The Steelers are permitted to host 30 prospects for pre-draft visits. With less than a month until the draft, visits have begun and are in full swing. Pre-Draft Visits are a good indicator of the Steelers draft priorities as they have selected 30 players in the last 7 years that came on a pre-draft visit (and signed a handful more as undrafted free agents). While the Steelers have a history of using about half of their picks each year on prospects who have visited, the Steelers have also used these visits to bring in players that might have some question marks on their resume to gather more information in creating their draft board. These question marks range from double-checking medical evaluations or to have the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with players that have had off-the-field issues. The Steelers will also use pre-draft visits to do some extra scouting on players that will likely be undrafted free agents that they may have on their radar.
For each prospect, I added Rankings from some of the more reliable draft analysts around – Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Lance Zerlein of NFL.com, Luke Easterling of The Draft Wire, and Scott Carasik of Falcons Radio (and other outlets) who publishes an all-encompassing spreadsheet. Additionally, I listed three athleticism metrics: SPARQ, RAS, and Mock Draftable “webs.” SPARQ rankings are from 3 Sigma Athlete and measure of explosiveness and athleticism. SPARQ rankings use a score of 100 for an “average” NFL athlete and provides the percentile where a prospect fits athletically. Over the past few seasons, the Steelers have targetedplayers in the draft with high SPARQ rankings. RAS (or “Relative Athletic Score“) was developed by Kent Lee Platte of The Pride of Detroit. While SPARQ uses 100 as the average score, RAS is on a relatively simple 0-10 scale with 5 as the “average” player at the position. Mock Draftable is a great site that compiles testing data from draft prospects and keeps historical records to provide comparables for each player.
Day 1: J. Dobbs (QB-Tennessee), P. Mahomes (QB-Texas Tech), K. Golladay (WR-Northern Illinois), J. Reynolds (WR-Texas A&M)
CB – Michigan
5’10” 188 lbs
SPARQ: #27 CB
RAS: 2.76 (#37 CB)
CBS Sports: #15 CB (#88 Overall)
NFL.com: #15 CB
Draft Wire: #17 CB
Scott Carasik: #22 CB
Analysis: Remember how I said in the introduction that the Steelers will bring in some prospects with off-field issues in order to have the chance to interview them one-on-one? Lewis absolutely fits that mold as he recently plead not guilty to a domestic violence charge. Lewis was a three-year starter at Michigan who allowed just 7 completions against him in his senior year. On the field, his role is best as a press corner as he struggled at times staring down the quarterback in zone coverage. He is quick and capable of keeping up with receivers in press man coverage and projects as a quality slot corner in the NFL.
EDGE – Youngstown State
6’4″ 248 lbs
SPARQ: 80.1 percentile (#7 EDGE)
RAS: 9.45 (#5 EDGE)
CBS Sports: #9 DE (#84 Overall)
NFL.com: #37 DL
Draft Wire: #11 EDGE
Scott Carasik: #6 EDGE
Analysis: Rivers is a fascinating edge rushing prospect. Most analysts have Rivers targeted between the mid-first round and mid-second round. Playing at Youngstown State he clearly stood out, recording 28 sacks over the last two seasons. He plays with a relentless motor and can play with leverage and power to win the edge. That said, it will be a big jump from FCS competition to the NFL but Rivers has all of the athletic traits that can translate into NFL success. He was an absolute terror at the FCS level and if he can translate that success to the next level could be a dominant edge rusher. The Steelers typically don’t select players from non-Power 5 schools in the early rounds of the draft and Colbert has only once selected a player from outside the FBS in the first two rounds (Ricardo Colclough in 2004). It would be a clear departure from their historical trend to select a player like Rivers in the first round, but when you watch his tape you can certainly see the appeal of his athleticism.
EDGE – UCLA
6’2″ 250 lbs
SPARQ: 33.1 percentile (#17 EDGE)
RAS: 5.2 (#22 EDGE)
CBS Sports: #3 OLB (#34 overall)
NFL.com: #7 DL
Draft Wire: #5 EDGE
Scott Carasik: #15 EDGE
Analysis: McKinley is another high-motor pass rusher whose relentless approach led to a breakout senior season at UCLA. He recorded 10 sacks this past season but is still relatively raw as a pass rusher. His technique needs some work and his athleticism metrics are about average amongst EDGE rushers in the NFL. AS you can see by the rankings, there is some discrepancy among scouts as to where McKinley will go in the draft but the general thinking is somewhere between the end of the first and beginning of the second round. He still needs some work on refining his hand placement and play strength. While he wins at the point of attack with lateral agility and short-area quickness, he does not have the pure bull rush power that some other EDGE rushers possess.
S – Michigan St
6’2″ 212 lbs
SPARQ: #14 S
RAS: insufficient data
CBS Sports: #15 SS (#311 Overall)
NFL.com: #31 S
Draft Wire: #24 CB
Scott Carasik: #23 S
Analysis: If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll recognize Monte Nicholson’s name as a former standout in football and track at Gateway High School. Nicholson started all three of his seasons at Michigan State and has great athleticism. That said, he has had some issues in the tackling department. His best role is as a deep safety over the top where he can spy the route combinations in front of him and attack accordingly. He is projected as a mid-to-late round developmental prospect who athletically fits the mold of an “in the box” safety like Deone Bucannon and Mark Barron.