Mocking the Draft: More Defensive Backs

Here are the players left standing who are mocked to the Steelers in the first three rounds who I have not previously covered. The number preceding the name is the round they were projected in:

1. Reggie Ragland, LB (PFF)
2. T.J. Green, S (cbssports)
2. Karl Joseph, S (Fittipaldo)
2. Kevin Byard, S (PFF Steelers Big Board)
3. Artie Burns, CB
3. Vonn Bell, S (nfl spinzone)
3. Jihad Ward, DE (bleacher report)
3. Jalen Mills, S (fansided)
3. Jonathan Jones, CB (The Point of Pittsburgh)
3. Harlan Miller, S (steelerswire)

Here are the suggestions for the later rounds:

  • Miles Killebrew, S; Tom Hackett, PT; Keith Marshall, RB; Roger Lewis, WR (Dan Brugler, Charles Campbell)
  • Jatavis Brown, OLB; Kevin Peterson, CB; Giorgio Newberry, DT; Joe Schmidt, ILB (draftek)
  • Joshua Perry, OLB; Brandon Allen, QB; Derek Alexander, DE; DeAndre Elliot, CB (big jay71)
  • Javon Hargrave, DT; Morgan Burns, CB; Jared Norris, ILB; Alex Redmond, G (nfl spinzone)
  • Pharoh Cooper, WR; Cory James, LB; Tavon Young, CB; Caleb Benenoch, OL (bleacher report)
  • Dak Prescott, QB; Temarrick Hemingway, TE; De’Runnya Wilson, WR; Bralon Addison, WR/RB (fansided)
  • Brandon Allen, QB; Shawn Oakman, DE; Drew Kaser, P; Josh Forrest, LB (The Point of Pittsburgh)
  • Bryce Williams, TE; Tyler Marz, OT (Invictus XI)
  • Avery Young, OT/OG; A.J. Stamps, S; Drew Kaser, P; Cayleb Jone, WR (nfl draft geek)
  • Paul Perkins, RB (Brown)
  • Hunter Sharp, WR (Reuter)

These are the 123rd, 220th, 229th, and 240th guys on the draftek big board, regardless of position or team:

Adam Gotsis, DE; Devon Johnson, RB; Storm Barr-Woods, RB/FB; Jacob Coker, QB

Before I continue, let me just say that while I’m a fan of Post-Gazette writer Gerry Dulac, I don’t always agree with him. Particularly not in this instance. When discussing the draft in his (usually) weekly chat, he said:

They all look good on paper.

But they don’t, really. That’s part of the point of my draft. And unlike Dulac or any of the other well-known writers, I’m prepared to tell you who actually does look good on paper, or at least in a Google image search.

So here are the results of more of my meticulous research.  I culled pretty heavily because there are a boatload of DBs suggested, projecting from the second round on down. It seems everyone in the known world is aware the Steelers are going to take a lot of defensive backs (or at least most of us hope so.)

In the end I rejected most of the second-rounders mocked to the Steelers. There were various reasons for this.

For example, Karl Joseph could well be taken in the first round, despite the concerns about his knee. And I just wouldn’t take someone in the first round who has a question mark with his knee, especially as the latest report out is that he probably won’t be ready for training camp. And for a cautionary tale we only need to look at the rival Ravens, who took WR Breshad Perriman last season, despite him being injured, and he never made it onto the field last year.

Yes, things happen. The Steelers’ second round pick was hurt in training camp and IRed. But to take someone in the first round knowing upfront there are health concerns is pretty scary, and I’m not going there.

But mainly I’ve already profiled several DBs, and I like them all better than most of these.  Here are the Day Three survivors, as well as a couple of late entrants projected to go on Day Two or even Day One.

vbell-coverVonn Bell, S

If this picture seems vaguely familiar, it’s because it is rather similar to the one I posted of Vonn’s teammate Tyvis Powell. And while I think Powell is the better-looking of the two, Bell is, at least so far, the better player. (Mike Mayock rates him as the second-best safety in the class, behind Karl Joseph.)

He started out his athletic life as a swimmer, and then played basketball before his mother let him play football. But no matter what sport he played, his father insisted on him doing it at a high level, as this Columbus Dispatch article from December 2015 notes:

“It helped me very much, especially because my dad, I could be winning everything and he would be ‘That’s not good enough,’” Vonn said. “He could see the flaws, and he’d point them out.

