CJ Lester’s Mock Draft 3.0: A Post Free Agency Look

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By CJ Lester
SteelerNation.com

Although the spreading of the Coronavirus has put a lot of things in the professional sports world on hold, the 2020 NFL Draft is still scheduled to take place April 23rd-April 25th virtually, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have six picks. The war room may be a little different this year, but the team will look to add some quality pieces with their draft selections. When the new league year began, the Steelers improved in different ways. During the first few waves of free agency, the team addressed a few glaring needs. The team signed FB Derek Watt to upgrade the fullback position as well as replacing special team’s leader LB Tyler Matakevich, who signed with the Buffalo Bills. The team went on to sign TE Eric Ebron to add a vertical threat in the middle of the field for the offense and QB Ben Roethlisberger. Tight end would have been a big draft need if the team didn’t sign Ebron and restructure the contract of TE Vance McDonald. The other position of need that the team added depth to was the defensive line. The huge loss of DT Javon Hargrave, who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, created a huge gap at the nose tackle spot for the Steelers defense. However, the team added some depth and competition for the starting nose tackle position when they completed a rare interdivisional trade with the Baltimore Ravens. The team received DL Chris Wormley and a 2021 7th round pick for a 2021 5th round pick. With the Steelers making moves at the start of the new league year and the draft being just 18 days away, we can all just shift our focus on the 2020 NFL Draft. Let’s take a look at how the draft board played out this time around and how I made selections!

 

Round 2: Pick 49

The Pittsburgh Steelers select OT Lucas Niang (6’6” 315lbs) from TCU.

Previous mock: RB JK Dobbins 

Unfortunately, RB JK Dobbins was not on the board this time around for my mock, but this consolation prize could also make an immediate impact for the Steelers offense in 2020. It’s no secret that the Steelers need to get younger and add a talented piece to the offensive line at some point in the draft. I went with OT Lucas Niang with team’s 2nd round pick, because he shows the ability to be an NFL starter. Niang has been projected to be one of the first few tackles off the board in the past, but he had season-ending surgery in November of last year on a torn hip labrum. This could cause him to drop on some draft boards allowing him to fall to the Steelers here in this mock draft. However, he did receive positive reports on his hip in February as Ian Rapoport reported. He could come in and immediately compete for the starting spot at right tackle. The tackle from TCU displays great awareness, a high football IQ, and he moves very well for his size. Dissecting Niang’s tape was interesting, at times I would marvel at his fundamental pass pro sets, but I did notice a handful of reps where he opened his hips too quickly. He put on a clinic with his ability in run blocking schemes being physical at the point of attack and finishing out blocks. The skillset and fundamentals are there for Niang to be an immediate starter and a starter for years to come, and with his tremendous awareness and football IQ he will learn quickly how to adjust to elite NFL pass rushers.

 

 

Round 3: Pick 102 (compensatory pick)

The Pittsburgh Steelers select LB Logan Wilson (6’2” 241lbs.) from Wyoming.

Previous mock: WR Chase Claypool 

With the Steelers cutting LB Mark Barron and losing LB Tyler Matakevich to the Bills in free agency, the team has just three inside linebackers on the roster. With a player like LB Logan Wilson available at this point in the draft would be a gift for the Steelers. Wilson has the ability to become a 3-down linebacker. He was a very productive player at the collegiate level, notching 94 tackles or more from his redshirt freshman year on. Wilson diagnoses plays quickly, is a fundamentally sound tackler, makes pre-snap and post snap adjustments with his awareness and preparedness, and he showed the athletic ability to excel in pass coverage. Wilson could replace Barron in sub packages at first, along with making an impact on special teams, and eventually work his way into a more complete role to form a dynamic inside linebacker duo with 2nd year LB Devin Bush.

 

Round 4: Pick 124

The Pittsburgh Steelers select IDL Leki Fotu (6’5” 330lbs.) from Utah.

