It’s said a draft class can’t be fully graded until at least three years after the picks are made. That’s why after submitting grades for every Pittsburgh Steelers pick made in 2021, I began going back through and grading previous Steeler draft classes beginning with 2018. Today concludes the fourth class in that exercise, with the Steelers’ seventh-round and final pick in the 2015 NFL Draft: Gerod Holliman, a safety out of Louisville.
This exercise follows the six viewpoints (listed below) for examining and re-grading a pick. Each of the first five viewpoints gets examined and assigned a letter grade, before taking 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.
Each factor in a retrospective doesn’t apply evenly to every pick made; consider the grades weighted. For example, to return a high grade in pick value, a first-round pick should have a long and impactful career, while a later-round pick needs only a couple seasons as a back-up or modest contributor to be worth the selection used on him.
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 22: Gerod Holliman, S, Louisville
STEELERS & NFL CAREER: N/A
The N/A grade gets broken out once again for a Pittsburgh Steelers’ seventh-round pick, this time on Gerod Holliman. The Louisville defensive back had all the promise in the world and was the ultimate ball-hawk. His final collegiate season, he intercepted 14 passes for the NCAA record. That won him the Jim Thorpe Award and earned consensus All-American status.
Holliman’s skillset worried evaluators enough that he lasted until the final round, and even then he wasn’t able to make it on to an active roster with the Steelers. Unable to unseat names like Will Allen, Ross Ventrone, and Robert Golden, Pittsburgh released Holliman during roster cutdowns in 2015, and did not stash him on the practice squad.
Holliman got one more shot in the league months later, joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad just before the end of the season. The team kept him on a futures contract after the season, which lasted a few months before the team released him.
Since, Holliman has bounced around a couple small leagues to continue his career. He spent time with the Columbus Lions of the National Arena League, and this season returned to Louisville to play for the Louisville Xtreme of the Indoor Football League.
PICK VALUE: F
Readers of this series should be familiar with this section for players who never make a roster. Holliman never played for the Steelers, and therefore returned no value to the pick used on him. Even on a pick so late, that by definition earns an F here. Which is a shame, because scouting all the Steelers’ seventh-rounders profiled in this series to date, Holliman had by far the most potential.
POSITIONAL VALUE: C-
Among remaining draft picks and most of the undrafted safeties in 2015, Holliman’s career is typical. Some of the UDFA safeties did overcome their NFL starts to contribute to the league for a couple seasons. And the Minnesota Vikings struck gold on the UDFA market.
Anthony Harris out of Virginia shined in his first few seasons as a backup and spot starter for the Vikings. That earned him a chance to start over half of the 2018 season, and become the team’s full-time starter in 2019. That year, Harris tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with six. He followed that up with a 100-tackle season in 2020. He signed a one-year deal to start for Philadelphia this season.
No one else rose to Harris’ status out of the crop of UDFAs, but several others created multi-season careers for themselves. Of them all, Dean Marlowe is the only one still active, with the Detroit Lions, after playing 15 games last season in Buffalo. Jermaine Whitehead was on his fourth NFL season and first as a full-time starter in 2019 with Cleveland before he made comments toward fans on social media that led to his release.
Ladarius Gunter started a season with Green Bay, and Robenson Therezie (Atlanta) and Kurtis Drummond (Houston) each had two seasons as a backup. But among all these players, only Harris for sure and Marlowe and Whitehead to lesser extents had careers that make the miss on Holliman look a lot worse by comparison.
OTHER OPTIONS: D+
As a quick reminder, while I compare seventh-rounders to the rest of their position’s class on the UDFA market, I do not compare them to the entirety of the undrafted pool, only the remaining players taken at all positions across the league. That makes this section far less important for players taken so close to the end of the draft, like Holliman was.
Even in a window of only 17 picks, some players went who were much better alternatives to Holliman. Appearing yesterday in Anthony Chickillo’s retrospective, Trent Brown (244th, San Francisco) turned a strong year on New England’s O-Line into becoming the highest-paid lineman in football with the Oakland Raiders. One pick before the end of the draft, Denzelle Good (255th, Indianapolis) also became a Raider starter eventually, doing so last year after starting occasionally in Indianapolis.
Trevor Siemian (250th, Denver) got a chance to start two seasons at quarterback for the Broncos in just his second and third seasons, and is now competing for a roster spot in New Orleans. Darryl Roberts (247th, New England) started two seasons for the New York Jets in the secondary. And Geoff Swaim (246th, Dallas) is on his seventh NFL season as a backup tight end with the Cowboys, Jacksonville, and Tennessee.
OVERALL GRADE: F
Again, a grade earned by default by never contributing to the franchise, though Holliman is the type of player teams should jump on in the seventh round every chance they get. A tremendous defender at Louisville, Holliman was a superstar and one of the best ballhawks in college at the time. Were it not for weaknesses in other areas of his game, he probably goes higher in the draft. But instead, they kept him from ever contributing in the NFL. Even if he never made it in the league and this pick ended up not worth anything, this is a smart selection by the Steelers to use a pick so late on somebody who brought a high ceiling to the NFL after one of the best seasons in history for a college defensive back.