Fives are Fine—Momma’s Mock Part 4
I noted with interest that Post-Gazette beat writer Ray Fittipaldo’s latest mock draft contained Troy Fumigalli as his honorable mention for the fifth round. Which would obviously be just fine with Momma. This is another way of saying that by the fifth round (and as you all may recall, the Steelers don’t have a fourth-round pick this year, unless they trade for one) there is really no way of saying who is going to be left.
The Steelers have hit on some great players in the fifth round, perhaps never more so than one of their fifth-round picks* in 2010, a little guy from a little school. Antonio Brown has gone on to become the best receiver in the league—or next best, if you’re a Falcons fan, but scarcely anybody is.
*See the mea culpa in the comments...
And while they have also “wasted” a lot of picks in the fifth round, one has already long before reached the point where you are more or less taking a shot in the dark. And after all, if there were some way to make it a sure thing, it would take all the fun out of the draft.
I don’t claim to have a better way to figure out who is going to turn into an Antonio Brown, but I can tell you some of the guys I think would look really good in a Steelers uni. (And it’s worth noting that Brown is a very fine-looking man. His turn on Dancing With the Stars was must-see TV, if such a thing exists.)
So once again I’m going to have a look at the guys the Steelers have shown interest in and decide which ones fit Momma’s stern criteria. We have two picks to work with in Round 5, so let’s hope at least two players step up to the plate. Here goes:
- DL/NT B.J. Hill
- DL/NT Kendrick Norton
- DL/NT Derrick Nnadi
- DL Deadrin Senat
- ILB Joel Iyiegbuniwe
- ILB Chris Worley
- C/G Tony Adams
- QB Brogan Roback
- RB/WR Reggie Bonnafon
- WR Justin Watson
- WR Richie James
- WR Devin Gray
- WR Quadree Henderson
Whew, that’s a lot of prospects! Interesting how many of the Steelers’ visits were low/midround prospects. Maybe this is always true and I haven’t been paying attention. But I suppose it makes sense, in that it’s more difficult to sort these guys out from the pack than the high-round folks.
I’m sure you are all breathlessly awaiting my verdict on these guys, but please understand that, as a rule, the pictorial evidence for the guys who don’t project as Day One or Two prospects is increasingly difficult to come by, unless they have some other sort of story to make them generally interesting. But as always I will do my best.
Well, quite a few of them passed the immediate eye test—five of them, in fact, despite the fact I was able to eliminate one immediately for bad hair decisions (the QB) and for being delusional (Henderson.) To be fair to the latter, Henderson’s tweet to the effect that getting drafted on Day One will be a dream come true! is pinned, and was actually tweeted last June, but still… Also to be fair, his stated desire is to get his family out of the hood, which is a noble aim, and should be possible with some careful money management, more or less wherever he is drafted. But still…
Here are the five who remain, and whom I will undoubtedly pare down even further with random unfair rationales. But honestly, given how many guys there are to look at, I’m guessing the scouting staff begins doing more or less the same. A young man I know very well signed up for Eharmony about a dozen years ago, and was so overwhelmed with the large number of “matches” appearing in his in-box each day that he developed a bunch of random criteria to reduce the numbers quickly. And this is a rather more important decision than who gets picked in the fifth round, even to the Steelers. (I’m happy to say he met his match, in more ways than one, and married her. She’s a wonderful woman. So I’m chalking up a point for random criteria…):
- DL/NT B.J. Hill (see, I told you I would be putting out at least a few Big Eater choices,)
- ILB Joel Iyiegbuniwe
- ILB Chris Worley
- RB/WR Reggie Bonnafon
- WR Justin Watson
Of these prospects, all of them were invited to Pittsburgh, so I can’t use “level of interest” as a filter. I could perhaps use “ease of pronunciation of name,” but that seems unfair.
But we have two ILB prospects, so this means, I suppose, we have to say a fond farewell to at least one of them. And since Worley sounds a lot like Tyler Matakevich (not very fast, high character special teamer) I’m going to figure we already have one of those. (Given that Matakevich is likely to move down the depth chart, on the assumption that the Steelers draft an ILB high, and given that they picked up Jon Bostic, I think this aspect is fairly well covered.)
Since we have two picks in the fifth round I’m going to go with four guys. This gives us a DL prospect, an ILB, a WR and an RB. Let’s begin with the latter.
