PFF Highlights CB Shakur Brown As One Of Top UDFA Signings

While Pro Football Focus may not have been big fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft class, giving them a straight C, there were some things that they did like. For example, they considered the sixth-round pickup of edge Quincy Roche to be good value. There wasn’t much beyond that that they considered above average, but there was a bonus after the draft.

The Steelers’ college free agent class this year has generally being perceived as being a stronger group of players than most that they have had in recent years, and it has been garnering more attention. Yesterday, we wrote about Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports saying that he had a third-round grade on cornerback Shakur Brown, one of Pittsburgh’s rookie free agents.

Pro Football Focus was also a big fan of that particular pickup, listing the signing as the fifth-best among all undrafted free agent moves this year. “Brown made just 12 career starts at the college level, but he has shown that he has the potential to hold his own on an NFL field,” Zach Tantillo wrote. “Brown recorded the seventh-highest overall grade in the nation last season (82.2) to go with the highest PFF coverage grade in the Big Ten (84.2).”

The good news for Brown is that the Steelers have room at the position after parting with Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson. While they retain Justin Layne and James Pierre as depth players from last season, there figure to be at least one or two spots at the position that are up for grabs.

Depending upon how many cornerbacks they opt to keep, and whether or not Layne and/or Pierre can be regarded as vulnerable, his competition for a roster spot will include rookie seventh-round pick Tre Norwood, veteran Trevor Williams, and first-year player Stephen Denmark, who at least has size on his side.

The Steelers could certainly do with finding a diamond in the rough at cornerback, given how they have struggled to draft the position. Cameron Sutton is their only successful cornerback they have drafted since Cortez Allen in 2010 in the fourth round, and even the mention of his name makes people wince today.

The AFC North as a whole was actually well-represented with the undrafted free agent class, according to Tantillo. Both the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns also scored two of the best players who were not drafted, the former with safety Ar’Darius Washington, their top-ranked UDFA, and the latter with interior defensive lineman Marvin Wilson, their second-ranked.

Will any of this look genius three or four years from now? Or will it look like somebody throwing darts at the wall? For the Steelers’ sake, hopefully the former.

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