The Steelers selected Charlotte edge defender Alex Highsmith at pick 102 in the 2020 NFL Draft. Here’s why ESPN’s Mel Kiper claims it was his favorite pick of the third round.
If you followed along throughout the draft process, then you knew that finding an edge defender was something that was high on Pittsburgh’s to-do list. General manager Kevin Colbert made mention of the position this offseason. However, the player the Steelers went with at the position was a bit of a surprise.
Alex Highsmith doesn’t seem like your typical Steelers pick at first glance. He didn’t play for a big school, he doesn’t possess other-worldly athleticism, and his walk-on status would appear to indicate that he was selected too high.
However, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. doesn’t think that’s the case. In fact, he recently listed his favorite pick from each round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and he chose Highsmith as his favorite pick in round three. Here are his selections for each round:
I studied Highsmith prior to the 2020 NFL Draft, but I didn’t get a chance to dive deep into his film until after he was selected by the Steelers. I get what Kiper sees.
When you get past the small-school production and average athletic testing, you see a player that has a lot to offer. As a former walk-on, Highsmith has worked his butt off to get climb the latter all the way to the NFL. His high energy and extreme devotion to his craft shows up in every game you put on. Highsmith isn’t a defender who’s going to take plays off, and he has a nose for the quarterback.
But there’s a lot more to like than just his dedicated personality. As a pass rusher, Highsmith shows terrific bend and dip to flatten the edge and he already has an arsenal of moves to help him take the shortest path to the quarterback.
At 6’3” and 248 pounds, Highsmith is on the smaller size for an edge defender and he doesn’t fit the size thresholds many teams look for at the position. However, Highsmith has pretty good length (33 1/8” arms) and with some NFL strength training, he could end up winning rushes with power in addition to speed.
Highsmith is far from guaranteed to be a successful player in the NFL, but he’s already worked his way from a small-school college walk on to a third-round pick in the NFL Draft. It’s important not to get our expectations too high, but maybe Alex Highsmith has what it takes to be a starter in the NFL.