Rookie impact is a series previewing each Pittsburgh Steelers draftee and their potential impact for 2020 and beyond. For second-round pick Chase Claypool's potential impact, click here. For third-round pick Alex Highsmith, click here. For fourth-round pick Anthony McFarland, click here. Today we continue our series with offensive linemen Kevin Dotson.
Player: Kevin Dotson
Position: Offensive Guard
Drafted: Round 4, Pick 135
With Ramon Foster and B.J. Finney departing in the offseason, the left guard spot opposite of David DeCastro was a position of need heading into the 2020 NFL Draft. The Pittsburgh Steelers countered with what many draft analysts considered to be the steal of the draft in Louisiana guard Kevin Dotson.
It's fair to say everybody in the organization was excited to grab Dotson, a reported life-long Steelers fan. Offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett believes Dotson falls under the "mauler" category of linemen:
"He is the type of guy when you look at that old-school run game stuff like back in the day when you run through guys, this really flashes on his tape" said Sarrett. "I think this guy is realistically that guy who can go in and compete for the (open) spot."
Dotson was considered to be one of the best run-blocking offensive linemen in the draft, a skill that could aid in the Steelers' efforts to return to efficiently running the football after ranking 29th in rushing offense in 2019.
Evaluating Kevin Dotson's immediate and future impact in Pittsburgh:
Aside from Chase Claypool, Dotson has the best opportunity to immediately make an impact from day one. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has gone on record to say Dotson could possibly compete for a starting job, but that will ultimately will be up to Dotson's progression.
Dotson's competition? Newly acquired guard Stefen Wisniewski, fresh off an excellent playoff run from the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Both players appear to be viable options for 2020 with different concerns. Wisniewski didn't see a consistent starting role with the Chiefs in 2019 until the playoffs, while Dotson's inexperience at the next level may leave coaches hesitant to plug and play the Louisiana product.
Although Dotson's big frame (6'4", 310 lbs) was touted as potential to also play the tackle position, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert made it very clear that Dotson will strictly play at the guard spot. There's also been talk of Matt Feiler moving to the left guard spot, but with the current tackle depth, that seems unlikely.
If Dotson is able to grasp the playbook and prove himself worthy in preseason play, the job may be his to lose. However, Wisniewski may have the edge as of now simply due to experience. Should Dotson not win the starting gig right away, he provides valuable depth behind Wisniewski and DeCastro.
The Dotson pick afforded the Steelers with a long-term solution to a position of need that could ultimately pay dividends early, and getting that in the fourth-round is hard to come by.
While Dotson may compete for a starting job early, the pick was really about the coming years. Even if Dotson is forced to sit behind the starters in his first season, learning the offense and adjusting to the league should ultimately propel him to starting status in year two.
In a worst-case scenario that involves Dotson sitting two consecutive seasons, Wisniewski's two-year deal expires after 2021, where he will be turning 33 years of age.
Simply put: Dotson's current path to starting shouldn't take very long.
Once Dotson becomes a starter, his motor and attitude should see him steadying the left side of the offensive line for years to come. Should Dotson cement his pass-blocking capabilities, his talent would greatly exceed his fourth-round draft position.
Aside from footwork/pass protection, Dotson's age has raised concern for some scouts through the draft process. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller pointed out that Dotson will be turning 24 in his rookie season, providing a somewhat sizable gap in age difference from the mean of players typically drafted.
"Teams may not see much room for technical or physical maturation in his game" said Miller, although one could counter that thought with the idea of Dotson being ahead of the rookie curve when it comes to development and maturation thanks to his age.
Dotson's birthday candles aside, the Steelers ideally drafted a starting caliber offensive linemen for the foreseeable future. The physical build and tools are there for Dotson to play at a starting level for the next decade, but it's ultimately up to him to acclimate himself to the skill level of NFL defensive linemen.
We're still months away from the start of the season, but there's genuine excitement building for Dotson in Pittsburgh.