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 2010 class.
First Round (18): C Maurkice Pouncey: I’m going to go out on a limb and promote Maurkice Pouncey as a strong draft pick. A day one starter and a Pro Bowler every year he’s been healthy, the only blemish on his resume has been two high-profile freak injuries that wiped out two of his sixth professional seasons. When he is on the field, the Steelers are a much better team, because he is an elite player at a crucial position.
Second Round (52): OLB Jason Worilds: The selection of Jason Worilds was not as much of a home run, but is also often portrayed as worse than it truly was. An outside linebacker playing behind two Pro Bowlers at his position, it was not until his fourth season in 2013 after he was moved to the left side that his career began to take off, becoming a strong pass rusher. His play leveled off in 2014 after being given the transition tag, and then he retired, but he showed himself to be a player before that.
Third Round (82): WR Emmanuel Sanders: While Emmanuel Sanders took off in his post-Steelers career, becoming a Pro Bowl wide receiver in his own right along with draftmate Antonio Brown, he was still a pretty good player in Pittsburgh as well. He caught six touchdowns in his one year as a starter before hitting free agency.
Fourth Round (116): OLB Thaddeus Gibson: The low man on the pass-rushing totem pole in part because he missed some of the offseason due to school commitments, Thaddeus Gibson was released midseason when the Steelers chose not to put Aaron Smith on injured reserve, instead bolstering their defensive line depth. He was claimed off waivers, but the team never re-signed him when they had opportunities down the road.
Fifth Round (151): OL Chris Scott: A college tackle, he was converted to guard in the NFL. He spent most of his rookie season on the Physically Unable to Perform List, never active. He was active for two of the four first games of the 2011 before he was released and signed to the practice squad. After that, he kicked around in Buffalo before finding a home in Carolina. He was active for 13 games last year, and actually started eight games in 2013.
Fifth Round (164): CB Crezdon Butler: Crezdon Butler was only active for four games as a rookie because of his weak special teams, but he lost out in a numbers game in 2011 after the Steelers drafted two more corners. He has since been on at least seven other teams. He started three games in Tampa Bay in 2014 and was on the Lions for eight weeks and the Seahawks for one in 2015. Perhaps if the practice squad rules were then what they are now, the team could have kept him and developed him more.
Fifth Round (166): ILB Stevenson Sylvester: A fairly solid fifth-round pick, Stevenson Sylvester was a strong special teams player and an intelligent football player, but never seemed to put it all together and at times struggled when he did get on the field, no matter how much the coaches liked him. He spent four years in Pittsburgh but hasn’t been on a team since.
Sixth Round (188): RB Jonathan Dwyer: Though the team got good production out of Jonathan Dwyer for a sixth-round pick, that is not out of the ordinary for running backs. He had a few highlight runs and started six games in 2012, but there were always questions about his vision and dedication. He was with Arizona in 2014 for the first two games, but his life took a scary turn after that, arrested for domestic assault allegations. He was put on suicide watch while in jail.
Sixth Round (195): WR Antonio Brown: For a sixth-round wide receiver, Antonio Brown has gone on to have a commendable career. Quality value given the draft investment
Seventh Round (242): DE Doug Worthington: Doug Worthington did not make the Steelers’ 53-man roster, and did not stick long on the practice squad, but that was not the end of his career by any means. He spent time with the Buccaneers in 2010, and then was with the Redskins organization for three years—in 2013 on injured reserve. He spent 2014 out of the league, but resurfaced with the Rams, bouncing between the 53-man roster and practice squad before landing on injured reserve in late December.