STEELERS DRAFT BUZZ: EVALUATING THE CORNERBACK POSITION
The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t selected a cornerback in Round 1 ever under Kevin Colbert but that is likely to change Thursday night if the board goes as expected at the linebacker position with top Steeler tagets Bud Dupree and Vic Beasley expected to be well off the board by the 22nd selection.
Round 1 Prediction: Utah’s Eric Rowe
INSIDE PITTSBURGH SPORTS CORNERBACK RANKINGS (1ST ROUND PROSPECTS)
1. Trae Waynes (6-0, 186), Michigan St.
2. Kevin Johnson (6-0, 188), Wake Forest
3. Byron Jones (6-1, 200), Connecticut
4. Eric Rowe (6-1, 210), Utah
5. *Marcus Peters (6-0, 197), Washington
6. *Jalen Collins (6-1, 203), LSU
*=High Character Concerns*
THREE BEST FITS FOR STEELERS
1. Eric Rowe, 2. Byron Jones, 3. Marcus Peters
BEST VALUE BUT BIGGEST RISK AT NO. 22
1. Marcus Peters
JOHNSON, WAYNES UNLIKELY TO BE AROUND AT NO. 22
Michigan State’s Trae Waynes is considered the No. 1 cornerback by some, Mike Mayocks No. 7 overall player, following his spectacular combine when he ran a 4.31 forty.
However, similar to Bud Dupree at the outside linebacker, Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson is rising fast in the last couple weeks with coaches now more heavily involved in the draft process. Less than 24 hours until the draft, there’s not a consensus on which cornerback will go off the board first.
Pro Football Focus rates Waynes as the most overrated player in the draft. Both, though, are fully expected to be the first two cornerbacks to go.
Waynes is viewed as an Antonio Cromartie type who excels in bump-and-run coverage. Johnson is a player who has the cover skills and athleticism to start from day 1 and is a very good gunner on special teams.
Johnston had 44 tackles, 1 INT, 6 passes defended in 2014. Johnson and Waynes are both regarded as great character guys. From a scheme standpoint, others like Marcus Peters, Eric Rowe and Byron Jones are viewed by some scouts as better fits for the Steelers but Johnson’s cover ability might be to tempting for the Steelers to pass up if he falls.
In what would be a good problem to have, Johnson and Waynes might be the only two cornerbacks to go before the 22nd selection.
JONES HAS LOTS OF ATTRIBUTES TO LIKE FOR STEELERS AT NO. 22
UConn’s Byron Jones might be one of the safest picks for teams interested in a cornerback in Round 1. With excellent size at 6-1, 200, Jones has freakish athletic ability. Jones posted a 44½-inch vertical and 147-inch broad jump at the combine.
Jones is regarded as an instinctive cornerback with good size and adequate speed to go with ball skills needed to play the position.
“Great vision and instincts to play the position. High character guy who’s going to give you 100% and be a model citizen. Might get over-drafted but who gets him is going to love him,” Division I Assistant Coach on Jones.
PETERS EXPECTED TO GET STRONG CONSIDERATION AT NO. 22
Cornerbacks are looked at by NFL executives as different breeds and there’s a group of them with first round talent.
Washington’s Marcus Peters is well regarded as one of the most talented cornerbacks in the draft and if he was a model citizen like Waynes or Johnson, he would be the top cornerback in the draft.
Peters is the cousin of Marshawn Lynch who he lived with and had multiple run-ins with his college coaches, leading to his dismissal from Washington. There’s even one rumor that he choked a coach on the sideline.
He’s regarded as a Percy Harvin type personality who disrespects authority and is constantly in confrontations.
Surprisingly, though, all indications are Peters remains on the Steelers draft board and will get very strong consideration at No. 22. The two sides had a very good visit.
LSU’s Jalen Collins is another first round talent who likes weed a bit too much. Collins failed drug tests in his last three years at LSU.
SAFETY IN PLAY AT NO. 22?
The Steelers are down on the safety position and the only value at No. 22 would be considering Alabama’s Landon Collins who is very effective in around the box like Troy Polamalu was. Most chatter indicates Steelers unlikely to go safety at No. 22.
PROJECTING ERIC ROWE TO STEELERS
Utah’s Eric Rowe has been a name for months that the draft experts are likely to miss on. Rowe is a player where there’s lots of buzz that he’s rated by teams much higher than the draft experts who have a second, third round grades on him.
This is a player the Steelers really like and I mean really like. Carnell Lake has been pushing for Rowe to be the selection for months. Some believe No. 22 would still be too high but there’s a minority out there who feel No. 22 wouldn’t be too high. The Steelers are that minority. Rowe also projects to be an ideal trade down candidate in the late first round, something the Steelers should entertain at that spot.
Rowe has great size and intangibles. Upside isn’t huge but safe player to pick who should be a contributor for years.
He’s the prediction because of how much the Steelers like him and the likelihood he is available.