In today’s NFL, it’s rare to find a true “project” on rosters due to the ever-increasing demand for a return on investment when it comes to prospects.
Whether you’re a first-round pick or an undrafted free agent, there’s no true developmental process anymore it seems, as guys need to get onto the field quickly and see if they can stick it in the league or not, giving teams answers quickly on the fast-moving train that is the NFL world.
However, there are still some project players out there ahead of the 2021 season, according to Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon, one of which is Pittsburgh Steelers’ sixth-round draft pick Quincy Roche, who could find himself playing an important depth role in his rookie season in the Steel City.
Gagnon, identifying an intriguing project player on all 32 team’s, tabbing Roche as the Steelers’ choice, which makes sense considering he still has a good bit of developing to do behind star pass rusher T.J. Watt and second-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, giving him a good shot at seeing the field right away in 2021 as he battles veteran Cassius Marsh for the third outside linebacker job.
“…the upside is there for Roche, who was graded as a fourth-round pick by the B/R NFL scouting department after putting up 30.5 sacks during his college career,” Gagnon writes. “At 6’3”, 245 pounds, the Miami product simply needs to add bulk, and he doesn’t have the speed to make up for that. What you see now is far from the final product, but Justis Mosqueda pointed out “he has the talent to develop into a starting outside linebacker.” He’s ferocious and intense and looks like an ideal longtime Steeler, but he won’t likely see much of the field next season unless a lot goes wrong.”
When the selection of Roche was made in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, many labeled it a steal for the Steelers, considering Roche was rated much higher in the process than a sixth-round pick. His size as a 4-3 defensive end likely dropped him down many boards, which played perfectly into Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme, allowing them to grab a great value at No. 216 overall.
Roche is a pretty advanced pass rusher, in terms of his hand usage and pass rushing plan, and plays the run well, based on his college tape.
Bulking up for a 3-4 role doesn’t seem to be the answer for Roche, who has very similar measurables to Highsmith, who stepped in for the injured Bud Dupree last in the 2020 season and fared well.
Though it’s hard to project a sixth-round draft pick holding down the No. 3 OLB role early in the 2021 season, there’s no doubt the upside and the ability are both there with Roche. He could become a key depth piece for the Steelers’ defense quickly.