Steelers Draft Preview: Wide Receivers
Steelers Draft Preview is a series of articles that previews each position group and breaks down potential draft targets for the Steelers. For a preview of the quarterback position, click here. For the running back position, click here.
If you're in need of a receiver, you're in luck: The 2020 NFL Draft appears to be one of the most loaded classes at the position to come through in years.
Following the 2019 season and the failed Donte Moncrief experiment, the Steelers will once again be searching additional help at wide-out. With JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and a (hopeful) evolving James Washington, Pittsburgh has reason to believe their top-three can make some noise heading into next season.
However, the rest of the depth chart gives reason to believe the Steelers will look to the draft to add another dynamic weapon, with players such as Ryan Switzer and Deon Cain as the next options after Pittsburgh's top three.
As mentioned earlier, there's a plethora of talented pass-catchers incoming in this year's draft. Guys such as CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma), Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy (both Alabama) will be long gone when the Steelers pick in the second round. As for the next batch of players, that's all up for debate.
I had six receivers go in the first round of my first mock draft, with Brandon Aiyuk (Arizona State), Denzel Mims (Baylor) and Justin Jefferson (LSU) all going in the bottom half of the first round. Along with other receivers who may get the phone call in late first/early second, names such as Laviska Shenault (Colorado), Tee Higgins (Clemson) and Jalen Reagor (TCU) may be out of reach of pick no. 49.
Should all the above options be gone when the Steelers pick, here are the current options for the rest of the draft:
Potential targets available in the second round are as followed: K.J. Hamler (Penn State), Donovan Peoples-Jones (Michigan), and Michael Pittman (USC).
Hamler provides the most "big-play" ability out of this group of receivers, as he's been dubbed a "poor man's Henry Ruggs". If the Steelers are able to grab Hamler in the second, it wouldn't matter what you call him.
Peoples-Jones has the ability to go and high-point the ball (highest vertical for receivers in the combine certainly helps) while also playing underneath, while Pittman is a bigger receiver that excels in using his strength/body frame. Both would provide solid red-zone targets.
Shifting towards the third round, we have names such as Van Jefferson (Florida), Bryan Edwards (South Carolina) and K.J. Hill (Ohio State) favored to go around Pittsburgh's pick at 102. Jefferson/Hill both are extremely nice route-runners and excel in open space, while Edwards mainly makes his money grabbing ridiculously thrown passes.
With two fourth-round picks, the chances of taking a receiver here are high if none are selected in rounds two/three.
The pool really begins to open up in the fourth, and to spare you time from reading all the potential names for the rest of the draft, we'll highlight significant names and potentials for each round.
The fourth round is the favored landing spot for Minnesota's Tyler Johnson, a receiver that's produced crazy numbers during his time in college. However, character concerns have knocked his draft stock down quite a bit, as Johnson didn't receive an invite to the Senior Bowl and received a round 6/7 grade from Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.
Should the Steelers not want to risk anything and bypass Johnson, a player such as Kentucky's Lynn Bowden has been dubbed one of the draft's favorite sleepers, as he's capable of playing multiple positions including WR, RB and... QB.
Liberty's Antonio Gandy-Golden has also garnered hype as a potential late-round pick that could make some noise after a productive week at the Senior Bowl. While Gandy-Golden is projected to go late, it's easy to believe how he could make an impact.
It's easy to see why.
As for extremely late targets, look no further than SMU's James Proche, who has the best hands in the draft according to NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.
It appears inevitable the Steelers will look to add a receiver in the draft after not addressing the position via free agency. While top-tier guys will be way out of range, there's a good chance the team will be able to snag excellent talent at the position in the second-round. However, with the trio of Smith-Schuster/Johnson/Washington, I don't believe the team is pressed to reach and add the talent immediately.
Best case scenario- K.J. Hamler is available in the second round
Worst case scenario- Pittsburgh opts to add a late WR for special teams help
Most likely scenario- The Steelers go BPA in the second/third, and likely find WR within those two rounds.
Early name to watch- Brandon Aiyuk
Late name to watch- Devin Duvernay
Dark horse pick- Michael Pittman
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