The NFL Draft was an interesting one this year, with plenty of first-round quarterback needs but without the top-end quarterback talent that may have justified some of those early selections. As a result, plenty of teams looked toward other parts of the field to solidify their roster. These two teams in particular did a great job of finding value early in the draft and look poised to make the biggest leaps in the league thanks in part to their shrewd drafting.
So far, one of the biggest stories coming out of team mini-camps and offseason team activities is just how impressive rookie linebacker Devin Bush has been for the Steelers. Bush, out of Michigan, was drafted 10th overall by Pittsburgh. The team was hoping to fill the void that hadn’t been filled since the loss of Ryan Shazier to injury at the linebacker position. And it looks like Bush has what it takes to help the Steelers get better on defense after all.
The biggest thing that has drawn praise has been Bush’s quickness, which already appears to be at an NFL level. Adding him to a struggling Steelers defense has made them a contender in a suddenly loaded AFC North, and a team that will again be considered among the favorites to win the AFC as a whole. They won’t be favored over the likes of the Patriots or Chiefs, but there might be some value for bettors looking to back a team outside of the very top tier to get to the Super Bowl.
When it comes to making Super Bowl LIV predictions, it’s important to evaluate which teams have improved, declined, or plateaued from the previous season. With the Patriots not showing any immediate signs of improvement and there being the potential for a Chiefs regression, improvements like the drafting of Bush could make a huge difference both on the field and at the betting window when all is said and done this season.
Washington ended up in the first round on multiple occasions during the 2019 draft, with the first of those picks seeing them select Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State to play quarterback. With the injury to Alex Smith taking place last season, and the team’s confidence in Haskins early during his pro career, it looks like the team made a smart move there. But the real value for Washington came later in the first round when they grabbed Montez Sweat.
Sweat, a defensive end out of Mississippi State, has some off the field concerns that prevented him from being drafted even higher. But his talent provides an upside that could make Washington one of the NFC’s elite once again. In an NFC East where every team has struggled to find consistent footing over multiple years, all it takes is one season where the Washington defense steps up and the quarterback play is solid for the team to have a chance to make a deep run in the playoffs.
It will be interesting to see how Sweat fits into the Washington defense, provided recent health concerns aren’t an issue going forward. But Washington finished last year at 15th in the league in points allowed per game last season, and his addition could be just what the team needs to get over the hump and challenge for the division title once again.