Lot’s of Project Players.
Wow, my head is spinning from this one. This Draft should have been very solid with easy to understand picks.
It was anything but.
The night started off badly with the Cincinnati Bengals pulling a low class move and being spoilers, drafting the very unfortunate William Jackson III, cornerback, who Tomlin and Colbert had met with, the draft pick before the Steelers could get him. I thought this would force the Steelers to go to their position of second most need, Defensive Tackle.
The high ranked, explosive and versatile DT/DE Vernon Butler was still on the board. Instead the Steelers went for a CB who is judged by all to be a bit of a project. The Draft just got stranger from there. In the 2nd Rd, with Safeties Von Bell, Darian Thompson and Miles Killebrew available the Steelers take a converted CB who sort of bombed at the position who they plan to switch back to Safety. Then in the 3rd Rd DT Andrew Billings, who played against top quality opposition is there for the taking. Nah!!! The Steelers go with a small school phenom, untested by high level of competition.
Mike Tomlin seems convinced these players will be ready to contribute, even start next season. His specialty is defense, so I guess he knows what he’s doing. Me, I’m scratching my head.
To toot my own horn, I must say I drafted 6 (six) out of the 7 (seven) positions the same as the Steelers in my Mock. I had DT, CB, LB, SS, WR and OT. I had QB in the 6th but all draftable QB’s were gone by that time. (Maybe some CFL team needs to hire me so I can take the ‘Armchair’ off my moniker) So YAY!!! ME!!!
1st Rd – Artie Burns, CB – The Cincinnati Bengals pulled a punk move in snatching William Jackson III from under our noses. Not skipping a beat the Steelers drafted Artie Burns. “Burns is a tall cornerback and he has world-class speed. He’s very raw. I know teams with a third-round grade on Burns and others that believe he could end up the best corner in this draft.” — Mike Mayock.” Burns has had to overcome incredible personal hardship, the death of his mother last year, his father’s incarceration and raising his son and two younger brothers.
Burns is a natural ball hawk and has played both Safety and CB, which makes me wonder if Tomlin and Butler have special plans for him. He had 6 interceptions and 5 passes broken up in 2015. He was projected as a 2nd to 3rd Rounder by most pundits so it was a bit of stretch but the Steelers went with the position of MOST need with is very uncommon for them. Will Burns pan out in the his 1st year or will he take some seasoning? Who knows? I would give this a grade of C+ but with so many questions my Grade = ‘I’ for Incomplete.
2nd Rd – Sean Davis, SS – Yet another head scratcher because Von Bell was still on the board. ” “Davis played corner last season, but safety previously. Height, weight, speed … he checks all those boxes. He rose up late in the draft process. He’s very raw, but the upside is tremendous.” — Daniel Jeremiah” So yet another project. Who knows when and if Davis will be ready to help? Again Tomlin seems to be convinced he will be a contributor in 2016. Grade = ‘I’ for Incomplete
3rd Rd – Javon Hargrave, DT – Here again a big school, high ranked prospect was available. The Steelers passed over DT Andrew Billings for a small school, FCS standout. “He has an enormous, powerful base and he easily holds the point of attack. He has an explosive get-off as a pass rusher and he knows how to finish. He will get gassed if left on the field too long. Overall, Hargrave is one of the most disruptive interior defenders in the draft.” — Daniel Jeremiah” Again another player who raises more questions than answers. Will Hargrave rise or tank with the HUGE step up in competition? Grade = ‘I’ for Incomplete
4th Rd – Jerald Hawkins, OT – Finally, a ‘value pick’ that you can really apply a grade to without reservation. Hawkins played behind some standout tackles at LSU. He has experience at both RT and LT and says he’s a more natural LT. This tells you a couple things about him, he has versatility and confidence. “Hawkins has the size and run blocking prowess Pittsburgh likes in their tackles. The Steelers continue to show their need-based strategy in this draft as OT was shaky at best in 2015. –Mark Dulgerian” He has a smooth kick slide and good hands, look for him to at least make the practice squad and maybe land a roster spot in his first year. Grade = A-
6th Rd – Travis Feeney, OLB – Feeney absolutely exploded at the Combines. Top performer marks in the 40 yard dash (4.50), broad & vertical jump and 60 yd shuttle. “Feeney is one of the more athletic edge rushers in the class whom many considered a late-round sleeper heading into Day 3.
As he develops, he can carry over his special teams coverage skills to the Steelers’ units. –Mark Dulgerian” This is another player would could go either way but that’s what you expect in the 6th Rd. Feeney should be a special teams standout and may become a sack monster. Grade = A
7th Rd – DeMarcus Ayers – WR/RB/KR – Ayers is short (5′-9″) and not very fast (4.72/40) but he’s still illusive and versatile. “Ayers will compete early for kick return duties. It’s a bonus if he can find a way to earn a role as a slot/multi-purpose weapon. –Mark Dulgerian” The Steelers have been looking for that change of pace wildcard, slot back, return specialist for years now. Maybe they’ve found him in Ayers. Grade B-
7th Rd – Tyler Matakevich – ILB – Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik award winner. “This four-year starter in the middle accumulated over 100 tackles in each season for the Owls, totaling 493 for his career. In his sophomore year, he led the nation with 8.8 solo tackles a game. And his tackles aren’t just catching ball carriers after they’ve gone through the hole, as he’s had 40 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Add in five interceptions and five pass breakups during his award-winning senior campaign, and it appears there’s not much Matakevich can’t do.” Scouts say he too small and not strong enough. He a blue collar kid who has spent his entire life proving the ‘Know it Alls’ wrong. Love this pick and hope he can make himself stick. Grade = A++
To end on a Draft geeky note the Steelers picks ratings range was very narrow, from 5.9 to 5.0, which is very odd. They passed over higher rated prospects at almost every pick. Did they see things that everybody else could not? Only time will tell. They did accomplish one thing in spectacular fashion, they addressed ALL positions of need. In that sense the overall draft is Grade ‘A’.