I am not to be counted among the group who believes that the Pittsburgh Steelers should release Ladarius Green, nor am I among those who think he won’t be able to return to his usual football self. I say this to frame my point of view, not to posit a value on my position.
I am also not to be included among those who think that the Steelers are good to go with Jesse James as their obvious number one tight end. I think that they can get by with him as their top tight end if they had to, as was the case last year, but his spot will be wanting of an upgrade.
That said, I also before now never really saw myself as among those who put much stock in the need to draft a tight end in this class, or at least not a prominent tight end. While I still don’t think it’s a necessity, I’m beginning to lean toward the idea that the conglomeration of talent at the position that will be available in the third round will make too much sense to pass up.
The simple fact of that matter is that on paper this is easily one of the best tight end classes that the NFL has seen in some time, perhaps since the 90s. There figure to be a lot of quality options that could be available with their natural third-round pick, or even their compensatory pick, that in a shallower group in a different year might go in the second round.
Now, is this class going to come away with a haul as impressive as 2013’s with Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz, Jordan Reed, and Travic Kelce? That is something that can never be predicted. But it’s going to be an impressive group all on its own, and it’s going to come from a combination of the individually great players as well as the sheer number of quality options.
You have everybody from guys like O.J. Howard and David Njoku through options like Jeremy Sprinkle and George Kittle that will find ways to make contributions to teams, perhaps early on. While the Steelers did give David Johnson a two-year contract, that didn’t exactly clear the position from their draft board, so one of those later names could be on the back of a Steelers uniform.
I haven’t forgotten about somebody like Xavier Grimble, of course, but while he has some intrigue, he is ultimately expendable in favor of a more concrete player with higher upside without a doubt. And the Steelers in recent years have shown that they really have no issue carrying four tight ends if Green sticks, yet the fact that there will still be uncertainty about him makes a higher pick here feel more right.