Pittsburgh Steelers: Odell Beckham Jr.

PITTSBURGH – It's hard to imagine a scenario in which the Pittsburgh Steelers don't use their first-round pick on a cornerback.

But it's not impossible.

One of the left tackles could slip to No. 15 and tempt the Steelers. Anthony Barr fell to the Steelers in the ESPN NFL Nation mock draft held earlier this week, and I grabbed the UCLA outside linebacker after also considering Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller and LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Barr had 23 sacks in two season while learning to play outside linebacker on the fly. He is a playmaker who has a tremendous upside, and the Steelers need to bolster their pass rush.

The problem is I don't think Barr will be available at No. 15. I think Beckham is gone before then too with a team likely trading up to draft him.

That leads me back to cornerback and I think the Steelers will be thrilled if they have their choice of Fuller and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard.

Both are good fits for the Steelers and I think they would be happy with either one. If they have a choice I think the Steelers take Fuller. He is a little bigger and probably has better ball skills than Dennard.

But really it could be a coin flip between the two and the Steelers would love nothing more than if they have to choose between Dennard and Fuller.

I say they do and that they opt for Fuller.
PITTSBURGH -- It’s hard to find a mock draft that doesn’t have the Steelers taking a cornerback or a wide receiver tonight with their first-round pick.

ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay each have the Steelers selecting a cornerback though they opted for different ones.

Kiper has the Steelers picking Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard in his final mock draft, writing that Dennard is a perfect fit in Dick LeBeau’s defense. McShay has the Steelers taking Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller , writing that his ball skills and ability to provide run support make him an ideal pick for the Steelers. Lets’ take a look at what other mock drafters have the Steelers picking in the first round:

Mike Mayock, NFL Network: Fuller

Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

Alan Robinson, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Dennard

Jim Wexell, Steel City Insider: Dennard

Dale Lolley, Observer-Reporter: Fuller

Dave Bryan, Steelers Depot: Fuller

Rob Rang, CBS Sports: Dennard

Dane Brugler, CBS Sports: Dennard

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Fuller

Charles Davis, NFL.com: WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

Charley Casserly, NFL.com: Beckham

Don Banks, SI.com: Beckham

Chris Burke, SI.com: Dennard

Doug Farrar, SI.com: Dennard

Dan Shonka, Ourlands Scouting Services: S Calvin Pryor, Louisville

WalterFootball.com: Gilbert
PITTSBURGH – The NFL draft is finally here. And just as the NFL did with its annual selection process I will drag out my final pre-draft coverage.

I will start with the 14 players I think will be drafted before the Pittsburgh Steelers pick. I will follow that with a compilation of mock drafts. Next will be my five most realistic targets for the Steelers followed by the player I think they will pick in the first round.

Here are the 14 players I don't think will be available when the Steelers are on the clock for the 15th overall pick tonight.

DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina: Somebody is taking him No. 1. It's just a matter of whether the Texans do or trade out of this pick.

WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson: The best wide receiver in the draft could slip a little if he doesn't go No. 2 to the Rams or No. 4 to the Browns. But he will still be an early pick.

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: The ultimate wild-card could go as high as No. 3 to the Jaguars. He is a big risk but some team is going to gamble on Manziel early in the draft.

OT Greg Robinson, Auburn: The comparisons to Pro Football Hall of Famers are premature but he will be a top-five pick. The only question with Robinson is whether he is the first offensive tackle taken.

OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M: Don't be surprised if the Rams take him at No. 2 over players such as Watkins and Robinson. Rams coach Jeff Fisher knows all about his bloodlines.

OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan: The Falcons at No. 6 are probably the earliest he goes off the board. Lewan is a candidate to slip but hard to imagine him lasting until the 15th pick.

WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M: The Steelers never had a chance at the tall wideout their fans wanted. Look for the Raiders to grab him with the fifth overall pick.

LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo: Don't be surprised if the Bills pick Mack if he gets past the Jaguars. He is a safer pick than Clowney but doesn't have as much upside.

DT Aaron Donald, Pitt: The best defensive player in college football last season goes in the top 10. And I see the Vikings bypassing quarterback Blake Bortles to take Donald.

OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame: Everyone seems high on the most versatile offensive lineman in the draft. It's hard to see Martin making it to No. 15.

WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU: A player who has been linked extensively to the Steelers in mock drafts won't be there at No. 15. A team could try to trade up for one of the most explosive players in the draft.

OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA: I picked Barr after he fell to the Steelers in an ESPN NFL Nation mock draft. It won't happen in the real thing as he is too much of a playmaker and has too much upside not to go before the 15th overall pick.

S Calvin Pryor, Louisville: Big hitter could go in top 10 if Lions draft a safety at No. 10. The Bears could take Pryor at No. 14, one spot ahead of the Steelers.

QB Blake Bortles, UCF: The Steelers would love it if two quarterbacks are taken before the 15th pick. Some team is going to take the quarterback that Ben Roethlisberger predicted will be the best one in this class.
PITTSBURGH -- Yep, I was that guy.

The first one who prompted ESPN draft analyst Matt Williamson to really tsk-tsk a pick in the ESPN NFL Nation mock draft conducted Tuesday.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Barr
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsAnthony Barr can bolster the Steelers' pass rush, but the former running back needs seasoning at linebacker.
And I have to imagine that what Williamson typed was much more diplomatic than what came out of his mouth when the former NFL scout saw I had picked UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr for the Steelers at No. 15.

Let me preface my selection by saying that I tried trading down in the first round, something I think the Steelers will attempt to do Thursday night.

I thought I had a deal with Jets writer Rich Cimini when he inquired whether I would swap spots with him in exchange for two fourth-round picks. That would have been ideal as I would have only had to move from No. 15 to No. 18 while pocketing a pair of extra picks in a deep draft.

Unfortunately, Rich let the draft come to him. When it became clear that he would have his pick of a couple of players he liked at No. 18 he pulled the offer.

At least I could take comfort that my demand for a breakfast buffet in the press box when the Steelers visit the Jets this season hadn't been the deal-breaker.

In the end, I only received one trade offer, and 49ers writer Bill Williamson dangling a host of picks -- though none in the first round -- wasn't enough for me to seriously consider.

First-round picks are gold to the Steelers and no way could I give this one up, no matter how deep this draft is.

LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller were still on the board when the Steelers were up at No. 15. And believe me, I strongly considered each player.

But I hadn't anticipated Barr being there as well.

In the end I couldn't pass on a player who could bolster the Steelers' pass rush as well as provide immediate depth at a position where they sorely need it.

Nothing will help the Steelers' defense regain its swagger more than if they add some teeth to their pass rush. Only five teams had less sacks than the 34 the Steelers managed in 2013.

And the outside linebackers on the Steelers' roster have a combined 24 career sacks -- one-half more than what Barr produced in his final two seasons at UCLA, where he didn't exactly play against intramural teams in pads.

Barr didn't record any sacks his first two years in Westwood, and there is a good reason for that: He played running back.

After growing two inches, the 6-5, 255-pounder moved to outside linebacker before his junior season, and he promptly dominated. Barr's 13 1/2 sacks in 2012 were second in the country only to Jarvis Jones, the Steelers' first-round pick last year.

He is still a baby at his position, which makes Barr far from a finished product. Let him learn the position from new defensive assistant Joey Porter, who is fifth on the Steelers' all-time sacks list with 60. Let him improve his strength, something Jones has had to do after his first NFL season.

In the meantime, Barr can provide depth behind Jones and Jason Worilds, and contribute on special teams as well as a situational pass rusher.

There are no guarantees with Worilds as there is a question as to whether the Steelers are committed to him beyond 2014. That uncertainty makes outside linebacker as pressing a need as any that the Steelers have.

They need to groom a possible replacement for Worilds. The Steelers also need to help a defense that has 20 interceptions in the last two seasons combined -- one less than they had in 2010 -- create more turnovers by collapsing pockets.

And they can never have enough outside linebackers, which is as important as any position on their defense.

Some see Barr as a player who is not instinctual and not strong enough against the run. I see a player who has a knack for getting after the quarterback and has a high ceiling.

If he is willing to work there may be no better situation for Barr than the Steelers.

He can learn from Porter, learn from linebackers coach Keith Butler, learn from defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau -- and he doesn't have to be rushed into the starting lineup.

If Barr slips to the Steelers in the first round, and they don't trade down, they should take him.

