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Bud Dupree could be Steelers' best option if they go pass-rusher in first round

ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Thursday that it might make more sense for the Pittsburgh Steelers to use their first-round pick on a cornerback instead of an outside linebacker.

He based the opinion on players who could be available at No. 22 overall, not what is the bigger need for the Steelers.

Kiper Jr. said cornerbacks such as LSU’s Jalen Collins, Washington’s Marcus Peters, and Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson could all be on the board when the Steelers make their first pick of the draft.

The pool at outside linebacker won't be as deep with pass-rushers such as Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr., Nebraska’s Randy Gregory, Missouri’s Shane Ray and Clemson’s Vic Beasley all expected to be taken before the 22nd pick.

Kentucky’s Alvin "Bud" Dupree and Virginia’s Eli Harold could be the Steelers’ best options in the first round if they pick an outside linebacker prospect, Kiper Jr. said.

Both tested very well at the NFL scouting combine, and Dupree is a physical specimen and an athletic marvel.

The 6-4, 260-pounder ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds, recorded a 42-inch vertical leap, and a broad jump of 11-feet, 6-inches.

The one question teams may have about Dupree is why he did not take over games more often in college.

"You look at him in paper and say he’s a top-15 pick, at worst a top-25 pick," Kiper Jr. said. "But I didn’t see consistent domination, and I saw some instances where there was a little bit of a lack of great instincts to find the ball. To me he’s a first-round pick, but you want to see if you can make him more consistent. As a pass-rusher you turn him loose with that skill set, he flashed it."

Dupree recorded eight sacks last season and 23 ½ for his career, so it’s not like there is a serious disconnect between his physical ability and production in college.

"I wouldn’t say he’s a boom-or-bust,” Kiper Jr. said, "but he’s not a guarantee, because his performances at Kentucky were a little bit up and down."