It may not come as a great surprise, but the people over at Pro Football Focus were not among those who would categorize themselves as fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2016 NFL Draft class, grading their three-day haul with a C- overall.
The site was down particularly on the Steelers’ first two draft picks, cornerback Artie Burns with the 25th selection and safety Sean Davis in the second round. Of particular concern regarding Burns was the seeming lack of a scheme fit with what Pittsburgh typically does on defense, and even the team acknowledged after selecting him that he has work to do in off and zone coverages.
Their primary criticism of Davis seemed to focus around his work in coverage as a cornerback last season, but the Steelers have already been clear of their intentions to use him as a safety rather than a cornerback, with his experience at that position simply being an asset to his work at the back end. But they also pointed to a number of missed tackles over the past two seasons, which is certainly nothing the team needs to be adding to their defense.
PFF did, however, like the addition of defensive tackle Javon Hargraves in the third round, while noting that he is “a different body type” than what the Steelers typically use. Of course, we knew well going into the draft that the team was looking for a different body type, or a defensive tackle that offers nickel pass-rush capabilities. Both the Steelers and the site believe his quickness and first step will allow him to do just that.
When it comes to Day Three, the site was a fair bit more generous, pointing out that while fourth-round tackle Jerald Hawkins can stand to improve his pass-blocking efficiency, he has obvious upside in the running game, coming from an offense that can the ball a lot at LSU.
Of the late-round picks, outside linebacker Travis Feeney was lauded for his “good burst and quick hands” that helped produce a high level of pass-rush productivity, and wide receiver Demarcus Ayers was described as “a sure-handed option in the slot with running back skills” and noted his high catch rate with few drops. Tyler Matakevich was not noted in this breakdown but was elsewhere described as good value.
The Steelers’ overall draft graded paled in comparison to how PFF felt about the draft classes of the rest of the AFC North, all three of whom received high marks for their draft hauls, with both the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns stocking up with bulk options while the Cincinnati Bengals stayed put with all of their natural draft picks.
The site gave the Ravens a B+ for their draft class, having nothing negative to say about any of their draft picks. The Bengals, with seven draft picks, received an A-, noting that many of their selections offered great value for where they were drafted. The Browns were given an A. Take in all of this for whatever it might be worth to you, as it’s just another data point in a web of them.