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Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: 2020 Rookies Tale Of The Tape

Top 3 Rookie Draft Picks

Last year, I compared the statistics of the Pittsburgh Steelers top three draft picks with their contemporaries selected by other teams in the 2019 NFL draft. This season, we’ll track Chase Claypool and Alex Highsmith to see how they stack up against their draft class. The first-round draft choice went to the Miami Dolphins when the Steelers acquired Minkah Fitzpatrick. Miami used that pick to draft Austin Jackson who is their starting offensive tackle. So, this season, we are tracking just the Steelers second and third round draft choices.

Here is a quick look after one regular season game. I will update this around midseason and then again at the end of the season. Let me know if there are other players you want tracked against these Steelers rookies in the comments section.

WIDE RECEIVER

Name G Snaps Snap% RECs Yds Y/C Y/G Catch % TDs
Chase Claypool 1 19 30 2 39 19.5 39.0 100.0 0
Henry Ruggs III 1 42 67 3 55 18.3 55.0 60.0 0
Jerry Jeudy 1 44 75 4 56 14.0 56.0 50.0 0
CeeDee Lamb 1 59 82 5 59 11.8 59.0 83.3 0
Jalen Reagor 1 40 59 1 55 55.0 55.0 25.0 0
Justin Jefferson 1 36 69 2 26 13.0 26.0 66.7 0
Brandon Aiyuk 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tee Higgins 2 75 47 3 35 11.7 17.5 50.0 0
Michael Pittman Jr. 1 39 53 2 10 5.0 10.0 100.0 0
Laviska Shenault Jr. 1 31 62 3 37 12.3 37 75.0 1
KJ Hamler 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Van Jefferson 1 33 45 1 31 31.0 31.0 33.3 0
Denzel Mims INJURED RESERVE

 

Combine statistics via Pro Football Reference:

 

Name HT WT 40 yd Bench Broad Jump Shuttle 3 Cone Vertical
Chase Claypool 76 238 4.42 19 126 NA NA 40.5
Henry Ruggs III 71 188 4.27 NA 131 NA NA 42.0
Jerry Jeudy 73 193 4.45 NA 120 4.53 NA 35.0
CeeDee Lamb 74 198 4.50 11 124 NA NA 34.5
Jalen Reagor 71 206 4.47 17 138 4.46 7.31 42.0
Justin Jefferson 73 202 4.43 NA 126 NA NA 37.5
Brandon Aiyuk 72 205 4.50 11 128 NA NA 40.0
Tee Higgins 76 216 NA NA NA NA NA NA
Michael Pittman Jr. 76 223 4.52 13 121 4.14 6.96 36.5
Laviska Shenault Jr. 73 227 4.58 17 NA NA NA NA
KJ Hamler 69 178 NA 15 NA NA NA NA
Van Jefferson 73 200 NA NA NA NA NA NA
Denzel Mims 75 207 4.38 16 131 4.43 6.66 38.5

 

Synopsis of each player through week one:

Chase Claypool (2nd Round/49th overall) Claypool converted a third and 11 play into a first down with a beautiful sideline catch. His two catches totaled 39 received yards. He also ran the ball on fourth down on the penultimate play of the game. He smartly went to the ground inbounds after gaining eight yards to prevent a turnover and put the Steelers in the victory formation for the final play.

Henry Ruggs III (1st Round/12nd overall). Ruggs led Las Vegas Raider receivers with 55 yards receiving in week one. He gained all the yardage in the first half on three receptions but hurt his left knee just before halftime. He did come back to play in the second half. This week the Raiders listed him as questionable for week 2; he did not practice on Friday.

Jerry Jeudy (1st Round/15th overall) The rookie Denver Bronco caught four passes for 56 yards. However, he also dropped two passes including one on third and one. Coach Vic Fangio says, “Jerry has good hands, I expect us to see and believe in those good hands over the course of his career.” I hope the course corrections comes after the Broncos play the Steelers in week two.

CeeDee Lamb (1st Round/17th overall) Lamb caught five passes for 59 yards plus returned a punt twenty yards in his debut as a Dallas Cowboy. He expressed disappointment in his own play including not getting past the markers on a key fourth down play in the fourth quarter. He caught the ball but came up a yard shy of the marker in their loss to the Rams. A rookie mistake.

