Steelers may target Penn State's Chris Godwin in NFL draft
March 17, 2017 11:43 AM
Chris Knight/Associated press
Former Penn State receiver Chris Godwin could be a good option for Penn State on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.
By Adam Bittner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers have not had a ton of success in drafting wide receivers over the last several years. DeMarcus Ayers, Sammie Coates, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton are just some of the guys who’ve been selected only to flame out entirely or struggle to make consistent contributions for one reason or another.
Perhaps that’s the karmic price of hitting the jackpot with Antonio Brown, a sixth-round pick out of Central Michigan in 2010, who’s turned into one of the best receivers in the NFL. Regardless, it leaves the team again scouting the draft for a contributor at the position.
Enter Chris Godwin, who confirmed to reporters at Penn State’s pro day Thursday that he will visit with the Steelers.
On the surface, Godwin might look like a bit of a risky pick for a team that has suffered a lot of busts lately. His production dropped off this past season after a great sophomore campaign in which he accumulated 69 catches and 1,101 yards.
There was a good reason for that, though. The Nittany Lions shifted to a read-option offense this season, choosing to highlight mobile quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley. It was a stark departure from the offense Godwin thrived in the year before behind pro-style signal caller Christian Hackenberg, who was drafted in the second round last year by the New York Jets in large part because of the gaudy numbers Godwin helped him post.
For his part, Godwin made the most of his more limited opportunities on Penn State’s run to a Big Ten championship, bumping his touchdown count to from five to 11. Two of those scores came in his last game, a nine-catch, 187-yard performance against Southern California in the Rose Bowl. He also was the target on a key touchdown late in the first half of Penn State’s 24-21 upset of Ohio State that vaulted the Nittany Lions into the national conversation.
His deceptive speed was a big part of that. Many scouts and draft observers were shocked when he posted a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine a couple of weeks ago. But he’s not just a downfield threat, either. He’s a good route runner at all depths and he’s got the size to compete with the bigger secondary players who are becoming commonplace in the modern NFL. Let’s look at that score against Ohio State.
First Godwin beat his man with a quick, clean route. Then he hauled in the score with Buckeyes cornerback Gareon Conley, a projected second round draft pick, draped all over him.
Those are all the traits you want to see in a future playmaker at the next level wrapped up in one play.
Does that mean the Steelers should go out of their way to draft him? Not necessarily. They have obvious needs at other positions, namely cornerback and linebacker.
But those needs might be exactly what make a guy like Godwin attractive. He’s currently projected by many experts to go in the second or third round, but he’s a much more balanced player than some of the guys the Steelers have gotten in that range of late. Coates and Wheaton were third round picks who were much more reliant on their speed to set them apart.
Selecting Godwin there could allow the Steelers to target one of their other needs early, then still find a solid underneath contributor with big-play potential on Day 2 of the draft.
Such a decision is a ways off, and the Steelers still have a fair amount of cash available to address their needs in free agency. The signing of Justin Hunter this week, for example, may change the calculus on how highly they value adding to the receiving corps.
If Godwin is on the board in the second or third round, though, he’ll be a good player to keep an eye on when the Steelers are on the clock.
Adam Bittner: email@example.com and Twitter, @fugimaster24.
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