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 2012 class.
First Round (24): G David DeCastro: Considering that he has reached first-team All-Pro status by year four, I would say that the selection of David DeCastro was a good one. This was a pick that they ran up to the podium for, as they often do in the first round, and for good reason. In spite of a major injury setback as a rookie, he has steadily ascended into a complete player who will be a long-term fixture.
Second Round (56): T Mike Adams: Not so much with Mike Adams, who was a major miss. Not only did they deviate from their typical methods by overlooking character flaws due to his personal appeals, he has been a significant disappointment on the field. He failed as a left tackle, and his work subbing in as a right tackle in 2014 was no better. He is still seemingly recovering from a back issue that kept him out of the past season.
Third Round (86): ILB Sean Spence: After two years of recovering from injury, Sean Spence finally took the field again for the first time in 2014, and he has started several games over the past two years due to injury. While his size has been an issue, and his work in coverage has not been as expected, he has shown the ability to play with instinct, and has shown himself to be valuable depth. Whether or not they retain him this offseason remains to be seen.
Fourth Round (109): NT Alameda Ta’amu: The Steelers wanted Alameda Ta’amu. They traded their sixth-round pick to move up in the fourth round to draft him. But even if he ever had any potentially to develop into a starting nose tackle, his off the field drunken rampage doomed him. If I recall correctly, he had a drunk driving incident or something of the sort in college, so the red flag was there.
Fifth Round (159): RB Chris Rainey: Another player in this draft that they took with character concerns that was ultimately his undoing, Chris Rainey actually had a pretty good season as a return man, but after an altercation between him and his girlfriend arose in the offseason, the Steelers were quick to cut ties. The front office went for choir boys in 2013 perhaps as a result of some of this.
Seventh Round (231): WR Toney Clemons: Toney Clemons was likely given a shot having been from the Pittsburgh area, but he was a big wide receiver and the investment wasn’t significant. There wasn’t a major need at the position at the time, so he was put on the practice squad, where he was claimed by the Jaguars. Not a big loss.
Seventh Round (240): TE David Paulson: The Steelers looking for a tight end, and David Paulson didn’t really fit their mould, because he was a bit smaller and not much of a blocker. They didn’t get much out of him, either, but for a seventh-round compensatory pick, the expectations are low.
Seventh Round (246): CB Terrence Frederick: Terrence Frederick did not make the Steelers’ roster, but he did find some playing time with the Giants and Saints over a two-year period. Some—not much. And he wasn’t in the league last year. Maybe he had a bit more potential than the team saw, but they liked Josh Victorian more at the time.
Seventh Round (248): T Kelvin Beachum: Kelvin Beachum was the second-best player that the Steelers drafted in this class, and he came 224 spots after the other one, that being DeCastro. Beachum started 33 games for the Steelers at left tackle over the past three seasons, with injuries keeping him out of 11 starts in that timeframe, and he appears likely to cash in in free agency now. But it was a superb value at this spot in the draft.