With the 2020 season behind us, NFL.com has released their rookie class grades for the AFC North.
While they are bullish on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookies, they do not see their class as favorably as some of their division rivals.
Shook first cites wide receiver Chase Claypool’s outstanding rookie campaign as a reason for praise. The Notre Dame product caught 62 passes for 873 yards and nine touchdowns, while also rushing for another pair of scores. Claypool was also likely the overall steal of the 2020 NFL Draft, as he was the eleventh wide receiver taken.
Outside linebacker Alex Highsmith was also productive for Pittsburgh, starting the final six games after Bud Dupree’s season-ending knee injury. Highsmith recorded 48 tackles, five tackles-for-loss, two sacks and an interception in 2020.
Offensive guard Kevin Dotson also proved a key contributor for the Steelers last season. The fourth round selection saw action in 13 games, and showed prowess both as a run blocker and in pass protection. He was named to Pro Football Focus’ All-Rookie team last month.
The Steelers seemed to have lost marks when it comes to their remaining three selections in last April’s draft, as none made a significant contribution last season.
Running back Anthony McFarland saw just 33 carries last season. Safety Antoine Brooks Jr. played a limited role on special teams. Defensive tackle Carlos Davis appeared in seven games, making six tackles in total 54 total defensive snaps on the season.
The Baltimore Ravens also received a B- grade for their rookie class’ 2020 performance. The Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns both received A- grades, which proved some of the highest in the AFC. Cincinnati’s strong showings from No. 1-overall pick Joe Burrow and wide receiver Tee Higgins earned them their impressive grade.
Cleveland’s top selection offensive tackle Jedrick Wills looks like he will be a stud for years to come, helping keep quarterback Baker Mayfield upright and power one of the league’s top rushing attacks. The emergence of sixth-round wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones also played a factor in the Brown’s superb grade.