Mike Tomlin might have been watching T.J. Watt run drills at the Wisconsin pro day at the same time I was on the radio in Wheeling blabbering on about Watt.
Watt's workout at the NFL Combine had convinced me to move the pass-rusher up into my Top 30 rankings, which I had promised to update upon my return from Indianapolis.
I was telling Bill DiFabio of WKKX yesterday that my favorite first-round draft prospects for the Pittsburgh Steelers are cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey, Chidobe Awuzie and Fabian Moreau and pass-rushers Carl Lawson, Derek Rivers and Watt.
About an hour later, news broke that Watt and his bookend at Wisconsin, Vince Biegel, had dined with Tomlin and Kevin Colbert the previous night. Watt is a first-round candidate and Biegel, an underrated 6-3 1/4, 246-pounder, is probably a third-rounder.
I'm not exactly sure where Watt fits into my updated Top 30 list, so let's find out:
1. Myles Garrett, OLB/DE, Texas A&M -- Was No. 1 on the pre-Combine list, and there measured 6-4 1/2, 272 with 35 1/4-inch arms. Need more? Well, he dragged those 272 pounds down the track in 4.64 seconds, with a quick start of 1.63 in the 10. He also jumped 41 inches vertically. If I could, I would move him up this list.
2. Solomon Thomas, DE/DT, Stanford -- Not that the Steelers need another 5-tech but this kind of defensive line talent had to be moved up just on principal. Find a way to use a guy like this if you get the chance. The 21-year-old, 273-pounder ran a 4.69 40, 1.66 10 and a 6.95 3-cone.
3. Jamal Adams, S, LSU -- Not sure he fits like other safeties would in the slot, but if they want to use him in a 3-safety dime look, or as a $backer, I have no doubt he's more than physical enough to get the job done while being groomed to replace Mike Mitchell one day. Not that I'm looking to replace Mitchell. I think he's played well. Mitchell turns 30 in June and has two years left on his contract, so I'm really not looking to begin that grooming process this season. Adams is just that good and that physical.
4. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama -- Most don't rate this physical press-man corner this high but I liked everything about his interview, as well as his performance on John Ross in the national semifinals. The Steelers need that type of physicality on the perimeter again. The knock is that he loses the deep ball in the air. Well, that could be true. I guess. It sounds to me as if it's a weakness found by folks determined to find a weakness and spotted a couple of instances. But he's only 20 years old and at 6-0 1/2, 197 ran a 4.41 40.
5. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State -- Ran the blistering 4.36 40 that was expected from the 6-0, 193-pounder. I still worry about his history of hamstring trouble, but am compelled to move him up right along with Humphrey because of the Steelers' need for a No. 1 corner.
6. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama -- Perfectly fine with the weapons the Steelers have on offense -- IF Ladarius Green is healthy. This not only serves to support that, but Howard is the rare all-around TE who would play even more than a healthy Green once he learns the offense.
7. Jonathan Allen, DE/DT, Alabama -- He didn't have a great Combine, but that's OK because I never saw the fuss over him as an athlete anyway. Yes, he's had his moments, such as the flying leap/sack that was played repeatedly on SportsCenter, but he's also a versatile piece who can play end if the loss of Lawrence Timmons means more $backer or 3-safety looks. To me that signals a need for beef up front, and possibly a 4-3, or however they want to mix it up with another versatile lineman.
8. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan -- Let's take a break from our regularly scheduled defensive programming to throw in another offensive superstar.
9. Carl Lawson, OLB/DE, Auburn -- He convinced me his injuries are healed during an interview in which he also displayed not only his seriousness about becoming a great NFL player but that he's a serious student of the game. I love the rare young player who knows his NFL history. I'm still not in love with his tape. I like it. And with his 35 reps he showed he not only has the strength for the job but the work ethic. Scouts love his hands.
10. Derek Rivers, OLB/DE, Youngstown State -- Not only did his times (4.61, 1.61, 6.94 3-cone), strength (30 reps) and explosiveness (35 vj, 10-3 bj) convince me he can play with the big boys, so did his character. You don't know sometimes why a top athlete slipped through the D-1 cracks, and oftentimes it's because he has a character flaw. But I've learned that Rivers is a terrific young guy who's taken other troubled players under his wing and guided them to success (Avery Moss). Class act. Terrific athlete. The Steelers are paying close attention.
11. Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado -- Another one of my favorite interview subjects in Indy, And Awuzie can flat out cover and hit. Just a terrific overall cornerback and I have no idea why he's not being held in higher esteem by the draft media. Their loss, I guess, but I'll take this guy at 30 in a heartbeat and he'll play the slot on opening day with an eye toward a starting outside spot as soon as he's ready.
12. Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina -- Still my favorite QB because of his accuracy and pocket poise. I also enjoyed an interview I had with cocky, little Ryan Switzer, Trubisky's college roommate. He talked about how his boy reacted (personally, it was tough but he kept an enthusiastic facade) to being a long-time backup to "a great player" (Marquise Williams), who was actually an awful player. But Switzer -- whom I also like very much as a third-round slot/return specialist -- told me what I wanted to hear about Trubisky's make-up. The only negative at the Combine was when Mitch asked the media to call him Mitchell.
