With the 2016 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certainly players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, has sent their stock rising or falling.
Player: CB Ross Cockrell
Stock Value: Even
Normally, when a team drafts a player at your position and you are only perceived as something of a fringe starter, it tends not to be a good thing. But for Ross Cockrell, I don’t know that the drafting of Artie Burns means a great deal, at least not initially.
Burns, who only turned 21 after the draft, is a young and inexperienced player whose starting position on opening day would be somewhat of an eyebrow-raiser if it came by way of any route other than injury. Cockrell figures to enter the 2016 season as the starter provided that something unforeseen does not intervene between now and then.
Long-term, perhaps even at some point during the season, Burns is obvious projected to enter the starting lineup at some point. A first-round pick is always expected to at some point develop into one of your top 11 players on either side of the ball. Or, if you’re the Raiders, to be your kicker for quite a while.
Cockrell probably never had “long-term starter” stamped on his forehead, so I don’t see the infusion of Burns into the secondary as a blow to his potential here. And this is all provided, anyway, that Senquez Golson solidifies the slot role in the nickel defense, because otherwise it might be Burns and Cockrell outside with William Gay sliding into the slot in the nickel, which is their predominant defensive package.
Signed on the final cut down day just prior to the start of the 2015 regular season, Cockrell began to log defensive snaps by necessity as early as the second week of the season as injuries mounted at the cornerback position. He was able to take advantage of a couple of opportunities that presented itself to make some splash plays, and that kept him in the rotation all season.
This is the first time that he is entering the year as a real defensive piece of the puzzle, so it’s hard to place a value on his prior service, even if he did log about 60 percent of the team’s snaps during the regular season.
For now, he is one of only two cornerbacks with meaningful experience currently on the roster, so that gives him a lot of value. Adding Burns doesn’t help his stock, but their losing three cornerbacks in free agency—including Antwon Blake, who started every game ahead of Cockrell—does balance that out.