The draft is exceptionally deep at wide receiver. It is also strong as cornerback.

Address those positions later in the draft and go with a player who has a chance to be a real difference maker on a defense that desperately needs more of them.
PITTSBURGH -- Sports Illustrated’s Peter King unveiled a most interesting mock draft Tuesday morning, and not just because the veteran NFL writer has the Texans taking Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack No. 1 overall instead of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

King’s mock draft featured a handful of trades, including one between the Steelers and the Eagles. In King’s scenario, LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was still available at No. 15 and the Eagles gave the Steelers a second-round pick to swap spots with them in the first round. The Steelers, in King’s mock, moved down to No. 22 overall and were still able to land Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller.

Such a trade seems like a win-win scenario for each team.

The Eagles need to replace Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson and Beckham is arguably the third-best player at the position that is easily the strongest one in the draft. Athletic and fluid, Beckham has the potential to become a premier route runner, and he can line up all over the field. He would give the Eagles added value as a punt returner, something that Jackson also did well in Philadelphia.

The Steelers, meanwhile, would address a glaring position of need by taking Fuller, who appears to be a good fit for their defense. They would also add a second-round pick in a draft where first-round talent is going to seep into the second round because it is so deep.

Let’s take a closer look at this scenario from the Steelers’ perspective.

General manager Kevin Colbert said on Monday there are 19 players in the draft that the Steelers would be “very happy” taking in the first round.

The Steelers' list presumably doesn’t include any quarterbacks and at least one player from the position will be taken in the top 20. And probably two will go in that range since there are enough teams desperate enough to find a long-term fix at quarterback that they will overdraft one.

There is also a good chance that at least one player will be taken in the middle of the first round who is not among the 19 the Steelers covet with their first pick for whatever reason.

Do the math and it strongly indicates but doesn’t guarantee that the Steelers could move down to No. 22 in the first round and still get one of the players they are targeting.

Colbert said the Steelers won’t consider trading down in the first pick until they are on the clock and they know which players are available at No. 15. If a team like Philadelphia came calling with the offer that King has in his mock draft, it would be a no-brainer for the Steelers to make the trade if there are still enough players on their list of 19 that they get one of them at No. 22.

Or it could be a calculated risk worth taking if there is a good chance the Steelers get one of the players they have targeted in the first round while adding a second-round pick.
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has the Pittsburgh Steelers addressing the offensive line in his latest mock draft. ESPN analyst Todd McShay has the Steelers taking a cornerback, though not one who has been frequently linked to them.

Fuller
Kiper Jr. threw a bit of a curveball in his fifth mock draft Insider by having the Steelers take Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin at No. 15 overall. McShay also went in a different direction with the Steelers in his fifth mock draft Insider, pairing them with Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller in the first round.

Kiper has Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. off the board before the Steelers’ first pick in the draft.

He has the Steelers taking Martin over players such as North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley and Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

Of the Martin pick, Kiper wrote: Pittsburgh could go cornerback here, but I don't like the value with the top two off the board. Receiver is also an option.

McShay has the Steelers taking Fuller at No. 15 overall with Dennard and Beckham off the board.

He considered Fuller, Gilbert and Mosley for the Steelers in the first round.

Of the Fuller selection, McShay wrote: I'm sure they'd love to have Gilbert's playmaking ability, but they've always gone for more physical corners like Fuller over guys like Gilbert who don't get up and press and are poor tacklers. If they can find a way to trade back and add extra picks, that'd be a good move.

It is interesting that Kiper Jr. and McShay have the players (Dennard and Beckham) who have been most frequently linked to the Steelers off the board before the 15th overall pick.

More praise for Odell Beckham Jr.

April, 28, 2014
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PITTSBURGH -- The player ESPN analyst Todd McShay has the Steelers taking No. 15 overall in his latest mock draft also headlines his All-Satellite Team.

First, props to McShay for his creativity in putting together a team of draft-eligible players based on who is the best in space. And LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. tops his five-player team followed by Kent State running back Dri Archer, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

Beckham
Of those five the Steelers won’t get a chance to drafting Watkins unless they trade up in the first round and they won’t have any interest in Manziel.

