NFL Mock Draft: Steelers draft Big Ben's replacement


It's about that time in the NFL when losing teams begin to assess the coaches and front office decision makers they have managing their football organization. Once an organization parts ways with its coaches and/or general managers, there's a complete shift in direction and player personnel choices going forward.

So, hop back on the rollercoaster ride called our mock draft and see if your team makes a dramatic shift in its talent search, for the right franchise changing players. Enjoy.

1. Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Using exceptional acceleration and balance, Thibodeaux attacks in a variety of ways that keeps offenses guessing. His flexibility allows him to bend and out leverage blockers across the line of scrimmage, while disrupting offensive backfields with regularity. An incredible athlete with length and good functional strength, his abilities could immediately improve a lack luster Lions' pass rush. After ten games, Detroit is allowing 27.3 points per game (30th in NFL) and is in desperate need of a game changing defensive player like Thibodeaux.

2. Jets: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU 

Possessing NFL bloodlines dating back to his grandfather ( WR - Darryl Stingley / New England Patriots ), Stingley is an athletic prodigy with game altering, playmaking skills beyond his years. Blessed with a body type engineered to play cornerback ( 6-1, 195 lbs), Stingley combines long speed and short area quickness to shadow receivers on any level of the gridiron. A former receiver himself (six career touchdown receptions - Dunham H.S / Baton Rouge, LA), Stingley's enhanced ability to track passes makes him difficult to beat in coverage. 

3. Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

More than half way through the season, the Jaguars are the second lowest scoring team in the NFL at 15.9 points a game. A large reason Jacksonville struggles to score revolves around the team's inability to convert on third downs. The Jaguars are last in the league converting third downs at 31.7 percent ten games into the season. Taking Neal could possibly provide power and balance for short yardage conversions, while fortifying Jacksonville's pocket protection during obvious passing situations


4. Texans: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

Amazingly, the Texans defeated the AFC South division leading Titans in Tennessee, indicating the players haven't given up on themselves or the organization. Despite the impressive road win, chances are Houston will still be making a top five selection in April's draft. It’s likely the Texans trade beleaguered, outcast quarterback, Deshaun Watson in the off-season to acquire additional draft picks; while drafting a signal caller with their first round option. Quarterbacks are generally the face of a football organization and Corral plays in the southern region of the country ( Ole Miss Rebels ) which may excite a frustrated fan base

5. Giants: Aidan Hutchinson, DL, Michigan

In terms of generating quarterback pressure (hurries + knockdowns + sacks per drop back), the Giants have the worst percentage in the NFL (16.9 percent). Monday night's game versus Tampa Bay exemplifies New York's feeble efforts at applying significant pressure on a 44 year old Tom Brady. Brady completed 32 passes on 48 attempts for 318 yards and two scores, while being sacked just once the entire evening. Drafting Hutchinson could give the Giants a legitimate pass rusher, who is equally adept against the run, setting the edge at the point of attack to contain running plays along the perimeter.

6. Jets (via SEA): Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Hamilton has uncommon size for a safety (6-4 , 219 lbs), and exceptional athleticism buoyed with an explosive fluidity. New York will have to decide if re-signing starting safety, Marcus Maye is cost effective, considering his current contract pays him over 10 million, he'll want an increase in salary. Taking into account Hamilton's eight career interceptions and 16 passes defended, he could possibly tandem with a re-signed Maye and provide the Jets with a dynamic back end to their secondary.

7. Giants (via CHI): Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M

The Giants have several talented skill players on offense, especially the 2018 number two overall pick, running back Saquon Barkley. Yet, despite Barkley's athletic versatility and explosiveness the Giants average less than 100 yards a contest (92.9) and managed just seven rushing touchdowns throughout ten games. The offensive line needs to raise its level of production for the Giants to actually improve and become significant in their division. If they chose Green, an imposing and extremely powerful player (6-4, 325 lbs) who typically devastates defenders, New York could begin to dominate at the line of scrimmage and beyond.

