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The Pittsburgh Steelers got a great value pick in DeMarvin Leal, or did they?

DeMarvin Leal looks like the kind of player who should have been selected much higher than he was in the 2022 NFL Draft. Why wasn’t he, though? There are many theories, but it’s still really hard for people to say.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Arkansas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As is usually the case with this portion of the draft, I had no idea who DeMarvin Leal, a defensive lineman from Texas A&M, was when the Steelers selected him in the third round (84th, overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft on Friday night.

But maybe I should have. According to the experts and big boards, Leal was a much better prospect than the 84th best. In fact, I’m currently looking at a notebook where I wrote down Drafttek’s big board rankings from about a month ago, and Leal was 26th. Did I just write that down wrong? I ask this question because when I checked it just now, Leal was the 57th overall prospect on that site.

I don’t know what to believe about Leal, other than nobody else seems to either.

Leal certainly had an accomplished career with the Aggies and was voted First-Team All-American as well as First-Team SEC in 2021.

Leal finished with 133 tackles and 13 sacks in three seasons and appears to have a good motor. He also went up against the best competition week-in and week-out in the toughest conference in college football.

So what’s the deal with Leal? Why didn’t he get drafted much higher? Why aren’t the fans celebrating this awesome steal the Steelers got in the third round?

Maybe because Leal is one of those “tweeners,” a guy who is too small to play in the interior of the line and too slow to play defensive end.

Case-in-point, according to Leal’s NFL.com Draft profile, he posted a 5.0 for his 40 time at the Combine. As for that competition, Leal evidently struggled while going up against two of the top tackles in the SEC as well as the 2022 NFL Draft—Evan Neal and Charles Cross.

Does this mean Leal was a bad pick? No, I don’t like to say such things about any of these players when they first turn pro, but if Leal’s lack of explosiveness was what helped to drop him into the third round—it would be much easier to find a “perfect fit” if one’s mearusables jumped off the charts—his ceiling might just be that of a decent and solid starter.

Is that enough? It remains to be seen. Can Leal help with the run if he’s considered to be too small to play in the interior? Can he terrorize the passer if he’s too slow to consistently win matchups at the line of scrimmage? If that’s a “no” on both counts, well, maybe Leal is just going to be okay.

But okay isn’t horrible, and it’s not set in stone just yet. That’s the great thing about being a rookie. You get to change a lot of minds and write your own story despite what your pre-draft profile might say.

Pros: DeMarvin Leal addresses a need along the defensive line.

Cons: He might lack the size and/or explosiveness to fill that need.

Pros: The Steelers are going to give Leal a good chance to fill it anyway.