Just seven picks after drafting Travis Feeney, the Pittsburgh Steelers went back to the offensive side of the ball to draft Houston wide receiver Demarcus Ayers with No. 227 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
I’ll be honest up front: Ayers isn’t a guy that I watched a lot of during this draft process, but he’s a guy that put up some great production this past season with Houston.
Ayers’ 98 receptions led the FBS last season, and his 1,222 yards (12.6 yards per catch) and six touchdowns shows that he can produce with a high number of targets as the No. 1 receiver.
However, Ayers is small at 5-feet-9, 182 pounds. As far as value, I think this was a reach for the Steelers. Granted, I understand the need for a guy like Ayers who can make plays in space and can serve as a return man, but with guys like Clemson’s Charone Peake, Tulsa’s Keyarris Garrett and Cal’s Kenny Lawler still on the board, I think the Steelers would have been better off going with one of those guys.
But with most of the top return guys off the board, taking Ayers for need this late in the draft makes sense. He likely would have been on the board at No. 246, but with the list dwindling the Steelers might have felt like they needed to jump on a wide receiver with this pick.
Ayers is certainly entering a crowded wide receiver room, so it might be best served for him to serve as strictly a return man this season while he learns the real nuances of the position under Richard Mann.
Should Ayers contribute immediately as a returner then this pick looks good, but if he fails to make the team while guys like Peake and Garrett make NFL rosters and contribute as pass catchers, the value here continues to drop.
I can’t say I hate the pick (way too hard to say that until we seem them play), but I think the Steelers would have been better off going in another direction at receiver.