Round 1: EDGE Carl Lawson, Auburn
I’ll be honest, my first two selections for Pittsburgh haven’t changed since November.
There is a considerable difference in the EDGE talent at the top of the draft than those who will be available in the mid-later rounds. With presumed top-20 talents like Myles Garrett, Tim Williams, Taco Charlton, and Derek Barnett off the board, my decision came down to Carl Lawson and Ryan Anderson. I went with Lawson as I believe he is the overall better fit in Pittsburgh.
Lawson plays with a violent nature and has the explosiveness, speed to power conversion, and hand usage to excel off the edge. He checks all the boxes as a first round prospect, with only concerns being his injury history and his tendency to fail to finish on his pass rushes. You wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at the 9 sacks on his stat sheet in 2016, but Lawson had plenty of additional pressures that he should have finished for sacks.
Counting on a clean medical evaluation for Lawson at the Combine, he would be a dream pick for Pittsburgh in Round 1.
Round 2: CB Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
Before you dig on Lewis for his less than ideal size … watch the kid play. I promise you that you will love this kid’s aggressiveness and physicality and see that his style of play belongs in the Black and Gold. Lewis plays with quickness and demeanor to excel in tight, press-man coverage.
Down the field Lewis possess the fluidity to stay in phase with wideouts, and shows off remarkable ball skills to disrupt the catch point and rack up pass breakups and interceptions.
If you haven’t seen Lewis first hand, I recommend starting with his tape vs. Wisconsin. Lewis locked down WRs all day and capped the day off with a game winning, one handed interception that is perhaps the play of the year in College Football.
I envision Lewis stepping into Pittsburgh as an immediate replacement for William Gay in the slot. I know Gay has several years left on his current deal, but his poor tackling and overall play has been a weakness for the Steelers defense in 2016. Lewis would be an excellent addition to the Steeler’s defensive secondary youth movement aside Artie Burns and Sean Davis.
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Round 3: QB Pat Mahomes, Texas Tech
If you are going to have a problem with my Mock, this is most likely the pick that will have you slamming your keyboard.
While Pat Mahomes will likely need to sit for quite some time and iron out some issues with his mechanics and footwork, he is the quarterback with the biggest upside in the 2017 Draft. His natural arm talent is eerily similar to Aaron Rodgers. Mahomes can execute any throw at all levels of the field, either in the pocket or on the run from an off balanced base. He releases throws from a multitude of launch angles, similar to the backyard style of football that you see with Matt Stafford. Take into account his remarkable arm strength and uncanny ability to extend plays and you find yourself with a potentially special QB prospect.
However, the issue with Mahomes is putting it all together on a consistent basis. Not only do you have concerns about his Air-Raid video game-esque scheme at Texas Tech, but you also have to catch him up with NFL play-calling, pre-snap reads, and simply taking snaps under center.
Pittsburgh has the time to let Mahomes sit and learn behind one of the all-time greats in Big Ben. In several years, if Pittsburgh could tap into his natural talents, Mahomes can go to work with this elite Pittsburgh offense.