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Post-Draft Research: How The 2016 Class Matches Our Draft Criteria

Some of the most fun I had during the pre-draft process involved my several draft criteria studies, either looking internally by position, or league wide. From the internal look, some of the pre-draft visitors matched up with what we outlined. But did the picks themselves, the ones that matter, follow the same path? I honestly have no idea s a I type this. So let’s go through the applicable selections and see if they do. All in an effort to learn and refine our process for the future.

Round One: Artie Burns/CB 

Corner is a position we looked at. Burns certainly broke some non-testing barriers. The first cornerback to get taken in the first since 1997. A junior who wasn’t brought in for a visit, something I don’t have a number for, but is rare. The fewest number of starts, 23, of any cornerback drafted in the Tomlin/Colbert era.

What about his testing? How did that stack up? Let’s again review the criteria I formed on March 22nd.

Between 185 and 199 pounds
Arm length of at least 31 inches
4.55 40 or lower
35+ inch vertical
10’0″+ inch broad
Sub 4.25 short shuttle

And now, let’s put them side-by-side with Burns.

Between 185 and 199 pounds – 193 pounds
Arm length of at least 31 inches – 33 1/4 inches
4.55 40 or lower – 4.46 seconds
35+ inch vertical – 33 inches
10’0″+ inch broad – 10’4″ broad
Sub 4.25 short shuttle – 4.33 seconds

Criteria Met: 4/6

Burns was certainly an unconventional type who didn’t fit the Steelers’ scheme to a “T,” something even Kevin Colbert admitted following the pick. Burns’ short shuttle fell just shy and his vertical was the worst ever under Mike Tomlin. Overall, Burns hit most of our marks but didn’t touch them all.

Round Two – Sean Davis/S-CB 

We didn’t look at safeties in my study, there were too few to create a sample size, but as we noted in that same study, Davis was the only safety/safety hyrbid to hit the crtieria, minus weight. But the fact his numbers matched up despite weighing 201 pounds is only a positive. Here is how Davis matched up to the CB criteria.

Between 185 and 199 pounds – 201 pounds
Arm length of at least 31 inches – 31 3/8 inches
4.55 40 or lower – 4.46 seconds
35+ inch vertical – 37.5 inches
10’0″+ inch broad – 10’6″ broad
Sub 4.25 short shuttle – 3.97 seconds

Criteria Met: 5/6

Again, the only one he fails to his is the weight. But everything else is dead-on. No surprise the Steelers had so much interest.

Round Three – Javon Hargrave/DL 

Hargrave is a bit of a tricky fit since he profiles a bit like a nose tackle and our study didn’t have any of those. But we also know that Hargrave is a far cry from Daniel McCullers. Here is the criteria laid out in mid-March for defensive linemen.

6’3 290+
33+ inch arms
10+ hands
Sub 5.3 40
25+ bench reps

And how he matched to each.

6’3 290+ – 6’1, 309
33+ inch arms – 32 inches
10+ hands – 9 5/8 inches
Sub 5.3 40 – 4.93 seconds
25+ bench reps – 29 reps

Criteria Met: 3/6

Again, because he isn’t a five tech, it’s hard to say he doesn’t “match” because we’re looking through a different lenses. He’s naturally smaller and stubbier because the position doesn’t ask for a guy to be 6’5. But generally, we see Hargrave as an A+ athlete whose bench press reps suggest a dedication to the weight room. You’d really have to give this one an incomplete grade as the nose tackle position evolves.

Round Four: Jerald Hawkins/OT 

Tackles were broken down into several sub-categories. Hawkins, weighing in at 305 pounds, falls into the following categories.

Be at least 6’5 300+ pounds
If < 34 inch arms, put up at least 25 reps on the bench press
1.85 ten yard split or under
Under 7.8 in three cone
27+ inch vertical

And here are Hawkins’ results.

