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2020 Offseason Questions: Will COVID-19-Caused Limitation Result In Higher ‘Bust’ Rate For 2020 Draft?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Will we see a draft with an unusually high ‘bust’ rate because of the unusual circumstances of the pre-draft process?

Believe it or not, but being successful in the NFL isn’t just about being talented. And building a successful NFL roster isn’t just about collecting a group of talented players. There are many nuances that go into it. Some players may flourish in one system or one culture or corrode in another.

Some of these other fine details that you can’t necessarily learn purely from college tape are why the pre-draft process remains an important part of the puzzle. Even Kevin Colbert would be remiss not to acknowledge this; after all, he probably attends more Pro Days than just about any other general manager in a typical year, no matter how many times he wants to bring up the 1974 class.

But this isn’t a typical year, and it’s certainly not 1974. While the tape retains its precedence and will obviously hold even greater value this year, there is no getting around the fact that all 32 teams are working with a short-handed pool of resources for the 2020 NFL Draft, with virtually no Pro Days, no in-person pre-draft visits, and basically no direct contact with any players beyond the NFL Scouting Combine. One does wonder in what ways this may shape the fates of those who are drafted based on where they go due to the limitations of available data.

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