2020 Draft: What DL will be available for the Steelers?
Before I dig into this class, it should be known that these player rankings are slightly subjective for this group. The draft isn’t broken down into Steelers position, it is broader NFL positions. For example, what would Aaron Donald be in the Steelers scheme? Based on his size, he would likely be an untraditional NT like Hargrave was. Just have that be aware when these players are listed.
Last year, four DE’s were selected before pick 49, and all of them went in the first round of the draft. Quinnen Williams, Christian Wilkins, Jeffery Simmons, and Jerry Tillery all found homes in the first round, and they all found some success. Simmons was coming off an injury but played extremely well down the road. The rest had some issues but are young enough to become good players later on.
2018 only saw two DE’s go before pick 49, with those two being Taven Bryan and Breeland Sparks. Both players have been relative disappointments so far, and neither have become full-time starters. Sparks has played some LB for the Chiefs, but with his size, he would be a more logical fit at DE for the Steelers.
2017 saw three DE’s (although they don’t fit the mold for a Steelers DE) before pick 49. Solomon Thomas, Jonathan Allen, and Malik McDowell all went early, and have disappointed outside of Allen. Thomas has underperformed as a top pick and has been subjected to trade rumors. McDowell has been a major bust who injured himself off the field and had to retire early.
Taking the past three years into consideration, an average of 3 DEs have been selected before pick 49 in the draft. Using the Draft Networks prospect ranker, this would leave Raekwon Davis as the top DE when the Steelers pick, with the best-case scenario being Marlon Davidson and the worst-case being Jordan Elliot.
Again, it’s hard to justify DE as a first pick, but a prospect like Davis is perfect for the Steelers defense. He has great size and upside and would be a long-term option at DE. Again, he wouldn’t see the field for 2-3 years at least, but he is built in the mold of a Steelers DE.