“That helped me down the road because I was never complacent. I was always eager to learn more and do more and contribute more. I thank him for instilling that in me still today.”

Academically, I can’t find a single thing about Bell (who is declaring early for the draft), which usually tells you all you need to know about how seriously a player took the academic side of his college experience. Here’s the footbally stuff:

NFL.com rates him a 5.68, and says:

Though lacking in desired size and physicality, Bell has the ability to match up in space and is at his best when keeping the action in front of him where he combines his vision, reactive quickness and ball skills to go make plays on the ball. Bell lacks size and isn’t an aggressive tackler so he needs to prove he can run so that he locks in his draft positioning as one of the top free safeties in this draft.

Although the nflspinzone mock draft sent him to the Steelers in Round 3, it would be more than surprising if he were to fall that far. I would be surprised if he makes it past the second round, and in fact he might well not make it beyond the early second round.


artie-burns-1000Artie Burns, CB

Burns is one of those “how did I miss this guy before” sort of guys. But the reason is, until very recently he’s been pretty far down the big boards, although this is changing.

He was mocked to the Steelers in Round 3 (by whom, I can’t remember, as I forgot to write it down) but Daniel Jeremiah, Charles Davis and Charles Casserly all have him going to the Steelers in the first round in their latest mocks. That’s some major movement up the board. This fansided article gives some reasons why:

Miami Hurricanes cornerback Artie Burns has Round 1 talent with a third-round projection. He was being projected as late as the fifth round, but he is slowly climbing draft boards. To say he’s a diamond in the rough would be an understatement.

Whoever grabs this kid is going to get an absolute steal. Burns is a supremely talented athlete, he was a four-star recruit both as a football and track star. At 6 foot tall and 193 pounds, he has ideal NFL size. Despite running a 4.46 40 at the combine, he’s widely considered faster than that and has unofficially timed much faster at “The U.” He also broke a 38-year-old American record, timing out at 7.68 seconds in the 60-yard hurdles under the age of 21 in 2014 and was a three-time state 3A 110 hurdle champion in Florida.

The author indicates that he is raw, not a proficient tackler, and will need a lot of “coaching up” in the NFL. But against that he puts:

In 2015, Burns led the entire ACC with six interceptions and despite his poor tackling technique, he’s actually excellent at sniffing out ball-carriers. He has an innate ability to sneak by blockers and get to the quarterback on corner blitzes or running backs in the rushing attack.

In press coverage he gets physical and extends his long arms and has the straight line speed to run with just about anybody.

When you combine that with his superior ball skills, how do you pass on this guy three times? Don’t be shocked if he’s a high-end cornerback-1 by the time his rookie contract expires. His upside is immense.

His story will tug at your heartstrings as well, as he said when declaring for the draft:

“Due to my mom’s sudden passing [she died of a heart attack last year] and my father being incarcerated, I now have custody of my two younger brothers and my son to raise. It is my responsibility to be the financial supporter my family needs to continue our day-to-day lives,” Burns said. “Also, playing in the National Football League has always been a dream of mine and I believe the time to pursue this dream is now. I feel I am mentally and physically ready. Now that the time has come for me to take the next step in my journey, I will come back to complete my degree from this prestigious university.”

NFL.com rates him at 5.91, and notes:

Burns has been as successful a two-sport athlete as any football player has been in the last 20 years. He came to “The U” with a pedigree on the football field and the track, earning four-star recruit status while winning a state title in the 110 meter hurdles three times during his high school career (he had the top 110 meter and 300 meter hurdles times in the nation in his junior year). Burns translated that dual success in high school to the Hurricanes, winning All-American and All-Conference honors as a hurdler for the track and field squad and becoming one of the top corners in the ACC. Burns played in a reserve role as a freshman in 2013 (17 tackles, two sacks, three pass breakups) before becoming a starter in his sophomore year (40 tackles, six pass breakups). He flourished in 2015, intercepting six passes (most by a Miami player since Sean Taylor had 10 in 2003) and breaking up five others on his way to consensus second-team All-ACC honors. Unfortunately, Burns also suffered a great loss during his junior year, losing his mother after she suffered a heart attack. Since his father has been incarcerated for some time, the University of Miami started a donation fund to help his family get through the rough period — they raised $40,000 in six hours. It was not surprising, therefore, that he wanted to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft as an early entrant.

