NFL analyst and former professional scout Daniel Jeremiah has one of the keener and more widely respected eyes for the game amongst his peers. He has applied his talent for evaluating players for a number of years, both in preparing for the draft and in looking at those who are already in the league.
Recently, Jeremiah broke down this year’s crop of first rounders and broke them down by offense and defense, supplying a season grade and brief evaluation for each player, ranking them in a five-tiered system, including a TBD category for those unable to play this year, of which there have been four.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, their rookie first-round pick, outside linebacker Bud Dupree, graded out well, falling into the second tier of players deemed “knocking on the door”, behind the “heads of the class”.
Jeremiah gave the 22-year-old a B+ for his work to date, saying that “Dupree is still a work in progress, but he flashes on tape when you study the Steelers. He should be a double-digit sack artist next season”.
He was the eighth-ranked defender overall, but he received the highest ranking of this year’s class of edge rushers in their rookie season up to this point, which Shane Ray and Shaq Thompson coming in behind him in the knocking on the door category with B grades.
The top of the list was dominated by defensive backs, representing four of the top of the top six rookies in his evaluation. Marcus Peters predictably topped the list as the only defensive rookie to earn an A+ for his season, and he figures to be the front-runner to earn the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, though he is not without competition.
As far as Dupree’s evaluation goes, it is one that is hard to argue with. While he did manage to crack the starting lineup two games ago, the semantic shift has not meant much, since he has been working in a steady rotation since the opening game; in fact, his snaps have only decreased since then.
His physical attributes, including his elite first step, and quality overall speed and strength, remain evident in abundance whenever he does get the opportunity to utilize them, but that is not always the case when he spends too much time thinking.
While he has managed to compile four sacks thus far as a rookie, his overall pass-rushing portfolio is undoubtedly left wanting, as he is only infrequently able to put opposing quarterbacks under duress. His natural abilities have helped him close the deal on a few of those sacks.
It’s also notable that his most recent sack came four games ago, and he has only two in the last 10 weeks. While he has progressed as a pass rusher since training camp, showing signs of building a minor repertoire of moves and the knowledge of setting one up for a later move, that progress has not remained consistent.
Dupree may well emerge as a double-digit sack type of player as early as next season, but as far as he first season goes, he has likely already come fairly close to tapping out his ceiling until he is able to get an offseason under his belt to digest this experience, not that he has been a disappointment by any means.