Which NFL Teams Have the Best Young Players? Fox Sports took an in-depth look at the core players each team drafted between 2019 and 2023 to find out which franchise has the most promising core of young talent. Our writers ranked all 32 individually, and the final result is a sum of all those lists. We’ll count them down for you ahead of the start of the 2023 NFL seasonStarting from worst (No. 32) to No. 1.
some optimism all around pittsburgh steelers It doesn’t exactly match what we saw from quarterback Kenny Pickett in a rookie season in which he threw for 2,404 yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 games.
Maybe these analysts and the Steelers know something about Pickett that we don’t. Or maybe they’re overestimating what they can do for the franchise in its second season.
But he is a key part of the Steelers’ surprise hopes in 2023. Good News? On attack, he should get full support from the young core. Let’s take a look at all those names to see where the Steelers stand.
Paranormal: Alex Highsmith
After tallying 14.5 sacks last season, the Steelers and Highsmith agreed to a four-year, $68 million extension. He emerged from relative obscurity in his third NFL season. The 2020 third-rounder had only two sacks in his debut season and six in 2021. But in 2022, he emerged as one of the team’s most important defensive playmakers. linebacker TJ Watt Obviously there’s Batman for the Steelers. But Highsmith?
“He’s a noble Robin,” Coach Mike Tomlin said in July, “We like to challenge him that way. He’s growing. He’s making a name for himself in this thing. He wants perfection. His maturity has been what we anticipate and expect to be quite honest with you.” We put quality people in the program, and they work within, and they just get better, and their tape does better, and he’s an example of that.”
Expect another season of 10-plus sacks and 60-plus tackles from Highsmith.
Potential Breakout: WR George Pickens
He finished his rookie season with 52 catches for 801 yards and four touchdowns. These numbers are great for a beginner. what is it not jammer chase Did, but consider who Pickens had at quarterback. The team debuted after working with Pickett for 12 games. michelle trubisky for five. It wasn’t always good, and Pittsburgh finished with the ninth fewest passing yards per game (200.6).
All things considered, Pickens had a great year. And the 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver wants even more in his second season. Pickens told The Ringer’s Kevin Clark that he is “the best in the whole world.”
Pickens said, “The work I do, brother, makes me feel like I’m the best in the whole world.” “I’m big, I’m fast, low 4.4 [speed], The catch radius is insane. So whenever I walk out on the field, I kind of play with anger because if you look at the size and the frame, I should get the ball in every game. If I was the coach, I would challenge him every single time. But the NFL doesn’t work like that. So whenever I’m out there, that’s why I throw blocks. I like to get the ball and when I don’t get the ball, I play with anger so that the focus comes back on me. I basically draw attention to myself.”
the picks will line up side by side Dionte Johnson, Who is also a brilliant young player. It won’t be easy for Pickens to put up big numbers if he doesn’t make big leaps. But with that supporting cast, it looks like Pickett will put up 40 or 50 more passing yards per game — which could lead to a huge increase in production for Pickens.
[Bucky Brooks’ Breakouts: Packers QB Jordan Love, Steelers WR George Pickens lead breakout candidates]
Negotiable Contract: TE Pat FreiermuthRB Naji Harris
The Steelers’ 2020 draft class was a mess, except for Highsmith, with whom they had already signed a long-term deal. So let’s take a look at the Class of 2021 – a little earlier of course.
Freiermuth looked to thrive in 2022 with 63 catches for 732 yards and two touchdowns. It will be interesting to see if these numbers continue to grow as the picket matures. In theory, a developed quarterback should mean more passing yards to go around. But Pickett also used Freiremuth as a security blanket.
Maybe as Pickett sees the field better, Freiermuth will see the ball less often. Regardless of Pickett’s trajectory, Freiremuth has the talent to ascend as a top-tier tight end. This would mean a huge amount.
Given that the NFL’s top rushers can’t get paid, it couldn’t be a worse time for Harris to come in free agency. even miles sandersThe One Who Had A Big Year Just Got $11 Million Guaranteed carolina panthers As a free agent this offseason. saquon barkley Couldn’t find much in the way of growth. Jonathan Taylor Seeking a business. That’s awful — and, given that Harris has averaged less than four yards per carry in his career, he may have to struggle again for the big bucks. He is 25 years old and won’t be in free agency for the next two years. Oh.
- Alex Highsmith finished first in strip sacks (five), first in forced fumbles (six) and second in sacks (17.5) in his last 20 games heading into Week 16 of the 2021 season.
- Dionte Johnson’s 340 receptions in his first four years in the NFL are the most in Steelers history and the fourth most in league history. His 3,646 receiving yards are the fourth most by a player in franchise history in his first four years.
- Najee Harris is one of two players in the NFL with 2,200 or more rushing yards and 650 or more receiving yards since the start of the 2021 season.
on kenny pickett
“Still unknown. Kind of the physical tools to become a pocket passer. Needs a better run game to help take stress off him. Has plenty of accuracy and arm strength. At this point in career, [opposing defenses] It needs to be processed after the snap. The variety of disguises and appearances is key.” -NFL Coordinator
“It’s a little too early to tell how well Kenny Pickett is going to do, because I wasn’t that impressed watching him play last year, but he won games for them last season and he has the ability to get the ball in.” some playmakers. That offense. I think the command and poise he showed in the pocket and the ability to dissect coverages after the Pitt Panthers offense had some questions about what he was reading Welcome positive. I’m not sure you’re ever going to get a typical starting QB in this league with his skill set, but I think he’ll keep things competitive in the division from a talent perspective. He is clearly at number 4. -AFC Scout
on george pickens
Pickens could become the most exciting and intimidating big receiver in Pittsburgh after Plaxico Burress. He uses his height, leaping ability, long arms and strong hands to win above the rim. He also swallows up yardage in his rush. He was even quicker down the field than he was before the draft. Every team in the league is looking for a receiver who can ‘big-boy’ opponents.” -NFL Talent Evaluator
it’s naji harris
“Harris has more flexibility and better hands than most runners his size. He lacks the typical juice to make defenders miss or run away from him, but he’s a punishing, blue-collar runner. He’s a bell-cow. And a kind of security blanket that quietly played a key role in Kenny Pickett’s rookie season.” -NFL Talent Evaluator
Prior to joining Fox Sports as an AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA Today Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. follow him on twitter @henrycmckenna,
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