The other three should be in play for them and McShay has previously written that Beckham would be an ideal pick for the Steelers. McShay, who ranks Beckham as the third-best wide receiver in the draft, is clearly enamored with the former Tigers star.

Here is what he writes about Beckham:
Beckham has elite top-end speed, but that's only part of what makes him so good in space. He accelerates quickly, frequently makes the first defender miss after the catch and is a very instinctive open-field runner who knows when to cut back against the grain. He uses his fluid hips and quick feet to get defenders off-balance in space, using a variety of shoulder dips, inside-outs and other moves. He has the potential to develop into a dangerous return specialist in the NFL.

McShay gave three players honorable mention after the five players on his All-Satellite Team, including Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, a projected first-round pick.

Also earning honorable mention nods were Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas and Pittsburg State wide receiver John Brown.

The Steelers hosted Brown for a pre-draft visit, and he is projected to go in the fourth or fifth round.

Analyzing McShay mock: Steelers 

April, 24, 2014
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The Pittsburgh Steelers have the 15th overall pick of the NFL draft and it seems likely they will select a cornerback or a wide receiver in the first round.

ESPN analyst Todd McShay plays general manager for every team in his latest mock draft , pairing players with teams based on what he thinks are the best fits, not how he sees the first round unfolding in two weeks.

PITTSBURGH -- Mel Kiper Jr. has the Steelers taking LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with their first pick in his latest mock draft.

Dennard
But a different player stands out to the ESPN analyst as the best fit for the Steelers at No. 15 overall.

“I think the ideal pick if you’re the Steelers is Darqueze Dennard,” Kiper said of the Michigan State cornerback during a conference call on Wednesday. “He’s a Steeler. Rough, tough, aggressive football player, plays with a chip on his shoulder, very good in coverage, plays faster than he timed. Just a whale of a football player.”

So why doesn’t Kiper have the Steelers taking Dennard in his most recent mock draft? Easy. He has the Rams taking Dennard, the winner of the Jim Thorpe Award in 2013, two picks ahead of the Steelers.

Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert and Dennard are Kiper’s top-rated cornerbacks in the draft and his 14th- and 15th-best players overall, respectively. Gilbert has tremendous speed and has added value as a kickoff returner.

One concern Kiper has with Gilbert is whether he is a physical enough player to provide solid run support as well as get opposing receivers on the ground. Both are critical for cornerbacks in the Steelers’ defense.

“You’ve got to be able to tackle after the catch,” Kiper said. “That’s an underrated part of playing corner.”

That is also why he said Dennard would be the best pick for the Steelers if the 5-foot-11, 199-pounder is available at No. 15 and they want to address one of their most pressing needs.

“You look at that Steelers mentality, a Steelers kind of player, and I think it would be Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State,” Kiper said. “Pure football players [in the draft], he’d be on your top-10 list.”
PITTSBURGH -- This draft is loaded with wide receivers and Mel Kiper Jr.'s ranking of the top 100 players Insider in it is the latest affirmation of how deep and talented the position is this year.

Almost one-fifth of the players on Kiper's list are wide receivers as there are 19 of them. To put that into perspective, consider that there are 19 quarterbacks and running backs combined among Kiper's top 100 players, a list that was released on Tuesday.

There is high-end talent, as well as depth at wide receiver, as Kiper ranks eight wide receivers among his top 32 players and four of them in his top 13.

Clemson's Sammy Watkins is Kiper's highest-rated wide receiver (No. 2 overall) followed by Texas A&M's Mike Evans (No. 6), Oregon State's Brandin Cooks (No. 12) and LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. (No. 13).

The depth at wide receiver gives the Steelers flexibility if they want to address cornerback with their first-round pick.

That may be the Steelers' most glaring need and this may finally be the year that they take a cornerback with their first-round pick for the first time since 1997.

There are 11 cornerbacks among Kiper's top 100 players, though the position does not have nearly the high-end talent as some other positions, according to his rankings, including wide receiver and offensive tackle.

Kiper has only Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert (No. 14) and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard (No. 15) among his top 32 players. Kiper's next highest-rated cornerback is TCU's Jason Verrett at No. 37.

Based on Kiper's top 100 players, it would make a lot of sense for the Steelers to take one of the top cornerbacks with the 15th overall pick -- assuming Gilbert and/or Dennard is still available -- and wait until the second or even third round to pick a wide receiver.