Be at least 6’5 300+ pounds – 6’5/5 305 pounds
If < 34 inch arms, put up at least 25 reps on the bench press – 34 1/4 inch arms, bench is irrelevant
1.85 ten yard split or under – 1.88 seconds
Under 7.8 in three cone – 8.19 three cone
27+ inch vertical – 23.5 inches

Criteria Met: 3/6

Hawkins certainly brings the size but boy, does he miss bad in the athletic testing. The three cone and vertical are by far the worst of any tackle taken under Tomlin. The previous marks were 7.94 and 28.5. Now, Hawkins did deal with an ankle injury throughout the season, though had declared himself healthy, so take that how you will. But from that standpoint, Hawkins is a far deviation athletically from what the Steelers tend to look for. Maybe he’s an outlier. Or maybe I’m back to the drawing board.

Round Six: Travis Feeney/OLB 

This study was done in late March. Here’s a link to it and here is the criteria we set up.

Be at least 6’1, 240+ pounds
Arm length of at least 32 inches
Hand size of at least nine inches
Sub 4.8 40 time
Sub 1.7 ten split
9’5″ broad or greater
Sub 4.35 short shuttle
Sub 7.0 three cone

And Feeney’s times.

Be at least 6’1, 240+ pounds – 6’3/5 230
Arm length of at least 32 inches – 33 3/8 inches
Hand size of at least nine inches – 9 1/2 inches
Sub 4.8 40 time – 4.5 seconds
Sub 1.7 ten split – 1.59 seconds
9’5″ broad or greater – 10’10” broad
Sub 4.35 short shuttle – 4.42 seconds
Sub 7.0 three cone – 7.20 seconds

Criteria Met: 6/9

There was a great and spirited debate over if my agility thresholds were accurate. But I stuck with them then and will do so now, though Feeney’s times could change things for the next class. He misses in both categories. Aside from weight, this super-athlete checks all the other boxes extremely well.

Round Seven: Demarcus Ayers/PR

Because Ayers was viewed as a punt returner more than a receiver, it’s difficult to compare him to our pure-receiver metrics. If you’re curious though, Ayers didn’t test well in the few catergories we have numbers for. He only matched up in the vertical (35 inches) and broad (10’3″). 40 and shuttle drills missed the mark.

Round Seven: Tyler Matakevich/ILB

We set our criteria on March 24th. They are as follows.

Be at least 6’0 and between 230 and 240 pounds
Have an arm length of at least 31 inches
Hand size of 9+ inches
20+ reps on bench press
Sub 4.8 40 time
30+ inch vertical
4.4 or better in the short shuttle

And Matakevich’s numbers are…

Be at least 6’0 and between 230 and 240 pounds – 6’0, 238
Have an arm length of at least 31 inches – 31 1/4 inches
Hand size of 9+ inches – 9 1/2 inches
20+ reps on bench press – 22 reps
Sub 4.8 40 time – 4.81 seconds
30+ inch vertical – 31 inches
4.4 or better in the short shuttle – 4.5 seconds

Criteria Met: 6/8

Surprisingly, despite being viewed as a marginal athlete, Matakevich stacks up reasonably well. He barely missed in his 40 time, a blink off, and his short shuttle isn’t that far away either. He’s in the sweet spot for everything else.

Let’s wrap this up with a final grade. The total number of criteria and the total number met from all the draft picks.

27/41 = 65.8%

If this was a test score, this would barely be passing. But it’s also important to understand that rarely did a single player involved in those pre-draft studies hit every metric. It was the collection that formed things for us.

Personally, and I’ll leave it up to you as the unbiased party here, these metrics aren’t gospel. But they do provide a nice starting point to find players who could interest Pittsburgh. In this difficult to wade through draft class, that’s good enough for me.

Couple other things to round things out. Looking team-wide. In our starting experience study, all but one of the players hit their mark (again, not counting Ayers). The exception, as we said, was Artie Burns.

League-wide, we had pegged the Steelers as one of the least likely teams to be interested in FCS players, only drafting two since 2007. They took one, of course, in Hargrave, but showed extreme pre-draft interest in him. So we know if the Steelers make this leap, you’ll know it’s a name your’e aware of.

Finally, in our first study conducted that got me interested in this thing, the Steelers were in the upper-third for teams who drafted players who worked out at the Combine. 63 of 76 heading into this season. All seven picks in this year’s class were invited to Indy, bumping them up to 70 of 83, or 84.3%. I have not compared them to the rest of the league but figure they bump up one or two positions. This sticks to our previous notion that the bulk of their picks must work out here.

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