Evaluating the Value: FB Connor Heyward

The choice is within. This is Kevin Colbert’s last year as CEO and as in previous years, we want to evaluate the value of each choice. Based on forecasts for each player by draft outlets and our own reports, we want to see if the pick value is higher or lower than how they were ranked in the draft.

Round 6 (Choose 208) – Connor Heyward, FB, Michigan State

The Steelers have shown a penchant for adding family to their roster in recent years. Terrell and Trey Edmunds. TJ and Derek Watts. Carlos and Khalil Davis. Now you can add the Heyward brothers to the roster. Cam’s younger brother Connor is a versatile player with over 200 carriers as a runner and 96 career receptions, totaling 11 touchdowns.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein gave him a 5.60 (Candidate For Bottom Of Roster Or Practice Squad) and described him as:

“Former running back turned H-back with surprisingly tacky hands and a determined stance to find extra distance after the catch. Heyward fails the pregame eyeball test as a shorter player with a thick upper body and a lack of height. However, he catches everything and his tape is full of good football matches. He has the potential to block movement, but is not skilled enough in that area for a team to trust him at this point. Heyward’s draft stock may be limited due to his lack of physical attributes, but he is a natural footballer who could find a spot on the roster thanks to his versatility.”

CBS Sports had him as the 332nd-ranked player on their big board, calling him a role player and comparing him to Dimitri Flowers, who spent time with the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars. His strengths include:

“Heyward is the younger brother of Steelers All-Pro defensive lineman Cam Heyward, although he is about two inches shorter and 60 pounds lighter. The fifth-year senior is listed as a tight end, but he might be better described as an H-back who can also stand in the slot. He had 35 receptions in his ’21 career, and he dealt most of his damage as a receiver within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. He is athletic in space and has the ability to make defenders miss with the ball in his hands. He’s a much better receiver than a blocker, but he’s too small for a tight end or fullback, and he’ll have to be open-planned.” They call his weaknesses as, “He needs to get better as a run blocker as he can sometimes struggle to keep up blockages. At just 233lbs he is undersized for both tight end and fullback, and his 4.72 40 times at the combine is shown on film ; he does not consistently separate at the top of the route.”

The Draft Network had also compared him to Flowers, calling his ideal role “special teams ace and move-piece in backfield alignmentsand opined:

“Projecting him forward I think Heyward will have to find a home where he can continue to “win ugly”, play on special teams and do a lot of dirty work in an attacking system that seems to add to the blocking surface in both the run and pass game with non-traditional alignments I like the story and Heyward is a very competitive player on the field which makes him a good investment late in the draft due to his ability to roll a handful of roles fulfill and special teams play.”

Our report compiled by Alex Kozora gave him a late Day 3 (6th/7th round grade) and concluded:

“He’s not going to be a next-level TE and he’s not going to be a full-time runner either. At the Senior Bowl, he worked mostly as a fullback and that’s the best home for him. He can – and should – be moved through the formation, and offenses should take advantage of his versatility to wear many hats. But he’s a bit of an offense, not the centerpiece. And is he good enough to justify teams trying to find ways to get him on the field beyond the obvious on-goal/ close range situations? Heyward definitely offers something in the pass game, but if you have high-draft pick receivers and tight ends, how much do you plan for your 230-pound fullback to get the ball?

I do like its fit for the Steelers bootleg/rollout offensive. And Heyward should have an immediate impact on special teams right away. I think there’s a home for Heyward, but he’ll have to scratch and claw to stay on the list. My NFL compilation for him is Jason Snelling, the former fullback/running back for the Atlanta Falcons, a 7th-round pick of a similar build who mapped out a seven-year NFL career as a runner, receiver, blocker, and special teamer.

This is easily the least surprising design choice.

Generally everyone had him as a late day three option and that’s where he got selected. They might have waited until the seventh round, but Cam wouldn’t allow that. Just kidding, this is a SOLID pick based on draft, but the fit with this team is good. He is a blue collar player who joins a blue collar team. It could turn into a battle of younger brothers for a spot on the roster.

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