Better pick at 17-WR or OL? Recent results may surprise you

A look at the most recent selections in the Draft
Kenny Pickett looking over the O line
Photo credit Michael Longo/For USA Today Network-USA TODAY NETWORK

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – You saw what the Eagles did to the Giants and are convinced the Steelers need to draft an offensive lineman in the first round. You look at what the Bengals did and are convinced the Steelers need to draft a wide receiver in the first round.

Which one gets you the better return?

Of that great Eagles offensive line, only one was a first-round pick. Starting right tackle Lane Johnson was the fourth overall pick in 2013. No one else on that line was taken in the first round. You could argue what got the Eagles over the top was the trade for receiver AJ Brown and drafting receiver DeVonta Smith in the first round.

The Bengals had one of the worst offensive lines in the game. Yet that group, decimated by injury, dominated the Buffalo Bills Sunday. In need of an anchor to the offensive line two years ago, they went instead with Ja’Marr Chase in the first round and it led to a Super Bowl appearance.

Is it really a slam-dunk the Steelers, who’s line improved all year and finished the season ranked 16th in the entire league by Pro Football Focus, need a first-rounder? Eight of the teams ranked ahead of the Steelers in offensive line play, missed the playoffs and another, Tampa Bay, made it with a losing record.

Steelers own the 17th overall pick in the first round. Will there be an impact lineman or more likely an impact receiver with pick 17? There are other team needs-corner, defensive line, safety, but this comparison is between offensive linemen and wide receivers.

Here is a look at the last four years of the NFL Draft. It shows every receiver or offensive lineman picked from number 15 to number 25. Players that would be in play for the Steelers at 17 and what their current position ranking is by PFF. A reminder in the rankings- 38 centers ranked, 78 guards, 84 tackles, 121 wide receivers.

2022 First Round

15-G Kenyon Green-Houston-78th ranked
16-WR Jahan Dotson-Washington-42nd ranked
17-G Zion Johnson-40th ranked
18-WR Treylon Burks-Tennessee-31st ranked
19-OT Trevor Penning-NO-one start, not ranked
24-OT Tyler Smith-Dal—25th ranked
25-C Tyler Linderbaum-Bal—6th ranked

2021 First Round

17-OT Alex Leatherwood-LV-non-starter, not ranked
20-WR Kadarius Toney-Giants-traded to KC, not ranked
23-OT Christian Darrisaw-Minn-2nd ranked

2020 First Round

15-WR Jerry Jeudy-Denver-21st ranked
17-WR CeeDee Lamb-Dallas-8th ranked
18-OT Austin Jackson-Miami-injured twice, not ranked
21-WR Jalen Reagor-Philly-traded to Minnesota, not ranked
22-WR Justin Jefferson-Minnesota-3rd ranked
24-C-Ceasr Ruiz-Saints-59th ranked
25-WR-Brandon Aiyuk-SF-19th ranked

2019 First Round

18-C Garrett Bradbury-Minnesota—11th ranked
22-OT Andre Dillard-Eagles-non-starter, not ranked
23-OT Tytus Howard-Houston—42nd ranked
25-WR Marquise Brown-Baltimore-51st ranked

Conclusions

·     2 guards selected, neither in the top 50% in the NFL
·     2 centers selected, one in the top 50% in the NFL
·     7 tackles selected, two in the top 50% in the NFL
·     9 wide receivers, seven in the top 50% in the NFL

If you’re looking for the player who will make the biggest impact or improve that position, odds are better finding a wide receiver at 17 than offensive line.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Michael Longo/For USA Today Network-USA TODAY NETWORK