With a wide variety of names being mocked to the Steelers, looking over the past drafts will give an idea of who will be available to them.
The NFL Draft is always a fun and crazy time in the offseason, as hopeful prospects earn their shot on pro rosters. Players rise, others fall, and rabid speculation leads to some of the most action-packed time not on an NFL field. For the Steelers, the draft represents a time to retool and rebuild the roster. For a team that builds through the draft, this is the most essential time in the offseason.
As more and more mock drafts come out, it becomes increasingly clear that no one knows much about who will go where, as comments become riddled with “he won’t fall that far” and “he’s a reach there”. However, some simple research can yield a lot of info about who falls to where. By taking a composite of the last three drafts, trends arise by position as to how many players can be expected to be selected.
After looking over the QB position earlier, the next dive takes us to the second most overrated need: RB. While there are some question marks at the position due to James Conner’s injury history, Benny Snell’s promising rookie year makes the position seem more like a luxury. The Steelers have hinted at the possibility of adding an RB though, thus it can’t be discounted from being taken at 49.
RB’s are a position that has seen a lot of devaluation over the past couple of years, as the position is no longer a franchise player, but one you ride hard for 4-5 years before dumping them on the scrap heap. Does investing your top choice in a player that likely won’t be on their team past their rookie make much sense? I guess that is up to you but based on previous drafts there should be some options to choose from if the Steelers go that route.
Funnily enough, there was only one RB drafted before pick 49, that being Josh Jacobs in the first round. Miles Sanders went off the board at 53rd overall, and outside of that, the position was targeted in the 3rd round. That said, and important to note, there was a run at the position in the third round, as five total players at the position were taken in the second. For those wanting to target the RB position in the third, be aware that this position usually is targeted in groups so the top options will likely be off the board before the Steelers third-round pick.
In 2018, six total players at the position were taken before pick 49, with three of them in the 1st and three of them in the 2nd. Saquon Barkley has turned into one of the most complete backs in the league while Rashaad Penny and Sony Michel have found niche roles on their team. As well, Nick Chubb has turned into one of the best RBs in the league while the other second-rounders (Ronald Jones and Kerryon Johnson) have seen some success at the pro level. Outside of the top two players though, none of these options have developed into an every-down player.
Finally, in 2017, four RBs were taken before the 49th pick, again splitting with two in the 1st and two in the 2nd. Leonard Fournette. Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Joe Mixon have all become some of the top players at their position. Again though, the position got clumped heavily in the 3rd and 4th rounds, as 11 total RBs were selected then.
Based on this spread, anywhere from one RB to six could be off the board before the Steelers pick, with an average of just under four being selected. Using the Draft Networks big board, the best-case scenario for the Steelers be J.K. Dobbins as the top RB available while the worst case would be Zach Moss as the top available prospect at 49. Looking at the average, Cam Akers would be the best bet in the 2nd round.
This class may not see an RB go in the first, but there should be some value in the 2nd round if the Steelers opt to target that position there. The problem lies that most, if not all of these top options will likely be selected before the Steelers pick again in the 3rd round. So, if the Steelers want a truly compete back, 49 is the spot. Akers is the guy that, to me, will likely be the top option, as his size and quickness will be the most attractive for the team. Just remember though, he is a four-year investment, as RB as too short of shelf life to last that much longer.
So, when adding an RB in the second round of your mocks, be aware of who is likely to be there. While I’m in no way advocating for or against any of these options in this post, be realistic with your expectations if you want to target an RB for the Steelers. Just remember though, RB’s go in groups, so the pickings may be slim in the 3rd round.