2023 NFL Draft

2023 Steelers Draft Interest And Athletic Scores: Defensive Linemen

For a few years now, I have kept a running spreadsheet during the draft process. The goal for me is to learn about the players, gathering information that I have tweaked along the way as I’m sure I will continue to do in the future. With great questions and conversations with some your responses to previous articles, people have seemed interested in this information I’ve referenced, so today I will share visualizations of the data points I create each year, simply called interest and athletic scores with explanations to follow.

As Dave Bryan and Alex Kozora discuss regularly, the Steelers have a type of player they look for, and what the scores attempt to achieve is seeing who checks many of those boxes, or vice versa. You will notice much of the inspiration for these scores comes from Dave and Alex’s studies of draft trends over the years for Pittsburgh, with their in-depth research second to none. It one of the main reasons I pursued a position here and count my blessings to work with the great football minds at Steelers Depot.

While there is no perfect way to predict what selections the Steelers will make in the draft at the end of the month, I feel great about what the data points measure and of course would love to hear feedback as I’m always looking to improve the points system. Also, there is only so much time in the day and additional things I’d like to measure, so I focus on the crucial and/or practical choices in my opinion.

Now for more explanation to how the scores come together. The biggest point I want to make is this is not a big board or round-projection view; rather trying to pinpoint names the Steelers may select regardless of when they are drafted. After I get a healthy pool of names that I hear about or research, I begin the scoring.

Interest Score: Here I configured a points system for the following important questions. How did the players perform in college? Does their height and weight match up to the body type of any player Pittsburgh has drafted at the position the last ten years? What is their experience/age? Do they play a position of need? What was their level of competition? Who attended their pro day? Did they have meeting(s) with the Steelers pre-draft? Did they appear in the Senior, Shrine, or NFLPA bowls?

This matches up nicely to the Athletic Score: simply 11 combine metrics excluding wingspan, and whether or not they were within a threshold in each metric of any player drafted at their position by the Steelers since 2013.

Clear as mud? Here are the defensive lineman that were combine invites:

NOTE: If you don’t see a name please ask, I have many more non-combine players compiled but excluded them for a cleaner chart.

Topping this year’s list is Clemson’s Bryan Bresee (10.8 interest score) with a pre-draft visit and a Combine meeting, highly attended pro day, a 10 athletic score (DNP on the broad jump), with injury/experience a lower mark. He seems to be a likely first round or possibly second round candidate depending how the board falls. Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton (10.5) garnered interest from Pittsburgh at the Senior Bowl and had a pre-draft meeting, but less pro day attendance, He impressively pairs this with a perfect 11 athletic score along with acing Alex Kozora’s “What The Steelers Look For” study. He seems to be a day-two candidate who would look great in the black and gold.

Two prospects land in the nine tier of interest scores. Michigan’s Mazi Smith ranks third (9.5) and Pittsburgh has certainly done its homework on him with strong pro day attendance including a meeting, likely seeking clarity to possible character concerns with a recent gun charge. It will be interesting to see how what the Steelers do if he is available to them in the right draft spot. He has a seven athletic score, checking all the boxes in the drills he participated in and appears to be a day-two option. Georgia’s Jalen Carter (nine interest score) had strong pro day attendance and a four athletic score due to only measuring. He has largely been viewed as one of the top players in the draft, but curiously is only meeting with teams with top-10 picks. He has character concerns and should be drafted elsewhere in my opinion.

Six prospects land in the eight tier, starting with Alabama’s Byron Young (8.8 interest score). He met with the Steelers at the Combine, had strong pro day attendance though age is a low mark. That pairs with an eight athletic score (three DNP’s). He seems to be a late day-two/early day-three option. Penn State’s PJ Mustipher (8.5 interest score) had strong pro day attendance with lack of pre-draft meetings his lowest mark, along with an eight athletic score (lower hand, 40-time, and bench press numbers than Pittsburgh has drafted the last decade). He could be available mid- to late-day three. Florida’s Gervon Dexter (8.2) had a Combine meeting, but a pre-draft visit did not occur and less pro day attendance than other prospects. He had a 10 athletic score (barely missing in hand size) but did check all of Kozora’s boxes and is likely to go late day-two/early-day three range. Mississippi State’s Cameron Young (8.2 interest score) met with the Steelers at the Combine, but pro day attendance a low mark, along with a 10 athletic score (DNP on the bench). He appears to be a late-day three option. South Carolina’s Zacch Pickens (8.1 interest score) surprisingly lacked pre-draft interest and pro day attendance comparatively. He is a seemingly great fit given his perfect 11 athletic score as the third and final defensive lineman to pass Kozora’s thresholds at the position. He is a late day-two/early day-three candidate. Arizona State’s Nesta Jade Silvera (8.1 interest score) also met with Pittsburgh at the Combine, with age and less pro day attendance his lower marks, along with a nine athletic score (two DNP’s). He appears to be a late-round/undrafted candidate.

In the seven range there are five players: Keondre Coburn of Texas (7.8), Baylor’s Siaki Ika (7.8), Alabama’s DJ Dale (7.4), Oklahoma State’s Tyler Lacy (7.3), and Moro Ojomo of Texas (7.2). Lacy and Ojomo, with a perfect 11 athletic scores, are nice options who fit the defensive end mold on day three if Pittsburgh hasn’t addressed the position yet. Coburn and Ika, who had pre-draft ties with the Steelers, are interior pluggers who will likely go day two/early day three. There are two prospects with perfect athletic scores in the six tier of interest scores: Oklahoma’s Jalen Redmond and LSU’s Jaquelin Roy. Both also seem to be day-three options.

There are many other intriguing names at the position with strong results, and especially wanted to point out some. Combine snub Karl Brooks of Bowling Green (nine interest score) had a pre-draft meeting and checks many other boxes, including defensive line coach Karl Dunbar attending his pro day. Level of competition is a low mark along with a 10 athletic score (barely missing in hand size). He seems to be a day-two candidate, one I’m hopeful will wear the black and gold. Western Kentucky’s Brodric Martin (7.2 interest score) was another prospect that Dunbar visited on the pro day trail. His lower marks include lack of pro day meetings and level of competition, along with an eight athletic score (low 9 1/8” hands, 5.36 40-time, and 8.16 three-cone). He seemingly will be available on day three. Several non-Combine players had perfect athletic scores: Michigan State’s Jacob Slade, Notre Dame’s Jayson Ademilola, and Chattanooga’s Devonnsha Maxwell. All appear to be late-round/undrafted possibilities. Hopefully Pittsburgh strengthens the position room within its first four picks, but also has options throughout the draft depending on how the board falls.

Do you think Pittsburgh will draft one of the players listed above? Who are some of your favorites? Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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