Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: 2019 Draft Class Year 2 Update

2019 Top 3 Rookie Draft Picks

Last year, I compared the statistics of the Steelers top three 2019 draft picks with their contemporaries selected by other teams. Of course, it may take several seasons to determine the true trajectory of any player’s career.

I updated the progress of Devin Bush, Diontae Johnson, and Terrell Edmunds in a midseason review of the 2019 draft class.

Here are how the Pittsburgh Steelers first three picks of the 2019 draft stack up statistically following their second season against their contemporaries. I extracted all statistics from the Pro Football Reference so there may be variances with other sources.



Name G Snaps D/ST INTs PDs FF FR Sacks Tackles TFL/QBH
Devin Bush 21 1167/70 2 7 1 4 2 135 9/4
Devin White 28 1817/145 1 7 4 5 11.5 231 19/21
Josh Allen 24 1031/123 0 1 2 0 13.0 57 13/34
Rashan Gary 31 700/74 0 1 0 2 7.0 56 8/14
Jahlani Tavai 31 1221/213 1 2 3 1 2 116 7/4
Ben Banogu 25 371/65 0 1 1 0 2.5 17 3/5
Mack Wilson 29 1316/130 1 9 1 0 1 121 5/2

All statistics pulled from the Pro Football Reference

Synopsis of each player after two seasons:

Devin Bush (1st/10th overall): Devin Bush put together a fine rookie campaign including the Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA) naming him to their 2019 All-Rookie Team. Bush started out strong this season. Unfortunately, the Steelers placed him on the injured reserve list after he tore his ACL. His missed tackle percentage is a little high at 11.8%. We will have to wait until next year to see if Bush can return to form from his knee injury.

Devin White (1st/5th overall): The Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker came on extraordinarily strong after missing three games due to a knee injury in 2019. He scored two defensive touchdowns and recorded 91 tackles. White is disruptive as evince by his interception, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. The PFWA named him to their 2019 All-Rookie Team. In 2020, White is AP second team All-Pro. He allowed 113 completions of 146 targets for an 80% completion average. But his 15 tackles for a loss was third in the NFL in 2020. He will be playing in the Super Bowl this year a terrific opportunity to showcase his talent.

Josh Allen (1st/7th overall): Josh Allen is earning his keep. The PFWA named him to their 2019 All-Rookie Team. He also was a 2019 Pro Bowler. He leads this group with 13 sacks and 34 quarterback hits over two seasons. His 55 quarterback pressures over two seasons are far ahead of the rest of the group. Unfortunately, the Jaguars placed him on injured reserve following their 27-3 loss to the Steelers this year. We will see how he rebounds from his knee injury in 2021.

Rashan Gary (1st/12th overall): The Green Bay Packers increased Gary’s snap counts from 24% last season to 44% this season. He collected five sacks in 2020 and added 1.5 more in the Packers playoff win against the Rams. Gary matches Devin White with 24 quarterback pressures in his two seasons playing 1100 fewer snaps. He leads this group with a low 6.7% missed tackles rate.

Jahlani Tavai (2nd/43rd overall): The Lions placed Tavai on injured reserve late in 2019. He came back from his shoulder injury to start 10 and play in all 16 games in 2020. He blitzed 67 times but only had seven quarterback pressures. His 12.1% missed tackle rate over two seasons is the second highest in this group. In coverage, receivers caught 39 of 53 passes for a 73.6% catch rate. Five touchdowns scored by receivers he covered. The second highest to Devin Bush who has six. 2021 will prove whether he earned a regular starting position at middle linebacker.

Ben Banogu (2nd/49th overall): The Colts list Banogu as a defensive end now and rotates him in and out. He does not register many statistics but keeps the line fresh. However, his playing time dipped in 2020 playing 10% of the Colts defensive snaps compared to the year before when he played 26%. Colts General Manager is preaching patience for Banogu as their line is very deep. The next couple years will determine whether Banogu just needed some time to develop into an NFL caliber player or if his selection as the 49th pick was an overreach.

Mack Wilson (5th/155th overall): Steelers Depot respondent Beeze requested Wilson’s inclusion. The Cleveland Browns depleted defense gives Wilson an opportunity to play plenty of snaps. He has the second most defensive snaps in the group and the most passes defensed with nine. He has missed 23 tackles for a 16.0% missed tackle percentage. High for a linebacker. However, he does have an impact on the field. He knocked Patrick Mahomes out of the playoff game, a play that he did not receive a fine for. His pass coverage improved in 2019 when receivers enjoyed a 71% catch rate when he was in coverage. This year the rate dropped to 57% with an overall 67% catch rate comparable to Devin Bush. Wilson has 22 starts in 29 games played over the past two seasons along with two playoff appearances. So far, a bargain player for a fifth-round draft pick.

