I'm getting hammered over on BTSC as far as a draft grade goes because I dealt James Harrison away to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2nd round pick (44th overall). Problem with posting it over there is I think A LOT of Steeler fans want to bash me for that trade since they want to think more with their hearts and not enough with their heads. I think I made the team better overall. I'm one to think outside the box in mocks that are within the confines of the rules if making the team better overall can be accomplished. Also, I can explain my reasoning behind dealing Harrison away in this mock. My reasoning was Harrison's age (34 in two weeks), becoming more injury prone (missed 5 games in 2011 and has had three recent surgeries), his decline in play (nine sacks in 11 games looks great, but keep in mind that six sacks came in two games) and also because the team did fine in the standings without him, going 4-1 in the five games he missed. The loss of course came to San Francisco, a game I think they most likely lose anyway even if he did play. I appreciate everything James has done for the Steelers organization and love how far he's come from an undrafted free agent, but there eventually comes a time to say good bye. This organization has hung onto some older players for too long. It's hurting both the play on the field and also in the front office with major salary cap issues. Here's what I did. Like I said, we lost a star, but got MUCH deeper on both sides up front, got younger defensively (Steelers are getting old defensively in real life) and have an immediate viable replacement for Harrison among other things. I traded for one starter (Saffold) and can see at least five or six potential starters in this group of guys I picked:
1st Round (24th overall): Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
2nd Round (56th overall) Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska (I made this pick BEFORE he got arrested for allegedly punching a police officer.)
3rd Round (72nd overall): Jeff Allen, OT/OG, Illinois (acquired from Miami for the 44th pick)
3rd Round (73rd overall): Derek Wolfe, DE/DT, Cincinnati (also acquired from Miami for the same pick)
3rd Round (86th overall): Josh Chapman, NT, Alabama
4th Round (119th overall): Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati
6th Round (196th overall): Lucas Nix, OG/OT, Pittsburgh (also acquired from Miami for the 44th pick)
7th Round (231st overall): Jeremy Lane, CB, Northwestern State
7th Round (240th overall): Dale Moss, WR, South Dakota State
7th Round (246th overall): Chase Ford, TE, Miami (FL)
7th Round (248th overall): Greg Zuerlein, K, Missouri Western
UDFA #1: Dan Di Lella, QB, Albany
UDFA #2: Gerell Robinson, WR, Arizona State
UDFA #3: Reggie Sandilands, ILB, Bethune-Cookman
Acquired OT Rodger Saffold from the Rams in exchange for 5th and 6th round selections
Now to explain the picks...
Shea McClellin: Can take over for James Harrison across from LaMarr Woodley as a starter right away. He is a tenacious pass rusher with a non-stop motor, can hang with RBs/TEs in coverage and is not bad against the run, either. Maybe not a huge wow factor, but he's a very solid/safe selection. Played all over the place in college. Played some defensive line, outside linebacker and even some inside linebacker. He would be a perfect compliment to Woodley on the other side. I compare him very favorably to Brooks Reed of the Houston Texans.
Alfonzo Dennard: As I explained above, I took him before I was aware of his arrest for allegedly beating on a police officer. Had I known that, he would NOT have been picked by me. I'd have gone Brandon Brooks or perhaps Mitchell Schwartz. But as for what he brings to the field, he brings solid man coverage skills and is extremely physical in press coverage at the line of scrimmage. If he doesn't work out at corner, perhaps a transition to free safety could be in the offing. Should be a special teams contributor early and could get some early looks in nickel and dime packages as well. I see some shades of a smaller Ike Taylor/Malcolm Jenkins type player.
Jeff Allen: He did play mostly tackle in college, but at the Senior Bowl, he seemed more comfortable when he was shifted inside to guard, so I'm thinking that might be his best position as a pro. That said, there is a HUGE need at left guard and I think he can fill it. His technique is a little ugly and his body looks a little sloppy, but he gets the job done. Should also be able to play a swing tackle role if needed.
Derek Wolfe: Decided to venture into the Bengals back yard for this pick. Aaron Smith has been officially released and Brett Keisel will turn 34 in September. He won't be getting younger or any less injury prone as he gets older. Wolfe provides a young body who is an ideal fit as a 5-technique 3-4 defensive end. This guy gets into the backfield with ease with 21.5 TFL as a senior at Cincy. He also added 9.5 QB sacks as well during his senior year. I think he's an extremely underrated player. Perfect Round 3 selection, but I could see him as a nice late-2nd round pick for someone also. This pick allows the team to keep Keisel much more fresh during the season. The Steelers have brought him in for a pre-draft visit, so I suspect there's some interest. I could see him becoming a very similar type of player to Keisel or Smith. This pick was also connected in a way to the next one I made...
