It might seem a bit stilly to make grand projections about rookies all the way in May, well before we know much of anything about them, but in defense of those who do so, there really isn’t a lot else to talk about during this time of the year.
A recently came across one such early prognostication courtesy of NFL.com, in which Bucky Brooks projects the players that he anticipates will finish the 2018 NFL season on the All-Rookie team, and one of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ selections did make the list. I think most will be able to guess who that is with relative ease.
The player with the clearest path toward playing time for the Steelers this year is second-round pick James Washington, who has an ideal opportunity to slide right into the slot at the team’s third wide receiver in between All-Pro Antonio Brown and last year’s star rookie, JuJu Smith-Schuster.
The role opened up once the Steelers made the decision to pull the trigger on a trade when the Oakland Raiders offered them a third-round pick for Martavis Bryant. There currently are not a lot of other enticing options on the roster to be that number three guy.
“AFC North opponents quickly learn that Washington is more than capable of torching one-on-one coverage as an explosive big-play threat”, Brooks writes of the Steelers’ newest draft pick at the wide receiver position. The Arizona Cardinals’ Christian Kirk is the other wide receiver he projects to make the All-Rookie team. The Steelers had Kirk in for a pre-draft visit.
I thought it would be interesting to compare how Brooks fared in guessing the All-Rookie team from last season. There is an All-Rookie team, which is selected by the PFWA. He did get many right, projecting quarterback Deshaun Watson and tight end Evan Engram. Neither of his running backs made it.
He predicted Mike Williams and Zay Jones at wide receiver. Instead it was Smith-Schuster and Cooper Kupp, and really it wasn’t even close. He also got two of the five offensive linemen right, though one of his picks suffered a season-ending injury before he played.
He also hit on one of the two safeties and one of the two cornerbacks, mistakenly favoring Marlon Humphrey over Marshon Lattimore but guessing Tre’Davious White correctly. He got two of the three linebackers in Reuben Foster and Jarrad Davis, but didn’t anticipate the Steelers’ T.J. Watt, opting for Raekwon McMillan instead.
Of course Myles Garrett was an easy projection. Derek Barnett was another hit. He expected Solomon Thomas to make the team as well, but did not. Carl Lawson and Dalvin Tomlinson were favored in that regard.
Overall, Brooks actually did a pretty good job, guessing about 10 names correct. And really, if you go back to last season and look at his list, none of it seemed outlandish. Leonard Fournette and Forrest Lamp were safe assumptions; the latter got injured and the former saw two later picks emerge in Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara.