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Pitt Has 3 Players Selected in Pro Football Network’s Way-Too-Early 2024 NFL Draft



Pitt offensive lineman Matt Goncalves.

The 2023 NFL Draft was good to Pitt, and through the early returns of preseason football, Pitt was pretty good to the NFL, too.

Calijah Kancey hasn’t even taken a snap yet, but SirVocea Dennis, Israel Abanikanda, Carter Warren and Erick Hallett have all made an impact in the preseason — and Haba Baldonado and Jared Wayne have flashed as undrafted free agents.

It’s an excellent showcase of Pitt football, and Pro Football Network’s early expectation is that there will be three Pitt Panthers selected in the 2024 NFL Draft.

PFN’s Ian Valentino released a very early seven-round 2024 NFL mock draft last week, and he predicted that Matt Goncalves, M.J. Devonshire and Gavin Bartholomew would be selected in the next draft cycle.

And for the record, I could see a number of Pitt players from the likes of Jake Kradel and Marquis Williams (on the likely end) to Rodney Hammond Jr. and Konata Mumpfield (on the very unlikely end since they’re young) getting draft hype by the end of the season.

Matt Goncalves — 45th (second round) to the Pittsburgh Steelers

Here’s an interesting one. I suppose Valentino expects a breakout campaign from Goncalves, who is primed to start at either left or right tackle this season.

Here’s what Valentino wrote:

“Landing Broderick Jones in the first round via a trade-up in this past class was brilliant. Replacing mediocre right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor next year becomes a priority, and they can reunite Matt Goncalves with quarterback Kenny Pickett. Goncalves is massive and mauling at 6’6″ and 330 pounds.”

Goncalves was named Pitt’s lone preseason All-ACC honoree earlier this month, and it’s clear that Goncalves is viewed highly across scouting circles.

“I’ve worked very hard to be where I’m at today,” Goncalves said at the ACC Football Kickoff last week. “I think the guys around me, my teammates keep driving me every day. People in the offensive line room, my coaches, coach Narduzzi, and my family too told me to never give up. I never gave up, and I never back down.

“That’s where I’m at today, and I’m happy with it and still going to keep going no matter what.”

Kenny Pickett (8) and Matt Goncalves (76) – November 11, 2021 David Hague/PSN

Goncalves earned third-team All-ACC honors last season, taking 830 snaps last season, which only trailed Jake Kradel, and he’s once again back as Pitt’s starting right tackle.

He’s played in 35 games (making 21 starts dating back to 2020), and his size (6-foot-6, 330 pounds) and versatility (able to play on the left and right side of the line) should entice scouts.

Goncalves would reunite with Kenny Pickett were he to land in Pittsburgh, and he would be Pitt’s first offensive lineman taken in the second round since Brian O’Neill in 2018.

M.J. Devonshire — 157th (fifth round) to Cincinnati Bengals

Despite the success of Pitt’s cornerbacks in the NFL, a lot of the selections have come in the later rounds. Valentino projects Devonshire to land in a later round, but I think he has the skill set to jump into Day 2.

Devonshire might be the fastest player on Pitt’s roster, scoring three touchdowns last season defensively and on special teams, and it makes sense that he’s receiving national attention.

The 2022 season was a breakout campaign for Devonshire as he slid into the starting role alongside Marquis Williams — who will likely be a sleeper draft pick this season. And he made sure to get bigger and stronger over the offseason.

Devonshire possesses an elite physical trait. Speed. He’s very, very fast, and that’s always a calling card for NFL defenses. He was productive as a cornerback and a punt returner last season, and he should put together a strong 2023 campaign.

He recorded 34 tackles (23 solo), three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and broke up eight passes. According to PFF, when opposing quarterbacks targeted Devonshire (or he was assigned as the nearest defender), he allowed 33 receptions on 62 targets (just 53% completion) for 407 yards.

Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back M.J. Devonshire (12) September 24, 2022 David Hague/PSN

He was also a difference maker with the football in his hands last season, and he showed it with 233 yards (9.7 yards per return) and a touchdown in 24 punt returns.

With excellent vision and explosive speed when carrying the ball, as shown by two additional interceptions returned for touchdowns, Devonshire — if he’s able to focus on staying away from too much lateral movement — should be a weapon in the return game in 2023.

We will see how Devonshire’s 2023 campaign could help catapult him toward Day 2 of the NFL Draft. Ironically, the last Pitt cornerback to go in the first round was Aliquippa’s own Darrelle Revis. And his career turned out pretty well.

Gavin Bartholomew — 176th (sixth round) to the Atlanta Falcons

Valentino is thinking that Bartholomew will forgo his senior season to test his chances in the NFL Draft, but I feel like if Bartholomew does decide to declare, it will be because he’s shown he’s worth more than a Day 3 selection.

Regardless, I do expect Bartholomew to be selected in the NFL Draft eventually. He’s big (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) and uncommonly athletic. And the 2022 season should be his chance to truly break out at Pitt.

Of course, he was a difference-maker on Pitt’s ACC champion squad as a true freshman in 2021, hauling in 28 balls for 326 yards (11.6 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. And he did so primarily as a receiver in the flat or behind the line of scrimmage — getting him the ball in space.

He played in all 14 games last season, catching 21 passes for 283 yards (13.5 yards per reception) and two touchdowns, but Pitt’s offense was unable to find ways to get him involved on a game-to-game basis.

Against Tennessee in Week 2, Bartholomew caught a career-high five catches for 84 yards (16.8 yards per reception) and a touchdown — a highlight-reel touchdown in which he hurdled a Tennessee defender in full gallop.

Pitt tight end Gavin Bartholomew

Pittsburgh Panthers tight end Gavin Bartholomew (86) Sept 10, 2022 David Hague/PSN

With a second season in Cignetti’s offense, Bartholomew should be utilized in far more creative ways and subsequently put together a far more productive season. And in that case, I’d expect he goes higher than the sixth round.

Bartholomew is supremely talented, and after a season in which he operated quite a bit as an inline run blocker, it’s only added versatility when it comes to his resume at the next level. But there’s another gear to hit in Bartholomew’s game as a receiver, and as he’s gotten faster, stronger and crisper in his route running, he should be able to display that talent.

If Bartholomew does declare for the 2024 NFL Draft, there’s a very good chance that he outplays Valentino’s projected draft slot.

Bartholomew played alongside Lucas Krull in 2021, who was signed as an undrafted free agent following the draft, but he would be the first Pitt tight end selected since Nate Byham and Dorin Dickerson in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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