Josh Chapman: Would be the future at nose tackle. Everyone is well aware by now that Chapman tore his ACL back in early October and somehow managed to play through it during Alabama's run to the national title. It's also well known that Casey Hampton is just about finished. He may have one last ounce of football in him, but that's it. Chapman and his agent believe Chap will be ready to go come training camp. With the drafting of Wolfe, that allows the organization of bringing Chapman along a little more slowly/carefully. Not only will Steve McClendon see more of the field at nose tackle, but 'Ziggy' Hood could be a nice short-term solution to take some snaps at the position as well. Of course Chapman will also take some snaps at the nose, but now there would be less of a need to rush him.
Isaiah Pead: Ventured back to the Bengals back yard to pick up Pead. Late in the 4th round, this just wasn't a value I could pass up at that point. He may never be an every down back, but he's got pretty good speed, does a decent job in pass protection for someone his size and is a natural pass catcher out of the backfield. Seems like a perfect compliment to a power back like Issac Redman. Was also brought in for a pre-draft visit. I'd liken his upside to Ahmad Bradshaw.
Rodger Saffold: The Rams GM in the draft put Saffold up for sale and since I had an extra 6th rounder from Miami to play with anyway (along with the Steelers 5th rounder), I felt as though dealing for him was better than anything I could get in the draft at any time other than Matt Kalil and perhaps Riley Reiff. He did a great job during his rookie season in 2010 protecting the blind side of QB Sam Bradford, but then 2011 was not as kind. He struggled a lot with injuries, missing seven games. However, as I mentioned, it was only 2010 when this guy looked like he'd be a future stud LT for a long time to come. For only 5th and 6th round picks, this was a great chance to take. If it works, the Steelers would have the blind side protector of Ben Roethlisberger for the rest of Big Ben's career.
Lucas Nix: I was surprised I was able to get Nix so late, so I decided to stay in my own yard. He's got some injury issues, but he can line up at either guard position or right tackle. He plays with a mean streak and can get to the second level in the run-blocking game. At worst, I think we'd have a solid rotational backup in Nix. Brought in for a visit, but of course he didn't count against the limit being a local guy.
Jeremy Lane: Definitely a project player coming from Northwestern State, but he's one with some upside. I wouldn't mind seeing what Carnell Lake could do with him. While Lake attempts to develop him into a quality player, he could contribute heavily on special teams. Ran a 4.48 40 and had a 42-inch vertical at his pro day. The Steelers have brought him in for a visit, so there is interest.
Dale Moss: More of an upside pick than anything. Moss killed it at South Dakota State's pro day. He ran a 4.45 40, had a 41.5 inch vertical jump and ran the three-cone drill in 6.32 seconds. Those type of numbers are coming from a guy that is 6'3" and weighs 213 pounds, which makes his 3-cone time VERY impressive. Definitely a guy worth a shot with the 240th overall selection.
Chase Ford: Solid short-to-mid range route runner with good hands. Also has size you can't teach at 6'6" and 258 pounds. Seems like another perfect late-round flier guy. A definite project at tight end, but could become more than expected with some patience.
Greg Zuerlein: Kicker out of Missouri Western with a booming leg. A lot of NFL analysts now consider him to be the top kicker in the draft. Does anyone have any faith in Shaun Suisham? Yeah, neither do I. Anything from 35 yards or further out, I cringe anytime Suish comes into the game.
Dan Di Lella: QB out of Albany who is seeing his draft stock rise. He's got great size at 6'5" and about 233 pounds or so. He also possesses a very strong arm and underrated mobility. A guy like him seems like the perfect young developmental QB this team needs. Let him soak up some knowledge from Charlie Batch and Ben Roethlisberger.
Gerell Robinson: He was having a forgettable college career at Arizona State until his senior season. There he blew up and caught 77 passes for 1397 yards and 7 TD catches. With great height at 6'3", he seems like the type of tall receiver new offensive coordinator Todd Haley would love. He doesn't have great speed, but should be a solid red zone target.
Reggie Sandilands: For those who remember my recap from the last live draft on MtD, you may remember why I liked this small school prospect out of Bethune-Cookman. Sandilands is a high character kid who puts work before football, spends a ton of time watching game film and is a leader both on and off the field. As for what he brings on the field, he plays very physical and can run from sideline-to-sideline. He also looks to have some solid skills in pass coverage. He should provide more solid depth and at the very least, become a special teams ace as well as a respected young man in the locker room.