First things first- I need to start keeping track of the lingo that the draft gurus on TV use. Last year it was “arm talent” instead of arm strength, ball placement, touch, etc. This year it was a toss-up between “juice” as in “that guy has the juice to run all over the field” and “dawg” as in “that guys has a dawg mentality” or “that player is a dawg.” I’m going to go ahead and plant the seed now; for 2021 instead of “vertical” I am going to use “hippity hops.” Please help me make this happen. “Prospect A has the hippity hops to go up and get the ball.” Money.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the picks.
2.17 Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame
In my 2020 Mock Draft I had the Steelers taking Claypool- in round 3. At the time I wrote that, it was still feasible that he might be available. As the draft drew nearer it was obvious that would not be the case. If you look at Claypool’s measurables; height, weight, speed, hand measurements, hippity hops (tee hee) he is comparable to ol’ Megatron himself, Calvin Johnson. Now I’m not saying that he is the same prospect coming out of college that Megatron was- but I am definitely hoping he is more Megatron, less Limas Sweed. Maybe he can be Optimus Prime, or Trypticon, or…. Bumblebee! The color scheme totally works. Claypool gives the Steelers a red zone target, and he is a mismatch nightmare. Worst case we have an ultra-athletic, pass catching tight end.
3.38 Alex Highsmith, OLB, Charlotte
My initial reaction to this was not positive. I felt that IOL and DT were more pressing needs, despite some of the free-agent signings. The Steelers have also publicly stated that they are trying to sign Bud Dupree to a long-term contract. John Simpson, Solomon Kindley, and Leki Fotu were all selected soon after Highsmith was. After watching his tape and some of his interviews, I felt much better about him as a prospect. One major disadvantage of being a fan on the outside looking in is the interviews- we don't get a chance to know the player and see his character firsthand. On tape he seems to have a good motor and give great effort. In interviews, Highsmith seems very humble, intelligent, and coachable. He also had to work hard to earn his position, so he has the work ethic teams are wanting. He’s definitely the kind of guy you want to root for and I hope he has a great career.
4.18 Anthony McFarland Jr., RB, Maryland
You may be like me, you see this selection and think “ugh. I can’t stand Booger McFarland.” Don’t worry- he is NOT related! All my fears of having Lil Booger on the squad are gone, and I can move forward in a positive light. McFarland was one of the players I had listed as “other possibilities”- for the Steelers' third round pick- so there is decent value here. There were rumors that he was a prima donna, a cancer in the locker room, and had a horrible attitude. Of course, this was from an “anonymous scout”. I dug into this a little and couldn’t find anything that supported this statement. Additionally, Tomlin’s son was a teammate of his, QB coach Matt Canada was previously his coach at Maryland, and there were players that were from Maryland already on the roster that all vouch for his character. One element that was missing from Pittsburgh’s backfield has been a shifty, scatback type. He runs like an Alvin Kamara or Dalvin Cook and gets to top speed in a hurry. I didn’t see a whole lot of tape on his catching ability, but it seems like he has pretty good hands. He should bring a different dimension to the offense. This also shows that the organization is committed to James Conner- at least in the short term- with whom I am a fan of.
4.29 Kevin Dotson, G, Louisiana
Did you know that Kevin Dotson and family were Steelers fans well before the draft? It’s true, it’s true. -Kurt Angle. Finally, some IOL depth. Dotson is a big, strong man at 6’4, 320lbs. PFF had Dotson as the #1 run blocking interior lineman, and he was also a team captain. Despite all of that and being dominant at Louisiana while starting 52 consecutive games, he didn’t get a combine invite. So what does he do? Puts together a workout/highlights tape including taking snaps at center (a position he never played) and sends it out to NFL teams. Gotta love the ambition and work ethic. He wore number 75 in college, and after getting drafted by the Steelers knew he couldn’t wear that number. So he posted a poll on social media to help him decide what number to wear. (#69 won in a landslide- go figure.) Good fit in Pittsburgh? Me thinks so. He’s looking to become a fan favorite in the mold of JuJu Smith-Schuster. He gives us depth at the position with potential to start somewhere down the road.
6.19 Antoine Brooks Jr., S, Maryland
If you aren’t familiar with Antoine Brooks, Jr., I implore you to watch his highlight videos on YouTube. The first thing you’ll notice is that he is built like a brick sh—house. The next thing you will see is violent little open field tackles (that’s my Evil Bob Ross impression). You’ll probably think to yourself “He looks like a linebacker.” It just so happens he did play linebacker when he first arrived at Maryland. What you probably won’t think to yourself is “Man, he looks like a quarterback.” It also just so happens that he did previously play QB- in high school. So that does give him some insight as to what opposing offenses might be doing, although high school schemes are quite a bit different than the pros. Apparently he broke his wrist and leg in a game in his senior year and was close to quitting football completely. Interest from college recruiters died down after the injuries, but on the last day of signing, Maryland offered him a scholarship and the rest is history. Brooks is stout against the run and will initially be an excellent special teams player with the possibility of developing into something greater. He was also voted MVP for Maryland last season, and his coach said he was the heart and soul of the defense. That speaks to his character and football IQ, which thankfully seems to be a trend this draft. Side note- my grandmother loved the term brick sh—house, rest her soul. Thanks grandma!
7.18 Carlos Davis, DT, Nebraska
Who doesn’t love a defensive tackle built like a bulldog? At 6’2, 320lbs Davis is a hefty dude. He was a two-sport athlete in college, throwing discus for the track and field team. He has a twin brother Khalil that was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 6th round. He's a little bit raw, but this is the 7th round so it's the right time to take a flyer on a guy. We definitely needed some defensive line depth with the free agent departure of Hargrave so he will have a shot of making the final roster.
Overall, I liked what Kevin Colbert and Co. did in this years draft. I figured that this would not be the sexiest draft ever being that resources would probably be dedicated to the trenches. Big Ben got the big target he's been asking for in Chase Claypool- and I love his potential. I'm a little leery about the fact that JK Dobbins was there and ended up with division rival Baltimore Ravens- that could come back to bite us. However, if Anthony McFarland does anything close to what Kamara and Cook are bringing to their respective franchises it will ease the blow quite a bit. We've all heard the phrase "games are won and lost in the trenches" so there is new blood on both sides of the ball there, and who knows- we just might find another diamond in the rough. I love the draft and watch it every year- and I'm excited to see how this year's class pans out. Thanks for reading, hope you all are staying safe. PS- screw you Coronavirus. You suck.