The 2014 NFL Draft was dominated by all the talk surrounding Jadeveon Clowney. The standout from South Carolina has considerable hype surrounding him heading into his rookie year with the Houston Texans. However, hype does not automatically win awards. Ryan Shazier is just one guy on defense who could outshine Clowney as a rookie.
Pittsburgh was very fortunate to land Shazier when he fell to the 15th overall pick. He is a strong linebacker who will have the opportunity to step right in and have success. That is not always the case for a defender joining the Steelers, but he is coming in at the right time. In the middle of a rebuilding process, the Ohio State product can learn on the job while playing for a storied franchise.
Very few rookie defenders start for Pittsburgh, and the ones that do are obviously very good. Kendrell Bell was the last rookie to start in Week 1 of his rookie year, and he was able to win Defensive Rookie of the Year that season. Jack Lambert is another rookie who got the nod from day one, and all he did was turn into a Hall of Famer.
Shazier made a name for himself because of his big-time, huge play capabilities at the college level, but it is his consistency that the coaching staff loves at this point in time. He could help make this defense worth picking up in fantasy football again after slipping the last couple of seasons. He is also someone who could be an anchor for the next decade or so if he is able to stay healthy. Given the track record of the franchise when it comes to trusting rookies on defense, they very well could have the rookie of the year on that side of the ball.
Clowney, Khalil Mack, Darqueze Dennard and Christian Kirksey help to make up a pretty solid rookie class in 2014 on defense. Shazier will have the opportunities to put up the numbers voters will like. It will really help his case if the Steelers are in the playoffs at the end of the season.