Just when you think you’ve heard it all in the bajillion mock drafts that take place leading up to the NFL draft, someone throws a huge curve into the fray. ESPN’s Mel Kiper of all people has moved away from the cornerback and wide receiver schools of thought for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first selection in the draft and has elected to move to the offensive line with who he thinks the Steelers go with.
With the 15th overall pick, Kiper says the Steelers will select OT Zack Martin out of Notre Dame. Martin is a high valued pick and is probably the best offensive tackle in this year’s draft. Martin decided to stay at ND for his senior year and probably increased his value by doing so. He had a very dominant season shutting down top pass rushers, such as Stanford’s Trent Murphy. He excels in pass protection – his quick feet, natural athleticism, ability to pick up the blitz makes him a solid tackle. He is a very smart guy and is noted as having a great character. He certainly would fit as a Steeler. He is, however, a bit undersized, and the worry is that Martin is maxed out on his frame. He has short arms, and if a pass rusher begins to get an edge, he may not have the strength in reach to at least knock the attacker off his line to Ben Roethlisberger.
This pick is a curious one for me coming from Kiper. It’s not like he knows everything there is to know about the draft and has certainly been wrong throughout the years. But his mocks are usually sensible ones. This first pick for the Steelers doesn’t seem sensible to me. Yes, Martin is highly valued, but tackle is not one of the larger needs out there. The Steelers usually go for BPA, but the are handcuffed this time around to try and fill as many holes as possible with the BPA at that particular positional deficiency.
Kiper’s justification for such a pick? He believes the top two corners in Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard are gone as well as WR Odell Beckham, Jr. He has the Steelers passing on TE Eric Ebron and WR Kelvin Benjamin – two very effective pass catchers and potentials for filling the tall receiver need. I think Kiper might be digging deeper and just not letting on. Martin is a superb blocker in the zone scheme, which is exactly where the Steelers are headed with the recent hiring of line coach Mike Munchak. Kiper might also be thinking about the current state of affairs with Mike Adams. Based on the legal situation he is in and the potential that he lied to the team about how and why he was stabbed, could very well be a violation of conduct severe enough to expel him from the team. The Steelers will need a new tackle at that point, and might have to find one in the draft.
As always, this May 8th will prove to be interesting for the Steelers.