Despite not having a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft due to the team making an in-season trade for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Pittsburgh Steelers did a good job hitting on the Day 2 selections. In the second round, the team selected Chase Claypool who had an impressive rookie season before falling off a bit, but the Steelers were able to get the No. 32 selection in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft for him. With their third-round pick, the team took EDGE Alex Highsmith, who led Pittsburgh with 14.5 sacks this season. In The Athletic’s 2020 NFL Redraft, both Highsmith and Claypool went in the first round, with Highsmith landing with the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 20 overall and the Green Bay Packers selecting Claypool at 26th overall.
Highsmith is a no-brainer first-round pick looking back at the 2020 draft, as his 22.5 career sacks lead the rest of the draft class by a pretty wide margin. Darrell Taylor of the Seattle Seahawks clocks in at No. 2 with 16 career sacks, while K’Lavon Chiasson, who the Jaguars actually selected 20th overall has had a tough start to his pro career with just three career sacks. Highsmith was a major steal with the 102nd overall selection, and it’s really no surprise to see him end up in the first round in this re-draft exercise.
Claypool in the first might be a little more baffling, but in a loaded wide receiver class featuring Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins and Brandon Aiyuk, among others, Claypool ranks seventh in receiving yards with 2,184, which is just below current Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who went No. 12 in the re-draft. Claypool also comes in with the sixth-most receiving touchdowns out of the wide receiver class with 12. Claypool was selected ahead of Michael Pittman Jr. in the re-draft, as Pittman Jr. went 28th to the Baltimore Ravens, and that was a bit of a surprise. But as far as his inclusion in the first round, it’s hard to argue that Claypool doesn’t belong given his current NFL production. Green Bay being the team selected Claypool also makes sense.
“Claypool would fit the mold of a Green Bay wide receiver: big-bodied and athletic. I’ve been underwhelmed by Claypool’s production in the NFL and keep hoping he’ll play more like the bully receiver his size suggests, but giving Aaron Rodgers another option opposite of Davante Adams (instead of an heir apparent) would be fun for a QB fresh off winning MVP,” Diante Lee wrote in explaining the pick.
The Packers reportedly had interest in Claypool at this year’s deadline, as they also offered the Steelers a second-round pick for the receiver. The Steelers rightly believed Chicago’s pick would be higher though, and accepted the offer from the Bears.
Despite not having a first-round pick, the Steelers did a good job getting value out of the picks they did have. In addition to Claypool and Highsmith, the team added another future starter in guard Kevin Dotson in the fourth round. But Claypool, who while no longer in Pittsburgh was valuable enough that the team ended up with the No. 32 overall pick for him, and Highsmith were clearly the gems of the class for the Steelers. Highsmith is due for an extension this offseason, and I would expect the Steelers to make every effort to keep their starting outside linebacker opposite T.J. Watt in Pittsburgh long-term.