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NFL Mock Draft 2018: Pittsburgh Steelers improve their secondary

With the 28th overall pick in the 2018 Bleeding Green Nation community mock draft, Pittsburgh Steelers GM SummersInVA selects ...

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Boston College vs Iowa Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

The Steelers have the greatest and most consistent tradition of excellence in the NFL. We all know the Steelers have won 6 Super Bowls, more than any other franchise. However, it is not such common knowledge that since their first playoff appearance of the Super Bowl era in 1972, the Steelers have just as many Super Bowl appearances as they do losing seasons, with 8 apiece. This success has been due largely to the attitude of patience that the Steelers have been built upon. They have had 3 head coaches since 1969, and only 4 general managers in that same time span. It is an organization that prides itself on making sound decisions and sticking with them through the ups and the downs, because the people in charge know that sacrificing today in hope for tomorrow can lead to missed opportunities, and sacrificing tomorrow in hope for today can lead to short sighted decisions and years of cleaning up after the last guy.

To further illustrate this, consider the recent history of Steelers drafting. Since 2010, the Steelers have made 8 first round selections. Of those 8 players, 7 are still on the roster (Ryan Shazier included, despite his unfortunate injury). In looking through those draft picks, I found a common thread: the Steelers do not draft for need. They almost always draft the best player available, and that best player available is almost always a defensive player. Last year, they drafted TJ Watt when they had Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree. In 2015, they drafted Dupree when they had Shazier, Lawrence Timmons and Jarvis Jones. In 2013, they selected Jones when they had Timmons, Larry Foote, and LaMarr Woodley. In 2012, the last time they drafted an offensive player in round 1, they selected David DeCastro when Willie Colon and Ramon Foster were firmly entrenched on either side of center. In 2011, they drafted Cameron Heyward, who didn’t make one start that year because Evander Hood and Brett Keisel were their starting edge rushers. You have to go all the way back to 2010 to find an immediate offensive starter drafted in round 1, and that was Maurkice Pouncey. The Steelers have defense in their veins going all the way back to the Steel Curtain, which is why Jackson made so much sense.

In wanting to stick with the BPA approach that the Steelers are want to employ, this was an easy selection. The only player who made me second guess this decision was Maurice Hurst out of Michigan. As far as a BPA, he could be it here, but I have my reservations about how well he will fit as a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme. Honestly, the fact that both of these players are still on the board is quite the head scratcher to me. In either case, when I did my digging on Jackson, I could not find one big board that had Jackson any lower then 26, and I’ve found him as high as 9 on PFF’s big board, who also ranked him as their top cornerback. At the end of the day they are both NFL ready talents. However, because Jackson has an enviable body for his position, unlike Hurst, who is built less like a defensive tackle and more like an end, I feel like there may be fewer growing pains with Jackson. Let’s look at some of his strengths to understand just what kind of value the Steelers are getting here.

Ball Skills

→ Jackson started his career at Iowa as a receiver. As such, he knows how to catch the football, extending his arms and securing the football with his hands instead of corralling the ball into his chest. He turned these ball hawking hands into 8 interceptions in 2017, averages 21 yards per return on them. He also has great hands on fades and jump balls, which combined with his 6’1” frame, make him an incredibly valuable defensive piece in the end zone.

Closes in quickly

→ Although Jackson lines up an average of 4.2 yards from the line of scrimmage, he plays almost as deep as the safeties on a fair amount of his coverages. It was jarring to see how far he lined up from his receivers sometimes, almost begging them to nickel and dime him for 5 yards here, 7 yards there. But they didn’t. Jackson would read the quarterback’s eyes and break toward the route before the ball was even released, and that led to one of three outcomes. Either the receiver caught the ball, but was immediately swallowed up for minimal gain, Jackson got a hand on the ball and knocked it away, or he gathered it for an interception. He almost never let a receiver get away from him for a big gain after the catch, as illustrated in the chart below.

Coverage skills

→ Jackson was just astounding in terms of what he allowed the quarterback and receiver to do on any given play. The routes he had the most difficult time covering were quick outs, to which he allowed an 82.5 passer rating when targeted. The NCAA average was 96.2. Most impressive to me when watching film was just how difficult it was for receivers to lose him on deep balls. His speed and ball skills make him almost unbeatable, as he allowed just a 39.9 passer rating on go routes. Per PFF: “Combined, he was targeted a whopping 24 times on post and fly routes combined, but allowed only three completions.” As if all this weren’t impressive enough, consider this: when lining up on the left side wide (as he did for 75% of his snaps in 2017) he allowed a passer rating of 29.0 on 71 targets. Translated to the NFL formula, quarterbacks would be better off throwing the ball away every single time rather than throwing it in Jackson’s direction. Credit to @PFF_Sam for that comparison.