Linebacker Summary

Teams selected few linebackers in the first two rounds, so Devin Bush compared to some rookies playing on the edge. Devin White stands alone at the top of this group. Devin Bush and Josh Allen suffered knee injuries that cut short their sophomore seasons. Both should return near the top of this class if they successfully rebound in 2021 and pick up where they left off. Rashan Gary, Jahlani Tavai and Mack Wilson appeared in more games but both Bush and Allen flash more on the field. It comes down to avoiding the injuries.


Name G Snaps D/ST Tgts RECs Yds Y/C Y/G Catch % TDs
Diontae Johnson 31 1385/66 236 147 1603 10.9 51.7 62.3 13
Deebo Samuel 22 1014/1 125 90 1193 13.3 54.2 72.0 7
A.J. Brown 30 1437/6 190 122 2126 17.4 70.9 64.2 21
Mecole Hardman 32 970/290 103 67 1098 16.4 34.3 65.0 12
JJ Arcega-Whiteside 24 627/20 30 14 254 18.1 10.6 46.7 2
Parris Campbell 9 259/22 33 24 198 8.3 22.0 72.7 1
Andy Isabella 28 463/112 48 30 413 13.8 14.8 62.5 3
D.K. Metcalf 32 1907/9 229 141 2203 15.6 68.8 61.6 17
Jalen Hurd 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Terry McLaurin 29 1713/3 227 145 2037 14.0 70.2 63.9 11
Marquise Brown 30 1365/2 171 104 1353 13.0 45.1 60.8 15

All statistics pulled from the Pro Football Reference

Synopsis of each player after two seasons:

Diontae Johnson (3rd/66th overall): Diontae is not having the year he expected after a strong 2019 season saw him as both a receiving and punt return threat. He led the NFL with a 12.4 yards per punt average in 2019 returning one for a touchdown. This year he injured his back on a punt return and Ray-Ray McCloud replaced him as the primary punt returner. He had other foot and leg injuries but only missed one game. He has most receptions among this sophomore group but the second lowest yards per catch average as the Steelers throw short and hope he can make yards after the catch. The average depth of passes thrown to him is 7.9 yards in 2020. Only one other receiver in this group averaged less than 9.8 yards per depth of target. Another issue is inconsistent hands. He has dropped 19 passes in two seasons for an overall 8.1% drop rate. The trend is concerning as he went from 6.5% drops in 2019 to 9.0% this year. The Steelers may want to invest in a personal Jugs machine for him.

Deebo Samuel (2nd/36th overall): The San Francisco 49ers suffer from many injuries in 2020. He missed the first three games of the season as he recovered from a broken foot. More recently, Samuel injured his hamstring and then placed on the Covid reserve list. The 49ers shut him down December 22, and he ended up playing in just seven games in his second year. Deebo has caught 72.0% of passes thrown to him. He has 12 drops for a 9.6% drop rate, but he reduced the rate in 2020 from 11.1% in 2019 to 6.8% this year. Will see if he has a healthy third year in 2021 to climb back up in this group.

A.J. Brown (2nd/51st overall): Brown led this receiver group with 70.9 receiving yards per game in his first two seasons. He is second in receiving yards with 2126. He was on PFWA All-Rookie team and his 20.2 yards per reception was second in the NFL in 2019. In 2020 he made the Pro Bowl team. Brown only has seven drops for a strong 3.7% drop rate.

Mecole Hardman (2nd/56th overall): Mecole heading to the Super Bowl this year.  Last year, he was on the 2019 PFWA All-Rookie team and a Pro-Bowler. Hardman beat out Diontae Johnson as the 2019 AFC Pro Bowl return specialist.  Last year he returned a kickoff for a touchdown. This year it was a punt return for a touchdown. He muffed a punt in the AFC championship game against the Bills but then caught a touchdown pass on the next drive to answer the miscue. His drop rate rose to 12.9% in 2020 from a low 2.4% drop rate in 2019. However, he is going to his second Super Bowl in two years and has been a contributor to the Chiefs success.

JJ Arcega-Whiteside (2nd/57th overall): Arcega-Whiteside played only eight games in 2020. He caught four of eight passes. 12 other Eagle players gained more receiving yardage than the 2029 second round draft pick. The Eagles placed Arcega-Whiteside on the Covid reserve list on November 19 and reactivated him on December 2. However, he did not play until the final game of the season. A new coaching staff could salvage his career.

