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2020 NFL Mock Draft: The Steelers are in line to add an edge rusher with their top pick

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With uncertainties about Bud Dupree’s return for 2020, outside linebacker may be a position the Steelers look to add early in the draft

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Michigan State at Rutgers Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season has now been over for more than 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:

Wide Receiver
Running Back
Offensive Line
EDGE Rusher
Tight End

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 walterfootball.com, they have the Steelers addressing their possible need at outside linebacker with their first pick in the second round. Ironically, the Steelers would be looking to replace #48 with yet another one.

Check out the pick:

49. Pittsburgh Steelers | Kenny Willekes | EDGE | Michigan State | 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 Willekes according to lastwordonprofootball.com:

Athletic Ability

Willekes shows above-average athletic ability with quick feet and good coordination. He’s agile enough to drop in coverage and not become a liability. He’ll need to work on his flexibility and bend around the edge.

Competitiveness

Kenny is a second-team All-American and team captain for the Spartans. He’s a former walk-on who plays with a high motor and a chip on his shoulder. He has experienced tremendous production for his position during his tenure in East Lansing.

Mental Alertness

Willekes shows good awareness, instincts, and play recognition. There are times when he can be overzealous with his pursuit and find himself out of position.

Strength/Durability

Willekes lacks overall play strength. There are times when he has difficulty disengaging from run blocks. On film, he looks smaller than what he is listed as. He suffered a broken fibula at the end of the 2018 season, but it doesn’t seem to be an issue that carried over.

Position Skill

Willekes has a good initial burst off the line of scrimmage. He shows good pursuit and tackling ability. He shows a good rip and swim move, a sub-par spin move. He needs to be more vigilant and active with his hands to swat away would-be blockers. While at Michigan State, he primarily lined up as a wide-nine technique and relied on his speed to blow past slower offensive tackles. He’s unable to get penetration versus the run on a consistent basis. He was blown off the ball more than I wanted to see by bigger offensive linemen. He has a bad habit of getting too far upfield and not being able to work back to quarterback in a timely manner.

Overall

There’s no question that Kenny Willekes has one of the better resumes of eligible edge defender prospects. That being said, he has some work to do in order to become a full-time starter at the NFL level. Mathematically, he grades out as a top of the third round prospect, which is right where he will likely be targeted. While he primarily played with his hand on the ground in college, based on his skill set, an ideal situation for him to start his career is to be taken by a team that runs a 3-4 scheme that can utilize him as a stand-up third-down pass rusher.

It should be noted this projection for Willekes was before the Senior Bowl where he had a good showing throughout the week and has begun on rise on some draft boards.

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 Willekes 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.