The Steelers' draft board, of course, may look a lot different than Kiper's.

But it should also reflect the quality and quantity at wide receiver, a position the Steelers have had success addressing later in drafts.
PITTSBURGH -- Odell Beckham Jr. to Pittsburgh got a little more momentum -- at least outside of Steelers’ headquarters -- on Monday when ESPN analyst Todd McShay wrote that the two would make an ideal pairing.

McShay weighed in on a handful of good fits for teams not picking in the top 10 of the upcoming draft, and Beckham and the Steelers topped his list.

Beckham
Beckham caught 26 passes last season that were thrown at least 15 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information, making the LSU wide receiver an attractive intermediate and deep threat. McShay also thinks the 5-foot-11, 198-pounder could thrive in the no-huddle attack that limited the hits Ben Roethlisberger absorbed in the second half of last season since the veteran quarterback focused on getting rid of the ball quicker.

“Beckham would help [Roethlisberger] do that because of his ability to beat press coverage with his quickness and to separate quickly,” McShay wrote. “In addition, Beckham has the ability to create after the catch and be a deep threat for when Roethlisberger does extend plays and stretches the field with his arm strength."

McShay has the Steelers taking Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard 15th overall pick in his latest mock draft with the Packers selecting Beckham six picks later.

What is important to note is that McShay's mock drafts reflect what he thinks teams will do, not the player or players he would select if he were picking for them.

Mel Kiper Jr., meanwhile, has the Steelers taking Beckham in his two most recent mock drafts. And in one of those drafts, Kiper makes picks as if the ESPN analyst were the general manager of every team (i.e., what he would do).
PITTSBURGH -- Mock drafts have, predictably, been all over the place as far as the Pittsburgh Steelers' first-round pick. Most, however, have them taking a wide receiver or a cornerback No. 15 overall, assuming they don’t try to trade down.

I think those two positions are most likely the ones the Steelers will target with their first pick, though North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron could also be in play if he slides a little in the draft.

Ebron
Ebron is the No. 1 player at one of the few positions that is not particularly deep, and he would give the Steelers a tall receiver while also filling a long-term need. I think Heath Miller has at least three good seasons left in him, but the Steelers have to plan for the post-Miller years at some point.

If Ebron is still available when they make the first pick, I think they give him serious consideration, especially if a couple of cornerbacks are already off the board, as well as Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.

The Steelers have eight other picks in the draft, three of which are compensatory selections, including one at the end of the third round. They have a lot of needs -- or as general manager Kevin Colbert would frame it "wants" -- particularly on defense.

Here is my projection of the positions they will address with their nine picks, which is contingent on the Steelers not adding extra ones through a trade.

Cornerback (2): The Steelers could use immediate help here, and they don't have a long-term starter at cornerback after third-year man Cortez Allen. I would be surprised if they don't draft two cornerbacks, with one of them coming in the first three rounds. They drafted two cornerbacks in 2011, including Allen in the fourth round.

Defensive line (2): The Steelers will draft a defensive lineman as early as the second round -- ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has them taking Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III with their second pick in his latest mock draft -- and they need to take at least one end. The signing of Cam Thomas gives them a player with position flexibility, but the Steelers' need at defensive end is every bit as glaring as it is at cornerback.

Wide receiver (1): No position is deeper in the draft, and even if the Steelers don't address it in the first round, they can still get a good prospect later. The Steelers probably won't get a chance to draft Evans unless they trade up in the first round and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin may be too much of a risk to take at No. 15. LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. has been linked to the Steelers in various mock drafts, and they could pull the trigger on him if they have him high on their board.

Linebacker (1): The Steelers have to take a player who projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme given how thin they are at the position. It will be interesting to see what they will do if Alabama’s C.J. Mosley is still on the board at No. 15. Mosley, who projects as an inside linebacker, may be one of the most NFL-ready players in the draft. “He and (Lawrence) Timmons could be your (NaVorro) Bowman and (Patrick) Willis,” ESPN analyst and former NFL scout Matt Williamson said. If the Steelers take Mosley, they will also draft an outside linebacker later in the draft.