8. Eagles (via MIA): Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC

Philadelphia has four defensive ends that are unrestricted free agents, with two of them being 33 years in age. One of the 33 year-olds (Brandon Graham) will be returning from a season ending ruptured Achilles tendon, and the other defensive ends aren't producing enough game changing plays. The need for player like Drake Jackson is evident considering his ability to explode past offensive lineman and disrupt offensive schemes. His athleticism and versatility should diversify Philly's pedestrian pass rush and make him a viable draft option.


9. Falcons: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia 

A massive human (6-6, 340 lbs), Davis is an immovable presence who typically shoves his way past double and triple teamed blockers. He utilizes underrated quickness and herculean strength to wreak havoc along the line of scrimmage dismantling offensive plays before they effectively develop. The Falcons would be ecstatic if Georgia Bulldog, star defensive tackle, Jordan Davis were available when they drafted. 

10. Washington: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Incumbent quarterback, Taylor Heinicke is doing his best to retain his starting position as Washington's primary signal caller going forward. He has the team on a two game winning streak, including an impressive 10 point victory (29-19) over the Super Bowl champion, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If Washington deems Heinicke its quarterback of the present and future, then he'll have to improve upon his average statistical numbers (15 touchdowns to nine interceptions). Otherwise, the lure of drafting Howell, a quarterback with a seemingly higher ceiling and football pedigree, may be too much to pass on for Washington.

11. Eagles: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati 

Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner is an intractable defender that offensive coaches and quarterbacks struggle to defeat. Gardner is a lean 6'2", 188 pound cover corner, whose long limbs make every potential reception a contested challenge. A strong inside coverage playmaker, Gardner will lay off and bait quarterbacks into throwing potential interceptions. The Eagles are possibly one corner back away from having a top ten secondary, that could limit offenses and elevate the entire defense to a playoff level.

12. Panthers: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

Ok, seriously, what can't Utah's Devin Lloyd do on the football field? Throughout 11 contests this campaign, Lloyd's 91 total tackles tie a single season high; likely, a personal best he should surpass with several games remaining on his schedule. Lloyd's 21 tackles for loss this year matches the combined totals from the past two seasons ( 10 and 11 ) and his six sacks, three interceptions and six passes defended exhibit his all-around effectiveness. Panther fans would say Lloyd's production reminds them of their franchise's greatest linebacker, Luke Keuchly.

13. Broncos: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

Denver will have some interesting choices to make this upcoming off-season, and the decision on whether to retain some of its unrestricted free agent defensive backs may top the list. The Broncos' roster is ready to win now, so drafting an inexperienced quarterback may be something the front office shies away from altogether. Drafting a talented corner like Booth, lets Denver maneuver funds toward attracting top tier quarterbacks, like disgruntled signal callers Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers for example.

14. Dolphins (via SF): Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

Dean's ability to close space between himself and ball carriers may be the best in this draft class. Incredible combination of quickness, speed, instincts and sure tackling make him a first round gem for any organization. The Dolphins have been inconsistent on defense this season and taking a talent like Dean would dramatically enhance their linebacking unit's production. Dean is a sure-tackler who finds himself as one of six finalist for the Butkus Award (nation's best linebacker) and a fast rising talent that could climb higher up draft boards as the season progresses.


15. Raiders: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

The Raiders' turmoil of off-field incidents and tragedies have clearly hampered a promising 2021 campaign. The loss of last year's 12th overall pick, wide receiver Henry Ruggs, may induce Las Vegas to spend a first round selection on a pass catcher in the 2022 draft. If they choose to take Olave, the Raiders will be getting a polished wideout with excellent awareness and body control. His ability to create separation, find soft spots in defensive coverages and win contested passes makes him a sensible receiving option for a contending team like Las Vegas.

16. Eagles (via IND): Jalen Catalon, S, Arkansas

Catalon plays like a cross between NFL safeties Budda Baker (Cardinals) and Tyrann "Honeybadger" Mathieu (Chiefs). An aggressive downhill tackler with closing speed, Catalon hits ball carriers with a compacted force that belies his size (5-10, 195 lbs). Extremely versatile, Catalon is effective playing close to the line of scrimmage, within the slot or as a single high free safety. The Eagles would definitely increase their ability to confuse offenses by lining up Catalon in various defensive schemes.

