For a couple of years now, before I became a Steelers Depot contributor nearly one year ago, I have kept a personal running spreadsheet during the draft process. The goal for me was to learn about the players, gathering information that I have tweaked along the way as I’m sure I will continue to do in the future. With great questions and conversations with some your responses to previous articles, people have seemed interested in this information I’ve referenced, so today I will share visualizations of the data points I create each year, simply called interest and athletic scores with explanations to follow.
As Dave Bryan and Alex Kozora discuss regularly, the Steelers have a type of player they look for, and what the scores attempt to achieve is seeing who checks many of those boxes, or vice versa. You will notice many of the inspirations for these scores come from their studies of draft trends over the years for Pittsburgh, with their in-depth research second to none being one of the main reasons I pursued a position and count my blessings to work with the great football minds at Steelers Depot. While there is no perfect way to predict perfectly what selections the Steelers will make in the draft at the end of the month, I feel great about what the data points measure and of course would love to hear feedback as I’m always looking to improve the points system. Also, there is only so much time in the day and additional things I’d like to measure, so I focus on the crucial and/or practical choices in my opinion.
Now for more explanation to how the scores come together. The biggest point I want to make right off the bat is this is not a big board or round projection view, rather trying to pinpoint names the Steelers may select regardless of when they are drafted. After I get a healthy pool of names that I hear about or research, I begin the scoring.
Interest Score: Here I configured a points system for the following important questions. How did the player perform in college? Does their height and weight match up to the body type of any player Pittsburgh has drafted at the position since 2010? What is their experience, age? Do they play a position of need? What was their level of competition? Who attended their pro day? Did they have a pre-draft meeting? Did they appear in the Senior or Shrine Bowl?
This matches up nicely to the Athletic Score: simply 11 combine metrics excluding wingspan (10 for quarterbacks due to no player participation on the bench), and whether or not they were within a threshold in each metric of any player drafted at their position by the Steelers since 2010.
Clear as mud? Here are the quarterbacks:
Right away I wanted to point out/address that the athletic scores are less important at this position with precedent likely to be broken if Pittsburgh drafts one, considering Kenny Pickett is the only player of the commonly discussed “top five quarterbacks” who meets past size thresholds. It did include some interesting nuggets that will follow, and important to note the five had thorough interest with pre-draft meetings and pro day attendance. Listed in no particular order: Malik Willis (Liberty), Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), Sam Howell (UNC), and Matt Corral (Ole Miss).
Pickett lands atop the interest scores checking nearly every box along with pre-draft meetings and age being one of the few lower marks along with hand size being his lowest mark in the athletic score (with a DNP in three cone) and is one of the “top five” expected to go early. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder falls in this category as well, ranking second in interest score with level of competition his lowest mark and an eight athletic score, running well but would set a precedent in weight and three cone. Liberty quarterback Malik Willis ties for second in interest score with level of competition and experience being his lower marks comparatively and a three athletic score due to lack of testing, which would have likely landed him at the top right if he participated. Sam Howell ranks fourth in interest score and the final player above a nine, with experience one of his lower marks comparatively also with a lack of athletic testing.
After a huge drop off we see some interesting results in the seven interest score range. Nevada quarterback Carson Strong ranks fifth in interest score including a position coach at his pro day with his lower marks in level of competition and experience comparatively, along with a four athletic score checking every measurable box but not testing otherwise. The final “top five” quarterback ranks sixth in interest score (mainly due to lack of pre-draft participation, not a dealbreaker but important to recall) with age being a lower mark as well, along with a two athletic score only measuring but missing the size thresholds.
With many believing the Steelers will be looking at the position early, the other names included on the graph are likely more for the curious. It is important to note South Dakota State quarterback Chris Oladokun had a pre-draft meeting and is a late round-undrafted option if Pittsburgh doesn’t pull the trigger on the position early.
Do you think Pittsburgh will draft one of the names listed above? Who are some of your favorites? Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments!