ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has released his latest projections for the 2021 NFL Draft, and believes the Pittsburgh Steelers will select a linebacker in the first round.
With the No. 24-overall pick, Kiper is predicting the Steelers will draft Tulsa outside linebacker Zaven Collins.
Standing at 6-4, 260 lbs, Collins had a monster 2020 season for the Golden Hurricanes, tallying 53 total tackles, 11.5 tackles-for-loss, four sacks and four interceptions. He also recorded six pass breakups, a forced fumble and a safety.
Collins won the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik Awards, and was named a consensus First-Team All-American for his outstanding junior season.
While Collins played outside linebacker in a 3-3-5 scheme at Tulsa, SteelersNow’s Nick Farabaugh sees him as fit in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 as an edge rusher, citing his frame and power.
Zaven Collins is one of the weirdest players I've seen at ILB. For the Steelers, I think Collins fit much better into their 3-4 scheme than a 4-3 team.— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 24, 2021
Collins has an EDGE frame and plays with great power. I just don't think he's great in space. You gotta creatively scheme him.
The Steelers will likely be looking to replace outside linebacker Bud Dupree this offseason, who is set to hit free agency. They did select Charlotte outside linebacker Alex Highsmith in the third round of last year’s draft, who was thrust into the starting lineup and made an impact following Dupree’s season-ending injury.
Pittsburgh could also consider pairing Collins alongside Devin Bush at inside linebacker, with his current partner Vince Williams entering the final year of his contract in 2021 at 32 years-old.
The 2021 NFL Draft officially gets under with the first round on April 29. The event is technically still set to be held in Cleveland. But given the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, holding the draft in a non-virtual format seems highly unlikely.
Kansas RB Pooka Williams’ Biggest Strength is Versatility
In Lawrence, Kansas, the first pro day of the NFL Draft cycle began as the University of Kansas hosted their pro day. Among the participants was a talented and much-hyped up running back in Pooka Williams. A folk hero of sorts in Louisiana, Williams has been in the spotlight since high school. Williams has been in regular contact with some of Louisiana’s best running backs in recent memory.
“I’ve been talking to those guys since I was in high school,” Williams said when asked if he talked to NFL players Leonard Fournette and Tyron Johnson. “They just told me to keep my head on, I will be special.”
Williams’ versatility, however, was the main draw of the day. NFL teams have asked Williams to play and drill at punt returner, running back, and wide receiver.
“I ran a go ball and a post today at receiver,” Williams said.
In his three years at Kansas, Williams racked up 66 catches for 534 yards and 4 touchdowns. With it, the natural comparisons to Nyheim Hines, Tarik Cohen, and other scat backs have come back, but Williams sees someone else in himself.
“I always admired Reggie Bush,” Williams said. “I always look up to him because I think I play like him.”
Williams harped on his receiving skills as well. When asked what part of his skill set would translate to the next level, Williams exuded confidence in his route running, hands, and the attitude he brings towards the game. That same attitude, built on physicality and grit for a 5-foot-10, 170 pound running back, is something he prides himself on.
“This is a physical game,” Williams said. “I love being physical. I’m not just about to get bullied, don’t matter the size.”
Williams carries that physicality over into pass protection as well.
“Every time I’m on the field, that is my mindset,” Williams said.
Williams reportedly ran somewhere in the ballpark of a 4.42-4.45 40-yard dash on Friday.
— NFL Draft Diamonds (@DraftDiamonds) March 5, 2021
The time would be a solid time for Williams, who is being viewed as a multi-faceted weapon of sorts. More so, he is viewed as a three-down scatback with good speed and explosiveness. Williams projects to a mid-day three pick, somewhere in rounds 5-7 and would best fit in a zone-based running scheme.
Could be an option later on for the Steelers?
It is always possible, but Williams did state that he hasn’t met with the Steelers just yet. Williams has met with the Chiefs and the Saints. He has met with “five-plus” teams. Nine teams were present at Kansas Pro Day on Friday.
ESPN’s Todd McShay Mocks Alabama RB Najee Harris to Steelers
Another day, another mock draft projecting Alabama running back Najee Harris to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This time it is ESPN’s Todd McShay, who has the Steelers selecting Harris with the No. 24-overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
“With James Conner heading toward free agency, the run game could use a punch,” McShay wrote. “Harris is that and more, showcasing speed, size, decisiveness and ball security as a rusher, as well as upside as a receiver and pass-protector. Pittsburgh’s offense fell off a good deal in the second half last season, and the top back still on the roster is Benny Snell Jr., who managed just 3.3 yards per carry last year. Harris averaged 6.0 over four seasons at Alabama, and his 26 rushing touchdowns in 2020 led college football.”
Harris was outstanding during his senior campaign in Tuscaloosa, rushing for 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also improved as a receiver, catching 43 passes for 425 yards and four more scores in 2020.
Not only did Harris win the National Championships with the Crimson Tide in January, but he was also named a unanimous All-American and awarded the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back.
Selecting Harris would provide a significant boost to the Steelers’ run game, which was the worst in football last season. Pittsburgh averaged just 84.4 yards per game and 3.6 yards per attempt in 2020.
The 2021 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday, April 29 in Cleveland.
CBS Sports Mock Draft has Steelers Taking DE Carlos Basham Jr.
CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson has released his latest 2021 NFL mock draft, and has the Pittsburgh Steelers selecting a pass rusher in the first round.
With the No. 24-overall pick, Wilson is projecting the Steelers to draft Wake Forest pass rusher Carlos Basham Jr.
“Basham is a physical freak who reinforced the notion during Senior Bowl week,” Wilson writes. “Consistency will be the key to his success, but he has all the physical tools to dominate.”
Standing at 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, “physical freak” is certainly an apt description of Basham. Basham recorded 19.5 sacks, 35.5 tackles-for-loss and seven forced fumbles over his career with the Demon Deacons.
He especially shined in 2019, when Basham tallied ten sacks, 18 tackles-for-loss and three forced fumbles. He earned First-Team All-ACC honors for his performance. Steelers Now caught up with Basham at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
While Basham was a productive edge rusher at Wake Forest, many draft analysts project him as a 4-3 defensive end. The Steelers run a 3-4, where Basham would figure to slot behind T.J. Watt and would seem to duplicate the role of 2020 third-round draft pick Alex Highsmith.
The 2021 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday, April 29 in Cleveland.