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 break down a position the Steelers are currently weak at: inside linebacker. If Cole Holcomb can return to pre-injury form, the Steelers may have gotten a steal in free agency. However, he has never been a great cover linebacker. Could the Steelers attempt to add athleticism to the linebacker position in Round 1? 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
Jeremiah Trotter, Jr. | Clemson
The son of the former NFL linebacker, Jeremiah Trotter, Jr. hopes to follow in the footsteps of his father and carve out a long NFL career. At 6’0”, 230 pounds, Trotter is not the biggest guy in the world, but he can do a little bit of everything. He has a smooth backpedal when dropping into coverage, he has good instincts against the run, and he has a natural feel for getting after the quarterback when sent on a blitz. Coming off a season which included 89 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks, Trotter is in great position to be the first linebacker off the board next April.
Barrett Carter | Clemson
Carter and Trotter were both utilized in different roles than they will be this season, as they are now responsible for filling the void left by Trenton Simpson. Carter will need to add at least 10 pounds to his frame in order to withstand contact at the linebacker position, but his fluidity from sideline to sideline is incredibly smooth. If he can learn to be a greater force against the run, there is nothing in his way of being one of the best all-around linebackers in the NFL for the next decade.
Deshawn Pace | Cincinnati
Pace is currently listed at 215 pounds, which is not near enough weight to play linebacker at the next level. That listing may be inaccurate, but either way, he is in need of hitting the weight room. He does play bigger than his size and displays a willingness to take on blockers at the line, but he struggles to bring down bigger ball-carriers due to his lack of size. What I appreciate about Pace is his quickness when shooting gaps to disrupt plays in the backfield, as he possesses ideal instincts and intelligence for the position.
Fringe first-round prospects
Tommy Eichenberg | Ohio State
Smael Mondon, Jr. | Georgia
Options for the Steelers
Smael Mondon, Jr. is an interesting name, as he is pure projection at this point. The former five-star recruit is in great position to take on a larger role in 2023, and he could not be in a better system than Georgia as it pertains to boosting his draft stock. At 6’3”, 220 pounds, Mondon has the frame to put on a good bit of weight while still maintaining his ranginess and fluidity in coverage. Tommy Eichenberg could make sense if the team chooses to move on from Elandon Roberts next offseason.
Which linebackers 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!