A couple of days ago, I wrote an article about a series of grades evaluating the rookie draft classes of each NFL team following their first seasons, and I talked about the arbitrary nature of the process, in particular the signing of a letter grade for players who have yet to really have a meaningful NFL experience, as is the case of the majority of players in their first seasons.
In the subsequent comments, a few people asked about evaluating past draft classes, which is idea that I had already previously considered. While I will not go so far as to provide letter grades for each player, I will cover each of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft picks from the 2007 class.
First Round (15): ILB Lawrence Timmons: The Steelers hit it pretty good right off the bat with Lawrence Timmons in the first round. Since his third season, before which he was playing backup to two veterans, he has been a workhorse and an ironman, and is still under 30, though not for long. His play has declined some, but he is still an impact player, and he was battling turf toe early in the season.
Second Round (46): OLB LaMarr Woodley: Not quite a homerun given how things ended, but in his prime, which did not last as long as it should have, LaMarr Woodley was a Pro Bowl player and a part of an elite pass-rushing tandem that helped fuel two Super Bowl runs. That can’t be overlooked in the fact of his massive contract and the eventual soft-tissue injuries that derailed his career.
Third Round (77): TE Matt Spaeth: Matt Spaeth may not be the sexiest third-round pick, but he’s still here nine years later and still contributing in his role at a high level. It took a bit of a detour in Chicago for the team to better appreciate him, but they’re glad he’s been back the past three years.
Fourth Round (112): P Daniel Sepulveda: Many will bat an eye over drafting a punter in the fourth round—many did and still do—but I didn’t have a problem with the Steelers drafting Daniel Sepulveda. Had his career not been sidelined by injuries, he may still be here punting, and may have a Pro Bowl or two to his name.
Fourth Round (132): DE Ryan McBean: Ryan McBean didn’t really catch on in Pittsburgh—they had both starters and depth already along the defensive line when they drafted him—but he did end up playing three seasons with the Broncos a bit later in his career. He was even a starter in 2009 and started 21 total games.
Fifth Round (156): G Cameron Stephenson: I won’t lie, I barely remember Cameron Stephonson, and he went to the same school I did, with our time in college overlapping a bit. Research tells me he did not make the roster, then kicked around several practice squads, then different leagues, last seen with the LA KISS in 2014.
Fifth Round (170): CB William Gay: I think it’s fair to say that, factoring in value, William Gay was the Steelers’ best selection in this draft. As a fifth-round pick, he has gone on to start 92 games, including 70 since 2011. He is also a very intelligent player and an ironman, having never missed a game in his career. Now 31, he is the Steelers’ top cornerback and a must-re-sign.
Seventh Round (227): WR Dallas Baker: Dallas Baker caught one pass for six yards in 2008. He was consistently surrounded with an excess of better talent around him, so it’s no surprise he didn’t stick around long. At 6’3”, however, he was an intriguing flier.