Late last week, I focused on two of the Steelers’ top priority positions in the draft, looking at prospects’ SPARQ ratings to try and narrow the field a bit. My plan was only to zero in on edge defenders and cornerbacks but the response on the article was so good that I decided to dig in a little deeper.
In case you missed it, here was part I of the article.
While I can confidently say the Steelers use SPARQ, or at least something similar, when making their big board; I’m still not sure that they necessarily value it greatly at every position. It feels like 2014 was the first year that the team really went all-in on athleticism; taking Ryan Shazier(152), Dri Archer(131), Martavis Bryant(129), and Shaq Richardson(123).
That doesn’t give us a huge sample size to work from, but here’s the positions they’ve drafted since then, and that position’s average SPARQ score in bold at the top.
I’ll admit that this isn’t the best collection of information, because the sample size is so small and because not all draft picks are created equal. For example, Gerod Holliman’s paltry score of 95 really drags down that average at the DB position, when he was just a 7th round flier because he had great ball skills.
A couple of conclusions I feel like I can make though; The Steelers value athleticism at the linebacker spot across the board. The same seems to go for the wide receiver position. Where they don’t value it as much seems to be in the trenches, outside of Javon Hargrave. I’ll admit I was surprised that Tuitt scored so low though. The cornerback position feels like one where they’re willing to look past a lack of athleticism, however I think that with a focus on man corners more than zone coming, that could change in this draft.
With those things in mind, I’ll dig into some positions I didn’t cover in part I.
Alvin Kamara – 131
Aaron Jones – 130
Christian McCaffrey – 128
Marlon Mack – 125
Jeremy McNichols – 125
Samaje Perine – 112
Wayne Gallman – 109
Jamaal Williams – 104
Though Le’Veon Bell did once have a solid 122 score, I think that running back is a position where these scores don’t really hold as much weight. Le’Veon Bell is a great power runner and makes quick cuts but he wins mostly with his vision and patience; something that can’t be measured with analytics.
For that reason, I still like some guys here that didn’t score well. Jamaal Williams strikes me as a guy with no one great part of his game that could step in and be extremely productive if Le’Veon Bell were to get injured. Perine is a guy that the team showed some interest in already. If the team did want someone with a little more athleticism though, Marlon Mack strikes me as a nice mid-round back with a mix of solid measurables and good tape.
Robert Davis – 142
Zay Jones – 134
Jehu Chesson – 130
Chris Godwin – 130
Taywan Taylor – 126
Josh Reynolds – 121
Curtis Samuel – 120
While I think with the recent signing of Justin Hunter and news that Martavis Bryant’s reinstatement is “imminent” probably eliminate the probability of a reciever in this draft, Kevin Colbert will never turn his back on a value at a skill position. Since there isn’t a great need though, he wouldn’t pull the trigger unless it’s a very high ceiling guy (like Sammie Coates was as a prospect).
Personally, I’m a huge fan of Chris Godwin. I see a lot of Anquon Boldin in his game, but I think a day 2 pick at the position is unlikely. If I had to guess, the Steelers may prefer to take a shot on a late day 3 guy like Davis or Chesson with their high upside. Curtis Samuel is a Dri Archer-like tweener pick and the type of player Todd Haley has always liked.
Jonnu Smith – 139
Bucky Hodges – 139
Evan Engram – 138
David Njoku – 137
Gerald Everett – 132
OJ Howard – 130
Adam Shaheen – 125
Michael Roberts – 105
Tight End is a position that’s tough to rate. Do the Steelers want a long-term insurance policy for Ladarius Green that could also put pressure on defenses down the seam? If that’s the case, then Bucky Hodges is a great pick on day 2. Or, do they want something that their TE group really lacks right now in a good in-line blocker? If that’s the case, then maybe these scores don’t mean as much.
This is a ridiculously good tight end class and it’s really just what kind of guy do you want? I think the Steelers are comfortable with what they have, and will go defense early and see if someone talented falls to them in the 3rd round or later. I think the team is intrigued by Adam Shaheen, who’s a huge kid but isn’t a great blocker right now. I fear that he’ll go earlier than he should though, based on his size and speed. If they wait, I’m a big fan of Michael Roberts’ blocking ability and soft hands in the redzone.
Marcus Williams – 134
Chuck Clark – 121
John Johnson – 119
Xavier Woods – 119
Budda Baker – 114
The safety position has me intrigued in this class. I think some are looking for Lawrence Timmons’ replacement from this class’ linebackers but I think the Steelers may look to Vince Williams and a rookie safety to actually fill that role; meaning they find a safety that’s capable of playing a hybrid linebacker role on passing downs.
Unfortunately, some of my favorite hybrid options do not have compete SPARQ ratings listed anywhere. Obi Melifonwu is the headliner for that role, but I believe the freak athlete would need to be chosen in round 1, and I’m not sure the Steelers are willing to spend their first pick on a niche role player. I supposed I have to mention Jabril Peppers here as well, though I’m personally not a fan. If they wait until the later rounds someone like Marcus Maye, Nate Gerry, or Josh-Harvey Clemons could be options.