While his tape is average and technique can be non­existent at times, NFL teams often draft on traits at the cornerback spot and assume that coaching will take care of the rest. Burns has length, speed, ball skills and abundant potential. Keep in mind he was limited in his growth at the position thanks to a spring track schedule, but he is still in the infant stages of reaching his pro potential.

killebrewMiles Killebrew, S

Unlike the majors one often sees for athletes that one has never heard of, Killebrew was an engineering major. I say “was” because he has already graduated.

Although Killebrew’s father didn’t allow him to lift weights in high school, as he was still growing, he developed his own strength routine that included 1000 pushups a day. He’s obviously determined.

He was one of the most fit players at the Combine, and led all defensive backs in the bench press. Some analysts see him as a linebacker/safety hybrid, a bit like Su’a Cravens. A Herald Bulletin article noted:

Killebrew counts among his role models former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, former Colts safety Bob Sanders and current Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor.

“I pride myself on being able to tackle,” he said from the Combine this weekend. “I go for the contact. I love it. … That physical style, that reckless nature, is something that I really model my game after.”

His Draft Diamonds interview was also interesting:

Q: [W]hat is the coolest thing you have done off the field?

A: I volunteer at a local boys home and tutor high school kids

Q: What was the hardest college class you ever had to take?

A: Calculus 2

Q: Did you play any other sports growing up?

A: I played basketball and ran track (1,2,4,300hurdles)

Q: Did you play any other positions in football?

A: Corner

Q: If you could compare your play to one player in the NFL who would it be and why?

A: Kam Chancellor- also a bigger safety who loves to hit

What was the biggest obstacle in your life you had to overcome, and how did you overcome it?

Q: If I were a GM and gave you a second to sell yourself, what would you say?

A: I am a hungry, competitive, hard working player that stays out of trouble.

NFL.com scouting report:

Rating: 5.67

Violent player who looks to punish and intimidate with the force of his strikes, but who won’t compromise his form as a tackler just for the highlight reel hit. Killebrew is average in coverage, but has the size and physicality that makes him stand out in the box. With the success of Arizona’s Deone Bucannon as a hybrid linebacker, it is reasonable to assume that a team will look to Killebrew to fill that role for its defense. If he blows up the combine, he won’t get past the second day of the draft.

Jonathan-JonesJonathan Jones, CB

Gotta love the 1000 megawatt smile! Let’s see what else Jones, a Day Two or Three prospect, has going for him.

One of those things is not height. He’s 5’9″. But the Steelers weren’t bothered by that, apparently, as they brought him in for a visit. He ran a blazingly fast 4.33 at the Combine (and was unofficially timed at 4.28.) His 19 reps in the bench press was top three among DBs.

He majored in Business Administration at Auburn, graduating in December.

Other than the fact that he and his girlfriend had a baby last fall and he’s clearly into fatherhood, I couldn’t find a lot of personal information about him. So here’s the NFL.com scouting report:

They rated him at 5.35. Here’s what they said:

Although some NFL teams won’t draft a cornerback under 5-10 because of the height and speed of today’s star receivers, Jones’ athleticism (110-meter hurdles national high school champion) and play the past two seasons will certainly make someone take a chance on his talent. He earned second-team All-SEC notice as a junior, ranking among the nation’s leaders with six interceptions and 17 passes defended in his first year as a starter for the Tigers. He might have received the nod in 2013, but suffered a broken bone before the season and wasn’t quite up to the challenge physically. Jones started all 13 games as a senior, though, making 69 stops, intercepting one pass, and breaking up 13 others.

Has the foot quickness and fluid hips for smooth transitions from press coverage. Can open up and match quickness with quickness. Looks to make plays outside of his area. Former high school sprinter and hurdles champion. Able to carry long speed stride for stride. Man cover specialist with springy feet and ability to shadow his man. Usually near the throw. Has closing burst and ball skills to be aggressively disruptive at the catch point. Finds the deep ball and gets his head around to challenge. Finished 2014 with 16 passes defensed and six interceptions. Much better instincts underneath or in man coverage.

 

To be continued. To see my coverage of Round One, click here and here and here.

For Round Two, click here and here and here.

For Round Three, click here and here and here and here.
For all the rest, click here.

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