RB/WR Reggie Bonnafon
Bonnafon really intrigues me, as he looks an awful lot like James Connor. Perhaps he could wear Connor’s number, and uni, thus giving the Steelers a 54-man roster. Oh wait, it’s the Patriots that do stuff like that. (I don’t know that they’ve ever actually done it, but it sure wouldn’t shock me to know they had tried…)
He’s a converted quarterback who played both WR and running back, and thus is pretty versatile. After losing his spot to Lamar Jackson, he switched to receiver, which he had played a lot of in high school, but there was a need at RB and so he switched again.
He is sufficiently under-the-radar that he doesn’t even appear on the nfl.com draft prospects list, but he ran a 4.4 40 at his pro day, which is probably where the Steelers saw him, as they went to have a look at Jackson. He is nothing if not an athlete. At his preseason physical testing two years ago he posted a 43.5″ vertical, which was not only higher than anyone else on the team (or ever in Louisville history) but it was two inches higher than ANYONE at the 2016 NFL combine. That’s pretty sweet. And at 6-3, 215 pounds, he could be a great special-teamer. When he’s not lining up in the backfield, pretending to be James Connor.
DL/NT B.J. Hill
Although Dropthehammer of BTSC has Hill graded as an early 5th round prospect (and don’t forget, the Steelers have an early 5th round pick), I note that Lance Zierlein of NFL.com thinks he will go in the 3rd round. But that’s okay. By the 5th round there are a ton of guys who have fallen well below their projection.
Zierlein also considers him to have a good chance to become an NFL starter.
Let’s get this out of the way—as Dropthehammer says, he’s much more in the mold of Javon Hargrave than Casey Hampton. And since we already have Hargrave, perhaps he seems surplus to requirements. But what does Zierlein say?
Well, let’s just say that, despite his rather high grade, Zierlein speaks with somewhat modified rapture, in phrases such as “decent athleticism”, “movement is fairly smooth,” “seems to be able to find the football at an adequate rate”, and so on. But Zierlein clearly likes him anyhow, and clearly thinks the potential for development is there. So there you have it. He would apparently be a steal in the 5th round, especially in the latter part of it, and the Steelers might just go for him.
ILB Joel Iyiegbuniwe
He of the unpronounceable name is up next. His name may not trip off the tongue, but he has fabulous eyes. Let’s see what he’s got in the footbally sense:
Unfortunately, Zierlein doesn’t think as much of his eyes as I do, saying he is “slow to balance eyes between blockers and ball-carrier.” And although he praises his “rangy, athletic frame,” his “early burst” and “good speed in pursuit,” he sees his ceiling as a special teamer or possibly occasional sub-package guy. But that’s okay. We are talking about the 5th round, after all. And Dropthehammer’s intriguing theory about the middle rounds of this draft is that Special Teams coach Danny Smith got a backroom deal when the Steelers cut Robert Golden, assuring him that they would spend some serious draft capital on special teams. If so, it looks like this young man would fit right in.
WR Justin Watson
I almost hate to write about this guy. He looks so much like the long series of camp phenom wideouts who end up breaking my heart when they get cut. But he’s truly local—he not only played at Penn but is from the Pittsburgh metropolitan area—and I just can’t leave him out.
So, other than his fresh good looks, what does he have going for him? Well, he was a 2016 and 2017 Walter Payton Award finalist. That checks a box for me, for sure. His offensive coordinator said “…what he shows is when your greatest players are your hardest workers and your greatest players are your greatest people, you’re going to be in pretty good shape if guys will follow that.”
He’s also got great size, at 6-3, 225, and has a lot of Penn’s all-time records (Career Receptions, Career Receiving Yards, etc.) but also some Ivy League No. 1s—100-yard games, Consecutive Games with Receiving Touchdown, Receiving Yards, and so on. And he was a finalist for or won an arm-length list of awards. So what’s the deal?
According to Zierlein, there’s a lot to like:
• Very good NFL size with muscular, well-proportioned frame
• Outstanding football character with first-in, last-out mentality
• Posted three years of heavy production and scored at least one touchdown in each game this year
• Ball tracking comes easily
• Finds it early and can bring it in over his shoulder
• Consistent to secure throws both high and low
• Ran a 4.4 forty and posted a 40″ vertical leap to wow teams at his pro day
But—there’s that Ivy League thing. He will have a long way to go to prove that he can succeed in the NFL. But I’d love to see him given a chance in the Black and Gold.
That’s it for Round 5. Next week I’ll finish up with Round 7 and then put up a final mock. Only a week to go, folks! Oh right, that’s a week until the draft, not the real season.
But it’s beginning to feel more as if the off-season will actually end. The draft is sort of like seeing daffodils in your garden—they may be surrounded by frost and snow, but they demonstrate that winter will actually end one day. One day soon, we hope…