Cameron Heyward(2011 draft) and Jason Worilds(2010) has breakout years in 2013, and both had the “B” word tossed around by more than a few Steelers fans prior to that.
That being said, I think that while every post-draft buzz seems to be mixed, to me it seemed there was a lot of negative reactions following the 2013 draft.
So, I’d like to take a step back one year later and see what the class looks like now, and what the Sophomore class look like heading into 2014.
Round 1, Pick 17 (17)
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
On the Board: Tyler Eifert, Cordarelle Patterson, Eric Reid
I’ll start by saying, that I wasn’t extremely excited about Jones when the pick was made. I felt that Jones’ injury history was a risk, and that he was a little old for a first rounder. However, the guy I really wanted was Kenny Vaccaro who went two picks before ours. So with him off the board, I didn’t think Jones was a bad pick. I felt that TE wasn’t a huge need, and that Patterson was a risky pick given his rawness.
One year later, I still feel the same. Eifert probably would’ve helped us cope with the loss of Heath Miller early on, however I’m not going to say that’s a sure thing. Tight End is a position that rarely makes an impact as a rookie. Even guys like Vernon Davis and Kellen Winslow Jr. (both selected 6th overall) didn’t eclipse more than 20 catches in their rookie seasons. Patterson looks to be a dangerous return man, and “OW” (offensive weapon), but I’m still not ready to say he’ll be an accomplished wide receiver.
Jones has been criticized by plenty of Steelers fans for his lack of QB pressure as a rookie. Had he sat on the bench like almost off Steelers rookies, he’d be showing the growing pains on the practice field instead of the actual field, and nobody would be griping. Jones learned as a rookie, and got live snaps, that’s a great thing for the Steelers going forward. I saw a knack for flying to the ball, and some nice technique from Jones (particularly with hand placement) as a rookie. As Jones acts on instinct more than thinking, he’ll get better. He’s also said he’s committed to getting stronger in this off-season.
Round 2, Pick 16 (48)
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan St.
On the Board: Eddie Lacy, Arthur Brown, Montee Ball
I was a big fan of Arthur Brown last year. I thought he’d go at the end of round 1, and he was the guy I wanted at this point. I’ll say now, I was wrong. I still think that Brown could be a very good pro, but Le’Veon Bell is the perfect running back for the Steelers offense, and today’s NFL.
Many said during the draft, and during the season they wish the Steelers had selected the Offensive Rookie of the Year, Eddie Lacy. The Steelers would later say that Lacy’s foot issues scared them off. When I heard that, it was the end of the Lacy discussion for me. If you think the guy isn’t healthy (especially at the RB position) you don’t pick him.
That being said, I also don’t think Lacy is a better back than Bell. To me, they’re in the same league, just with very different styles. To me, there’s not a weak spot in Bell’s game, and I love what he brings to the passing game as a pass catcher and pass blocker. This pick was called a reach by many, and right now it looks like a home run for Kevin Colbert.
Round 3, Pick 17 (79)
Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon St.
On the Board: Jordan Reed, Stedman Bailey, David Bakhtiari
With David Bakhtiari starting at LT for the Packers it’s easy to say that he would’ve been a good pick here… However, at this time last year the story was that Bakhtiari didn’t have the size to play tackle in the NFL and would likely need to move inside… The Packers found a gem. There’s not really anyone else that was on the board that made way more sense than Wheaton, that I would trade him for.
That Being said, I was really happy with this pick at the time. I’ve already gone on record calling 2014 a breakout year for Wheaton, but it is disappointing he didn’t see the field more as a rookie. I trust that the coaches knew that Wheaton wasn’t ready to help them win football games.
Not much has changed since this pick was made for me. I’m not discouraged by Wheaton’s lack of time last season. I liked his physical traits out of college, and he’s reportedly already working out with Ben Roethlisberger this off-season.
Round 4, Pick 14 (111)
Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse
On the Board: Tyler Wilson, Barrett Jones, Khaseem Greene
Shamarko Thomas would’ve been drafted much higher if he was a few inches taller. The comparisons to Bob Sanders seem like a good one. Thomas may get in trouble with taller pass-catchers, but he has the coverage skills to make an impact, which showed considering he played plenty of CB as a rookie. Expect Thomas to be heavily involved in the competition to replace Ryan Clark this season.
I see Thomas being more useful if they can pair him with a coverage specialist in the future, letting Thomas concentrate on playing in the box more, the help hide his height deficiencies. Again, no real obvious guys picked in the range that I think are a clear upgrade over Thomas.
Round 4, Pick 18 (115)
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
On the Board: Johnathan Franklin, Levine Toilolo, Oday Aboushi
Easily my least favorite pick in this draft. I think taking a quarterback last year was complete unnecessary to begin with, and we lost a 3rd round pick in 2014. Technically that pick was for Thomas, but I would’ve selected Thomas here, and only made one 4th round pick.
Jones looked pretty awful in preseason and was outplayed by journeyman John Parker Wilson through most of the preseason. There’s still hope that Jones develops as a backup, and best case scenario is we can flip him for a mid-round pick, but right now he just looks like a wasted pick to me.
Round 5, Pick 17 (150)
Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois
On the Board: Joseph Randle, Zac Stacy, Jeff Locke
Hawthorne had intriguing size and speed for a CB, and dropped due to inconsistency. He unfortunately dealt with injuries through most of the pre-season so I didn’t expect him to make the roster. I did however, expect him to get to the practice squad.
It’s telling though that the Steelers didn’t even bother with that, even at a position of need. Hawthorne didn’t get interest from any other NFL teams either. There were a couple of very talented running backs in Randle and Stacy on the board that would’ve been very nice compliments to Le’Veon Bell.
Round 6, Pick 18 (186)
Justin Brown, WR, Oklahoma
On the Board: Andre Ellington, Bacarro Rambo
Justin Brown had a solid training camp, and was on the wrong side of the bubble in the end. For a 6th round pick to be in discussion to make the roster though is an accomplishment. Brown will probably never be top 3 on the depth chart, but he has some decent size, and if he plays well on special teams could add value down the road.
Round 6, Pick 38 (206)
Vince Williams, LB, Florida State
On the Board: Joe Kruger, Mike Mauti, Jordan Poyer
This was probably one of the better picks in the draft. Vince Williams was forced into action this season, and while I’m not sure he’ll have a future as a starter, he’ll be a seasoned backup and good special teamer, at worst. I could also see him being a goal line defense specialist, if their eventual replacement is more of a coverage man like Sean Spence.
I’ll mention this… I was a big fan of Mike Mauti, and really wanted him to be the selection here. I think Mauti has more upside, and maybe could’ve been Foote’s eventual replacement. That being said, Williams was a very good pick, so I can’t complain.
Round 7, Pick 17 (223)
Vince Williams, DE, Samford
On the Board: Zac Dysert, Reid Fragel
If the Steelers wanted to select a QB, I wish it would’ve been Dysert or Tyler Bray at this pick. Williams seems like a decent pick though. Williams is a converted basketball player which tells us he’s athletic, and he’s raw. The Steelers have hit on some DE’s late in the draft, hopefully Williams turns out to be another one.