The 2020 NFL Draft has passed and with six picks coming into the draft, the Steelers came out with six players. There were no shenanigans like last year and Kevin Colbert stayed put at all six picks. The Steelers did not go too far off the path that most people thought they would by drafting an offensive lineman, two more weapons for Ben Roethlisberger to work with, and some depth across the board on defense. Thus, here are SteelersNow’s grades for the Steelers’ 2020 NFL Draft haul.
Round 2: Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool
This pick was a bit of a surprise to me. The Steelers going wide receiver was not, but the fact that it was Claypool over Denzel Mims is something a bit unexpected. On tape, Claypool feels like more of a third-round talent than a middle of the second-round talent as a whole.
However, even if it was a slight reach based on true talent, Claypool’s fit within the Steelers offense is a ton of fun. As a guy that can work as a big slot mismatch and also work as a split-end, Claypool adds size on the outside that the Steelers did not have before. With sure hands and wicked physicality, Ben Roethlisberger is going to have a big target to stretch the middle of the field and make grabs on the boundary. With him being a big outside threat that will draw attention, JuJu Smith-Schuster will head into the slot and be in his best spot.
As a whole, Claypool gives the offense a ton of flexibility in the passing game. That is very encouraging, even if the true talent on tape is not a mid-second round level, the fit is just really good.
Round 3: Charlotte OLB Alex Highsmith
The Steelers needed a rotational pass rusher with their outside linebackers rushing the passers more than ever. Ola Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper have shown some good things up to this point, but they are certainly not sure things at all. In addition, with Bud Dupree entering his contract season on the franchise tag, they could use an eventual successor at outside linebacker.
Enter Alex Highsmith, who has impressive burst and bend. When watching Highsmith on film, it was clear he would thrive as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, and that is exactly what Pittsburgh gives him the opportunity to do. While he mostly has speed and bend right now, it is a great base to work with as a whole. The flashes of counters and pass rush moves are already creeping their way through as well. He is on his way to being a very solid starter in the NFL and continues to get better each year. The fit is great and offers an insurance policy in case Dupree walks after 2020.
Round 4: Maryland RB Anthony McFarland
Running back was a highly contentious position group coming into the draft. Certainly, an argument could be made that they did not need one, but the health of James Conner loomed over every discussion like a dark cloud. Including all of that, the Steelers had to add an element of speed to the backfield to complement the power that Conner, Benny Snell, and Jaylen Samuels bring to the table. Kerrith Whyte was good, but he is not as fleshed out as a player like McFarland is as a whole.
McFarland’s acceleration and burst are downright silly on tape. He is the home run hitter to complement the other running backs in the rotation. To complete a committee, it is nice to have a few different types of running backs as a whole, and McFarland diversifies this group. Now, with an all-around back in Conner, power back in Snell, and a home run hitter in McFarland, the committee looks strong. If they decide to keep Whyte, he is your slasher. They did pass up on K’Von Wallace for McFarland, but all things considered, this is not a bad pick.
Round 4: Louisiana Lafayette OG Kevin Dotson
This dude is a massive mauler that will kick opposing defensive lineman’s teeth in. He and teammate Robert Hunt, both of whom were drafted this year, would lay opposing defensive lineman out all day on tape. The Steelers have a road grader mentality upfront that is built on physicality and Dotson certainly carries on the tradition that has been built over the years along this offensive line.
Dotson is not a great athlete, but in the NFL, guards do not have to be fantastic athletes. It is a nice plus, but Ramon Foster was never a great athlete either and started for the Steelers at left guard for nearly a decade. Dotson feels like the same type of player. Technically solid, Dotson should have gone earlier than this. The Steelers got a steal and a potential starter in the fourth round.
Round 6: Maryland S Antoine Brooks
Double down on the Maryland men! The Steelers drafted two former Terrapins on day three and Brooks is a nice value pick in the sixth round. Not just because he probably could have gone far earlier than this, but because Brooks is going to compress a lot of roles that makes him valuable in the Steelers defense.
Getting it out of the way first, Brooks is a hybrid. He can play linebacker and box safety and it feels like that is what he will do in the NFL. A perfect subpackage defender, Brooks is going to be a nickel and dime linebacker that can be sent on blitzes and be trusted to fill runs. He can be an overhang defender or nickel slot defender that can be sent on blitzes and buzz over the middle of the field in zone coverage. As a tackler, Brooks is one of the best pure tacklers in the draft.
From day one, Brooks can step in and be a subpackage contributor and four-phase special teamer. For a sixth round pick, that is more than what you can ask for as a whole.
Round 7: Nebraska DT Carlos Davis
In the seventh round, the main thing teams look for is either special teams help or some upside. When looking at Davis, he has the upside box checked. With a 4.82 40 at the combine at 313 pounds, Davis has impressive athleticism for an interior defensive lineman, and it shows up on tape. The burst he has turns itself into power and he has a hot motor.
He has developmental upside and can work at the nose and out to the 3-technique of passing downs outside of the base 3-4 that the Steelers are employing less of as time continues to go on. Davis still has a poor pad level and very little pass rush plan at this point, so he is more of a project that has to be molded. For this year, expect Davis to a practice squad candidate that they hope can improve as seasons continue.