Every week from now until the N.F.L. Draft in late-April, Fansided.com’s writers will be unveiling new and updated versions of their own 2013 N.F.L. Mock Drafts. During this period, I will write up weekly break-downs and provide analysis of each and every projected Pittsburgh selection in the upcoming installments (last week’s is here). So let’s get to my analysis of who Fansided’s Josh Hill believes will be taken by the Steelers (pick #14 of 32 in the 1st Round) in his latest Mock Draft:
Alec Ogletree, Inside Linebacker, University of Georgia
The Steelers are going to look to upgrade at linebacker and Ogletree is one of the best in the class. Next to Manti Te’o he’s the best interior linebacker in the draft and boosted his stock by being the best player on the field in the SEC championship game. With Troy Polamalu injury prone and aging, don’t count out Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro or a quarterback here.
I will be quite pleased if the Steelers make Ogletree their 1st Round selection. In fact, I have gone on record numerous times over the last two months (here, here, and here) and discussed why the Georgia Bulldog Linebacker would be a terrific pick for the Steelers. I have been on the “ILB Early” Bandwagon for the last two years (C.J. Mosley (Alabama) and Kevin Minter (Louisiana State) would also be solid options in Round 1 as well), and I believe that the addition of a productive and athletic player like Ogletree would benefit Pittsburgh’s aging Defense greatly against both the run and the pass.
If Ogletree however does not interest the Steelers at #14, G.M. Kevin Colbert and the rest of the brass could also fill the Defense’s need for a pass-rushing Outside Linebacker. Louisiana State’s Barkevious Mingo (6’5″ 240 lbs.) and Sam Montgomery (6’5″ 260 lbs.) are two athletic, large-framed, and versatile underclassmen who can instantly upgrade Pittsburgh’s anemic, inconsistent, and aging pass-rush. Both Mingo and (2012 Stats: 33 Tackles, 5.5 TFL’s, 4.0 Sacks, 3 PD’s, 12 QB Hurries, and and 2 FR’s) Montgomery (2012 Stats: 32 Tackles, 12.0 TFL’s, 7.0 Sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 Safety) have been forces off of the edge with the Tigers in L.S.U.’s Defensive Line rotation over the last three seasons, and have emerged as some of the S.E.C.’s best pass rushers. If either Mingo or Montgomery is selected by Pittsburgh, they could be in line to replace James Harrison at the Right Outside Linebacker position when he is ready to call it quits. And with Montgomery’s size in mind, he could even be developed into a 5-Technique at Defensive End if he is able to put on weight (15+ lbs.) and still play effectively.
Would the Steelers Trade Up From #14?
In the event that the Steelers are drafting as high as #14 though, the Front Office could be intrigued to trade up the draft board and select an even more highly touted prospect if they somehow fall. Players such as Outside Linebacker Damontre Moore (Texas A&M), and so would Inside Linebacker Manti Te’o (Notre Dame), or Cornerback DeMarcus Milliner (Alabama) would be tremendous fits in Pittsburgh’s Defense, and would fill enormous team needs to boot. Unfortunately, the possibility of any of the three players falling outside of the Top 7 or 8 is slight, and it might take quite a bit on Pittsburgh’s part (i.e. Draft Picks) to move up and select one of them.
Yet as awesome as it would be to see the Steelers trade up into Round 1 next April (if they are located in the #14-#17 range), I believe that it might serve the team better to consider the value of trading down the draft board for two important reasons: The amount of talent likely to be available later in Round 1, and an extra selection or two acquired through a trade.
Benefits of Trading Down
If the Steelers find themselves selecting in the mid-late 20’s of Round 1 after a trade, G.M. Kevin Colbert could be in a perfect position to select some of the best Safeties in this year’s class. I’ve already discussed my thoughts on Matt Elam of Florida and why I believe that he would be a solid replacement for Troy Polamalu at Strong Safety once he retires. If Pittsburgh drafted Elam, it would make me as happy if the selected a player like Ogletree. Along with Elam, Free Safeties like Kenny Vaccaro of Texas and Eric Reid of Louisiana State might also be available later on in Round 1. Vaccaro and Reid would definitely be upgrades in terms of providing depth in the present, and should serve to be solid replacements for Ryan Clark once he hangs up his cleats.
In addition to the Safeties above, some terrific pass-rushers should also be on the board in the mid-20’s like Alex Okafor of Texas and Dion Jordan of Oregon. Like Mingo and Montgomery, both Jordan (6’7″ 243 lbs.) and Okafor (6’4.5″ 265 lbs.) possess bigger and extended frames which are advantageous for rushing the passer and fighting off blocks.
While Jordan could definitely stand to add another 10 or so pounds to his tall frame, and is definitely the less-experienced of the two (he began his career at Oregon as a Tight End), he does have plenty of athleticism to develop into a fantastic pass-rusher under the tutelage of Keith Butler. Jordan’s versatile nature could come in handy as well, because he might even be seen as a 5-Technique prospect down the road if he fills out his tall-frame to around 270-275 lbs. Overall though, Jordan has performed quite well during the 2012 season, and through his first 11 games this year he has recorded a career-high 44 Tackles to go along with his 10.5 TFL’s, 5.0 Sacks, 3 FF’s, and 1 PBU.
Okafor is a bit more stout at the point of attack than Jordan at this stage of his career, and reminds me a bit of LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds from a size and positional perspective at his Defensive End spot. Texas has sent plenty of pass-rushers to the professional level in recent seasons, and Okafor showed a tremendous knack of getting to the Quarterback at the college level. This season, the Longhorn Defensive End has already put up 60 Tackles to go along with 12.0 TFL’s, 8.0 Sacks, 3 FF’s, and 1 PBU, and done so with his talented pass-rush mate Jackson Jeffcoat sidelined for much of the year.
The Steelers will need to fill multiple holes on their roster this offseason, and I believe that last year’s “purging of veterans” will be similar to last year’s. Any and all extra draft selections that the franchise can acquire and use on talented play-makers on the Defensive side of the ball, the better this team will inevitably be in the long-run. Pittsburgh’s rebuilding will ramp up this offseason, and because they are not a “Free Agency Loving” franchise, success in the Draft department is all the more crucial. Numerous starting spots will be up for grabs over the next few seasons, and Colbert & Co. must be ready to stop the bleeding by filling the eventual holes through the Draft. Thus, multiple (2+) strong drafts are needed sooner as opposed to later if the Steelers wish to stay competitive over the coming years.
Readers: Should the Steelers go with Ogletree in Round 1? Should they go in another direction? If they are picking in the #14-#17 range, should Colbert & Co. trade up, down, or stay put? The floor is yours.