17. Browns: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

Leal is an athletic 6-foot-4, 290 pounder, whose quick, balanced feet enhance his ability to hold his base and shift weight when battling at the line of scrimmage. Leal can operate effectively from various defensive alignments, regardless of whether he is positioned inside (3-technique), or along the edge of the line (5-technique). Cleveland may lose some talented defensive linemen due to free agency and Leal's ability to play along the defensive front would make him invaluable for a frugal franchise.

18. Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Pickett wins with ball placement and a decent anticipatory feel for when his receivers will get open. He has decent mobility and usually does a credible job running for positive yards when the pocket breaks down. A four year starter in college, Pickett improved and developed into a solid NFL prospect. His 6:1 touchdown to interception ratio ( 36/6) peaked enough interest from scouts for him to be considered a possible franchise quarterback. The Steelers are looking for an "heir apparent" at quarterback, to supplant the aging, future Hall of Famer, Ben Roethlisberger. If Pickett is available he'd make an interesting selection.

19. Saints: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

Ridder is another four year starter who has shown consistency and improvement during his college tenure. Currently, Ridder has his Cincinnati Bearcats vying for a shot at the National Title showcasing an undefeated season (11-0). Ridder is an ascending talent with dual-threat ability who seems to elevate his play against top competition. If Ridder falls to the Saints, creative head coach, Sean Payton might want to take a chance on a winning quarterback who avoids mistakes in crucial moments of games.

20. Vikings: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

McDuffie is a patient cornerback who avoids panicking in coverage, displaying unflappable confidence and an elite awareness on the gridiron. He is adept in man or zone schemes and supports the run better than most cornerbacks. A versatile athlete, he consistently demonstrates adequate NFL range when dropping into coverage downfield. Minnesota experiences some lapses in coverage and if they acquire a talent like McDuffie, those miscues should lessen and increase accountability within the defensive secondary.


21. Bills: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Wilson's body control and quick gear shifting attributes, infuriate defensive backs attempting to contain him with press coverage tactics. An adept route runner with soft hands, Wilson has the speed to get deep and the moxie to beat defenders in a variety of ways. Wilson operates efficiently from the slot position and equally from outside the hashmarks as a boundary receiver. A threat to score vertically, he would make a nice downfield target for the cannon armed Josh Allen.

22. Chargers: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

The Chargers compete in a division with talented quarterbacks, like Derek Carr and Patrick Mahomes and a litany of game breaking receivers. Wideouts like Tyreek Hill, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and tight ends such as, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller and Noah Fant require defensive backs capable of defending these pass catchers. Should Los Angeles pick McCreary, they'll get a player with the skill set to quickly undercut ball carriers and limit how far they get downfield. Ultimately they'll have an unrelenting, physical defensive back with good hands and game changing ability.

23. Bengals: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

Linderbaum is another Iowa product who plays with brilliant technique and efficient manipulation of every fundamental skill a lineman could possess. He moves with a balanced strength combining leverage and use of angles to overcome larger opponents. Linderbaum is arguably the most technically sound interior offensive lineman in this draft class. At the center position, he is hands down the best option and a potential day one starter.

24. Lions (via LAR): Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

The Lions have a unique opportunity to draft franchise changing players at two key positions. By possibly using their first pick on an elite pass rusher (Kayvon Thibodeaux), the Lions could use their other first round pick on quarterback, Malik Willis, a dual-threat talent with massive upside. Earlier in the year, Willis was touted as this draft class' most dynamic quarterback and for several weeks he played well. However, a step up in competition led to three losses in his last five games and questionable accuracy concerns. Despite his recent hiccups, Willis' athleticism and cannon arm still make him an attractive commodity for a struggling team like Detroit. 

25. Chiefs: Drake London, WR, USC 

The Chiefs' struggles scoring this year may indicate opposing teams have finally discovered methods of slowing down their juggernaut of an offense. Drafting the 6'5", 210 pound London could provide Kansas City with a solid possession receiver, whose size instantly makes him an end zone option for the Chiefs. Another upside to potentially drafting London, is his willingness to block downfield and help expand Kansas City's running game.

