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Thursday, April 10, 2014
Analyzing McShay mock 4.0: Steelers

By Scott Brown

The Steelers have the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft after finishing 8-8 last season, and taking a cornerback, wide receiver or defensive lineman with their first-round pick would make a lot of sense.

Todd McShay’s fourth 2014 NFL mock draft is out today and he has the Steelers addressing arguably their biggest need with their first pick, taking Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and making the 5-foot-11, 199-pounder the first cornerback taken in next month’s draft.

In his third mock draft, McShay had the Steelers taking Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at No. 15, but that was before they signed former Panthers safety Mike Mitchell to a five-year, $25 million contract.

ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Dennard as the 19th-best player in the draft; McShay ranks him 16th.

“Dennard is the best pure cover corner in this class, even though he doesn't have elite speed or ball skills, because he has excellent recognition skills and instincts. He was a true shutdown corner at times last season,” McShay writes in his ranking of the draft’s top 32 players.

Dennard, who has already paid a pre-draft visit to the Steelers, recorded 65 tackles and intercepted four passes last season and won the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the top defensive back in college football.

McShay has the Steelers selecting a tall pass-catcher in the second round (No. 46 overall), though not a wide receiver: Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro, who put up ridiculous numbers last season in the Red Raiders’ pass-happy offense.

Amaro caught 106 passes for 1,355 yards and seven touchdowns on the way to consensus first-team All-American honors. Amaro has good size -- he measured in at over 6-5 at the NFL scouting combine and weighs 265 pounds -- though there are questions about his ability as an in-line blocker.

Amaro played sparingly as a traditional tight end in Texas Tech’s spread offense, as the Red Raiders moved him all over the field to create mismatches.

Amaro is McShay’s second tight end off the board, as he has North Carolina’s Eric Ebron going ninth overall to the Bills.

Former Buccaneers general manager and current ESPN NFL Insider Mark Dominik lists tight end as a hidden need for the Steelers, what with Heath Miller going into his 10th season. Tight end is one of the few positions that is not considered especially deep in this draft.