MOBILE -- The Pittsburgh Steelers will likely be looking to acquire an edge pass-rusher early in the 2017 draft to either replace James Harrison or learn under him if Harrison and the team reach a contract agreement within the next couple of months.
The best edges in these Senior Bowl workouts are Illinois’ Dawuane Smoot and Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers.
While Smoot may only be a fit as a 4-3 defensive end, Rivers is more versatile and probably the best run-defending edge here. He’s also one of the more explosive pass-rushers at the event, showing the ability to dip-and-rip the edge and convert speed-to-power. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with his skill set this week, especially when the jump in competition -- which he’s mostly dominated -- is taken into account.
Haason Reddick from Temple is probably the best pure pass-rusher here, and his added weight puts him in the conversation to play off the edge. While almost unblockable in one-on-ones as a pass-rusher, he’s also been terrific in coverage as an inside linebacker. Reddick is a truly dynamic player who is going to test extremely well at the Combine. Big riser this week.
Many Steelers fans were interested in Ryan Anderson this week, since he sports the prototypical look of a Pittsburgh outside linebacker. Anderson has been mostly an off-ball linebacker in drills, and he’s been roasted in coverage. He also failed to make an impact playing off the edge more often in practice No. 2. He lacks the same juice that some of the top guys possess, making him a likely late Day 2 pick, and not the Round 1 selection some were calling him in the weeks preceding this event.
- Pitt’s Nate Peterman has clearly established himself as the best passer amidst a dismal group of quarterbacks. He made an excellent throw on a tightly covered out route on third-and-9, leading Gerald Everett to the sideline with a perfectly placed throw.
But while Peterman was solidifying himself as (what should be) a mid-round pick, Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs had his best day in an effort to obtain a draftable grade from NFL teams. Dobbs is going to interview extremely well and can definitely handle the mental workload of playing the position, but his skill set still leaves a lot to be desired, especially as it pertains to accuracy and field vision. DII-standout Antonio Pipkin had a gorgeous seam route throw to Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram during the second practice for one of the best tosses of the day. On the other side of the coin, Iowa’s C.J. Beathard has been up and down this week, while Davis Webb and Sefo Liufau have really struggled.
- The wide receiver group continues to lack a standout player, despite flashes from a few guys here. Every receiver here looks like a Day 3 role guy who'll need the right fit and usage to be more than an average NFL player. Few have struggled more than Syracuse’s Amba Etta-Tawo, who dropped 3-4 passes during individual drills and actually alligator-armed a ball over the middle vs. air. He and Amara Darboh have struggled to catch cleanly (really all of the North receivers have) this week, while diminutive 5-7 receiver Trent Taylor has displayed the best hands and ability to snag the ball outside of his frame. Granted his catch radius is quite limited, but Taylor is probably the best and most explosive route runner on the North team, and has easily been the best receiver for that squad this week.
-The tight end group here is extremely impressive. O.J. Howard is the best player in Mobile, while Engram has made himself some money by proving capable as a blocker and likely interviewing extremely well based on his leadership and work ethic as a player. He's a very detailed technician. Jonnu Smith and Gerald Everett are solid playmakers who can separate from man coverage, while Michael Roberts has the towering frame and red zone ability teams love. The Steelers can have their pick of a deep and talented tight end class.
- I entered the week in love with Troy tackle Antonio Garcia, and he’s been very solid here. But Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton has been unquestionably the best tackle in Mobile. He and Garcia have helped themselves this week, while Zach Banner and Pitt's Adam Bisnowaty appear undraftable. Julie’n Davenport is up and down but will get drafted earlier than he should because of raw tools, while Justin Senior and Conor McDermott have struggled mightily against inside moves all week.
- The inside linebacker group isn’t stellar, but a team may get a Day 3 steal in DII Simon Fraser’s Jordan Herdman, who keys-and-diagnoses extremely well. He’s slippery to evade blocks and not lose gap contain as well, recording several big stops in the run game. A player to watch on Day 3.
- I’ve seen only bits and pieces of the corners and safeties here, but Tre'Davious White and Cameron Sutton have been the best I’ve seen here. Sutton has played some safety and been rolled up in the slot, and shows excellent click-and-close from off coverage. White has the best feet here, but was injured late in practice.