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 2009 class.
First Round (23): RB Rashard Mendenhall: It’s time now for everybody’s favorite draft class, beginning with talented but oddball running back Rashard Mendenhall. While his rookie season was shot due to injury, he emerged in year two and put together a string of three solid seasons, including a 1273-yard, 13-touchdown campaign in 2010. He was never the same after tearing his ACL, and then went AWOL, ruining his relationship with the team.
Second Round (53): WR Limas Sweed: I think it’s safe to say that Limas Sweed is the worst wide receiver draft pick the Steelers have made in a long time. While the college tape shows talent, the mental and emotional aspect of the game was never there. He got himself open and then he dropped the ball. He faded quickly in his third training camp.
Third Round (88): OLB Bruce Davis: Then there was Bruce Davis, who was never able to transition to outside linebacker. He spent most of his rookie season inactive and then failed to make the team in 2009.
Fourth Round (130): OL Tony Hills: While the Steelers never got out of Tony Hills what they wanted, he did come on later in his career. He hung around in Pittsburgh for three years after working inside at guard some, and remains in the league as a journeyman.
Fifth Round (156): QB Dennis Dixon: Dennis Dixon…is he gone yet? A former Oregon quarterback in the running for the Heisman, Dixon failed to develop despite getting four years in Pittsburgh. He’s kicked around practice squads since then.
Sixth Round (188): OLB Mike Humpal: Yet another uninspiring linebacker from this draft class, Mike Humpal was waived injured as a rookie, went unclaimed, and spent the year on injured reserve. The Steelers released him next February and he never sniffed another contract elsewhere.
Seventh Round (194): S Ryan Mundy: Ryan Mundy was a nice story as a Pittsburgh native, but his got off to a bumpy start, injured in his first season. He came back to make the roster and was with the Steelers through 2012. In that year, however, he failed as a spot starter and had to be benched. He signed with the Giants in 2013, and then the Bears in 2014, starting 25 games in that span, but he spent this year on injured reserve, and I believe he will now be a free agent. At 31, he might not get another contract at this stage.