So far, we’ve graded 9 out of 19 players currently on the Steelers roster signed to a futures contract. Now, we will finish evaluations with the top 10 best graded futures’ players. The same rules apply from last time, but here’s a reminder about how this works.
First off, this is not a roster prediction post. Grades are given off my assessments of the player’s talent level, though I will mention each player’s chances of making the roster or practice squad. In addition, only the players evaluated in the series and original futures guys will be ranked. Finally, Brelan Chancellor, Richie Leone and Jordan Berry will not be evaluated because Leone and Chancellor were already cut and Berry will either beat out fellow punter Brad Wing or be cut, there is no chance for him to make the practice squad.
The system goes as follows:
A: 53-Man Roster Worthy
B: Practice Squad Worthy
C: Borderline Practice Squad
D: Not Worthy of Practice Squad
F: Not worthy of Training Camp Invite
So here we go, the conclusion of the Steelers Future’s Report series.
Rob Blanchflower-TE Grade: A
Obviously, Blanchflower’s chances of making the roster have dwindled since Pittsburgh drafted Jesse James in the 5th round, yet from what we’ve seen, he seems to have the skills to make an NFL roster. It would not surprise me if the Steelers carried 4 tight ends, though it would be unlikely. Or Blanchflower could possibly make the roster next year with Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth declining.
Matt Conrath-DE Grade: A
This one might surprise people. Conrath is by far the most interesting guy on this whole list due to the fact that he made the St. Louis Rams roster twice despite the Rams sporting one of the deepest defensive fronts in the league for the past few years. With only four spots on the defensive line guaranteed filled by the likes of Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Daniel McCullers and Steve McLendon, Conrath comes into a wide open situation. If he could make the roster twice with the Rams I don’t see why he couldn’t make it with the Steelers if he beats out L.T. Walton, Cam Thomas and Clifton Geathers. Regardless if he makes the roster or not, he should be on a 53 man roster come September or at the very least on someone’s practice squad if he is still eligible.
Howard Jones-OLB Grade: B
The Howard Jones fan club took a major blow when Bud Dupree fell to the Steelers with the 22nd pick. With Dupree, first round pick Jarvis Jones, and vets James Harrison and Arthur Moats all likely to make the team, it appears outside linebacker is set on the 53 man roster. Even if it wasn’t, Jones is still a very raw prospect. He has explosiveness but lacks the fundamentals to consider him a worthy rotation player at outside linebacker. However, his potential and past preseason performance make him worthy of a spot on the practice squad this year. Next year, he will have to step up if he wants to play in the NFL, but for now, Pittsburgh can sit back another year and develop the intriguing prospect.
Kevin Fogg-CB Grade: B
Any chances of Fogg making the 53 man roster fell out the window when the Steelers drafted two cornerbacks with their first four picks in the draft this year. Despite this, Fogg’s explosiveness, athleticism and special teams ability make him more than worthy of the practice squad. The kid jumps off the tape making play after play whenever he is on the field. If Fogg is cut by Pittsburgh and doesn’t receive a practice squad spot I firmly expect another team to offer him one.
Isaiah Lewis-S Grade: B
Personally, I truly believe Lewis could make the 53-man roster as his abilities and character would greatly help the Steelers. Yet, I must be objective when it comes to these evaluations. While there is much to like about Lewis’ game, he is a long shot to be a valued contributor in this league evidenced by his non-existent preseason performance with the Cincinnati Bengals last year. Despite that, he has enough tools to be considered for the practice squad. If he isn’t, someone will scoop him up. I’ll be rooting for him to make the 53, but as far as evaluations, he’s a classic practice squad player with upside.
Shawn Lemon-OLB Grade: B
Lemon passes the game tape test with flying colors as he absolutely dominates players at the CFL level. However, the CFL and the NFL are very different when it comes to level of competition, especially offensive lineman. Since he has absolutely no NFL production or experience at the age of 26 you pretty much have to put him on the practice squad unless he really shows up in the preseason.
L’Damian Washington-WR Grade: C
The player who was cut to bring in Steelers draft target, Devin Gardner still has a chance to make the team or practice squad as he cleared waivers and was added to the Steelers’ IR. However, his chances are now extremely slim. Washington is an athletic receiver whose main contribution comes from downfield and red zone targets. He has lapses of concentration and overall has bad hands which limit his upside. He actually reminds me of Sammie Coates in a poor man’s way. Since that would make three of the same type of receiver with the Steelers organization with Martavis Bryant, Coates and Washington all similar in style it’s doubtful we see him on the practice squad for Pittsburgh. However, I wouldn’t be shocked if he caught on somewhere else.
Alejandro Villanueva-T Grade: C
A project in all phases, Villanueva’s impressive athleticism and size make him a project worth putting time into. All the evidence can be seen on YouTube as you watch him catch passes and run routes fluidly. While he obviously won’t be playing tight end, his ability to run routes means he has quick and nimble feet. Coincidentally, that trait is important for an NFL tackle. Combine that with the 6’9 height and Villanueva becomes one of the more intriguing guys to watch during training camp.
He may not have much experience as an offensive lineman overall, and no experience in the NFL at tackle, but he still warrants a look due to the potential and measurables. He’ll have to beat out a few highly touted undrafted free agents, but with the depth of the offensive line so poor, there’s at least one spot open on the 53-man roster and a spot or two on the practice squad that could possibly be filled by him if he shows promise.
Joe Kruger-DL Grade: C
Another guy who either makes the roster or gets cut Kruger has shown production in the preseason when he was with other teams. Which makes it more head scratching and concerning that he is in this position as an NFL vet signed to a futures contract instead of at least a veteran’s minimum. What this signifies to me is Kruger takes advantage of sub-par competition and coaches don’t see enough potential to keep him around. Of course, that’s all speculation on my part. Here’s the deal. Kruger has good size and seems to fit the 3-4 defensive end role well. I just wonder if he can beat out the other defensive ends vying for the spot. To me, he seems like a finished product, which if that’s the case, it’s doubtful he makes the roster or catches on anywhere else.
C.J. Goodwin-WR Grade: C
We end the final evaluations with one of the biggest question marks coming to Steelers training camp this year in wide receiver, C.J. Goodwin. Goodwin is best known as the player who got a tryout with the Steelers after his friend, former Hall of Fame Steelers’ cornerback, Mel Blount asked the Steelers organization to give Goodwin a look. Tape is extremely limited to nonexistent when it comes to Goodwin.
However, he has prototypical size at 6’3 190 for a slot receiver and the backing of one of the best Steelers of all time. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s assured a spot. He has multiple talented receivers to compete with including recently signed, Devin Gardner the former quarterback at Michigan and I’m sure all Steelers’ fans remember how much Pittsburgh likes converted receivers from quarterback.
Bottom-line though, the Steelers like Goodwin enough to keep him around for over a year and let him battle again to be on the roster, which certainly helps his chances. He’ll have to earn it though as it’s doubtful he will be signed by any other team if he can’t make Pittsburgh’s roster or practice squad.
That concludes the first ever Steelers Future’s Report. Let me know in the comments what you thought of the series or any suggestions to make it better. Thank you for following along, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.