Why the Slide?: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

This series was created in response to questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For these articles, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

During the 2021 college football season, there were some projections of DeMarvin Leal being a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, with some even having him high in Round 1. Leal showed some interior pass-rush ability with the Aggies, but as the draft process evolved, it became clear that NFL teams did not view Leal as highly as the in-season projections, so he ended up being a third-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.

In October of 2021 for the Hot Press, WalterFootball.com surveyed multiple NFL teams, and none of them were grading Leal in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The majority had him graded on Day 2. NFL evaluators liked his instincts versus the run and interior rush ability, but they saw a lot of flaws in his tape. Sources felt Leal struggled to hold up against the run on the inside, was not powerful or sudden, and had a bad body for the next levels. Those issues led to second-day grades, which caused his slide well into the third round.

The Pittsburgh Steelers ended Leal’s fall in Round 3, and they are a mixed landing spot. On the plus side, Leal’s interior rush ability should help him see the field as an inside designated pass rusher. That will definitely come in handy against divisional quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson and Joe Burrow. In the AFC North, however, defending the run is a necessity for an interior defensive lineman. With division opponents featuring running threats like Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon, Kareem Hunt and J.K. Dobbins, along with running quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, Watson and Burrow, Leal’s run-defense issues could keep him stuck on the bench at times.

The Steelers needed some youth on their defensive line behind aging veterans Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu. If Leal develops his run defense and gets stronger, he has a great opportunity to eventually work himself into a starting role when some of that group ages out of the NFL.

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