Well here we are.  A little over twenty four hours away from the NFL draft.  Time for Steelers Sanctuary’s mock draft finale.  Of course Steeler’s fans will have to wait until Friday night for an actual selection by the team.  The first round will have a huge affect on who Pittsburgh selects however.

This is far from a normal off-season.  Usually we have numerous ways to try to figure out who the team is targeting.  Pro-days, and draft visits give us many clues for determining interest.  All this has been wiped out due to the Corona virus however.   We are also unable to use the draft formula developed on the site last season as well. Steelers first round prediction formula

What we have done is try to piece together any clues that have been left by the team over the last few months.  The biggest being the inferences to fixing the running game made by front office members including Art Rooney himself. https://www.post-gazette.com/sports/steelers/2020/01/16/pittsburgh-steelers-art-rooney-ii-james-conner-benny-snell-jaylen-samuels/stories/202001160155

With all that in mind, here is our Steelers mock draft finale:

Round 2: Cam Akers – RB – Florida St.

The Numbers:

5’10” – 217lbs

4.47 – 40 yard dash

35.5” vertical – 122” broad

122.6 SPARQ score (15th at RB)

The Skinny:

All the clues seem to point directly to Cam Akers.  The Steelers met with the Florida St. product at the draft combine.  He fits all the physical qualities the team likes in a running back with his size and athleticism.  Akers also has top end speed that no other running back on the roster currently has.  Add all that to the fact that he is still only twenty years old, and this is the prototypical Steelers early round draft target.

This is a player who had great college production, despite playing behind an awful offensive line.  There weren’t many other offensive weapons to worry about either, making Akers accomplishments even more impressive.

The last time ARIII made a decree to fix the secondary, we ended up with Artie Burns and Sean Davis as the first two selections in the draft.  This time he made it clear the running game needs to be fixed, so its almost a lock running back will be the choice at 49.

(A side note, if Jonathan Taylor somehow falls to 49, he’s the slam dunk selection.  The possibility is slim of that happening so we went with the second best choice in Cam Akers)

Round 3: Charlie Heck – OT – North Carolina

The Numbers:

6’8” – 311lbs

34.5 inch arms

28” vertical – 112” broad

21 reps on bench

100.5 SPARQ score (19th at OL)

The Skinny:

I am a firm believer the Steelers will be looking to add a tackle in this year’s draft.  Charlie Heck has some NFL bloodlines, something Pittsburgh likes when drafting players.  His father is Andy Heck, is a former all-American tackle out of Notre Dame who was drafted in the fist round in 1989.

Heck will struggle at times with leverage being so tall at 6’8”.  The Steelers know a little something about tall tackles having turned Alejandro Villanueva into an above average left tackle over the last few seasons. Charlie Heck can provide depth at the position, while giving the team a replacement for the soon to be free agent Villanueva in 2021.

Round 4a: Darrell Taylor – EDGE – Tennessee

The Numbers:

6’4” – 267lbs

33” arms

The Skinny:

This isn’t the cleanest prospect in the draft, which is why the talented pass rusher is still available in the fourth round.  Darrell Taylor played nearly the entire season with a stress fracture in his shin.  The good news is he managed to stay productive despite this injury, so toughness goes without saying here.  The bad news is the surgery he had to repair this injury prevented him from participating in the combine other than weighing in.  From all we can gather, he should be good to go by training camp.

There also was a suspension in 2017 for an altercation with a teammate. https://www.knoxnews.com/story/sports/college/university-of-tennessee/football/2017/10/09/report-vols-darrell-taylor-suspended-indefinitely-after-altercation-teammate/745805001/

We expect the Steelers to steer clear of players with red flags, but in this case the value may be too good to pass up.  Given that Taylor’s issues don’t appear to be very serious, the team could find themselves with a premier pass rusher at a bargain price here in the fourth round.

Round 4b: Donovan Peoples-Jones – WR – Michigan

The Numbers:

6’2” – 212lbs

4.48 – 40 yard dash

44.5” vertical – 139” broad

142 SPARQ score (1st at WR)

The Skinny:

This may be the toughest player to place in the entire draft.  I’ve seen some places that have him in the top 50, others not inside their top 150.  People I trust have him further down this scale. Daniel Jeremiah has him as his 131st ranked player for instance.

If the Steelers find DPJ available at this point in the draft, they simply won’t be able to help themselves.  This is a physical freak ranking number one among wide receivers in SPARQ score, a metric this team values greatly when drafting.  Steelers value SPARQ score when evaluating draft prospects

The downside is there isn’t the production that matches the athleticism while he was at Michigan.  Some have pointed to the weak quarterback play as a reason, if so this becomes a steal this late in the draft.

Round 6: Josh Metellus – S – Michigan

The Numbers:

5’11” – 209lbs

4.55 – 40 yard dash

36.5” vertical – 124” broad

122.6 SPARQ score (9th at safety)

The Skinny:

This is a repeat from our mock draft 4.0 here Steelers mock draft 4.0: The Tackle Theory

Connecting the dots for why the Steelers would be interested in this player are pretty simple.  He played at Michigan, scored highly on SPARQ, and plays a position of need.  Done and done. There’s your third safety/special teams player for the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Round 7: Joe Reed – WR – Virginia

The Numbers:

6’0” – 224lbs

4.47 – 40 yard dash

38” vertical – 123” broad

129.6 SPARQ score (8th at WR)

The Skinny:

Joe Reed instantly becomes the best kick returner the Steelers have had in the Mike Tomlin era.  He scored five kick return touchdowns at the University of Virginia, while averaging nearly 28 yards a return.  Reed played some running back to go along with being a receiver and kick returner.  As a receiver he had 77 receptions for 679 yards and 7 touchdowns.  Reed is a Swiss-army knife type of weapon who could produce some big plays for the Steelers in 2020.