, and athleticism could provide the Steelers help on every blade of grass as well as in the run game.
Second round pick: Cody Latimer.