Steelers mock draft: Steven Nelson throws a curveball in Pittsburgh’s plans

Eric Stokes #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Eric Stokes #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /
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The Steelers recently re-signed JuJu Smith-Schuster, while Steven Nelson will be traded or cut. Here’s how that changes things in my latest mock draft.

Just when we thought we were starting to figure some things out with the Steelers this offseason, they throw a monkey wrench in with a few moves that completely caught fans off guard. Pittsburgh recently announced that JuJu Smith-Schuster would be returning to the team on what is essentially a one-year, $8 million deal. However, in order to get this done and free up some additional cap space, the Steelers informed starting cornerback Steven Nelson that he would either be cut or traded soon.

This really makes it hard to predict how things will unfold in April, as another critical need is added to the list. While Pittsburgh was able to retain cornerback Cameron Sutton, losing two starting-caliber players in Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson this offseason is going to be hard to swallow. Behind Joe Haden and Sutton on the depth chart, the team is left with Justin Layne and underrated free agent, James Pierre – two players that have combined for just 144 career snaps to date. Because of these drastic moves, here’s what I have the Steelers doing in my latest seven-round mock draft:

Cornerback. Bulldogs . Eric Stokes. 1. player. 814.

Steelers mock draft round 1: CB Eric Stokes

Here’s a guy who wasn’t even mentioned in the Steelers circle just a few weeks ago, but now has skyrocketed to a potential pick as high as the first round. With an urgent need at the cornerback position, Eric Stokes is a player who checks almost every box for this team. Pittsburgh sent the house to Georgia’s Pro Day as Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, and defensive backs coach, Teryl Austin were all on hand – making both Stokes and fellow cornerback, Tyson Campbell in play as early-round candidates.

Stokes isn’t perfect on film and inconsistencies often show through. However, his blazing 4.25 speed in the 40-yard dash (which some claim is officially a 4.31) is enough to grab everyone’s attention. Being able to run like this at 6’0” and 194 pounds is impressive, and Stokes has the traits to develop into a team’s number one cornerback. At the very least, Stokes seems like a real possibility at pick 24 with a need at the cornerback position and their clear interest after his Pro Day.