There are not a lot of meaningful conclusions that you can reach about a player after the end of his first season, but that certainly doesn’t stop people from talking about it. You can find just about any variety of analysis that you would care to read if you just look for it, complete with bold letter grades.
I’m not going to do that. But I am going to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers’s 2015 NFL Draft class, both collectively, in this article, as was as individually, in succeeding articles.
While the tides have slowly turned in Pittsburgh regarding rookie players being held back in terms of playing time in recent years, the 2015 class outside of their first-round pick did not get a lot of burn during the year, but that shouldn’t be terribly surprising in hindsight.
The Steelers entered the draft process this year with eight draft picks, including the seven natural draft picks in each round, in addition to a compensatory draft pick in the sixth round, in addition to some notable undrafted free agent acquisitions.
Player: Senquez Golson
Draft Status: 2nd round (56th overall)
Much was expected of Senquez Golson. He was a cornerback. He was a second-round draft pick. He was a second-round cornerback, and it meant that the Steelers supposedly were finally willing to invest in the secondary that they have allegedly chosen to ignore.
Of course, the selection of a second-round cornerback came in the same offseason during which the Steelers saw the retirement of Ike Taylor, who was the team’s top cornerback for the past decade, and who was re-signed to a big-money contract. I’m pretty sure that counts as investment. As does Cortez Allen’s contract, but of course that didn’t work out.
But I digress. Golson’s drafting was both celebrated and chided. Celebrated because he was high-round draft pick. Chided because he stands at just under 5’9”. Though he played on the outside throughout his college career, many concluded before seeing him play that he couldn’t play outside.
Of course, we still don’t know whether or not that is the case at the NFL level, because the rookie suffered a torn labrum during the offseason and spent the entirety of his rookie season on the injured reserve list.
But the fact that the Steelers felt it necessary to go out and make a move to trade for Brandon Boykin after learning of Golson’s fate suggests the value and potential role that the team believed he may serve even in his rookie season—at the very least, immediate depth at the slot position.
While there have been some comments from the front office about Golson essentially being a rookie in 2016—and that is obviously partly true—he won’t be coming in with a rookie’s knowledge of the defense, because he has been invested in the system and engaged with the team throughout his rehab. He should be able to get off to a running start next season.
It will be interesting to see where he gets played when things get rolling. I suspect that the coaching staff will move him all over the place, both inside and out. After all, they are clearly not averse to playing shorter cornerbacks outside, even if they neglected to give Boykin that opportunity.
But Golson should be. He is a player that they believed in, clearly—especially his ball skills, picking off 10 passes in his final collegiate season. I know that many have their doubts, but I believe that they are eager to get him on the field as soon as possible.