Parris Campbell (2nd/59th overall): Parris Campbell’s sophomore season cut short when he injured his knee in the second game. The Colts placed him on injured reserve. He caught six passes for a career high 71 receiving yards in week one. He broke his foot in week 14 of his rookie season. Campbell does top this receiver’s group with a 72.7% catch percentage. But injuries are holding him back not lack of talent.

Andy Isabella (2nd/62nd overall): Isabella remains a work in progress. The Arizona Cardinals buried him on the depth chart as experienced veterans grab the lion’s share of targets. His 35 targets ranked sixth among Cardinals players.  He caught 21 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns. The Cardinals held him out of three games as a healthy scratch. The Cardinals hired a new wide receiver’s coach. We will see if that launches Isabella in the right direction.

DK Metcalf (2nd/64th overall): Metcalf broke out in his second season with second team honors on the AP All-Pro team and making the Pro Bowl. His 2203 receiving yards in two seasons tops this group. He is second with 17 touchdowns.  Receiving an average 81.4 yards per game in 2020 was fourth in the NFL. Metcalf stretches the field with a healthy 13.7 yards average depth of target in 2020.   The Seattle Seahawks found gold with the 64th pick of the draft.

Jalen Hurd (3rd/67th overall): The 49ers placed Jalen Hurd on injured reserve two consecutive seasons. In 2019 he hurt his back. In 2020, he tore an ACL. He remains in the starting blocks of his NFL career.

Terry McLaurin (3rd/76th overall): Six different quarterbacks threw passes to McLaurin the past two seasons. Yet, he made the PFWA 2019 All-Rookie team. The last receiver selected in this group, he ranks second in several categories including receptions with 145, receiving yards with 2037, and receiving yards per game with 70.2. He dropped seven of 145 targets for a low 3.1% drop rate. His ceiling appears skyless and wonder what he would achieve with a consistent quarterback throwing to him.

Wide Receiver Summary

I am comparing Diontae Johnson to wide receivers selected in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. So, I do not include Marquise Brown though I did add a stat line for him. In my view, Diontae Johnson is fifth best in this group with Metcalf, Hardman, A.J. Brown, and McLaurin ahead of him. Good considering teams selected seven of nine of the other listed receivers before Diontae. His 19 drops are tops among these receivers and is an area he must work on. Hopefully, Matt Canada’s offensive scheme will deepen the average depth of passes thrown to him.


Name G Snaps D/ST INTs PDs FF FR Tgts Recep Comp%
Justin Layne 26 117/351 0 0 0 0 12 10 83.3
Deandre Baker 18 1015/66 0 9 0 0 93 57 61.3
Byron Murphy 31 1900/110 1 18 0 2 193 131 67.9
Rock Ya-Sin 28 1401/247 2 12 1 1 133 91 68.4
Sean Murphy-Bunting 32 1568/320 4 11 2 1 160 116 72.5
Trayvon Mullen 32 1607/184 3 24 0 0 154 91 59.1
Joejuan Williams 24 251/260 0 3 0 0 18 9 50.0
Greedy Williams 12 680/26 0 2 0 0 62 38 61.3
Lonnie Johnson 30 1231/282 0 7 0 0 92 62 65.3
David Long 24 225/399 0 2 0 0 19 14 73.7
Jamel Dean 27 1078/307 3 24 0 0 122 69 56.6

All statistics pulled from the Pro Football Reference

Synopsis of each player after two seasons:

Justin Layne (3rd/83rd overall): Justin Layne played 117 defensive snaps in 2020. In coverage he allowed receivers to complete ten of 12 targets. The 83.3% completion rate was the highest among this group albeit a small sample size. Layne has a 16.7% missed tackle rate that is second highest in the group. Primarily a special team player, Layne has not made a significant impact on the field. NFL teams drafted all but one of this group ahead of him.

Deandre Baker (1st/30th overall): Baker’s career is undergoing giant swings. A late first round pick, he started 15 of 16 games and played in 87% of the New York Giants defensive snaps in his rookie season. Police arrested him in May 2020, allegedly robbing guests at a party using a firearm. Prosecuting attorneys dropped the charges after witnesses recanted their statements.  But the New York Giants waived him in June. Kansas City added Baker to their practice squad, and he played two games late in the season including starting in the final game against the Chargers. He recorded his first career sack but broke his leg in the third quarter of the game.

Byron Murphy (2nd/33rd overall): Byron Murphy was a starter out of the gate and ended up starting all 16 Arizona Cardinals games playing 98% of their defensive snaps in 2019. In 2020, he started seven of 15 games played. Quarterbacks targeted receivers he covered 193 times in two seasons with 131 completions for a 67.9% completion rate. Among this group he is tops in snaps played, total tackles and tackles for loss. He’s given up 11 touchdowns in coverage and his 17 missed tackles gives him an 11.6% missed tackle rate.

