Here at Steelers Sanctuary we will attempt to nail down the Steelers first round pick within five tries. There will be several versions of this between now and the draft as more information comes in. Now that the combine is over, there is a better understanding of where players may fall in the draft. Of course, free agency can really alter the needs of teams going into the draft. This may not end up being the most exciting draft for the Steelers. They are deep at most positions, and incredibly thin at inside linebacker and safety. It’s a pretty good bet the first pick will be at one of those two positions. With that said, let’s take a look at who might be available.
- Lieghton Vander Esch – ILB – Boise St.: Vander Esch has become the hot name coming out of the combine. At 6’4″ and 256lbs he has the size teams dream about, and still posted a 4.65/40 yard dash at the combine. That’s an incredible time for a man that big. The drawback is he only started one year at Boise St., so there is some concern about being a one year wonder. Add to that the fact that the Steelers almost always draft a player from a power five conference in the first round. Even with the drawbacks, it would be hard for Pittsburgh to pass on a player with such potential at a position they desperately need.
- Malik Jefferson – ILB – Texas: Jefferson is another freak athlete at the linebacker position. While not quite as big as Vander Esch (6’2″ 236), he is a better athlete. He finished the combine in the 85th percentile or better in the 40 yard dash, broad jump, and the bench press. The knock on Jefferson is consistency, and missed tackles. Anyone who’s watched the Steelers draft over the last few years knows that fact doesn’t bother them. They prefer über athletes, figuring any other flaws can be fixed later on. Jefferson might be the favorite to be the Steelers number one pick at this point.
- Justin Reid – S – Stanford: Here’s the second of the two big needs for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Reid had himself quite a combine including a 4.4/40 yard dash. He has the skill set to play free safety, but may need some time to adapt to the position in the NFL. In his last season at Stanford, Reid had nearly 100 tackles, 5 interceptions and 6 passes defended. That kind of production is hard to ignore.
- Josh Sweat – EDGE – Florida St.: Edge rusher may not be the top need on the team, but it’s certainly not a strength. Josh Sweat absolutely killed the combine and may have put himself in the first round conversation. His productivity wasn’t great at Florida St., but some suggest he may have been put in situations that didn’t best exploit his talents. Sweat was in the 90th percentile or better in wingspan, 40 yard dash, vertical jump, and the broad jump. His draft web may be the most impressive of anyone at the combine. The question now is will it translate to top tier production the NFL? With numbers like that, it may be worth the risk.
- Rashaan Evans – ILB – Alabama: While the first four players on this list killed the combine, Evans struggled due to injury. His speed and athletic ability are clear to see when watching him on the field. His sub-par performance may work in the Steelers favor. It seemed Evans was a sure-fire top 20 pick before the combine. Maybe now he can fall right into the Steelers waiting arms at 28.