The anticipation of the NFL Draft is tremendous, and the feeling you get on the Sunday after the draft is similar to that after a major holiday, like Christmas. You almost feel a hangover of sorts, and the chaos which ensued has left you wondering which way is up.
That is certainly the feeling I get after the draft, and the day after the draft is when all those “experts” like to stamp grades on the draft class. You know, the players who haven’t even played one snap in the National Football League. Well, for Pittsburgh Steelers fans, you will find solace knowing the team’s six new players were given a passing grade from almost every major media outlet, but that isn’t to suggest the team’s draft was considered one of the best.
Let’s take a look at what these outlets said about the team’s draft class:
Pittsburgh Steelers: How often can you say your draft is guaranteed to produce an all-pro? Welp, this one did after the Steelers traded last year’s first-rounder for second-year S Minkah Fitzpatrick, who blossomed in Pittsburgh and is still under contractual control for three more years. As for players just picked, uber-sized WR Chase Claypool, uber-productive OLB Alex Highsmith and uber-swift RB Anthony McFarland all seem well-positioned to battle for jobs currently manned by veterans potentially on shaky ground.
Key Picks: Chase Claypool (WR, Notre Dame), Alex Highsmith (DE, Charlotte), Anthony McFarland (RB, Maryland)
Analysis: No first-rounder, but the Steelers know how to evaluate, steal and develop receivers — and Claypool’s athleticism in a tight end body is intriguing. Big bet placed on small-school Highsmith.
The Steelers weren’t up until the second round after sending their first-round pick to Miami for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Second-round pick Chase Claypool gives the Steelers a wide receiver who can develop into the team’s No. 1 target if JuJu Smith-Schuster leaves after this season. He’s a physical wideout and gives the Steelers something different compared to the other receivers on the roster.
Alex Highsmith, taken 102nd overall, is the type of versatile pass rusher the Steelers need. It’s a pick you could see coming because he fits the mold perfectly in Pittsburgh. Highsmith’s first step will get him on the field right now. If he can get stronger to play the run better, he can become a starter for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers got two players in the fourth round who should be solid contributors. Running back Anthony McFarland is a nice complement for James Conner. His speed in the open field is impressive. Guard Kevin Dotson is a depth piece who could push free agent signing Stefen Wisniewski for the starting left guard job.
Draft picks: WR Chase Claypool, OLB Alex Highsmith, RB Anthony McFarland Jr., G Kevin Dotson, S Antoine Brooks Jr., DT Carlos Davis
Kevin Colbert had an interesting draft as the team didn’t really prioritize key needs at defensive tackle (not taking one until Davis) and running back. Claypool is an intriguing hybrid, but was more of a luxury pick given they have JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and James Washington. Highsmith was a third edge rusher they couldn’t resist. McFarland is more of pace-changer instead of a back able to carry a full load to replace James Conner.
Pittsburgh jumped in on the run on wide receivers by taking Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool with its first pick in 2020. Claypool is a physical receiver who should take pressure off JuJu Smith-Schuster in the aerial attack.
Charlotte’s Alex Highsmith, who was third in the FBS in sacks, was the other Friday selection by Mike Tomlin’s side. Highsmith produced at a high clip last season, but he did so against weaker competition in Conference USA. If his pass-rushing skills translate to the NFL, Highsmith could provide quality behind T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree.
When it comes to the Steelers’ latest draft class, not only was it small, but it seemed as if the team addressed needs. The main problem most fans seem to have with the move is the team’s needs fell basically on the depth of the roster.
Claypool could have an immediate impact, but other than him most of the draft class will fill needs in the depth department. Doesn’t mean it is a bad draft class.
What do you think about the draft class? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the 2020 regular season.