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Steelers: Top 10 candidates to replace Martavis Bryant in draft

Virginia Tech safety Terrell Edmunds could turn out to be a fine draft pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

However, his selection in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft has been overshadowed both by the fact that Ryan Shazier announced the pick and what the Steelers did earlier on Thursday night.

They traded Martavis Bryant to the Raiders for a third-round pick.

As we’ve said before, it’s silly to award grades for draft picks before any of these guys have played a down in the NFL, but we know a little bit more in this case because we’ve seen Bryant play in the NFL. The Steelers get an “A” for taking Bryant in the fourth round in 2014, and they also get an “A” for landing a third-round pick from the Raiders for him.

Even though Bryant cleaned up his act and helped the Steelers win games as the 2017 season went on, he’s set to become a free agent in 2019. The Steelers only were going to get one more season out of him assuming he could avoid another suspension. Eight years ago, they could only get a fifth-round draft pick for Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes. They did a nice job getting a Day 2 pick for a receiver who was drafted on Day 3 in 2014.

As smart as this trade is, it’s also risky. The wide receivers on the current Steelers roster not named Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster have combined for 22 catches over the last two years. Wide receiver suddenly rises on the Steelers’ list of draft needs.

On the surface, this might not seem like a problem. After all, the Steelers found gems like Bryant in the fourth round and Brown in the sixth round. It might seem like they can successfully draft receivers with their eyes closed.

However, for every Smith-Schuster, there’s a Sammie Coates. For every Bryant, there’s a Markus Wheaton. For every Mike Wallace, there’s a Limas Sweed. The Browns, Bryants and Smith-Schusters overshadow the misses, but the Steelers can’t afford a miss this year. If they don’t draft a receiver on Friday night who makes an immediate impact, they’ll be sorely lacking in depth at the position in 2018.

The Steelers have the 28th pick of Round 2 (60th overall), the 15th pick of Round 3 (79th overall, from the Raiders) and the 28th pick of Round 3 (92nd overall). It’s the first time they’ve had four picks in the top 100 since 2009. They used those picks on Ziggy Hood, Kraig Urbik, Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis. Hopefully Edmunds works out better than Hood and hopefully they find someone to replace Bryant.

Here are the top 10 receivers left on our board:

  1. Deon Cain, Clemson: The Steelers could again tap the same school where they found Bryant. The 6’2″, 202-pound Cain tied for the fifth-fastest 40 time among wide receivers (4.43) at the combine. He can be a deep threat and make catches underneath, but is prone to drops.
  2. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M: He’s built like a running back (5’11”, 201). He ran a 4.47 40 at the combine and his 234 receptions in three seasons are third in SEC history. He also returned six punts and one kickoff for touchdowns.
  3. Courtland Sutton, SMU: At 6’3″, he could come close to replacing Bryant’s height. He’s been labeled both a possession receiver and a deep threat.
  4. Anthony Miller, Memphis: The 5’11”, 201-pounder followed up 95 catches in 2016 with 96 in 2017. He maximizes his talent and doesn’t seem like he’d bring the headaches that Bryant did. But he’s another one with questionable hands.
  5. Michael Gallup, Colorado State: The 6’1″, 205-pounder led the Mountain West Conference with 100 catches last season. He seems to still be growing as a receiver and could out-perform his draft position in the NFL.
  6. James Washington, Oklahoma State: The 5’11”, 213-pounder led the nation with 1,549 receiving yards in 2017. CBSSports.com calls him the “best downfield weapon in the class.”
  7. Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State: The 6’5″, 216-pounder might start out as a role player, but all the Steelers really need is a No. 3 receiver to keep defenders from locking in on Brown and Smith-Schuster.
  8. Tre’Quan Smith: Central Florida: The 6’2″, 203-pounder has long arms (33 3/8″) and ran a 4.49 40, but the Steelers might be better off taking him as a hedge pick on Day 3 just in case their Day 2 receiver doesn’t pan out.
  9. DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State: The 6’1″, 203-pounder is a four-year starter. His career-high in receptions (82) came in his freshman season but his career-high in touchdowns (nine) came last season. He’s a team leader who won’t be a diva, but would probably be a better value as a Day 3 pick.
  10. D.J. Chark, LSU: The fastest receiver at the combine (4.34), the 6’3″, 199-pounder might be better suited as a Day 3 pick.

NFL.com and CBSSports.com were used for scouting reports. 

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

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