NFL Draft

Study: What The Steelers Look For In Wide Receivers

We are back to do one of my favorite, and hopefully useful, studies during the season. Last year, we began to look at the type of prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers gravitated towards in each draft under the Tomlin/Colbert umbrella. We’ll reevaluate this year, tweak the numbers, and do the same. Like last year, we’ll list all the receivers the team has drafted.

Couple of caveats you need to know before we start this process. Any timed event, like the 40 or short shuttle, I take from the Combine only. Pro Day times can, and often are, better, but where they come from is unreliable and they’re all hand-timed, meaning you know every team has a different number. At the Combine, things are a little more reliable, even if teams do hand-time too. I will use the better Pro Day number for untimed events, like bench press or vertical. That’s the process we began with last year and we’ll stick with it.

Our cutoff for this year will be 75% of the picks have to meet the criteria. That creates the Steelers’ threshold. So if 7 of 10 players meet “X,” we can’t use it. If 8 of 10 do, that can be our threshold. And I do leave some breathing room, normally. If the threshold for the broad is 10’1, I’ll round it down to 10 foot even. Just to make things a little less rigid. You might disagree but I just want to be transparent in how we’re going about this.

2017: JuJu Smith-Schuster

Height: 6’1/2
Weight: 215
40 Time: 4.54
Vertical: 33.5
Broad: 10’3″
Short Shuttle: N/A
Three Cone: N/A
Bench: 15
Hand Size: 10 1/2

2016: Demarcus Ayers

Height: 5’9/3
Weight: 182
40 Time: 4.72
Vertical: 35
Broad: 10’3”
Short Shuttle N/A
Three Cone: N/A
Hand Size: 9 1/4
Bench: N/A

2015: Sammie Coates

Height: 6’1/2
Weight: 212
40 Time: 4.43
Vertical: 41.5
Broad: 10’11”
Short Shuttle 4.06
Three Cone: 6.98
Bench: 23
Hand Size: 9 3/8

2014: Martavis Bryant 

Height: 6’3/6
Weight: 211
40 Time: 4.42
Vertical: 39
Broad: 10’4″
Short Shuttle 4.15
Three Cone: 7.18
Bench: 16
Hand Size: 9 1/2

2013: Markus Wheaton

Height: 5’11
Weight: 189
40 Time: 4.45
Vertical: 37
Broad: 10’0″
Short Shuttle 4.02
Three Cone: 6.80
Bench: 20
Hand Size: 9 1/8

Justin Brown

Height: 6’3/1
Weight: 207
40 Time:  4,60
Vertical: 30.5
Board: 9’9″
Short Shuttle N/A
Three Cone: N/A
Bench: 8

2012: Toney Clemons

Height: 6’2/1
Weight: 210
40 Time: 4.40
Vertical: 36
Broad: 10’8″
Short Shuttle N/A
Three Cone: N/A
Bench: 11

2010: Emmanuel Sanders

Height: 5’10/7
Weight: 186
40 Time: 4.41
Vertical: 39.5
Broad: 10’6″
Short Shuttle 4.10
Three Cone: 6.64
Bench: 12

Antonio Brown

Height: 5’10/1
Weight: 186
40 Time: 4.57
Vertical: 33.5
Broad: 8’9″
Short Shuttle 4.18
Three Cone: 6.98
Bench: 13

2009: Mike Wallace 

Height: 6’0/3
Weight: 199
40 Time: 4.33
Vertical: 40
Broad: 10’9″
Short Shuttle 4.27
Three Cone: 6.90
Bench: 14

2008: Limas Sweed

Height: 6’3/7
Weight: 215
40 Time: 4.55
Vertical: 37.5
Broad: 10’8″
Short Shuttle N/A
Three Cone: N/A
Bench: N/A

2007: Dallas Baker

Height: 6’3/1
Weight: 208
40 Time: 4.49
Vertical: 36
Broad: 10’9″
Short Shuttle 4.19
Three Cone: 6.69
Bench: N/A

Based off all this, here are our WR thresholds drat picks must meet. Next to each number is the number of draft picks who met it, again, keeping that 75% percentage in mind. None of the criteria changed from last year to this year even after adding in JuJu Smith-Schuster’s numbers.

Height: 5’10+ (11 of 12 players drafted)
Weight: 180+ (12 of 12)
40 Time: 4.57 (10 of 12)
Vert: 35+(10 of 12)
Broad: 10+ (10 of 12)
Sub 4.3 short shuttle (7 of 7)
Sub 7.0 three cone (6 of 7)
Bench: 10+ (8 of 9)

Here are the two players at the Combine who checked every one of those boxes.

Name Height Weight 40 Time Bench Vert Broad SS 3 Cone
D.J. Moore 6’0 210 4.42 15 39.5 11’0″ 4.07 6.95
Courtland Sutton 6’3/3 218 4.54 18 35.5 10’4″ 4.11 6.57

Moore is projected to be a first round pick and likely off the board when the Steelers submit their card. Sutton is rowing a similar boat. But if either drops? Could be a tough decision for Kevin Colbert and the gang.

There were six players who were razor thin to joining him. Here are the six who missed in one category.

J’Mon Moore/Missouri: 40 Time (4.60)
Dylan Cantrell/Texas Tech: 40 Time (4.59)
Michael Gallup/Colorado State: Short Shuttle (4.37)
Richie James/Middle Tennessee State: Bench (6)
Tre’Quan Smith/UCF: Short Shuttle (4.50)
Cedrick Wilson Jr./Boise State: Bench (9)

Wilson and James missed hitting every mark by only a couple reps on the bar. Moore and Cantrell a fraction of a second in the 40. Ditto Gallup in the short shuttle.

The other problem is that so many players no longer run the shuttle drills or don’t participate in certain events, which makes it harder to find great fits. But it’s also fair to say this is a relatively average draft class at the position. Not as many “freaks” as there have been in previous years.

Here are the three who missed in at least half (four) of the categories. SDSU’s Jake Wieneke missed in six which is legitimately difficult to do. Only made it for his height and weight.

Simmie Cobbs/Indiana: 40 Time (4.64), Vert (30), Broad (9’5″), Short Shuttle (4.32)
Ka’Ruan White/West Virginia: Vert (33.5), Broad (9’10”), Short Shuttle (4.57), Three Cone (7.16)
Jake Wieneke/South Dakota State: 40 Time (4.67), Bench (9), Vert (34), Broad (9’6″), Short Shuttle (4.37), Three Cone (7.24)

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