A big week for potential NFL Draft prospects is upon us, as college football’s most prestigious all-star game is taking place in Mobile, Alabama.
Senior Bowl week provides a stage for college football’s finest upperclassmen to practice/play in front of NFL coaching staff, scouts and executives. Invites are hard to acquire if you’re a player, as only the cream of the crop find themselves in Mobile at this time of year.
“Our main objective is to provide the 32 NFL member clubs with the best rosters possible and this collection of players truly represents the best that college football, at all levels, had to offer this year” said Jim Nagy, Senior Bowl Executive Director.
The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves with the 20th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, carrying a lot of pressure to nail this year’s draft after failing to make the playoffs. Many expect Steelers GM Kevin Colbert to draft a defensive player with the team’s first round pick, and in a defensive-heavy draft, Pittsburgh has a lot of options when they go on the clock in late April.
The Steelers also have six other picks in the upcoming draft, selecting a player in every round except the fifth, which is thanks to a trade with the Oakland Raiders that saw the arrival of receiver Ryan Switzer.
So who will the Steelers opt to select? Much like every other team, the answer may very well rest on the rosters of the 2019 Senior Bowl. Scouts and other executives will find themselves spending the week in southern Alabama evaluating the upcoming senior class.
Notable players the Steelers should watch out for during the Senior Bowl:
Rock Ya-Sin, DB, Temple
Rock Ya-Sin has slowly but surely seen his draft stock rise over the last few months. With a 6-2, 190 pound frame at the corner position, Ya-Sin provides a big body corner that is physical with receivers, but can also run with receivers more times than not on deep routes. Ya-Sin is a developmental pick as of now, projecting him into the mid-rounds of the draft. Yet he is starting to gain national attention, even making it to Bleacher Report’s Stick to Football Senior Bowl watch-list. With his size and physicality, Ya-Sin could develop properly into a solid outside corner and fill what has been a glaring need for the Steelers.
Donald Parham, TE, Stetson
With Jesse James set to become a free agent in 2019, the Steelers may look to the draft in fear of James potentially wanting to go somewhere else and retain a starting role. How do you replace a 6-7 tight end? With a 6-8 player at the same position. Admittedly so, it’s a weak tight end class at the Senior Bowl. However, Parham’s height and red-zone abilities provide him with a blueprint to become a solid rotational tight end, much like James’ role with the Steelers. I would like to see Parham add more weight to his frame and for him to prove he can block guys at the next level. Parham could be tempting for Pittsburgh in the later rounds, should they not retain James.
Jakobi Meyers, WR, North Carolina State
The Steelers have a well-versed history of developing receivers through the draft, and with Antonio Brown potentially on the move, the Steelers may need to look to the draft to add depth to the position. Look no further then Jakobi Meyers, North Carolina State’s secret weapon that will not be so secret after the Senior Bowl. Standing at 6-2 and 203 pounds on his frame, there doesn’t appear to be any strong weaknesses in Meyers game. Meyers’ strengths include the ability to adjust/contort his body to grab a stray ball, extremely strong hands and a will to get yards after catch. Meyers’ draft stock is still unknown, but a strong Senior Bowl would boost him up to about the third round range and would be a nice addition to an already young, talented Steelers receiving corps.
Germaine Pratt, ILB, North Carolina State
We’ll stay with the Wolfpack and highlight one of the hottest names coming into Mobile: Germaine Pratt. Pratt presents himself as one of the toughest inside linebackers in the draft, and his sideline to sideline speed is exceptionally strong for a guy his size (6-3, 240 pounds). Pratt often times finds himself filling running lanes with hard hits, proving himself as a brick wall when ball-carriers attempt to take him on. Pratt plays with a genuine attitude on the football field, something that’s been missing since the unfortunate departure of Shazier. Although not much has been made of Pratt’s pass coverage abilities, it’s likely he would be a key rotational linebacker in his rookie year in a Steelers uniform, should Pittsburgh opt to take him anywhere between rounds two through five.
Mic Drop: Adam Zielonka of Washington Times on McFarland, Brooks
Instead of trading for a proven running back like Leonard Fournette, the Steelers simply drafted a rookie with their 4th round pick. That rookie is Anthony McFarland out of the University of Maryland. To fully explain what McFarland brings to the table, Mike Asti was joined by Adam Zielonka, who is a sports reporter for the Washington Times. Zielonka also touched Antoine Brooks, the other Maryland product drafted by the Steelers.
Colbert Explains Why He Wanted Three Rounds Added to 2020 Draft
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is offering an explanation as to why he wanted three rounds added to the 2020 NFL Draft.
Speaking with NBC Sport’s Mike Florio on the PFT PM podcast Tuesday, Colbert took the opportunity to clarify his suggestion.
“The reasoning was, part of it was selfish,” Colbert said. “You wanted to have a safety net because we’re dealing with less information, and the more picks you have, maybe you’ll have a little bit of a safety net again.”
With the league’s self-implemented travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs were unable to conduct their normal scouting activities prior to the Draft. This included Pro Days, private workouts and in-person interviews.
Less opportunities to watch and speak with prospects results in a larger margin for error.
Colbert went on to say that it also would have benefited some of the fringe prospects in the Draft that never had the chance to showcase themselves at a Pro Day or other setting.
“The other thing was it would give the marginal player that didn’t get his opportunity to go to a Pro Day and to perform. Maybe there will be more players drafted and then those players will then again have the chance they might not get.”
Now without rookie minicamps, the challenges are mounting for clubs and NFL hopefuls.
“Every year a team might stumble upon a tryout player,” Colbert said. “Maybe if we ever get on the field, we can think of a way to help those because there’s a big group of players that aren’t getting opportunities because of the situation.”
Colbert reminded Florio that the Steelers discovered Devlin “Duck” Hodges as a tryout in camp last year.
It is unclear when teams will be allowed to return to the practice field for their offseason programs, with clubs currently conducting theirs entirely from home.
Mic Drop: NFL Draft Recap Show
It was eat, sleep, draft coverage, repeat for Mike Asti and the Steelers Now crew this past week. And now that the draft is over, Mike Asti evaluates each pick and gives his thoughts on some moves he says the Steelers should have made.