There are not a lot of meaningful conclusions that you can reach about a player after the end of his first season, but that certainly doesn’t stop people from talking about it. You can find just about any variety of analysis that you would care to read if you just look for it, complete with bold letter grades.
I’m not going to do that. But I am going to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2016 NFL Draft class, both collectively, in this article, as well as individually, in succeeding articles.
The Steelers entered the draft process this past year with seven draft picks, including their natural draft picks sans their fifth, which they gave up in a trade for Brandon Boykin, plus an extra seventh-round pick in exchange for Brad Wing.
In contrast to recent history, the Steelers received significant playing time on defense from three rookies, while also getting some minor contributions from some late-round picks to boot. In terms of rookie seasons, it was the most successful class in recent memory.
Player: Sean Davis
Draft Status: 2nd round (58th overall)
Sean Davis certainly had himself an interesting rookie season. The Steelers coveted his versatility coming out of the draft as a player who had logged significant playing time at both safety and cornerback, and while they drafted him with an eye toward eventually starting at safety, they were open to using him in the slot as well.
While their projected slot cornerback, Senquez Golson, continued to deal with injuries, the Steelers began to use Davis in that role over the course of the early stages of the offseason. Golson was never active for long, leaving Davis in that role, and he assumed that responsibility for the first few games of the season until he dealt with an upper body injury.
Davis had some troubles working as a slot cornerback, which would not be surprising for any rookie, let alone a player more accustomed to playing safety, but following his injury, the coaching staff scaled back his responsibilities and let him focus on safety.
Prior to the bye week, after a week of almost no playing time, Davis came back to play safety in a sub-package before going back to the bench. Following the bye, however, he began to rotate with Robert Golden as the starting strong safety, and after two games he began to start.
He started the final seven games of the regular season, recording four of his five passes defensed and an interception. He also had a fumbled recovered for a touchdown that was negated by penalty. He had several significant plays spread out over the season, including a couple of goal-line stops.
Davis’ rookie campaign was certainly not without its warts—he still needs to clean up his tackling, for one thing—but he got off to a great start from which to build in his second season, which is what the Steelers are counting on heading into 2017, following a team rookie of the year campaign.