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Steelers Draft '17: Cornerbacks

Cornerbacks who suit a specific Steelers need are addressed with an analytical touch.

The loss still stings.

The need still rings.

Here was Mike Tomlin finally admitting to that need last month at the NFL Owners Meetings:

"Our inability to play man-to-man effectively and our inability to apply pressure on the quarterback without blitzing were issues in that game," Tomlin said of the Pittsburgh Steelers' one-sided loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

Their "inability to play man-to-man effectively" should be addressed easily in this draft. 

In sampling five analysts' rankings, an average of 14.6 cornerbacks were found among their top 100 players. In the last five drafts, the average taken per top 100 has been 11.8 cornerbacks.

It's a cornerback-rich crop, and the Steelers should be picky about style. If they want to improve their man coverage, or just their press man, they can do that. 

Here's the rundown of players who are likely on their most wanted list, with the analytical twist that players who ran their short shuttle in 4.3 or slower have been ruled out:

* Marlon Humphrey (6-0 1/4, 197, 4.41) has been an integral part of Alabama's physical defense, a corner Dick LeBeau would've loved because Humphrey craves contact. His knock is that he loses the deep ball, but he's usually with his man.

* Adoree Jackson (5-10, 186, 4.42) of USC has technical issues in press man but makes up for it with sheer athleticism. A high-pedigreed athlete, perhaps with better return skills than Jabrill Peppers, Jackson is Mike Tomlin's kind of prospect.

* Chidobe Awuzie (6-0, 202, 4.43) has played all over the secondary in his time at Colorado, even some linebacker, so he has a taste of what the Steelers need in the middle of the field. He might be the fix for what they need in the slot.

* Quincy Wilson (6-0 1/2, 211, 4.54) is a physical press man corner and special-teams jammer who surprisingly is a question mark against the run. One startling tape against a monstrous Alabama running back shows Wilson completely abdicating his zone on a long run. He can't play off-coverage, either, which may be a dealbreaker for a Steelers team that still uses its cover-3 at times.

* Howard Wilson (6-0 3/4, 184, 4.57) is a sleeper prospect with only one year of starting experience. He's quicker than his 40 time indicates (3.94 shuttle), has proven scheme versatility, and great upside.

* Desmond King (5-10 1/4, 201, 4.6) won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2015 and surprised the NFL by returning to Iowa. The move didn't help his draft status, but his physicality and great ball skills would fit perfectly in the Pittsburgh slot.

* Shaquill Griffin (6-0, 194, 4.38) size and serous speed. After leading the American Athletic Conference in passes defensed (19) and intercepting four passes, he blew up the NFL Combine with both his testing and field drills. Yet, no one's talking about him. Must be some kind of conspiracy.

* Rasul Douglas (6-1 3/4, 209, 4.57) of WVU was one of the Steelers' pre-draft visitors and tied for the NCAA interception lead with eight last season. He's an ideal press corner but is so tall and leggy he struggles in transition. That's always a concern against NFL receivers.

MY TAKE

With cornerbacks seemingly available at every level of the draft, the Steelers can be patient. If they take a slot safety or pass-rusher in the first round, or find that a star offensive playmaker such as David Njoku or Corey Davis has slipped through the cracks, the Steelers can take their cornerback in the second or even third rounds. Keep an eye on sleepers such as Howard Wilson or Shaquill Griffin, or even a 4.2 speedball such as Jalen Myrick, while making sure to draft a transformative type of first-rounder. If none are available, grab that cornerback in the first round.

VALUE BOARD

First Round -- Marlon Humphrey, Alabama; Adoree Jackson, USC, Chidobe Awuzie, Colordado.

Second Round -- Shaquill Griffin, Central Florida; Kevin King, Washington.

Third Round -- Howard Wilson, Houston; Desmond King, Iowa; Fabian Moreau, UCLA.

Fourth Round -- Corn Elder, Miami; Jalen Myrick, Minnesota.


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