The 2023 NFL Draft is just two weeks away, meaning all of the anticipation and rumors of the last several months are about to come to an end. By the end of the weekend, hundreds of college prospects will know where they are going to continue their football careers at the professional level, either being drafted or signing with a team as an undrafted free agent.
However, the draft doesn’t only affect college players coming into the league, it also affects current NFL players. We have often seen players get traded right before or during the draft for draft pick compensation or a package including picks and players. The Tennessee Titans traded A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles during the draft last year, sending the star wideout to Philly for the 18th and 101st overall picks in the 2022 NFL draft. The Arizona Cardinals pulled off a similar trade in the same draft, sending the 23rd pick in the first round to Baltimore in exchange for Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and a third-round pick.
We should expect several veteran players to be changing teams during the draft, and one of those names could very well be Pittsburgh Steelers OG Kevin Dotson. A fourth-round pick back in 2020, Dotson is entering the last year of his rookie deal. While he has flashed at times for the Steelers, he also has been wildly inconsistent. His up-and-down play while also becoming a penalty machine has hurt Pittsburgh’s offense when creating and establishing scoring drives.
The Steelers have acknowledged Dotson’s erratic play and gone about revamping the interior of the OL this offseason, signing OGs Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig. Both figure to be upgrades over Dotson at guard. Sure, Herbig could become the interior swing guy at guard and center but given the contract he signed and his play to date, he would likely have competed with Dotson in training camp for the starting job and had a good shot to win it. With Seumalo looking like a lock for one of the starting jobs and Herbig having more versatility and being a more consistent player, Dotson likely finds himself on the outside looking in heading into a contract year.
While Pittsburgh could elect to keep Dotson through training camp in case of injury and for depth, his value to other teams is likely the highest it’s going to get at this very moment. He finished the year on a high note and has played in 39 games the last three seasons with 30 starts. He has qualified for the Performance-Based Pay Bonus thanks to his play time, but remains on a relatively cheap, affordable contract for a starting-caliber guard. Meanwhile, the guard class isn’t believed to be that good in this year’s draft, having a couple of solid options in the early rounds but lacking overall depth and upside.
Seeing how active GM Omar Khan has been during free agency and the emphasis that Pittsburgh has put on overhauling its OL this offseason, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dotson was on the trade block during the draft and that Khan would fielding calls from teams looking for a capable starting guard. Does this mean Dotson will get traded during the draft? Nothing is a guarantee, and Pittsburgh may decide it’s better to hold onto him through training camp and then deal him right before the start of the regular season. However, to get their own OL situated heading into the summer and do right by Dotson by giving him a head start at a new destination, a draft-day trade is certainly plausible.
I would expect the trade compensation for Dotson to fall anywhere between a fifth- or sixth-round pick given his age, starting experience, flashes, but also inconsistencies. Teams like the Buccaneers, Rams, and Titans could all use a starting-caliber guard for the small price of a mid-to-late Day Three pick, one that would add more depth to their respective rooms while giving Pittsburgh that much-desired draft selection in either the fifth or sixth round.