Jalen Reagor (1st Round/21st overall) The Philadelphia Eagles saw feast or famine with their first-round pick’s debut a 27-17 loss to Washington. Reagor converted a third and 22 with a 55-yard catch. Conversely, he muffed one punt and had broken open 50 yards downfield but did not dig enough for another big reception. Lots of upside.

Justin Jefferson (1st Round/22nd overall) Jefferson caught two passes for 26 yards in the second half of the Minnesota Vikings 43-34 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Brandon Aiyuk (1st Round/25th overall) Aiyuk missed the San Francisco 49ers first game due to a hamstring injury but looks to debut in week two against the Jets. The time is good as the 49ers contend with injuries to receivers including TE George Kittle.

Tee Higgins (2nd Round/33rd overall) Higgins had the second most snaps among the Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers Thursday night. He caught three passes for 35 yards after being shut out in his debut. One of his catches was an improvisation with rookie Joe Burrow when the quarterback avoided a sack. They may have some chemistry.

Michael Pittman Jr. (2nd Round/34th overall) Pittman is fighting a toe injury so it is unclear whether he will play in the Indianapolis Colt’s second game. He caught both his targets for ten yards in his debut against the Jaguars but is fourth on the depth chart.

Laviska Shenault Jr. (2nd Round/42th overall) The Jacksonville Jaguars may have found a Jack-of-all-trades in Laviska Shenault. He touched the ball five times in the opener against the Colts. He recorded three receptions for 37 yards and two carries for ten yards. One carry came when he played the wildcat quarterback.  Laviska scored the only touchdown by a rookie wide receiver in week one.

KJ Hamler (2nd Round/46th overall) Hamler missed the season opener as he recovered from a hamstring injury during training camp. However, he practiced fully this week and will debut will occur in the Denver Broncos game against the Steelers in week two.

Van Jefferson (2nd Round/57th overall) The Los Angeles Rams wide receiver caught one of three targets in his debut. Jefferson made a 31-yard leaping catch over a Cowboys defender. He has the potential to move up the depth chart.

Denzel Mims (2nd Round/59th overall) The New York Jets placed Mims on injured reserve, and he will miss at least the next three weeks. He suffered a hamstring injury during training camp and then injured his good one during the Thursday practice leading up to the opener.

Wide Receiver Summary

I am comparing Chase Claypool to twelve wide receivers selected in the first and second rounds in the 2020 draft. Ten of the twelve receivers were selected ahead of Claypool in the draft. After just one game, four have emerged to lead the pack. Shenault scored the only touchdown among the wide receivers. Ruggs caught three passes for 55 yards. Lamb led these rookie receivers with 59 yards receiving on five receptions. Jeudy had 4 catches for 56 yards but two drops. So far, Claypool’s performance is in the upper half of this group, but the seasons just begun. The Steelers have a lot of hands to feed but Claypool is earning some worms. We will see how Clay stacks up by midseason.

LINEBACKER

 

Name G Snaps Snap% INTs PDs FF FR Sacks Tackles TFL/QBH
Alex Highsmith 1 10 15 0 0 0 0 0 1 0/0
Josh Uche 0 0 0.00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0
Willie Gay Jr. 1 0 0.00 0 0 0 0 0 1 0/0
Logan Wilson 1 36 27 0 0 0 0 0 3 0/0
Zack Baun 0 0 0.00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0
Terrell Lewis 0 INJURED RESERVE
Anfernee Jennings 1 9 15 0 0 0 0 0 1 0/0
Jacob Phillips 1 12 20 0 0 0 0 0 2 0/0
Malik Harrison 1 21 29 0 1 0 0 0 4 0/0
Davion Taylor 1 0 0.00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0
Akeem Davis-Gaither 2 39 30 0 0 0 0 0.0 3 0/1

 

Combine statistics via Pro Football Reference:

 

