The 2024 NFL Draft is still far in the distance, but as we mull through these dog days of the football calendar, what better time than now to look ahead at next year’s NFL Draft landscape?
Coming off a historically weak draft class from top to bottom, the 2024 class is sure to provide much better depth, while also boasting multiple elite prospects at the top. The quarterback class this past year was strong overall, but the 2024 class could potentially beat it. Caleb Williams and Drake Maye are the consensus QB1 and QB2, with Michael Penix, Jr., J.J. McCarthy, Quinn Ewers, and several others in the first-round conversation as well.
Receiver is another position expected to be stronger next year, with a potentially generational talent, Marvin Harrison, Jr., leading the pack. Interior defensive line looks surprisingly juicy on paper, while the safety class should also be set for a bounce-back year. No safeties were selected in Round 1 of the 2023 draft.
Today, we are going to look at a position the Steelers look extremely strong at and are unlikely to add at: tight end. After the drafting of Darnell Washington, the Steelers appear to have two high-upside options at tight end, but in the event Pat Freiermuth’s concussions become chronic, we will take a look at the top prospects in the class and determine which ones, if any, make sense for the Steelers.
Potential first-round prospects
Brock Bowers | Georgia
Potentially a top-five selection in 2024, Brock Bowers is the biggest reason why Darnell Washington slipped to the third round of this year’s draft. Bowers does not have the size or power to be an effective blocker at the next level, but he is one of the most explosive receiving threats we have seen in years at the position. With similar traits to Atlanta’s Kyle Pitts, Bowers is a matchup nightmare due to his impressive athleticism and phenomenal body control. I’m not as high on him as others may be, but I fully expect him to be a top-ten pick and the first tight end off the board.
Ja’Tavion Sanders | Texas
Sanders will have a lot of competition for targets in the Texas offense, but he has the athleticism to take his game to the next level. Coming off a solid 2022 season which included over 600 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns, Sanders will look to become more consistent as a blocker in 2023, while displaying the same strong rapport with Quinn Ewers that we saw last season. He is capable of becoming a multi-faceted tight end in short order. He just needs a little bit of polish and a little more bulk.
Options for the Steelers
I would be shocked to see the Steelers take a tight end outside of a flier in the sixth or seventh round. Thus, we will take a brief look at a couple late-round targets. North Carolina’s Bryson Nesbit lacks the bulk to contribute much as a blocker, but he is explosive off the line and aggressive at the point of attack. He could become a solid move tight end down the line. A high-upside option is Penn State’s Theo Johnson. While his pad level too high as a blocker, his physical profile suggests there is potential in that area. He is a big, sure-handed target who can work the seams, at the very least.
Which tight ends are you eyeing in the 2024 NFL Draft? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!