With the 2017 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certain players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, have sent their stock rising, falling, or breaking even.
Player: Jerald Hawkins
Stock Value: Up
When the Steelers drafted Jerald Hawkins in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, they did so understanding that they probably did not need a starter. They had Marcus Gilbert at right tackle, and they figured that between Alejandro Villanueva and Ryan Harris, they could hold down the left side as well. They certainly weren’t going to turn the reins over to a mid-round rookie.
But they liked him, and they knew that he would have some upside to him as an underclassman. Even though they didn’t need a starter, or even a swing tackle, they knew that they would have a place for him, and he looked like he deserved a place after the first preseason game.
The only problem was that he suffered a shoulder injury in that game and wound up on injured reserve afterward, not even getting into another preseason game after that. So we had not gotten much update on the rookie all throughout the 2016 season.
But we had already seen him out on the field earlier in the offseason, so we know that he is healthy. And we also know that Harris is not going to be in his way. He has an opportunity to move up this year and demonstrate that he is a player that the Steelers can trust to play in games.
I wrote about the Steelers’ opinion of him earlier this offseason according to Bob Labriola, who said that they like him for his athletic ability and that they see him as capable of developing into a starting left tackle in the NFL.
It does just so happen that their starting left tackle doesn’t currently have a contract, and Villanueva said yesterday that he’s not exactly sure if that is going to get done this year. Could that possibly open the door for Hawkins?
I don’t want to go that far right now, but after spending his rookie season nursing a shoulder injury, I think it goes without saying that his stock is coming back up. At the very least, he could function as the swing tackle and as a tackle-eligible, a role that Chris Hubbard served a year ago.