Name HT WT 40 yd Bench Broad Jump Shuttle 3 Cone Vertical
Alex Highsmith 75 248 4.70 NA 125 4.31 7.32 33.0
Josh Uche 73 245 NA 18 NA NA NA NA
Willie Gay Jr. 73 243 4.46 21 136 4.30 7.08 39.5
Logan Wilson 74 241 4.63 21 121 4.27 7.07 32.0
Zack Baun 74 238 4.65 24 115 4.31 7.00 32.5
Terrell Lewis 77 262 NA NA 124 NA NA 37.0
Anfernee Jennings 74 256 NA NA NA NA NA NA
Jacob Phillips 75 229 4.66 NA 126 4.33 7.38 39.0
Malik Harrison 75 247 4.66 NA 122 4.32 6.83 36.0
Davion Taylor 72 228 4.49 21 127 4.26 6.96 35.0
Akeem Davis-Gaither 73 224 NA 21 NA NA NA NA

 

Synopsis of each player through week one:

Alex Highsmith (3rd Round/102th overall) Highsmith played ten defensive snaps in relief of OLB’s T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. His single tackle had him stringing Saquon Barkley to the sideline and limiting him to one yard. He also had a quarterback pressure as the Giants were threatening to score forcing Dan Jones to throw the ball away on second and goal.

Josh Uche (2nd Round/60th overall) Josh Uche will miss the first two games of the 2020 season. Bill Belichick listed him as inactive week one. Uche injured his ankle on Thursday and the Patriots declared him out for week 2.

Willie Gay Jr. (2nd Round/63rd overall) The Kansas City Chiefs teased fans by limiting Willie Gay Jr. to 16 special team snaps. He recorded a solo tackle in his brief time on the field. Chiefs fans and the rest of the NFL will have to wait to see what he can do on defense later in the season.

Logan Wilson (3rd Round/65th overall) Logan Wilson has played 27% of the Bengals defensive snaps after two games. He had three tackles in his debut but none against the Browns Thursday night. The Bengals use him in pass defense as well as pursuing the ball. Too early to tell, the Steelers will see him twice this season to learn more.

Zack Baun (3rd Round/74th overall) Surprisingly, the New Orleans Saints did not activate Baun for week 1 despite trading up for him in the draft. He did incur injuries during training camp but is otherwise healthy. The Saints expressed confidence in him and have a “vision” for how he will fit into their defensive scheme. We will learn more in week two.

Terrell Lewis (3rd Round/84th overall) The Los Angeles Rams placed Lewis on a non-injury reserve list. He had a procedure done to his knee and there was fear of infection, but it cleared up. Unfortunately, there was atrophy and it requires more time to rehabilitate. Right now, he is still in the starting blocks.

Anfernee Jennings (3rd Round/87th overall) Jennings made one solo tackle in his nine defensive snaps played for the New England Patriots in week one. An unusual year for the Patriots with plenty of turnover on both sides of the ball. He may get more opportunity to play.

Jacob Phillips (3rd Round/97th overall) Phillips started in his debut as a Cleveland Brown making two tackles. Unfortunately, he hurt his knee and did not return to the game. Phillips missed the Thursday night brawl with the Bengals.

Malik Harrison (3rd Round/98th overall) Malik Harrison started his first game as a Baltimore Raven. He played 21 defensive and 15 special team snaps recording four tackles and defended a pass.

Davion Taylor (3rd Round/103rd overall) Taylor did not play any defensive snaps but got in on 14 special team plays. The Eagles linebackers are young and inexperienced. He may get an opportunity to play defense as the season progresses.

Akeem Davis-Gaither (4th Round/107th overall) The Bengals linebacker did not start but played 39 of 132 defensive snaps in two games. He made three tackles and a quarterback hit in his debut. But recorded no tackles in week two. The Bengals used him on third down plays.

Linebacker Summary

I am comparing Highsmith to other linebackers drafted in the second or third rounds. Fourth rounder Akeem Davis-Gaither included since the Bengal was picked just five spots after Highsmith. Eight of the ten listed linebackers were chosen ahead of Highsmith. Right now, he is in the middle of the pack which is to be expected. He will compete with Ola Adeniyi for snaps in relief of starters Watt and Dupree. The Bengal’s Logan and Davis-Gaither along with Raven Malik Harris top this group for now. Half the group is yet to record a defensive snap.

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