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Grading the Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Pick: Payton Wilson

Welcome to the Steel Curtain Network’s coverage of the 2024 NFL Draft.

I have been giving the distinction of trying to apply an initial letter grade for each of the Steelers selections in the 2024 NFL Draft. I must acknowledge that I have been doing this portion of our draft coverage for years, and I take the responsibility very seriously.

Every grade given is determined by perceived draft value based on pre-draft projections, and projected scheme fit with the Steelers. I take a consensus of all available evaluations into consideration as I formulate my draft board. Hopefully everyone enjoys the final product, because it really is a labor of love.

With all that being said, let’s get this party started.

With the 98th selection of the 2024 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers have selected North Carolina State LB Payton Wilson.

Sometimes the risk is worth the reward. I mentioned Omar Khan’s riverboat gambler tendencies in an earlier Grading the Pick article. The Steelers knew the potential risk of selecting Payton Wilson due to his injury concerns. Wilson is reportedly missing an ACL in one of his knees. That makes him a risky acquisition, but the Steelers deemed him worthy of consideration due to his insane level athleticism and potential.

For individuals of a certain age, Wilson reminds me of former Steelers standout Chad Brown. Brown possessed elite size and length, plus the versatility to play on the outside and in the interior. He did both for the Steelers during his tenure, often at a Pro Bowl level I might add.

Wilson has those same elite level capabilities. He was the fastest and most explosive off ball linebacker at the Combine. He literally won every post-season award available for an inside linebacker last season. Wilson won the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Butkus Award, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and was named an unanimous All American in 2023. He swept the awards circuit for crying out loud. Without the health abnormality, Wilson is a without a doubt first round talent.

So what are the Steelers getting in Payton Wilson. Wilson is an elite athletic specimen. He is blessed with superior size, strength, speed, and athleticism. He carries 233 lbs on his 6’4″ frame. His football IQ is reportedly off the charts. Wilson can blow up a running back in the hole, or run a wide receiver down from behind in the open field. If Wilson enjoys the good fortune of staying relatively healthy over the course of his rookie contract, then the Steelers were gifted an absolute steal late in the third round.

Keep in mind that the Steelers are unusually familiar with dealing with players who were missing an ACL. Steelers standouts Hines Ward and Greg Lloyd were two legends who excelled on the field despite missing an ACL. This familiarity gives me hope for Wilson’s onfield success and physical therapy.

That brings us to the grading portion of this article. Based on the parameters listed at the beginning of this article, I give Payton Wilson’s late third round selection an initial draft grade of A-.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, I had a late first, early second round grade on Wilson. Once again, the Steelers get excellent value by doing absolutely nothing but letting the draft come to them. I applaud the Steelers willingness to accept a minimal mid round risk for a potentially huge reward. Khan and company deserve recognition for that accomplishment.

I want to welcome Payton Wilson to the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise. Looking forward to watching you repping the black and gold.


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