While picking a player who only played for one year may be cause for concern, especially given his shortcomings as a tackler. He also has difficult time disengaging from blocks and is therefore a minus player as a run stopper. However, what the Steelers believe in is picking talent, grooming that talent, and then making that talent work for them. Jackson has that talent. His strengths are NFL ready, and his weakness can be hidden on the outside while they are coached out of him. The Steelers will take one big step towards making Ben Roethlisberger’s final years count by selecting a player who can prevent them from meeting the same demise that ended their 2017 season.


Do you approve of this pick?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    (201 votes)
  • 26%
    (71 votes)
272 votes total Vote Now

2018 BGN Community Mock Draft Order

1) Browns (GMinTraining): Saquon Barkley

2) Giants (ablesser88): Quenton Nelson

3) Jets (20Safety_Hazards): Sam Darnold

4) Browns (MJ1893): Josh Rosen

5) Broncos (drc242): Baker Mayfield

6) Colts (I Need a Username): Bradley Chubb

7) Buccaneers (dunc123): Minkah Fitzpatrick

8) Bears (NVEagleShark): Tremaine Edmunds

9) 49ers (Doug Pederson’s Pair of Balls): Calvin Ridley

10) Raiders (Milehighbirds): Derwin James

11) Dolphins (danishdynamite_): Roquan Smith

12) Bills (LAOJoe): Denzel Ward

13) Washington (Eagle1987): Vita Vea

14) Packers (89Tremaine): Mike Hughes

15) Cardinals (RimoDawkins): Josh Allen

16) Ravens (PhillyEagles2011): Mike McGlinchey

17) Chargers (LBCeaglesFan!): Da’Ron Payne

18) Seahawks (KEZHOG): Marcus Davenport

19) Cowboys (Brawnybalboa): Rashaan Evans

20) Lions (dshelton5): Derrius Guice

21) Bengals (Palaniappan K M): Connor Williams

22) Bills (BeamerWentzorBentley): Lamar Jackson

23) Patriots (jy1187): Harold Landry

24) Panthers (dceagles): Justin Reid

25) Titans (ei78): Leighton Vander Esch

26) Falcons (SakPrescott): Taven Bryan

27) Saints (MidMajorMatt): Courtland Sutton

28) Steelers (SummersInVA): Joshua Jackson

29) Jaguars (RecarTabmok):

30) Vikings (AnthroEagle):

31) Patriots (PhilaWolverine):

32) Eagles (JALupowitz):

Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think the Falcons should pick in the 2018 BGN Consensus Mock Draft.

1) Browns: Saquon Barkley

2) Giants: Sam Darnold

3) Jets: Josh Rosen

4) Browns: Josh Allen

5) Broncos: Baker Mayfield

6) Colts: Bradley Chubb

7) Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick

8) Bears: Quenton Nelson

9) 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds

10) Raiders: Derwin James

11) Dolphins: Roquan Smith

12) Bills: Lamar Jackson

13) Washington: Vita Vea

14) Packers: Denzel Ward

15) Cardinals: Mason Rudolph

16) Ravens: Mike McGlinchey

17) Chargers: Da’Ron Payne

18) Seahawks: Marcus Davenport

19) Cowboys: Rashaan Evans

20) Lions: Derrius Guice

21) Bengals: Connor Williams

22) Bills: Calvin Ridley

23) Patriots: Harold Landry

24) Panthers: Courtland Sutton

25) Titans: Leighton Vander Esch

26) Falcons: Maurice Hurst

27) Saints: Dallas Goedert

28: Steelers:


Who should the Steelers draft at No. 28?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Joshua Jackson
    (66 votes)
  • 21%
    Justin Reid
    (41 votes)
  • 8%
    Ronnie Harrison
    (17 votes)
  • 1%
    Taven Bryan
    (2 votes)
  • 4%
    Hayden Hurst
    (9 votes)
  • 6%
    Malik Jefferson
    (13 votes)
  • 2%
    D.J. Moore
    (5 votes)
  • 11%
    Jaire Alexander
    (23 votes)
  • 3%
    Mike Hughes
    (6 votes)
  • 3%
    Will Hernandez
    (7 votes)
  • 1%
    Arden Key
    (3 votes)
192 votes total Vote Now

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