26. Patriots: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Burks is a good sized target who moves with surprising agility for a man his size (6-3, 232 lbs). The fluidity of his hip movements improves separation from defenders when pivoting and cutting on combo pass routes. Burks uses his frame to shield defensive backs from the ball when they challenge him on contested passes. The Patriots' rookie quarterback, Mac Jones is having an outstanding season so far, imagine how much better he’ll become with the addition of Burks.


27. Cowboys: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan

Daxton Hill ran a 40-time of 4.3 seconds and logged a vertical leap of 43 inches, which should be enough to get him drafted just off his pure athleticism. What makes Hill a first round prospect is his coverage range, ball skills and sure, open-field tackling. Due in part to star quarterback, Dak Prescott's hefty salary and the 21 unrestricted free agents on Dallas' roster, drafting Hill would be economically sensible.

28. Buccaneers: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

On the surface, the Buccaneers are stacked on both sides of the ball and even have solid depth at key positions. However, Tampa is an aging team built to win today, so drafting for the future starts immediately. Of the 25 unrestricted free agents on the roster, five of them are defensive lineman, four of which are 30 years of age or older. Although more of a power edge rusher, Karlaftis is skilled at disrupting pass plays having tallied six passes defended while at Purdue.

29. Ravems: Kingsley Engbare, EDGE, South Carolina

The Ravens are aging along their defensive line and need an infusion of young talent. Enagbare showcases a knack for penetrating beyond the line of scrimmage and disrupting offensive players' ability to execute plays. Moving with good balance, Enagbare is adept at attacking blockers with active hands and uncommon flexibility, which has led to 15 career sacks and 24 tackles for loss.

30. Packers: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

The Packers have had injury and depth issues along their offensive line all season. Targeting Cross would suggest Green Bay wants to improve its athleticism on the offensive line and solidify the team's quality of depth. Not just a typical athlete, Cross regularly mauls defenders while run blocking, and is adept at punishing players attempting to bypass him on the way to the quarterback

31. Titans: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

Dotson is a heart-stopping vertical threat, that defenders struggle to contain, let alone prevent from embarrassing them downfield. Throughout his tenure at Penn State, Dotson averaged 15.0 yards per catch and totaled 24 touchdowns. The Titans reliance on their All-Pro running back, Derrick Henry, has made them less effective in the passing game. An athletic talent with the quick twitch suddenness Dotson possesses, can attack from anywhere on the field and help balance Tennessee's one-note offense. 

32. Cardinals: Ikem Ekwonu, OL, North Carolina State

The Cardinals have an electrifying offense and are currently the fourth highest scoring team in the NFL (28.2 points per game). Unfortunately, Arizona's uber-talented signal caller, Kyler Murray has been sidelined for several weeks because of an ankle injury. If there is an area of concern for Arizona's offense it may be the team's interior pass blocking. Should the Cardinals draft Ekwonu, they'll acquire a stabilizing force who plays with an unapologetic attitude when blocking his opponents. Standing at 6'4" and 320 pounds, Ekwonu moves grown men out of the way, they don't move him.

Now to the Bears' picks.

38. Bears: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

The Bears need weapons on offense, particularly at the wideout position, if Allen Robinson doesn't return to catch passes for Chicago. Williams has quadrupled his touchdown production (13) and has nearly five times his reception yardage (1218 yards) since joining Alabama. An explosive player with elite level acceleration, Williams' size (6-2,188 lbs) and long speed would fit nicely with the Bears' incumbent signal caller, Justin Fields' accurate deep throwing skill set.


69. Bears: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington

Gordon's pro level athleticism will get him drafted, but it's his on the field performances that will earn him immediate playing time in the NFL. His ability to effortlessly sink his hips, plant and drive upfield while mirroring receivers is impressive. Another element to Gordon's skill set, is his effectiveness as a special teams' tackling machine. Nearly unblockable as a special teams' gunner, he tracks down the opposing return specialist with missile like precision. Chicago could definitely use the versatility Washington showcases on the gridiron.

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