Steelers draft capsule– WR and TE
This is the fourth of seven Pittsburgh Steelers position-by-position analyses for the 2019 NFL Draft, which begins Thursday:
Currently on roster: JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Donte Moncrief, Eli Rogers, Ryan Switzer, Ka’Raun White, Diontae Spencer, Tevin Jones, Trey Griffey
Last five drafts: Smith-Schuster was an excellent pick in the second round of the 2017 draft. The jury is still out on Washington, a second-round selection last year. Sammie Coates, a third-rounder in 2015, never lived up to his draft status and is currently with the Kansas City Chiefs. The story of Martavis Bryant, a fourth-rounder in 2014, is well documented. He’s currently serving an indefinite suspension, but the Steelers were able to get a third-round pick for him, which ended up being quarterback Mason Rudolph. DeMarcus Ayers was a seventh-rounder in 2016 who most recently played in the now defunct Alliance of American Football.
Top wide receivers available: D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi; Marquise Brown, Oklahoma; A.J. Brown, Mississippi; Deebo Samuel, South Carolina; Parris Campbell, Ohio State
The Steelers might select: Metcalf, Marquise Brown, A.J. Brown, Samuel, Campbell, Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry, Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler, Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin, Massachusetts’ Andy Isabella, West Virginia’s Gary Jennings, Georgia’s Riley Ridley
Analysis: The Steelers have a glaring need at wide receiver after trading disgruntled Antonio Brown, arguably the best receiver in the NFL. But Smith-Schuster was the team’s MVP last season in his second year, Washington could be ready to make more of an impact, and Moncrief was signed to give the Steelers a solid veteran presence. Rogers and Switzer are capable backups. So, although the Steelers will take at least one receiver in this year’s draft, they don’t have to reach for one in the first round. If any of the top five receivers fall to the Steelers at pick No. 52 in the second round, they could pull the trigger there. However, getting someone like Harry, Boykin or Isabella with one of their two third-round picks (No. 69 and 83) might be more ideal and in line with how the Steelers select receivers. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers select a second receiver in the later rounds, too.
Currently on roster: Vance McDonald, Xavier Grimble, Bucky Hodges, Christian Scotland-Williamson, Kevin Rader
Last five drafts: Jesse James was a decent pick for the Steelers in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, but he left for Detroit during free agency this year. Rob Blanchflower (seventh round, 2014) had a unique name but never made it in the NFL.
Top tight ends available: Noah Fant, Iowa; T.J. Hockenson, Iowa; Irv Smith Jr., Alabama; Dawson Knox, Mississippi
The Steelers might select: Knox, San Jose State’s Josh Oliver, LSU’s Foster Moreau, Washington’s Drew Sample, Notre Dame’s Alize Mack
Analysis: McDonald enjoyed a productive and mostly healthy 2018 season, but without James, Grimble will have to step into a bigger role. That is, unless the Steelers select a coveted tight end in the draft, which they could certainly do. The guess here is they will bypass the top ones — Fant and Hockenson — if they’re even available with their top pick at No. 20. Instead, the Steelers might use one of their four middle-round selections on a guy like Knox or Oliver, who could step in as James’ replacement.
Coming Monday: Defensive line
— Buck Frank