The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season has now been over for almost a month, so it’s time to get into the off-season mindset. Although free agency comes first on the calendar before the 2020 NFL Draft, the NFL Combine will occur before either of them. With that said, it might be nice to have an idea as to some of the names associated with the Steelers in the second round. The Steelers’ first round pick has already been named an All-Pro player as Minkah Fitzpatrick can be thought of as the Steelers’ choice. So let’s look at prospects who may be available at the 49th selection and see what they could bring the the Steelers in 2020.
When talking about mock drafts or NFL free agency, you have to first identify the team’s main needs for the off-season. Hare are some of the projected positions of need for the Steelers in no particular order:
There could be other positions added to the list, but when it comes to what position the team will target with their first pick, it is certainly up for debate.
In the latest two-round mock draft by nflmocks.com, they have the Steelers addressing their need at tight end with their first pick in the second round. Already highlighted as a player to watch during the 2020 Senior Bowl, the potential pick of the Steelers comes from NFL pedigree as his father, Brad Hopkins, played tackle for 13 seasons for the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.
Check out the pick:
49. Pittsburgh Steelers | Brycen Hopkins | TE | Purdue | SR |
As many players are declaring their eligibility and preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine, there are plenty of players most fans have not seen play in 2019. Since this is the case, here is a breakdown of Hopkins according to thedraftnetwork.com:
Route Tree - Has been worked into space and allowed to press vertically up the seam. Savvy with delay routes to lull defense to sleep and like his tempered acceleration of his releases to time up clean run through the secondary. Makes adequate sight adjustments to sit vs. zone.
Hands - Soft hands, appreciate how easy he makes look catching the ball away from his frame or extending in traffic. Does well to absorb hits at the catch point and still successfully tuck away the football to finish catches over the middle of the field.
Versatility - More of a receiver than anything else and putting more on his plate early will pose challenges. That said, his versatility as a receiver is pretty notable, can work from the slot, release from tight alignment or work out of the backfield in play action and roll in the RAC.
Contested Catch Ability - Soft hands, big body and awareness of the value of setting himself for contact before addressing the ball provide him with good value in tight coverage or in the red zone, where he’s more sure to be contacted by breaking zone defenders.
RAC Ability - Wouldn’t classify him as a true burner but he’s a plus athlete at this size and has the ability to run away from linebackers in man coverage with ease. His creativity in the open field isn’t overly special to force missed tackles but he is strong, will run over tacklers and fall forward.
Power at POA - Isn’t going to wow anyone with functional strength in one on one situations. Most of his plus reps come as a fold blocker from backfield alignment to wham or kick out end man on the LOS or to set up blocks and win spacing against secondary defenders in WR screen game.
Competitive Toughness - At the catch point, he’s difficult to uproot or dislodge from the football — showing good body control and focus to not let smaller bodies blow him off his spot. From inline position, functional strength is adequate but not spectacular. Wins more with mobility than raw power in frame.
Flexibility - Body control is very impressive, you can see him easily flip his shoulders back to the football when working vertically or adjust his frame to make sure he gets a clean address of the football when his catch radius is tested.
Balance - Shows good pad level and hip hinge to keep his center of gravity under control while engaged with blockers, even if he’s not gaining ground from the LOS he typically illustrates ability to preoccupy defenders and keep himself upright. Avoids getting yanked off his set.
Football IQ - Work as a traditional tight end hasn’t been where most of his best reps have come, so closed minded or traditional offenses will pose more challenges than a team looking to infuse H/W/S mismatch into their receiving group at the TE position.
Best Trait - Hands
Worst Trait - Power at POA
Best Film - Wisconsin (2019)
Worst Film - Auburn (2018)
Red Flags - None
Summary - Brycen Hopkins projects favorably as a next level starting tight end. The functional athleticism, ball skills and hands are all high end traits by NFL TE standards and should provide Hopkins the ability to make an impact in the pass game. He’ll be at his best in an offense that allows him to detach from the formation and flex into the slot, where his athletic ability can shine. May face a transitional lag to NFL if asked to play more of a traditional in-line role due to irregular results as a blocker.
For all you who are preparing yourself for the draft, what do you think of the selection? Would you be on board with the Steelers taking Hopkins with their first pick, albeit in the second round? Or should the team target another position/player at that spot? Let us know in the comment section below, and remember these mock drafts are merely speculation and caused to create discussion among the fan base.