As a Spartan, Heyward was used as a running back for years, but transitioned to tight end for his 5th season. The Steelers drafted Heyward as a tight end, according to tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts who pushed for the team to draft him.
Here’s what draft analysts were saying about Connor Heyward before the draft.
Heyward has a heck of a resume. He’s returned kicks and punts early in his career, has two 30-plus reception seasons on his resume, has a 500-plus yard rushing season on his resume, and has now been charged with a blocking role and completely transitioning to a role player at tight end.
Heyward doesn’t have high-level physical tools and he at times “wins ugly” in his role. He’s had some reps flexed into the slot and routes there are not overly fluid or dynamic and his ability to sell the stem and create separation isn’t inspirational at this point.
Projecting him forward, I think Heyward is going to need to find a home where he can continue to “win ugly,” playing on special teams and executing a lot of dirty work in an offensive system that looks to add on to the blocking surface in both the run and pass game with untraditional alignments.
Thick-framed, short-to-intermediate target who is tough to bring down and a solid run-blocker. Versatile. Can move around and motion pre-snap. Heyward is more of a hybrid player, who is not limited to playing a single position (which only adds to his value). Heyward can be lined up at tight end, fullback, out wide and he can be motioned in to block or chip block and then go out on a route. He can even be lined up at running back.
Having a player on offense with this kind of versatility can create mismatches and even confusion for opposing defenses. Heyward has to be accounted for at all times.
Fourth Round grade
Quickly gets off the line of scrimmage into pass routes, immediately gets to top speed, and splits the seam as a pass catcher. Gets vertical, snatches the ball from the air, and displays good eye/hand coordination. Runs solid routes for a big man.
Must improve his blocking techniques and learn to finish off opponents. Lacks the size, specifically the height, you want in a tight end.
He’s sort of an in-between skill player who lacks the height for tight end and the speed for running back. His best spot would be lining up as a West Coast fullback for an offense that employs the position.
Heyward is a good blocker who, much like his brother, displays great effort and toughness on every down. Just to give insight as to how versatile he is, Michigan State used him as a kick returner his first two seasons in Lansing as well as making him a rotational running back. As a blocker, Heyward plays to the whistle and beats his opponents with physicality.
The brother of Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, Connor is a fairly athletic fullback who can be used as a runner, blocker, and receiver.
204th ranked prospect (Heyward was drafted with the 208th pick)
Heyward is a versatile player, and while that has obvious value, it also means he isn’t polished at any one role or position. Similar to former Steeler Jaylen Samuels, who excelled as an H-back in college, but wasn’t a good enough receiver, blocker or runner to carve out a long-tern role in the NFL. Heyward has a similar problem, but Heyward is built like a blocking fullback, and while he has shown he lacks polish, his effort is intriguing and he shows plenty of potential to become an NFL caliber blocker.
That will be the key to Heyward making it in the NFL. If he can become an NFL caliber blocker from tight end and fullback alignments, his ability to catch and run will make him dangerous, if he can’t he won’t make it, because his threat as a runner and receiver aren’t good enough.