One of the most common things you hear after every draft is that grades can’t be finished until at least three years after a pick has been made. So after submitting my grades for every Steelers’ pick in this year’s class, I’m going back and revisiting picks from three years ago and beyond made by Pittsburgh. That continues today with the final pick from Pittsburgh’s 2018 draft, defensive tackle Joshua Frazier out of Alabama.
I tweaked my exercise for grading this year’s draft to look at and give letter grades to past picks, based on five specific ways to view the pick (listed below), before taking all that analysis and combining it into a final letter grade. Those five viewpoints comprise much of what goes into the draft grades consumed by so many every year after the draft.
Steelers’ Career: What did the player contribute to the team that drafted him?
NFL Career: Did the player make the pick look better in hindsight after leaving Pittsburgh?
Pick Value: Did the player outperform his draft slot? Did he fail to live up to the pick used on him?
Positional Value: Was the player the best player remaining at his specific position in the draft?
Other Options: Did any players go during the next round that were better selections?
Overall Grade: A final mark to denote whether the selection was an overall positive one, or one better spent elsewhere.
Just like when grading a current year’s draft, each factor in a retrospective doesn’t apply evenly to every pick made. For example, a first round selection should have a longer and more impactful career, whereas a late-round pick only needs a few seasons in a limited role to live up to his draft slot.
Some factors are universal, though. Whether picked first overall or 259th, there will always be other options on the board to compare the player to, and steals and reaches can come from any place in the draft.
Round 7, Pick 28: Joshua Frazier, DT, Alabama
STEELERS & NFL CAREER: N/A
Frazier is both the only pick from Pittsburgh’s 2018 class to play for multiple teams in his career, and to also never actually appear for any team in his career. The Steelers cut their seventh-round pick when getting down to 53 players. The Detroit Lions picked Frazier up and added him to their practice squad three months later, but Frazier lasted less than a month before getting cut again.
He earned an AAF spot with the Birmingham Iron, suffered an injury a month later, and the league closed two months after that. Frazier retired shortly after.
PICK VALUE: F
People are going to see the big capital “F” a few times during this report, but it’s not the aggressively negative letter grade it would be for other picks. For the case of Frazier, it’s more by default. Never making it out of camp for Pittsburgh, Frazier did not return any value to the team. By definition, that earns an F here. But going 11 picks before the end of the draft, there was very little harm done — again, this grade is less an inflammatory mark and more of by default.
POSITIONAL VALUE: C-
Defensive line had almost nothing left to offer by this point in the draft, with most players never amounting to anything lasting in the NFL at either tackle or end. Frazier’s brief moment in the AAF actually ranks him above most of the tackles who ended up signing as UDFAs, and there is no one to compare him to from the remaining picks made in 2018. Frazier was the final defensive lineman drafted.
Tyler Lancaster (Green Bay) and Hercules Mata’afa (Minnesota) have both stuck as defensive ends in the NFC North as UDFAs. Lancaster is even a starter for the Packers. Specifically at tackle, only one name developed into something of substance: Poona Ford. Signed as a UDFA by Seattle, Ford has started two seasons for the Seahawks, and is one of the better young defensive tackles in football. One of the few misses from a class with almost nothing left with only 11 picks to go.
OTHER OPTIONS: C-
The rest of the class did have value to offer elsewhere, and a surprising amount in the final 10 picks made after Frazier’s. Five picks later, running back Justin Jackson went to the L.A. Chargers. As mentioned in my weekend retrospective on Jaylen Samuels, he is an exciting back with starting value, but can’t stay healthy.
Similar promise exists in receiver Auden Tate, taken by Cincinnati two picks after Jackson and seven after Frazier. Trey Quinn didn’t stick to his drafting team like those two did. But Mr. Irrelevant appeared in 15 games for Washington as a receiver for two seasons, and got picked up by Jacksonville in 2020. Given the other retrospectives limited this section to just the following round of players taken, it’s not fair to compare Frazier to the entire UDFA class, with the exception of his position group.
OVERALL GRADE: F
One final time, this grade is less an inflammatory statement against the Steelers for drafting Frazier, and more of a “by default” grade because Frazier never made it to a 53-man roster. Frazier was 11 picks from being a UDFA instead of an actual selection. Only a select group of undrafted players make their final rosters, and Frazier faced similar odds of making it. It’s not a big miss by any means for the team, and was even a smart gamble at the time to take a flier on an Alabama defensive player who received coaching from Nick Saban. Some late seventh-rounders make it and contribute, some don’t. Frazier is just one of the ones that didn’t.