Safety (1): The Steelers have hosted at least three safeties for pre-draft visits, including Louisville’s Calvin Pryor, a projected first-round pick. The signing of Mike Mitchell makes it unlikely the Steelers take a safety in the first round but it wouldn't hurt to add another younger player here. The question is whether it makes sense for them to draft a safety -- or instead sign a couple of undrafted free agents -- if they don’t take one in the second or third round.

Offensive line (1): I don't see this as the need that others do. The Steelers got their upgrade up front when they hired Mike Munchak to coach the offensive line and he has plenty of material with which to work. All five starters return, including Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who tore his ACL eight snaps into last season. And the Steelers have depth up front after re-signing Cody Wallace and Guy Whimper. The Steelers will probably take a lineman they can develop later in the draft, but I could also see them not drafting one for the second year in a row if they take two linebackers or a tight end.

Running back (1): The Steelers need depth and they could use a speedster to complement Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. The de-valuing of running backs allows the Steelers to wait until later in the draft to address the position and still get a good prospect. I don't see them taking a running back before the fifth round.
The Pittsburgh Steelers usually draft so logically and sensibly that predicting the position and player they take is not that huge of a challenge.

This draft is no different. Pittsburgh, coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons, could use a receiver, a defensive lineman or a cornerback. Any would make sense.


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I wrote an earlier post that included ESPN NFL analyst Matt Williamson’s take on what defines a No. 1 pass catcher as part of a larger argument for the Steelers drafting a tall receiver.

What is interesting to note is that tight ends Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski are among the players Williamson thinks are bona fide No. 1 receivers.

Williamson followed that piece with one on potential No. 1 receivers, a mix that includes wide receivers and tight ends and players who are already in the NFL as well as ones who will be drafted next month.

Seventh on his list is North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron Insider.

The 6-4, 250-pound Ebron would qualify as a tall receiver and his production and athleticism in college -- he caught 62 passes for 973 yards and three touchdowns last season -- make him the No. 1 tight end in the draft

Here is what Williamson wrote about Ebron:
While Ebron lacks the height and bulk of Graham or Rob Gronkowski, he might possess better pure speed. This guy can truly stretch the field like few NFL tight ends. Ebron is fluid and smooth, but he also has an instant acceleration burst. He is versatile in terms of his alignment on the field and should be an instant-impact tight end, as he is noticeably above average in all receiving categories for an incoming prospect.

ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has projected Ebron going between picks 12 and 18 next month, which would put him in the range of where the Steelers are drafting. What makes Ebron intriguing for the Steelers is he could help right away given the increasing frequency with which teams use two-tight end sets and also give them Heath Miller’s eventual replacement.

Former Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik wrote that tight end is a hidden need for the Steelers, which is why he thinks Ebron could be an option Insider for them.

Here is what Dominik, an ESPN Front Office Insider, wrote:
Heath Miller is still a very talented player, and he is a great fit in the Steelers’ offense. However, he will turn 32 this season, and the team needs to find a big-bodied tight end via the draft so Ben Roethlisberger can begin building trust in him. They’ll need a young tight end to take over as their primary target at the position in the near future. North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, the consensus top tight end in this year’s draft, could be in play for the Steelers at No. 15 overall if he’s still on the board.

Also of note from Williamson’s story on future No. 1 receivers is he has LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. fifth on his list -- three spots ahead of Texas A&M’s Mike Evans.

The 5-11, 198-pound Beckham doesn’t have great size but he makes up for it in other areas, writes Williamson:
He gets separation with the more technical intermediate routes, as well as just using his pure ability to run past defensive backs. Beckham is also a good return man and excels with the ball in his hands. I think I'm actually higher on Beckham than most others, but expect him to make an instant impact in the NFL. I could see Beckham landing in Pittsburgh, Kansas City or Carolina in Round 1.

Kiper has the Steelers taking Beckham No. 15 overall in the Grade A Mock Draft he released last week. The mock draft is one in which Kiper’s picks are based on what he thinks teams should do in the first three rounds of the draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have the 15th overall pick in the NFL draft after finishing 8-8 last season. A cornerback, wide receiver or defensive lineman would make sense for the Steelers.

Mel Kiper Jr.’s Grade A 2014 mock draftInsider is out on ESPN NFL Insider today, and his choice is a position that has been linked to the Steelers, though not necessarily a player they have been presumed to be targeting.


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