Steelers Draft '15: Wide Receivers

Another strong class of pass-catchers greets a team that has a wide-open hole on its depth chart.

The Pittsburgh Steelers pored through the tight ends from start to finish, and the result is ...

... they don't like any of them.

Nah. But I'm just sayin': Just suppose.

Just suppose the Steelers have also determined that the first-round cornerbacks aren't all that much better than the second-rounders.

And just suppose the best 3-4 outside linebackers will be gone, as expected, and that Eli Harold's still a year away, and that the 4-3 DEs are just too much of a leap in schematic thought.

Just suppose the Steelers have said to themselves, "Let's just take another great receiver, line up with four, and let Ben attack."

Just suppose the Steelers take Jaelen Strong in the first round.

They had him in the other day. The assumption from me was that Strong might make a great second-rounder if a wrist injury allows him to slip that far.

But suppose they're looking at Strong for the first round. After all, Mike Tomlin did have dinner with DeVante Parker too.

Amari Cooper and Kevin White are considered the Tier 1-A wide receivers in this draft, with Parker and Strong considered Tier 1-B and possibly available with the 22nd pick.

Would the defensively challenged Steelers dare pick a wide receiver?

Well, either Parker or Strong would help a red-zone offense that finished 19th in the NFL in touchdown percentage last season. That's a three-spot drop from the previous season, when the Steelers ranked 16th.

That's just not good enough with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back.

In Parker, the Steelers are looking at a first-rounder with size (6-2 5/8, 209), speed (4.49 40, 1.56 10), strength (17 reps) and the jumping ability (36.5 vertical) to go along with production (33 touchdowns, 17.8 yards per catch in four seasons). Parker's a deep threat and a red-zone threat.

The numbers are similar for Strong (6-2.3, 217, 4.44 40, 1.57 10, 42 VJ). And in two years at Arizona State he scored 17 touchdowns and averaged 14.6 yards per catch. He's not the deep threat that Parker is, but he might be tougher and more skilled at the catch point.

And Strong has a great backstory.

Strong's father, John Rankin, played at Philadelphia's Drexel University and remains the No. 2 all-time scorer and No. 4 rebounder. "He was the consummate low-post scorer," a former assistant coach told the Philadelphia Inquirer in a recent feature on Jaelen. "He had the big butt. He was only 6-6 - he knew how to use his body, he had the little left hand hook, the little fade. People thought, 'We can guard that guy' . . . and he scored 2,100 points."

Rankin became a detective in the Philadelphia Police Department but died of leukemia when Jaelen was nine years old. Jaelen went to his dad's high school, West Catholic Prep, and became a football and track star, but needed to attend a junior college in Los Angeles because of academics.

Strong arrived at Arizona State in 2013 and immediately produced. In his first six starts he had five 100-yard games. Last year, his biggest game was against USC when he caught 10 for 202 and three touchdowns, including a Hail Mary to win the game.

Jaelen not only outfights defenders at the catch point as we imagine his dad did on the basketball court, but Strong's similar in other ways. His father's former police and business partner, Shawn Wilson, told the Inquirer, "Watching (Strong) transition to what he's become, not just a ballplayer, his mannerisms. To see him today, and talk to him, sometimes it really chokes me up. He's just so much of his father. I'm talking about things he definitely didn't have an idea about . . . It's almost like John is really living through Jaelen - his voice, his mannerisms, little things he says, his laugh. He has a chuckle that John had and only John had."

It's a story - and of course a player - that would go over well in Pittsburgh.

Of course, there's also the wrist injury that's being examined at this weekend's medical recheck. Perhaps that will be the red flag a team such as the defense-deficient Steelers waves instead on draft day.

But it's fun to suppose all the same.

TOP FIVE

1. Amari Cooper, 6-1, 211, Alabama.

2. Kevin White, 6-3, 215, West Virginia.

3. DeVante Parker, 6-3, 209, Louisville.

4. Jaelen Strong 6-2 1/2, 217, Arizona State.

5. Breshad Perriman, 6-2, 212, Central Florida.

STEELERS' VALUE BOARD

First Round: DeVante Parker, Louisville; Jaelen Strong, Arizona State.

Second Round: Breshad Perriman, Central Florida.

Third Round: Rashad Greene, Florida State.

Fourth Round: Sammie Coates, Auburn; Kenny Bell, Nebraska.

Check out Dave-Te' Thomas' Offensive Draft Value Board.


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