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Analysis

Trade Up, Trade Down: Steelers First Round Pick Edition

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The Pittsburgh Steelers currently sit with the 20th overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. After accumulating ten picks for the entirety of the draft, the Steelers will most certainly be able to wheel and deal to find a player they’re in love with.

During the draft process, fans will begin to link names with their favorite teams. The Arizona Cardinals are the biggest propeller of the rumor mill, as heavy rumors surround Arizona taking Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray with the number one overall pick. The Denver Broncos have been linked with Missouri QB Drew Lock, and Florida State EDGE rusher Brian Burns has been linked with the Washington Redskins.

For the Steelers, two obvious names have emerged as dream targets, both playing the inside linebacker position: Michigan’s Devin Bush, and LSU’s Devin White. The two “Devin’s” fit the new modern style inside linebacker, providing a two-dimensional athletic play style to provide help in both run and pass scenarios.

Corner help would also be a welcome sight for Steelers fans, even with the signing of Steven Nelson in free agency. The consensus top two cornerbacks in this draft include LSU’s Greedy Williams, and Washington’s Byron Murphy.

Finding a permanent replacement for Antonio Brown will also be another goal for the Steelers. Donte Moncrief was brought in to temporarily fill the void, yet the team will ultimately look for another playmaker. The first receiver off the board will likely be Ole Miss’ D.K. Metcalf, yet Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry and Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown are among a long list of notable names to watch as well.

With such a long list of potential targets, the Steelers will have plenty of options to weigh come draft day. Not everybody will be there at pick no. 20, and if the Steelers fall in love with a player, they have the draft capital to make a move.

So who will the Steelers need to trade up for? If nobody of their liking is there, who can they trade back for? Using Big Boards (an overall ranking of each player entering the draft) from Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller and Sports Illustrated to go along with what NFL writers/insiders are saying, we’ll be able to get a better look at where potential players will end up.

Examining a wealth of players the Steelers have been linked to, and deciding if they need to trade up or down to land them in the first round:

Devin White, LB, LSU 

Matt Miller’s Big Board Ranking: 4
Sports Illustrated’s Big Board Ranking: 5

What they’re saying: “White/Tampa is about the worst kept secret in this draft.”- Ben Allbright, NFL Insider.

Devin White is the prized possession in the upcoming draft in terms of linebackers, and rightfully so. White will undoubtedly be the first linebacker off the board thanks to his sideline to sideline speed, and overall play-making ability. The accelerated play of White along with his testing at the combine has supposedly all but secured his spot as not only a first round pick, but will go in the single digits on draft night. Tampa Bay is the perfect match for White, as the team recently waved goodbye to LB Kwon Alexander.

The Steelers will need to trade: Up, and move up significantly to secure White’s talents. If White somehow falls out of the top five, he will surely be taken shortly after. If Pittsburgh truly wants him, they will have to make a Godfather-like offer to move up more than 10 spots at the minimum. White to the Steelers was a nice dream before the combine, but it’s extremely unrealistic at this point.

Devin Bush, LB, Michigan 

Matt Miller’s Big Board Ranking: 11
Sports Illustrated’s Big Board Ranking: 20

What they’re saying: “Michigan LB Devin Bush is visiting the Bengals today (4/1/19), per source. Bush then is visiting the Bucs after Cincinnati – two teams linked to both him and LSU LB Devin White.”- ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

If Devin White is 1A, Devin Bush is 1B. Bush entered draft talk as a late first round pick, but has shot up draft boards due to his coverage skills and overall command of the defense from the middle linebacker position. With White being projected as a top five pick, Bush has seen himself linked with the Cincinnati Bengals more often than not, and it makes perfect sense as the team recently released LB Vontaze Burfict. If Bush is not chosen at #11 where the Bengals currently sit, Pittsburgh may have to hold their breath and hope he falls to #20.

The Steelers will need to trade: Up to land Bush, as information around the league currently stands. It’s highly probable Bush is selected soon after White, and his probable landing destination is thought to be at Cincinnati at #11. Pittsburgh may not have to give as much to bargain with a team, especially if Bush slips into the mid-teens, but it’s commonly accepted now the Steelers cannot simply wait for Bush to land in their lap.

Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

Matt Miller’s Big Board Ranking: 19
Sports Illustrated’s Big Board Ranking: 13

What they’re saying: “I’ve read a few takes from scouts who are concerned with his ability to cover short and intermediate routes. He has the size and the athletic skills. He’s big and he’s fast. He would be enticing”- Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 

Greedy Williams was once a consensus top ten pick by many in the draft community thanks to his speed and man coverage skills. Yet his stock has taken a hit as of late, as Williams has been shown to shy away from tackling and sometimes will take himself out of the play if it’s on the other side of the field. Williams’ stock may be the most intriguing out of the group of potential first-rounders, as he could easily still go top ten as much as he may fall into the 20’s.

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The Steelers will need to trade: Up, but only a handful of picks if they didn’t trust any of the teams ahead of them. As previously stated, Williams is now being projected to fall into the later rounds of the draft. This would be a dream scenario for the Steelers, who oh-so desperately need a young, lock-down cornerback on their defense. Yet if the Steelers are set on Williams, exchanging a few of their ten draft choices to ensure Williams lands in Pittsburgh would be the best move.

Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

Matt Miller’s Big Board Ranking: 26
Sports Illustrated’s Big Board Ranking: 24

What they’re saying: “Along with the Panthers, the Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Saints, Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have all expressed significant interest in Murphy, I was told.”- Rob Rang, who attended Washington’s Pro Day. Quote from his article per Football Maven.

Football is a world of yin/yang. For all good, there is bad, and vice-versa. For the supposed plummet of Greedy Williams, a Byron Murphy rises. Murphy has been getting a lot of hype for his physicality on and off the ball, and zone coverage abilities. Murphy almost appears to be the opposite of Williams in some ways, including where NFL teams may value him. Once thought to be available later in the first round, Murphy now finds himself in talks of potentially taking Williams’ spot of being the first cornerback taken off the board.

The Steelers will need to trade: Up, more than likely. This situation closely mirrors that of LB Devin Bush, a player who may go earlier than once thought. The Steelers would happily take either Williams/Murphy on their roster and mark the first round as a success, yet acquiring Murphy may take more ammunition than was once considered months ago. With teams such as Cardinals, Raiders, Buccaneers and Panthers all picking before the Steelers, Kevin Colbert may want to pick up the phone now to move up into a handful of picks.

Chase Winovich, EDGE/LB, Michigan

Matt Miller’s Big Board Ranking: Outside Top 32 (Not specified)
Sports Illustrated’s Big Board Ranking: 71

What they’re saying: “The Steelers would like to add depth at outside linebacker behind starters T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. Winovich, who carried a second or third-round grade heading into the combine, could fit the bill.”- Joe Rutter, TribLive.com.

Playing besides Devin Bush may cause some teams to overlook you, and perhaps that was the case for Chase Winovich. Winovich plays with an extremely high motor, and is featured as one of the more underrated pass-rushers in this class. With Bud Dupree entering the final year of his deal, the Steelers may be enticed to drink the Winovich kool-aid. Yet where will they feel comfortable taking him?

The Steelers will need to trade: Down. Winovich appears to be a match made in heaven for Pittsburgh fans, yet the bill is not fit for the 20th overall selection. If the Steelers are enamored with Winovich, they should easily be able to trade down a handful of spots, if not to the top of the second round to fit Chase’s draft projections. Steelers fans weren’t pleased with the team reaching for Edmunds, 2019 shouldn’t repeat that feeling.

Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple 

Matt Miller’s Big Board Ranking: 29
Sports Illustrated’s Big Board Ranking: 40

What they’re saying: “He has great athletic ability. He’s got the real good feet. He has smooth hits. He almost had a 40 [inch] vertical. He’ll support the run. He gets the interceptions. Rock Ya-Sin, to me, would be a perfect Oakland Raider for [Raiders’ coach Jon] Gruden.”- Mel Kiper, ESPN

Rock Ya-Sin has quietly (or maybe not, since I’m writing about him) climbed his way up draft boards after an impressive Senior Bowl outing. The big-framed cornerback is able to hang with the best of receivers, as Mel Kiper alluded to above. While not a big name cornerback, Ya-Sin continues to see his name mentioned in first round consideration. With the price tag on Ya-Sin lower than Murphy/Williams, would the Steelers opt to settle for the Temple product?

The Steelers will need to trade: Down, ideally only to around 25-28 range if possible. Taking Ya-Sin at the end of round one will address a need while hitting the mark on appropriate player value. Taking Ya-Sin at pick no. 20 may be considered a stretch, so it’d be ideal for the Steelers to gather more draft capital and move down if sights are set on Rock Ya-Sin.

Other Notable Players 

D.K. Mecalf of Ole Miss is presumably the only receiver that will be taken in the top 10/15. Receivers in the likes of A.J. Brown (Ole Miss), N’Keal Harry (Arizona State) and Hakeem Butler (Iowa State) are favored to potentially land in the first round. Other guys such as Marquise Brown (Oklahoma), Kelvin Harmon (NC State) and Deebo Samuel (South Carolina) are in play for day two consideration.

Tight ends may also be in play for the Steelers. The top two TE’s in the draft hail from the same college, as T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant (Iowa) will likely be the first two tight ends off the board. Hockenson is favored to go in the middle of the first round, as he is considered to be one of the best all around player at the position, while Fant is more tailored as a pass catcher. Alabama TE Irv Smith has also received some first round hype towards the latter stages.

On the defensive side of the ball, CB’s DeAndre Baker (Georgia) and Trayvon Mullen (Clemson) may find themselves taken past pick #20 should the demand for corners become high in the first. Safety Taylor Rapp (Washington) is the favored to be the first at his position off the board, while Deionte Thompson (Alabama) and Nasir Adderley (Delaware) are more likely to be taken with the final picks in the first round at the earliest.

After the two Devin’s, the top linebacker prospects will feature Alabama’s Mack Wilson as the next probable linebacker off the board. If Wilson isn’t selected in the first round, he will surely hear his name called on day two. Later LB options will include David Long (West Virginia), Khalil Hodge (Buffalo), and Te’Von Coney (Notre Dame) as potential day two picks.

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