With an increasing number of college football players choosing to opt-out of the 2020 season, questions have arisen regarding how their decision to sit will affect their draft stock.
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is providing some clarity and honestly to those questions.
Speaking to The Ringer, Colbert said he would prioritize players that played in 2020 during the draft process than those who do not. While he respects the decisions of those players putting their health and safety first, Colbert would favor players that have played most recently.
“The one thing, the conferences that chose not to play, and the players that opted out, we understand all that. Obviously, they are doing it for safety and health, first and foremost, and we respect that. However, the players that get the opportunity to play and choose to play, we feel more comfortable in their evaluations,” Colbert said. “Because I just don’t know, sitting out a year, what those players are going to look like having missed the season. There’s just not a real natural source of information saying, ‘Well, when this player sits out, he’ll be this’ because we just don’t know. We respect the fact that they aren’t playing, but we also have to make the best decisions and I think the best decisions we’ll be able to make are the ones where we can see them play in 2020.
“If there are two players that are close or equal, we’ll take the one that has played most recently. We’re hopeful that the other conferences get up and running. If they do, we’ll add that to the evaluations. If they don’t—again, all we have is 2019 and we’ll make the best decisions we can.”
While somewhat cutthroat, Colbert’s position is understandable. Front office jobs are earned and lost in the NFL based on getting draft picks right. Selecting a player that you just watched an entire season of on film is assuredly a safer bet than taking one that you have not seen play in over a year.
Recent opt-outs like Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell and LSU wideout Ja’Marr Chase will be fine, as they are the top prospects at their position. The true controversy will be with players farther down draft boards that opted out, as their NFL pedigrees are far from set in stone.
Unfortunately, we will have to wait until April 2021 to see if Colbert’s opinion plays out.
CBS Sports Mock Draft has Steelers Taking DE Carlos Basham Jr.
CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson has released his latest 2021 NFL mock draft, and has the Pittsburgh Steelers selecting a pass rusher in the first round.
With the No. 24-overall pick, Wilson is projecting the Steelers to draft Wake Forest pass rusher Carlos Basham Jr.
“Basham is a physical freak who reinforced the notion during Senior Bowl week,” Wilson writes. “Consistency will be the key to his success, but he has all the physical tools to dominate.”
Standing at 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, “physical freak” is certainly an apt description of Basham. Basham recorded 19.5 sacks, 35.5 tackles-for-loss and seven forced fumbles over his career with the Demon Deacons.
He especially shined in 2019, when Basham tallied ten sacks, 18 tackles-for-loss and three forced fumbles. He earned First-Team All-ACC honors for his performance. Steelers Now caught up with Basham at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
While Basham was a productive edge rusher at Wake Forest, many draft analysts project him as a 4-3 defensive end. The Steelers run a 3-4, where Basham would figure to slot behind T.J. Watt and would seem to duplicate the role of 2020 third-round draft pick Alex Highsmith.
The 2021 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday, April 29 in Cleveland.
Report: Steelers Meeting with Auburn WR Anthony Schwartz
The Pittsburgh Steelers are reportedly meeting virtually with Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, according to The Draft Network’s Justin Melo.
Pittsburgh is one of eight teams, including the Patriots, Seahawks, Jets, Chargers, Colts and Titans, to have reportedly met or are set to meet with Schwartz.
#Auburn WR Anthony Schwartz has the deep speed (former track star) to take the top off the defense. A versatile WR that can play both inside/outside.— Justin M (@JustinM_NFL) February 28, 2021
He has met/will meet virtually with the #Patriots, #Seahawks, #Steelers, #Jets, #Chargers, #Colts, #Saints and #Titans.
Schwartz was a dynamic playmaker over his three seasons with the Tigers. Not only did he have success as a big-play receiver, but Auburn utilized him in the run game quite often.
Schwartz caught 117 career passes for 1,433 yards and six touchdowns at Auburn, while also rushing for 323 yards and seven more scores.
A bonafide deep threat, Schwartz is expected to be one of the fastest burners in this year’s class of receivers. He also ran track at Auburn, and owns a career-best 10.07 in the 100 meters.
The 2021 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday, April 29 in Cleveland.
NFL.com’s Charley Casserly Mocks Justin Fields to Steelers at No. 24
A name we haven’t heard until today is Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
Despite Fields being regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft. NFL.com’s Charlie Casserly recently mocked him sliding all the way to the Steelers at No. 24.
“Even though the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger are planning to continue their partnership, I don’t see the veteran playing much longer. In a stunning turn of events, Fields slides all the way to No. 24 (obviously, it won’t be a surprise if he goes much earlier than this) and Pittsburgh pounces at the chance to land a talented successor for Big Ben. Sitting behind a future Hall of Famer for a year is a prime spot for the Ohio State prospect.”
Many mock drafts have Fields going in the top five. But there has been some speculation over whether or not he’ll be the second, third or fourth quarterback off the board after presumptive No. 1 Trevor Lawrence.
While it seems like Ben Roethlisberger will return to the Steelers in 2021, having a quarterback with the potential of Fields waiting in the wings would be a minor miracle for the salary cap strapped Steelers.
As a junior, Fields led the Ohio State Buckeyes to the National Championship game and racked up 2,100 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns, six interceptions, 383 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in a COVID-19 shortened college season. He went 20-2 over two seasons at Ohio State after transferring from Georgia following his freshman year.