We are finally rounding the turn when it comes to the 2022 NFL Draft, which kicks off tomorrow. Equally good news is that with the arrival of the draft comes the departure of draft speculation, particularly mock drafts, which have a tendency to become exponentially more exhausting the more redundant they become.
The vast majority of mock drafts over the past two months have insisted that the Pittsburgh Steelers will draft a quarterback, whether it’s Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis or Desmond Ridder or Matt Corral, and whether it’s at 20 or 17 or 11 or 10 or 7 or even 5.
It very well may be the case that the Steelers draft one of those names in one of those slots, but it’s become such a given that it’s almost refreshing to see a non-quarterback occasionally get mocked. ESPN held its own live mock draft yesterday, and with Brooke Pryor selecting for Pittsburgh, we did, at least, get another direction.
She selected one of the George linemen to beef up the trenches, going for Devonte Wyatt, a selection that certainly raised many eyebrows for multiple reasons. For starters, he is already older and the Steelers typically lean heavily toward drafting younger players in the first round. He also has significant character concerns, which Pittsburgh more than most teams shies away from, and more so the earlier in the draft it is. She does offer a caveat in her explanation in how she led herself to the pick:
With Kenny Pickett and Malik Willis selected, along with top-tier cornerback and safety options, the Steelers have to look at the best player available. The Steelers addressed most significant positions of need in free agency with one exception: defensive line. While the Steelers might prefer Wyatt’s Georgia teammate, nose tackle Jordan Davis, Wyatt is a more versatile defender. The Steelers struggled against the run last season, and Wyatt gives them an instant boost there — and adds youth to an aging position group. But, selecting Wyatt raises off-the-field concerns, including his arrest on family violence charges two years ago, which could drop him from draft boards and prompt the Steelers to trade back in hopes of acquiring Desmond Ridder and extra draft capital.
In the mock, the New Orleans Saints do draft Pickett just one spot ahead of the Steelers at 19. Willis is long off the board all the way at six to the Carolina Panthers. Ridder ultimately gets taken 32nd overall by the Detroit Lions.
While the Steelers are undoubtedly going to be interested in defensive linemen, and Wyatt is certainly a very talented player, it is hard to make the sale that the Steelers would actually draft him 20th overall. He was arrested and charged with ‘family violence’, and there are other domestic violence incidents in his history.
No doubt, a sizable number of teams have taken Wyatt off their draft board altogether, or at least for the first round, and if any team has, the Steelers are certainly among them. The five players taken after the Wyatt selection, for context, were linebacker Devin Lloyd, wide receiver Treylon Burks, wide receiver Christian Watson, guard Zion Johnson, and [skipping a running back selection] guard Kenyon Green.