2015 Steelers NFL Mock Draft: 7 Rounds v19.0

7 of 9

Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

I know that I alluded to this on previous slides, but the Steelers are really in need of some competent defensive backs. A complete and total overhaul could come during the draft process, and I for one hope that the front office and scouts are committed to providing the coaching staff with the necessary personnel to help their secondary improve by leaps and bounds over the next couple of years.

Pittsburgh has little choice when it comes to using an early round choice, or two, on defensive backs who can make an instant impact due to their lack of bodies at the positions. However, I will not put it past the franchise from taking a developmental player on the third day of the draft like JaCorey Shepherd of Kansas.

A former wide receiver during the early stages of his career with the Jayhawks, Shepherd transitioned to the secondary before his sophomore season. Shepherd was a starter by his junior campaign, and displayed a knack for making plays on the ball during his two seasons as a starter (2013-2014: 5 INTs and 31 PDs).

Besides his solid ball-skills, Shepherd possesses a good-sized frame (5’11” 199 lbs.), can chip in when asked in run support (2013-2014: 75 tackles), has decent straight-line speed and is also always willing to mix it up with receivers bigger than him on the outside in press coverage. Best of all, Shepherd could give the Steelers a much-experienced kickoff returner as well (2013-2014: 61 returns and 1,320 yards).

Although promising, Shepherd is still a raw prospect and is likely destined to be a late round choice. Shepherd must clean up his footwork, he can get turned around in space by shifty receivers if he cannot re-route them, and he must be more instinctive when it comes to opening his hips and doing so quickly. The former Jayhawk also appeared to struggle on tape when it came to fighting off blocks on running plays, and he will need to improve his tackling technique if he is asked to play if Pittsburgh employs an off-man or zone-based defensive scheme.

Overall, Shepherd could be a solid pickup for a team looking for secondary depth and help on special teams. The Steelers are in definite need of both, and could be looking to draft a defensive back on all three days of the draft process. Shepherd should be in play on the third day, and he could interest Pittsburgh at that juncture.

Next: Round 6