NFL

NFL Draft Review: The Biggest Steals from Every Round

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It is not easy to come away with a “steal” in the NFL Draft. It takes a lot of things for that to happen, including superb scouting, incredible patience and a little bit of luck. When these steals take place, they excite the fans and — in some instances — jump start entire franchises. With that in mind, here is a look at the biggest steal from each round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Round 1: OLB Bud Dupree (Steelers, No. 22 overall)

The Steelers desperately needed an edge rusher. Jason Worilds surprised the team with his sudden retirement this offseason, leaving Pittsburgh to rely on the unproven Jarvis Jones and the aging James Harrison. So great was the need for a pass-rushing outside linebacker that Steelers fans were actually rooting for their team to consider drafting Shane Ray or Randy Gregory, two four-game suspensions just waiting to happen.

Fortunately for everybody in Steel City, it never came to that. GM Kevin Colbert caught a huge break when Dupree fell all the way to No. 22. There was a real chance Dupree could have gone in the top-10, while it is amazing the Bengals let him slip by at No. 21, given that Cincinnati finished with the fewest sacks in the league last season. Dupree posted 24.5 sacks during his college career, showing the kind of power and closing speed that will make him a dominant force in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 system.

Round 2: CB Eric Rowe (Eagles, No. 47 overall)

The Eagles reached to fill a need in the first round, picking WR Nelson Agholor to replace Jeremy Maclin. But Chip Kelly let the board come to him in the second round, stealing corner-safety hybrid Eric Rowe. He has the size and fluid hips to cover bigger receivers on the outside, as well as the toughness and instincts to patrol the middle of the field. He is also a strong tackler who is not afraid to come up in run support.

“We felt (Rowe) was the guy we wanted all along,” Kelly said after making the pick. “I wouldn’t have been surprised if he went a lot earlier.”

Round 3: DT Carl Davis (Ravens, No. 90 overall)

Davis entered the pre-draft process with very little buzz following a college career in which he posted just 3.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Then scouts started studying his tape and saw a dominant player whose numbers were mostly muted by his role in Iowa’s two-gap defensive system. Davis proved his dominance during Senior Bowl week, when he overpowered offensive linemen at the point of attack and used his quickness to dominate one-on-one match-ups. He lands with the perfect team, too, as the Ravens boast a physical defense that uses multiple fronts.

“I can play a five-technique or a zero, it doesn’t matter. I’m fine with wherever they want to play me at,” Davis told Football Insiders shortly before the draft.

Round 4: WR Vince Mayle (Browns, No. 123 overall)

Mayle doesn’t have blazing speed. Fortunately for the Browns, he has literally everything else. He posted massive numbers last season at Washington State, catching 106 passes for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns. NFL teams were quick to discount those stats as a product of Mike Leach’s spread offense, but turn on the film and you’ll see Mayle running precise routes, outmuscling defensive backs and attacking the ball at its highest point. His size (6’3, 219 lbs) and smoothness are attributes than cannot be taught. He has another thing working in his favor, as well, that will help him make an immediate impact in Cleveland.

“I played on every special team at my school,” Mayle told Football Insiders prior to the draft. “Playing special teams is not a problem for me. It was preached to me at my school that special teams are how you’re going to get to the NFL. I took that and I ran with it.”

Round 5: RB David Cobb (Titans, No. 138 overall)

The Rams took RB Todd Gurley with the No. 10 overall pick. The Chargers traded up to take Melvin Gordon at No. 15. Both of those teams got it wrong. It’s not that Gurley and Gordon are not elite prospects, but without fail, quality running backs are always available much later in the draft.

Cobb is the perfect example. Last season for the Gophers, Cobb ran 314 times for 1,626 yards (5.2 ypc) and 13 touchdowns. He added another 162 yards as a receiver. He is a powerful north-and-south back who runs with great conviction and body lean. He can handle a full-time workload, as well, and gets stronger as the game goes on. It says here he will be the starting running back in Tennessee next season, with 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns being realistic expectations.

Round 6: DT Michael Bennett (Jaguars, No. 180 overall)

This was one of those unusual situations where the scouts from every NFL team apparently got together and decided Bennett is one of those players who thrives in college but gets overwhelmed in the pros. That’s an odd conclusion to reach on a player who dominated the last two seasons (83 tackles, 25.5 TFLs, 14 sacks) for a Buckeyes team that went 26-3 in that stretch. Bennett is an extremely disruptive interior player, using powerful hands and flawless technique to beat his man off the snap.

“You’ve got to find your niche, and interior pass rusher is my thing,” Bennett said after being drafted. “I can stop the run, I can be a three-down player, but I think I’m making my living at my ability to rush the passer, so I take a lot of pride in it.”

Round 7: FB Joey Iosefa (Buccaneers, No. 231) 

Let’s be honest: It’s tough to find immediate contributors in the seventh round. But one of the exceptions to that rule is the fullback position (for teams that still use fullbacks, anyway), as players at that spot tend to last to the final couple rounds no matter how impressive they are in college.

Iosefa played more halfback than fullback at Hawaii, where his career totals included 512 carries for 2,218 yards (4.3 ypc) and 21 touchdowns. But his size (6’0, 245 lbs) and power-over-speed style mean a switch to fullback is in his immediate future. He will still get his touches, though, as he is a strong between-the-tackles runner who can catch the ball out of the backfield. Iosefa lands in the perfect spot, too, as he has a chance to become a poor man’s Mike Alstott.

Want to talk more about these picks, or any other selection from the NFL Draft? Join Michael Lombardo for his weekly NFL Chat on Friday at 2pm EST. But you don’t have to wait until then … you can ask your question now


About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has spent more than 10 years as a team expert at Scout.com, primarily covering the Chargers, Cardinals and Panthers. He has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and other venues.