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 (32): DE Ziggy Hood: Ziggy Hood heads off the 2009 class, which holds the dubious distinction of being the nearest draft from which the Steelers have no remaining players, though several remain in the league. While Hood never lived up to his draft position, he was far from an outright bust, logging plenty of playing time and starts and contributing serviceable football.
Third Round (79): G Kraig Urbik: It’s funny how differently this draft might be perceived if Kraig Urbik were the undrafted free agent and Ramon Foster were the third-round pick. Foster continues to start and may even walk in free agency this year for more money, and he would probably be spared a lot of the underselling that he receives had he come into the league with a pedigree. Meanwhile, Urbik spent one year on the roster before being released, though he went on to have modest success later with the Bills.
Third Round (84): WR Mike Wallace: Mike Wallace never really showed himself to be much more than the one-trick pony he was painted as, but that was a damn good trick when he had the right arm letting him run under the ball. The Steelers got out at the right time and netted a high compensatory pick for it.
Third Round (96): CB Keenan Lewis: It took Keenan Lewis a couple of seasons to find himself, including a change in position coach, but he developed into a quality starting cornerback that the front office probably still regrets not finding a way to keep.
Fifth Round (168): CB Joe Burnett: After the Steelers double dipped at cornerback, Joe Burnett skipped ahead of Lewis initially, and even got some playing time as a rookie, but he played too much as a rookie to be eligible for the practice squad in year two, so when he didn’t make the roster, the team lost him, even if he had potential to develop.
Fifth Round (169): FB Frank Summers: Frank Summers was supposed to be the team’s fullback, but he got injured pretty much immediately and basically lost his job to David Johnson, drafted two years later. As with Urbik, however, he later went on to play some for the Bills.
Sixth Round (205): DE Ra’Shon Harris: Another defensive end from the draft, the Steelers liked him enough to re-acquire him a time or two when they lost him, but he never played in the league after his rookie season.
Seventh Round (226): C A.Q. Shipley: The short-armed A.Q. Shipley didn’t catch on in Pittsburgh, or anywhere, for years, but all of a sudden, in 2012, he found life in Indianapolis, starting five games. The next year, he started nine games for the Ravens, then five back in Indianapolis in 2014. He was with the Cardinals for 12 games in 2015, starting three games.
Seventh Round (241): TE David Johnson: I confess to being a fan of David Johnson, though I haven’t really followed his career since joining the Chargers two seasons ago. He was a 16-game starter out of the backfield in 2011 before missing all of 2012 with a torn ACL. He came back as a tight end in 2013 and played well until he suffered another season-ending injury. And he had a decent career before that, eventually becoming a competent player both as a fullback and as an in-line blocking tight end, despite being 6’2”.