For those who follow the college game, they know Leal’s 2020 season had many believing after 2021 he would be a Top 10 draft pick. However, his 2021 season didn’t go as planned and he found his draft stock plummet.
Some say he was too much of a “tweener” not having the genuine build of a position, while others thought he would need to gain muscle to play more on the interior at the NFL level. Here is an overview of Leal as a player, per NFL.com:
Early entry defensive lineman who appears to be caught between “best fit” positions at this time. Leal possesses adequate rush skills and knows how to craft a rush plan, but a lack of suddenness and closing burst turns potential sacks into hurries without the help of a long pocket count. When the motor is cranked up, he can stack and slide past run blockers with efficiency and quickness. He didn’t put together the tape that was expected and disappointing reps against Evan Neal (Alabama) and Charles Cross (Mississippi State) could create concerns about his pro readiness. Most will see him as an even-front defender in some capacity, but playing 3-4 DE might be his best fit as a pro.
When Thursday’s first round came and went without Leal hearing his name called, he wasn’t too pleased. While this can be expected, Leal took to his Twitter account to make a very brief, but concise, message.
Lol I actually like this… y’all gonna pay— DeMarvin Leal (@boimarv9) April 29, 2022
It wasn’t until Round 3 when Leal finally got a phone call telling him he was getting drafted, and the call was from Mike Tomlin. Below you can see video of Leal’s reaction of talking with Tomlin and having the weight of waiting to be selected finally off his shoulders.
Here’s DeMarvin Leal talking with Pittsburgh Steelers HC Mike Tomlin.— Larry Ramirez (@LRam2) April 30, 2022
Steelers drafted him in 3rd round, 84th overall. #NFLDraft @boimarv9 @JudsonFootball @InstantReplaySA #GigEm pic.twitter.com/ubT3gjCIdq
Considering Leal is a Texas A&M alumni, he has two players on the current Steelers roster who know him well. Offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. and linebacker Buddy Johnson, both were drafted in the 2021 draft. When the pick was made, Johnson took to his verified Twitter account to tell Steelers fans the player they got was nothing short of a “steal”.
Most would say there are reasons why players fall in the NFL Draft. Sometimes the reasons are medically driven, while others can be driven by off field issues. Why Leal fell to the Steelers in Round 3 isn’t completely known, but defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was shocked he was still available when it was the team’s time to make their 3rd round pick.
Will Leal be a rotational piece on the outside in the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme? Or will he be more of an interior player, providing insurance in case Stephon Tuitt isn’t able to play in 2022? Only time will tell, but Leal brings a nice chip on his shoulder to Pittsburgh to use for motivation.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for Day 3 of the NFL Draft on Saturday.