Previous mock: LB Akeem Davis-Gaither

The selection of a defensive tackle to add to the room came a little later than I wanted in this mock, but sometimes that is how the board falls. I decided to take IDL Leki Fotu. Fotu is a big body, run stopping, gap filling, typical Steelers nose tackle. Fotu will constantly force double teams, which will allow others to make plays and tackles for loss. The biggest glare in Fotu’s play is that he doesn’t really offer much of a pass rush. Steeler fans have been so used to watching Javon Hargrave dominate against guards and centers at times, this will be an adjustment for fans. However, his ability to recognize plays and fill gaps would benefit the Steelers in a fashion that NT Casey Hampton and NT Steve McClendon did prior to the team drafting Hargrave. Fotu would most likely come in and compete for snaps against DL Isaiah Buggs and DL Chris Wormley.

 

Round 4: Pick 135

The Pittsburgh Steelers select RB AJ Dillon (6’0” 247lbs.) from Boston College.

Previous mock: OL Calvin Throckmorton

GM Kevin Colbert has not been shy about discussing the possibility of adding competition to the running back room this offseason. The Steelers have yet to add a running back in free agency, so I believe they should do so in the draft. Sure, the Steelers have fan favorite RB James Conner, multi-tool RB Jaylen Samuels, and the team drafted RB Benny Snell in last year’s draft, but there is nothing wrong with adding competition to the room in order to improve a running game that struggled last year. Dillon is another player with high productivity in his college career. He totaled 4,382 yards on 845 rush attempts with 38 TDs in just 3 years. Don’t let his size fool you, Dillon is very athletic and carries his weight well. He absorbs tacklers, runs through them, and sheds wimpy tacklers with ease. The most underrated part of Dillon’s play as a running back is his patience to let a play develop. He could come in to compete for RB2 and possibly carry the load in the case of an injury. He definitely showed the ability to be the lead horse at Boston College.

 

Round 6: Pick 198

The Pittsburgh Steelers select WR Jauan Jennings (6’3” 215lbs.) from Tennessee.

Previous mock: EDGE Bryce Huff 

The Steelers need to add another receiver to the mix at some point in the draft. Jauan Jennings from Tennessee is a big, strong, and physical pass catcher. He finds ways to make contested catches and adjustments to balls that may not be on target. He refuses to go down against initial contact after the catch and uses his size well. Due to his size, you may think Jennings would be able to contribute on the outside, but he excelled as a big slot receiver and chains mover. He could come in and compete with other depth pieces as WR4.

 

Round 7: Pick 232

The Pittsburgh Steelers select EDGE Carter Coughlin (6’3” 236lbs.) from Minnesota.

Previous mock: Jalen Elliot

This pick came down to adding depth to either EDGE or Safety. At the beginning of the new league year, the Steelers released EDGE Anthony Chickillo and he was really the only player behind the starters with NFL experience. The team at least has some NFL experienced players behind the starting safeties, so I decided to add an EDGE piece that could possibly contribute on special teams. Usually, with a 7th round pick, successful teams look for depth pieces and special teams’ contributors. I think that is what Minnesota’s Carter Coughlin would provide the Steelers in 2020. Although, a little undersized as an NFL pass rusher, he showed the ability to win reps against bigger offensive lineman. He also has experience dropping into pass coverage as well and did so adequately during his time at Minnesota. With limited depth behind TJ Watt and Bud Dupree, Coughlin will have a chance to make the roster during training camp and the preseason. Coughlin tallied 158 tackles, 40 TFLS, 22.5 sacks, and forced 8 fumbles through 4 years for the Gophers.

 

With the 2020 NFL Draft right around the corner, how do you think the Steelers will look to improve the team? Let us know in the comments below!

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2 Comments

  1. Nichole johnston

    April 8, 2020 at 10:44 am

    As always cecil Lester is on point! We Always enjoy what has to say.

  2. Pingback: CJ Lester’s Final Mock Draft – SteelerNation.com

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