13. Christian McCaffrey, RB/Slot WR/Return Specialist, Stanford -- Just too many things he can do. As for his great Combine 3-cone time of 6.57, I didn't need to know it. I saw it. Too many times.
14. Haason Reddick, ILB, Temple -- All of the same athletic characteristics of Rivers but the potential to move back and play inside linebacker. Now, I hesitate to draft an ILB in the first round because he's going to sit behind Vince Williams. But Reddick can help as an edge rusher on passing downs as he learns his new and complicated position. Hopefully he's smart enough to become the playcaller one day.
15. Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama -- Fell from No. 5 on my first list not because he was sent home for yelling at a hospital worker. Heck no. He fell because, again, a rookie isn't going to start ahead of Williams. Foster doesn't have Reddick's versatility, so he ranks below him. But Foster ranks this high because he's just so darn good.
16. Derek Barnett, OLB/DE, Tennessee -- Worries about his athleticism disappeared when the 259-pounder ran a 6.96 3-cone while sick at the Combine. He's more of a 4-3 end but as you know I've long grown tired of the distinction between that and 3-4 OLB with all of the DE such a player will need to play in the nickel. Barnett can drop enough. What he does best is get to the quarterback.
17. John Ross, WR, Washington -- An extensive injury history is the only reason a 4.22 burner ranks this low. And his 12 red-zone touchdown catches last season are another reason he ranks this high for a team that needs defense.
18. T.J. Watt, OLB/DE Wisconsin -- More ability to drop and with a lanky frame to add more weight, J.J.'s brother has athleticism and an upside, since he's played the position only two seasons. I didn't like my first watch, but as he gained a following among Steelers fans I took second and third looks and appreciate the appeal.
19. Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA -- Let's move a couple of corners who can play slot up the list past the safety who can play the slot (Budda Baker) because an eventual No. 1 CB has become a need for a team that swung and missed in its search for one in free agency. Moreau has become a personal favorite of mine because he's 6-0 1/2, 206 and ran a 4.35 40. He's also physical and has upside at the position after moving over from offense a couple of seasons ago. Carnell Lake Jr.
20. Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU -- Others ran faster (4.47) but his 16 bench reps support the re-direct skills this press corner shows on tape.
21. Budda Baker, CB/S, Washington -- He's shorter (5-9 5/8) than he looks on tape, at least to me, but the rest of his numbers at Indy were impressive: 4.45 40, 15 bench reps, 6.76 3-cone, 4.08 shuttle. He's a perfect fit in the slot for the Steelers, who like blitzers and run stoppers in the middle of the field just as much as they like cover men.
22. Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State -- Have to tag Hooker with Baker, as I did on my original list (13 & 14), just because so many people rave about Hooker. I figure I'm missing the boat here, so I've moved him on up and figure he can play in the slot his first year. But I just don't understand his poor tackling. I thought it was because of a labrum injury, but he explained at the Combine that it was the labrum in his hip that required surgery. Why doesn't this guy tackle better? I'll just figure I'm wrong and everyone else is right here.
23. Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State -- I hesitate to draft so high an outside corner-only, but he's 6-0, 195 with long 33-inch arms, ran a 4.44 with an eye-popping 6.68 3-cone and he's a press-man corner. I guess I could just grab Cam Sutton in the third to play the slot.
24. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson -- Red-zone threat who's just too good to pass up if he falls this far.
25. Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss -- Another 10-year weapon on offense.
26. Kevin King, CB, Washington -- You're probably wondering what happened to King's teammate, Sidney Jones, who suffered an Achilles' injury at pro day. Well, and the same can be said for DE/OLB Takkrist McKinley, I'm not drafting injured players in the first round. The Steelers put up with too much of that last season and I'm sure they grew weary of it. King is 6-3 with stunning times, but he's not very physical. And he's strictly a boundary player.
27. Jarrad Davis, ILB, Florida -- Before I get into my two $backers, I may as well rank a true badass inside backer, even if he'll have to sit behind Vince for now. Just too good not to put on the list at this point.
28. Obi Melifonwu, $LB, UConn -- OK, let's give this a whirl. The safety is a tick below 6-4 and at 224 pounds ran a 4.40 40, benched 17 times and jumped 44 inches vertically and 11-9 horizontally. A freak with decent tape. So let's put him inside at linebacker as a pass-downs replacement for Vince. If Melifonwu fails, he can play corner or safety.
29. Jabrill Peppers, $LB, Michigan -- Probably should have his teammate, Taco Charlton, here, but let's stick with the $backer theme, since it may be necessary with Timmons gone. If Peppers fails as a linebacker, he can at least return kicks. Personally, I think he should try running back.
30. Garett Bolles, OT, Utah -- I like to keep this spot open for entertainment value, and this guy entertained everyone at the Combine with his salty interview. I couldn't help but laugh when I overheard him at the next podium say that "Football is the greatest game ever invented because you can beat people up and get away with it." The left tackle can also play.