Rock Ya-Sin (2nd/34th overall): The Colts started Rock in 13 of the 15 games he played in 2019. In 2020 he started eight of 13 games played. In two years, receivers caught 91 of 133 passes when he covered them for a 68.4% completion rate. He intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass in week 11, the second of his career. His 6.2 missed tackle rate out of 107 total tackles is among the lowest in this group.

Sean Murphy-Bunting (2nd/39rd overall)L Leads this group with four interceptions. He made the 2019 PFWA All-Rookie team. He made a diving interception in Tampa Bay’s victory over the Giants in week eight. Golden Tate did get behind him to score a touchdown late in the game. Quarterbacks targeted receivers he covered 160 times in two seasons with 116 completions for a 72.5% completion rate. His 10 touchdowns given up in coverage is second highest in this group. In the 2020 playoff he intercepted a pass in each game. An interception in the Super Bowl his postseason total will match his total regular season total in two seasons. He missed 24 tackles for a 17.4% missed tackle rate highest among the group.

Trayvon Mullen (2nd/40th overall): Quarterbacks passed the ball 154 times in Mullen’s direction. Receivers caught 91 times for a 59.1 completion percentage. Mullen intercepted three and leads the group with 24 passes defensed. He is a bright spot for the Las Vegas defense.

Joejuan Williams (2nd/45th overall): The Patriots use Williams on special teams. However, injuries to defensive players in 2020 gave him more defensive snaps in the second half of the season.  We will see if Joejuan rises on the secondary depth chart in 2021. For now, his contributions as a second rounder are unimpressive.

Greedy Williams (2nd/46 overall) The Cleveland Browns got Greedy to play 12 games in 2019. One area he requires improvement is tackling. He had eight misses for a 14.5% missed tackle average. He suffered nerve damage in his shoulder and the Browns placed him on injured reserve in 2020. We will have to wait until 2021 to see if he can uncork some of his potential.

Lonnie Johnson (2nd/54th overall): The Texans use Johnson on both defense and special teams. He started five of the last six games this season after starting seven games last year. His usage increased from 49 to 62% of the Texans defensive snaps. He transitioned from cornerback to safety after Justin Reid’s season ending injury. With coaching changes, it is unclear whether he will remain at safety or move back to the corner in 2021.

David Long (3rd/79th overall): The Los Angeles Rams did not play Long much defense in 2019 or 2020. He’s totaled 225 defensive snaps in two seasons. Long leads the group with 399 special team snaps. He started his first game in week eight of 2020 season when Jalen Ramsey missed the game due to illness. He was burnt for a touchdown against the Dolphins. It was Tua Tagovailoa’s first career NFL TD pass.

Jamel Dean (3rd/94th overall): Quarterbacks tested Dean’s coverage skills with 122 passes in 2019 and 2020. Receivers caught 69 for 56.6% completion rate. Dean has intercepted three passes but given up six touchdowns. Dean returned his 2020 interception for a touchdown. He leads this group with 24 passes defended. Another young player with a chance to prove his value in the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay picked up a couple good defensive backs in the 2019 draft.

Cornerback Summary

Justin Layne does not favor comparably to this group. David Long and Joejuan Williams come the closest but both have contributed more on the field. Layne has not shown much impact on the field. Next season may be his last opportunity to carve out a significant role.

Sean Murphy-Bunting remains at the top of this class. Byron Murphy, Trayvon Mullen, and Jamel Dean round out the top. Justin Layne ranks near the bottom but nine of ten of these defensive backs ahead of him in the draft. Deandre Baker and Greedy Williams will have an opportunity to grow with a full season of play in 2021.


Eight of nine 2019 Steelers draft picks played at least one regular season game wearing the Black and Gold. Only sixth round pick DE Sutton Smith failed to make the roster. He spent time on the Jaguars and Steelers practice squads in 2019. In 2020, the Seahawks signed him to a futures contract but released him in July.

Fourth round running back Benny Snell played 29 games scoring six touchdowns the past two seasons. Tight end Zach Gentry, drafted in fifth round, played six games. Unfortunately, the Steelers placed him on injured reserve following a knee injury in just his second game of the 2020 season.

Defensive lineman Isiah Buggs, a sixth-round selection, played 206 defensive snaps in 19 games over the past two seasons. Another six-round choice, OLB Ulysees Gilbert played special teams in 2019. He started to play some defense in 2020 but back injuries had him placed on injured reserve for the second and third time of his short NFL career.

Seventh round pick, Derwin Gray played sparingly on the offensive line in five games for the Steelers. The Steelers waived him in late December while juggling the roster. The Jacksonville Jaguars claimed him off waivers.


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