June 19, 2024

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As the 2024 NFL Draft draws near, we plan to scout as many of the best prospects that the Pittsburgh Steelers may be considering in Rounds 1 through 7. We’ll dissect each candidate individually, highlighting their advantages and disadvantages, anticipated draft capital, and suitability for the Steelers.

While receiver isn’t exactly Pittsburgh’s top draft need entering 2024, the Steelers have a penchant for mid-round wideouts. Could Georgia’s Ladd McConkey be the next?

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Among the more intriguing names in this year’s draft class is Ladd McConkey of Georgia. I say that not only because he is a hard talent to predict for draft position but also because he is a very literal player. All season long, I saw McConkey as a mid-round wide receiver, but a terrific performance in the Senior Bowl has significantly raised his stock. He was mock drafted as early as the late first round, as far as I can tell.

McConkey’s ability to navigate routes is one of his strongest suit. With an excellent sense of where he is on the field and how to deceive defenders, he is swift, decisive, and subtle. As one might imagine, he crushed Senior Bowl one-on-ones, but his game footage also shows off a ton of excellent reps. I thought McConkey’s zone defense was excellent; he had a strong sense of where gaps in the defense were.

But McConkey’s outstanding yards after catch ability is his greatest quality. He was frequently used on screens by Georgia merely to get the ball in his hands and get yardage. Finding running lanes through the defense and following blocks are two of McConkey’s strong suits. Even if he isn’t the strongest player in this class, he can still put on a show when he has a chance to make a major play.

Even though McConkey’s tape has many positive aspects, I am still concerned about his stature and level of athleticism. Although McConkey is a solid all-around athlete with no obvious deficiencies, he lacks the best receiving prospects in this class’s “wow” speed, quickness, or acceleration. Though he is a clever route runner, he isn’t exactly blazing by curves or changing directions on the spur of the moment in terms of pure agility and long speed. While he did have a few such moments in college, I fear that the NFL defenses’ enhanced speed and physicality will be a bigger issue.

In 2023, McConkey faced difficulties playing against Alabama’s skilled Crimson Tide defense. You can see him run a strong route here, but Terrion Arnold of Alabama covers him. Although McConkey has to slow down after the break on his route, it’s not the best ball, but Arnold has him under control.

He occasionally had trouble with press coverage in that same game, which is concerning but to be expected considering McConkey’s stature. McConkey is 185 pounds, which is obviously on the smaller side for an NFL wide receiver. Because of his thin build, he is unable to make contested receptions downfield or perform well against heavy covering. While it’s not a big concern because wide receivers like McConkey can’t be expected to play flawlessly in every situation, it does make one wonder if he can withstand the battering a slot receiver receives on a professional basis.

Despite playing in a variety of formations while at Georgia, McConkey is by far the greatest slot receiver in the NFL draft. Nevertheless, his versatility as a receiver just makes him more valuable in the draft.

To McConkey’s credit, though, he plays considerably larger than his 185 pounds. He doesn’t make many highlights-worthy catches, but when it comes to middle-of-the-field catches, he possesses steady hands and the fortitude to hold onto the ball. Though there were a few drops on camera, his resilience to blows pleased me overall. He is also a cooperative and proficient blocker.

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