While the Pittsburgh Steelers did not have a first-round pick at their disposal in last year’s draft, they still seem to have managed to hit it out of the park with their first selection, taking Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool with the 49th-overall pick in the second round.
During his rookie season, Claypool would catch 62 passes for the Steelers, which set a new franchise rookie record, gaining 873 yards. He scored nine receiving touchdowns, and 11 offensive touchdowns overall, both of which also tied franchise rookie records. He added a two-touchdown performance in their postseason defeat in the wildcard round.
There were 10 wide receivers drafted ahead of Claypool last year within the first 48 picks. Needless to say, if they were to do it all over again, knowing then what we know now, he would go much higher. And he did in a recent ESPN redraft exercise, selected 11th overall by the New York Jets as the third receiver taken, behind CeeDee Lamb and Justin Jefferson.
“Ideally, they’d re-draft an offensive tackle, but Andrew Thomas’ mediocre season forces them to go wide receiver, their No. 2 need”, Rich Cimini writes in choosing New York’s selection, with their actual first-round pick, tackle Mekhi Becton, going off the board one slot earlier. “There’s plenty to choose from, including Denzel Mims (the Jets’ actual second-round choice), but it’s hard to ignore Claypool and his 873 yards and nine TDs”.
With Claypool obviously not on the board by the time the Steelers pick in the middle of the second round, they had to go another direction in this redraft exercise, and for their selection, Brooke Pryor chose a name that is all too familiar: running back J.K. Dobbins.
“The Steelers’ run game was dreadful for the second year in a row”, she writes. “Though he was the lead back, as promised by Mike Tomlin, James Conner never returned to his 2018 form. Meanwhile, Dobbins had a solid rookie season in Baltimore and took over starting duties from Mark Ingram II”.
As a rookie, Dobbins recorded 134 carries for the Ravens, picking up an impressive 805 yards with nine touchdowns and averaging nine yards per carry. He also caught 18 passes for 120 yards. He added another 85 yards on 19 rushing attempts in the team’s two postseason games, with one rushing touchdown, and four receptions for 45 yards.
While Claypool is a fantastic talent, and JuJu Smith-Schuster is on his way out the door, it is fair to say that the running game is in a much sorrier state than the passing game. Dobbins wouldn’t have nearly the same success without Lamar Jackson’s deadly running threat and Baltimore’s offensive line, but he certainly has the talent to develop into the Steelers’ featured back.