Momma’s Mocks No. 1—Setting the Table with some Outliers
photo via Walter Football
As those of you who know my work have long been aware, I make no claims to be an expert draftologist. Actually, I make no claims to be an expert about any aspect of football, so this is scarcely surprising. But since I don’t watch college football, don’t breathlessly follow combine results, or read the projected mock drafts for the following year—DURING THE ACTUAL FOOTBALL SEASON, for heaven’s sakes—I really don’t know much about drafting.
But I hated to miss out on the only fun to be had at this point in the off-season, so many years ago (about 2010 if I recall correctly) I came up with my own metric, BLA, or best-looking player available. While there is a soupçon of evidence for this approach, it isn’t much. But it does make it much more fun to peruse the prospects.
Out of curiosity, I had a look at a number of mock drafts put together by those who purport to know what they are talking about. And I do have to say my record was about as good as any of theirs last season, as I proposed several of the Steelers’ picks, including T.J. Watt. We will see this year.
As usual, there are only a handful (and of those, two main prospects) most are mocking to the Steelers in Round 1—Leighton Vander Esch and Rashaan Evans, both ILBs. Also as usual, the field opens up a good bit after that. And also as usual, you will see the same player mocked to the Steelers in sometimes widely divergent rounds. I will be featuring some of those players in subsequent posts, as it only makes sense to look at the guys the experts think will suit the Steelers.
After my survey, I had a look at the NFL Draft Tracker to see who was being left off the list I thought would be suitable, both in the sense that there would be a place for them on the Steelers, and they are easy on the eyes. I put together a pretty good list, which I have trimmed down to four prospects. Since I was only looking at the top 100 prospects as graded by Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, these are guys I would expect to be drafted in the second or third round.
Some fine-looking young men didn’t make the cut. Josh Allen is a quarterback, and while I wasn’t completely discounting quarterbacks per se, it seems unlikely the Steelers would draft a QB early when Ben Roethlisberger has expressed his intention to play out his contract, especially one being touted “the biggest boom-bust prospect in the draft.” Furthermore, in a quarterback-needy league somebody will take a chance on him, probably way too high. [I noted Bucky Brooks has an article indicating why the Browns should take him at No. 1 overall. For his sake, I hope it doesn’t happen. But that’s what you get with quarterbacks.]
Others who initially made my list got taken off of it after I looked up a few particulars. A promising-looking DE had a recent DUI. Big red flag. An initially great-looking OG had a bad season last year. You get the idea. So without further ado, here are the three guys who made the cut, and who have not, to my knowledge, been mocked to the Steelers by anyone else.
DE Sam Hubbard (photo at top)
Hubbard is No. 72 in Zierlein’s list, with a grade of 5.8. (For future reference, the top-graded player in this draft is Saquon Barkley, the guy most think the Browns will choose. His grade is 7.45—only five players in this draft have a grade of 7.00 or more. By the time you get to No. 40 the grades are in the high fives.)
At 6’5″ and 265 pounds he has the measurables. As a lacrosse star in high school who moved from safety to linebacker to defensive end, he has the athleticism and versatility. As a first-team Academic All-American as a sophomore, he checks off some other of Momma’s favored traits—smart and hard-working. And even Lance Zierlein says he “passes the eyeball test,” although I am perhaps misinterpreting his meaning. He is also from Ohio State, a place the Steelers seem to like a lot for their prospects.
Here are some of his strengths, according to Zierlein:
Attacks with square pads and a wide, balanced base.
Possesses good football intelligence and is very aware.
Quick to spot play-action
Motor takes him to plays that other will quit on
There are a lot more. But, alas, he has weaknesses too:
Pursuit speed is just average…
Arc-rounder rather than move-maker as a rusher
And so on. But there’s this, from an “NFC team director of college scouting:”
“I think he’s going to end up being a good pro. He plays hard all the time. He just needs to add a little more muscle and find a go-to move…”
I’m guessing he hasn’t been mocked to the Steelers because he projects as a 4-3 DE (although I didn’t see that mentioned anywhere.) But in the Steelers’ amorphous schemes these days, it seems to me that scarcely matters. What matters to the Steelers is how he looks in a helmet. I wouldn’t know—but you can see for yourself he looks great out of it!
AP Photo/ Darron Cummings
TE Dalton Schultz
Both of the next prospects are even closer to the bottom of the 100 top prospects, but this doesn’t seem to matter a great deal, honestly. After all, Jaire Alexander is a CB mocked to the Steelers by at least two draftologists in the first round, and not only does he not meet Momma’s criteria (at least after a cursory look,) he was only No. 74 on Zierlein’s list.
You might feel Schultz, as a TE, should not be on the Steelers’ board at all unless he falls to Round 5. But with a grade of 5.72, it seems highly unlikely to me he would make it that far. And as a Stanford man with great run-blocking credentials, he seems like a good fit for the Steelers. Vance McDonald will almost certainly, if he stays healthy, to be the No. 1 TE. But Jesse James is in the last year of his contract, and has been maddeningly inconsistent at times. It might be time for a fresh face.
At Stanford he created his own major, in “Science, technology and society.” No fear for his intelligence. And as Stanford has turned out some pretty high quality TEs in recent years, his “bloodlines” are all you could ask.
As he said in an interview,“In the land of the spread offense, [TE in the old sense is] one of the endangered species…I was raised as a lineman…I love run-blocking. There is a quote, ‘There’s no greater feeling than moving a man from point A to point B against his will.'”
What’s not to love? Schultz for Steeler!!!
Photo via MileHigh Sports
WR Michael Gallup
First of all, how could you not want a wide receiver called “Gallup?” It’s just too perfect. But this young man has more than his name and his looks going for him.
He grades out more or less the same as Dalton Schultz, but the similarities end there. My favorite of his listed strengths (Zierlein) is this:
“Light-footed, bounding athlete.”
You’ll be happy to hear he has other strengths as well, including:
Drives off cornerback into an aggressive backpedal with hard vertical push up the field.
Very competitive after the catch.
There’s lots more, but let’s look at the weaknesses too:
Adjustments to poorly thrown balls is just average.
Need to see more effort as run blocker.
An NFC South scout said:
…I thought his tape was a lot better [in 2017] because he’s learning how to really play the position. He has good size and he’s going to run well. I think he will keep getting better.
Sounds good to me!
That’s a wrap for today. Watch this space for more draft coverage in the coming days.