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Steelers draft profile: Ladd McConkey (Wide receiver, Georgia)

The Georgia wideout could be a name to watch if the Steelers draft a receiver in the middle rounds.

Ladd McConkey #84 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs with the ball for a touchdown in the first half during the Capital One Orange Bowl game against the Florida State Seminoles at Hard Rock Stadium on December 30, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Photo by Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images

Approaching the 2024 NFL Draft, we’ll be scouting as many of the top prospects that the Pittsburgh Steelers could have their eye on anywhere from Rounds 1 through 7. We’ll breakdown the prospects themselves, strengths and weaknesses, projected draft capital and their fit with the Steelers.

While receiver isn’t exactly Pittsburgh’s top draft need entering 2024, the Steelers have a penchant for mid-round wideouts. Could Georgia’s Ladd McConkey be the next?

The basics on Ladd McConkey

  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Class: Redshirt Junior (Georgia)
  • Size: 6’0, 185 pounds
  • Age: 22 years old
  • Projected draft round: 3

Ladd McConkey scouting report

Georgia’s Ladd McConkey is one of the more interesting names in this year’s draft class. I mean that very literally, but also because he’s a difficult talent to project in terms of draft placement. I’ve considered him a mid-round wide receiver all year, but a strong Senior Bowl showing has drastically improved McConkey’s stock. I’ve now seen him mock drafted as early as the late first round.

One of McConkey’s greatest strengths is his route-running. He’s quick, decisive, and nuanced with a great awareness of where he is on the field and how to subtly manipulate defenders. He dominated Senior Bowl one-on-ones, as you’d expect, but plenty of great reps also show up on his game film. I especially liked how McConkey played against zone, with a good understanding of finding open spots in the defense.

However, McConkey’s best asset is his fantastic yards after catch ability. Georgia often used him on screens just to put the ball in his hands and let him create yardage. McConkey is an expert at following blocks and finding running lanes through the defense. He isn’t the greatest athlete in this class, but he’s still capable of turning on the burners when he has a chance at a big play.

While there was a lot to love regarding McConkey’s tape, I still do have some concerns regarding his athleticism and size. McConkey is a good all-around athlete who lacks any clear weaknesses, but he doesn’t have that “wow” speed, quickness, or acceleration that the other top receiving prospects in this class have. He’s a smart route-runner, but in terms of pure agility and long speed, he isn’t exactly changing directions on a dime or blazing by corners much on tape. He did have some such highlights in college, but I worry that the increased speed and physicality of NFL defenses will pose more of a problem.

Against Alabama in 2023, McConkey had some struggles against a talented Crimson Tide defense. Here you can see him run a solid route but get blanketed by Alabama’s Terrion Arnold. It’s not the best ball as McConkey has to slow down after the break on his route, but Arnold has him locked down regardless.

In that same game he also struggled with press coverage at times, which is worrying but to be expected given McConkey’s size. At 185 pounds, McConkey is definitely on the smaller side for an NFL wide receiver, and his lean frame prevents him from excelling against physical coverage and making contested catches downfield. It’s not a huge deal, as wide receivers like McConkey can’t be expected to excel in every single aspect of the game, but it does raise questions as to if he can handle the beating a slot receiver takes at the pro level.

Although McConkey played all over the formation at Georgia, he by far projects the best as a slot receiver in the NFL. Still, his ability to play multiple receiver roles only increases his draft value.

But to be fair to McConkey, he plays much bigger than his 185 pounds. Although he doesn’t make many highlight-reel catches, he has reliable hands and the toughness to hang onto the football for middle-of-the-field catches. There were a few drops on tape, but overall I came away impressed with his ability to withstand hits. He’s also a willing and effective blocker.

It’s also worth noting that Ladd McConkey was a three-star recruit who managed to carve out a role on one of college football’s best and most competitive rosters. McConkey has made big plays in some of college football’s biggest games over the past few seasons, meaning the challenge of the NFL is certainly within his wheelhouse.

However, while McConkey has the smarts, toughness, and route-running savvy to become an excellent slot receiver in the NFL, his athletic profile caps his upside. As a result, I see him as a good prospect but not quite the first and second-rounder that many others believe him to be — he just doesn’t have the WR1 potential that early round receivers should possess. But in the right offense, I wouldn’t be shocked to see McConkey excel as a reliable possession receiver for years to come.

Strengths

  • Physical, fearless playing style
  • Finds open spots in zone
  • Good route runner
  • Excels at yards after catch
  • Good awareness on sideline catches

Weaknesses

  • Slight frame
  • Struggles against press coverage
  • Not especially quick or fast

What others are saying about Ladd McConkey

Dalton Miller of Pro Football Network

Good feel for finding space vs. country zone... willing and able blocker... Generally more physical than the frame suggests... Not fluid at the top of intermediate routes... could round into a solid slot-heavy option at the next level with more development in the details of being a professional route runner.

Derrik Klassen of Bleacher Report

McConkey can be a good slot/Z type in the NFL. He can play both inside and out, he is a highly effective route-runner and his hands are reliable enough. With that said, McConkey’s lack of size and strength will likely limit him to being a complementary piece rather than a core part of his future offense... GRADE: 6.8 (Potential Role Player/Contributor — 4th Round)... PRO COMPARISON: Diontae Johnson

Tim Forness of Vikings Wire

McConkey is a really talented football player that was in an offense didn’t utilize him much in the passing game... Some may want him to play in the slot, but he spent just 29.6% of his snaps in the slot. He can be a versatile weapon for you in just about any offense.

Ladd McConkey’s fit with the Steelers

It isn’t being talked about a ton, but the Steelers have a clear need at wide receiver entering the 2024 season. If drafted in a reasonable range, McConkey would be a good fit in Pittsburgh and an undeniable upgrade over Allen Robinson in the slot in just about every category besides experience.

TL;DR: McConkey projects as a reliable slot receiver at the next level with a knack for creating separation and YAC. He’s a relatively safe pick who should have a good NFL career, but some size and athleticism restrictions lower his ceiling.

What are your thoughts on Ladd McConkey? And which draft prospects would you like to see profiled next? Let us know in the comments below!