While the Steelers adding Dax Raymond may not seem like a huge move, his upside may make him a valuable addition down the road
Amid this desert of Steelers news, an oasis finally appeared when the Steelers made a transaction on Tuesday, as they waived TE Christian Scotland-Williamson (or, Scotty for short) in favor of 2019 UDFA TE Dax Raymond. While this move may seem trivial on paper, it looks like it could pay serious dividends for the Steelers down the road.
For starters, it should be noted that losing Scotty isn’t much of a loss. While most fans drooled over his size (6’9) and blend of athleticism, he was always a longshot to make the roster. While he showed improvements in his second year, he was still learning the game (due to him being apart of the pathways players from Europe). While his NFL dream is probably over, the reality is it was likely it would have ended in a few months at the roster cutdown.
Dax Raymond has the look of a complete TE
Moving on to the current Steeler, Raymond has some potential as a complete TE at the NFL level. Considering he is a castoff UDFA, this may seem like a stretch. While the lack of Steelers news may have me romanticizing this addition, his college tape was a lot of fun to watch.
Raymond attended Utah St. before entering the draft, and while his production was never elite, he flashed all-around ability on tape. He ran clean routes, showed off some decent speed, and even had some nastiness as a blocker. His combine numbers were slightly disappointing, running a 4.73 40, but the 7.15 three-cone backs up some of the agility he showed on tape.
In what was a loaded TE class, Raymond surprisingly fell out of the draft (most “experts” had him in the 3-5 round range). The Bears scooped him up, but an injury led to him being released. Once he recovered though, he found his way onto the Bears practice squad. While an option like Raymond may seem like just a camp body, he could legitimately surprise the Steelers.
First and foremost, Raymond is receiving threat at TE. While his stats were never elite, he showcased great game speed and a knack for getting the first down. Many considered him one of the top receiving threats at TE not named Noah Fant. He can run routes like a receiver and given his size, proves to be a real mismatch on offense.
His blocking was a little more inconsistent, but he showcases a willingness and ferocity as a blocker. For the Steelers, that should be more than enough to build around and at least try to develop. It’s hard to understand just why he went undrafted, but it makes sense he reportedly had a lot of interest after he was released.
Raymond obviously won’t be competing as a starter for the Steelers this year, but he has a real chance to compete with Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader for the third TE spot and a practice squad spot. Gentry served as the third TE last year, but middling athleticism and struggles as a run blocker may leave his roster spot in question. Rader is considered a blocking TE, but his tape from camp last year shows a very limited upside in that regard.
Thus, the battle for the last TE spot is wide open. More than likely, the battle will come down to Gentry or Raymond, and likely the better blocker of the two will win out. This could lead to Raymond becoming a camp darling and earning his spot on the roster. Even if Raymond ends up on the practice squad, he has long term potential as a depth player.
Looking at his tape and the makeup of the Steelers roster, if Raymond can develop into an average blocker, he could serve as a quality number two for the Steelers. Remember, neither Eric Ebron nor Vance McDonald are locks to make the roster next year, meaning the Steelers TE room could be in store for a lot of turnovers. If Raymond can lock down a roster spot this year, he could jump into the top backup role and serve as a valuable contributor as early as next year.
While Raymond has a long way to go before being counted on as a consistent contributor, his upside is immense. While the lack of a preseason this year may be difficult for him, his road to the roster is pretty open. Don’t be surprised to hear Raymond’s name pop up early on the names impressing during camp.