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 30: Keion Adams, OLB, Western Michigan
STEELERS & NFL CAREER: N/A
Adams faced long odds to carve out a long-term NFL career. The odds he did have, the inability to stay healthy sabotaged. A shoulder injury in training camp his rookie season sidelined Adams on injured reserve for the entirety of 2017. From there, it was poor performance that ended his Steeler career. He did not earn a roster spot in 2018, though Pittsburgh elected to place him on the practice squad all season before cutting him in May 2019.
The New York Giants gave Adams a chance following that, before another injury (knee) in the preseason wiped out his chance with them. His New York career lasted just over four months, and his NFL career concluded (for now) without playing a snap. Adams has since latched on in the Canadian Football League, playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Coincidentally, the CFL season begins with Week 1 tomorrow, as the league returns after canceling its 2020 season because of COVID-19.
PICK VALUE: F
Some “F” grades are earned by default. This is one such grade. Despite a college career that included 18 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks as a senior, Adams never got through the obstacles he needed to to contribute anything to the Steelers organization or another NFL team. Even if he was the sixth-to-last pick in the entire draft and there wasn’t much value with the selection, never taking the field in a regular season game is no value back on that pick. And therefore, an F.
POSITIONAL VALUE: B+
Selected just six picks before the end of the draft, Pittsburgh made Adams the final outside linebacker taken. You could compare him as a rusher to defensive end Pat O’Connor (taken two picks later by Detroit), who has played three seasons and has one career sack, and O’Connor comes out favorably there. But the best way to compare someone taken so late is to look at the UDFAs. There, Adams is on the same level if not a bit ahead just from the fact that he earned chances for three seasons, and with two different teams. It was a really bad class of UDFA edge rushers.
There are some 2017 UDFA linebackers who made careers for themselves in the NFL. Eric Wilson started for the Vikings and just signed with Philadelphia. Nicholas Morrow has started part of all of all four of his seasons with the Raiders. Dylan Cole is entering his fifth season with the Texans. But all of those players played inside linebacker. Adams on the outside and his edge-rushing classmates have not had success stories like that, but Adams did prove to be a better option than many of them just by earning more than one chance to make it, with more than one team. It doesn’t mean this grade is going to dramatically improve his overall one, though.
OTHER OPTIONS: D
Only five players went after Adams in the 2017 draft. Unfortunately for him, the very next pick secured this grade. At 249th overall, the Seattle Seahawks selected running back Chris Carson. All Carson has done is start 44 of his 45 career games, put together two seasons of 1,100 or more rushing yards, and score 21 rushing touchdowns. That’s incredible value for a pick so late.
Two of the other four players taken after Adams, tight end Mason Schreck and the previously mentioned O’Connor, are still in the NFL and have made multiple regular season rosters. They’re not major contributors, but they have helped teams in actual NFL game action. That is an upgrade from what the Steelers and Giants received from Adams. But overall, this is a grade driven down by Carson.
OVERALL GRADE: F
Whether it is a first overall pick or Mr. Irrelevant, any player on which an actual NFL Draft selection is spent, who never makes an active roster during the regular season, is a failed pick. Adams had his chance in 2018 to make a roster, and missed. Injuries sabotaged his two other chances. Not the greatest set of circumstances for him early in his career, but he has overcome them to get a chance in the CFL. Like the Brian Allen retrospective from two days ago, it’s a completely understandable pick by Pittsburgh. You take a swing right before UDFAs on a MAC pass rusher who may develop into something in the NFL. It just never all came together for him.