Last but not least! This is my final position analysis and preliminary-board post of the year. Next up will be the full Big Board posts (both by-grade and by-position), plus whatever interesting ideas pop to mind.
As it happens, the Wide Receiver situation is full of intrigue and interest all on its own. It starts with the fact that Pittsburgh has lost three of it’s top 5 receiving targets from a year ago. All of a sudden the roster has an actual hole! I’ve no doubt that Kevin Colbert will take some actions to fill those holes with functional talent before the draft, but it’s going to leave us with a draft “want” regardless.
Then there’s the talent distribution of the class. I count almost no Wide Receivers who’d be steals at 1:20, with the possible exception of Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson. After 1:20 there is a huge cluster of late-1st and early-2nd talent. Will that mean that Pittsburgh gets a bargain at 2:20? Or will there be a massive run that leaves us bereft? And then the same thing happens right after 2:20, with a big cluster of early-3rd talent, very little that would be “fair value” at 3:20, and then a third cluster toward the early 4th. Is this just my psyche imposing order on the actual grades? Or do we really face a situation in each round where there is a good chance of finding a steal, but a corresponding likelihood of seeing a desert?
Ah me, oh my. Let’s start as always, with a look at the current WR room.
WIDE RECEIVERS ON THE ROSTER
Juju Smith-Schuster. GONE TO KANSAS CITY
James Washington. GONE TO DALLAS
Ray-Ray McCloud. GONE TO SAN FRANCISCO
- Diontae Johnson. 5’10”, 183 lbs. 26 years old. Pittsburgh’s 2019 pick at 3:66 can get open at all three levels and is a complete receiver except for occasional bouts of the dropsies. I would say he’s an ideal co-WR1 in the sense that a team could get by fine with two players of this caliber in their 12-personnel looks. There would be no hole. But he hasn’t matured into being a true WR1 who can stand on his own and raise all other boats. 2022 will be the final year of his rookie contract.
- Chase Claypool. 6’4″, 238 lbs. 24 years old. Pittsburgh’s 2020 pick at 2:49 is a physical specimen with very few peers. Looked like he had greatness ahead as a rookie, but the development lagged in Year 2. His rookie contract will be in place for both 2022 and 2023.
- Gunner Olszewski. 6’0″, 190 lbs. 26 years old. Pittsburgh’s recent free agent signing from the Patriots has been a return ace for the past three years, but averages three (3) receptions per year on gadget plays. Under contract for 2022 and 2023.
Three players with NFL experience, only two of which are actual receivers. Then there’s the depth.
- Cody White. 6’3″, 215 lbs. 23 years old. A 2020 UDFA who’s been on and off the practice squad. Big but not fast, and struggling to become a journeyman. Made the active roster late last year, but was a nonfactor. On a very inexpensive 1-year deal for 2022.
- Rico Bussey. 6’0″, 186 lbs. 24 years old. 2021 UDFA. Reserve/futures contract. Got some buzz last spring for a few circus catches, then spent the year on the practice squad.
- Anthony Miller. 5’11”, 200 lbs. 27 years old. The Bears’ Round 2 pick in 2018, Miller is a “quicker than fast” athlete who failed in Chicago after three years, and then failed again in Houston after two games. Has also been ejected for a few games because of attacks on CB’s who got under his skin. The Steelers signed him off the proverbial scrap heap last year. His troubles reputedly stem from his failure to learn route running, which is what he ought to be (and needs to be) good at. Signed through 2022 for a minimum reserve/future salary.
- Tyler Vaughns. 6’2″, 184 lbs. 24 years old. 2021 UDFA. Described as “steady” in his pre-draft profile, but nothing more.
- Steven Sims. 5’10”, 176 lbs. 25 years old. A 2019 Washington UDFA who is very (4.3-something) fast, and supposed to be a decent route runner. Had 34 receptions in 2019, and 27 in 2020. Came to the Steelers in 2021 and did nothing.
Not much to work with there either.
That is worse than I imagined. Pittsburgh’s favorite formation for the past many years has been 11-personnel, meaning three WR’s, one TE, and one RB. They’ve also gone with 4- and 5-WR sets on numerous occasions.
The team now has only two viable WR’s on the entire roster, plus a bunch of names that are somewhat less than long shots. Honestly? You could add two new players to this room and still have room for another. In the span of a single offseason we have gone from boasting one of the deepest WR rooms in the league, to what is arguably one of the most shallow. Something needs to be done. Not “wants,” but actually “needs.”
If there’s one thing we know about Kevin Colbert, it’s the fact that he abhors even the idea of going into the NFL Draft with an actual hole on the starting roster. The team has cap room, so I will pretty much guarantee at least one and probably two WR signings in the next few weeks. I will go out on that same strong limb to predict that neither signing will be a big-money deal for a WR1. That’s another thing we know about Mr. Colbert. He will pinch the pennies hard, and end up finding a solid WR2/3 type (or two) who will allow the offense to function properly even if we get stiffed on receivers in the draft. Then he will go into the draft and find another one (or two) in order to turn the room into a potential strength.
Book it. I’ll even offer odds. We won’t be able to truly judge the receiver situation until we see who those new free agent signings actually are, so what follows is a sort of round estimate based on the archetypes now in the room.
People often like to make an analogy between the five WR’s carried on a typical NFL roster, and the 5-man rosters of a basketball team. In basketball you have:
- Centers, who are big, strong players on the inside; the main rebounder and the “mover of chains.” This is obviously Chase Claypool.
- The best analogy to a Power Forwards would be the NFL “big slot”, a guy like JJSS, or else the mid-range route running and box-out specialist who can move the chains with technique. Not on the current roster.
- The Small Forward is like an NFL “get open” guy. There aren’t many better than Diontae Johnson.
- Next up is the Shooting Guard. That would be your deep threat, the liquid-speed WR who takes the top off a defense. Not on the current roster.
- Finally you have the Point Guard, who is equivalent to a do-it-all WR1. Think of Cooper Kupp. He should be able to run precise routes than move the chains when needed, and to also get good RAC (Run After Catch) yards that punish the defense for any mistakes or missed tackles. Not on the current roster.
Those analogies should not be taken literally, of course. WR1’s can come out of any prototype, since it really just means “the best receiver on the team.” The goal here is to identify what Pittsburgh will be looking for in its free agents and draft picks to come:
- A crafty, reliable, chain moving route runner of the physical/box-out type.
- A crafty, reliable, chain moving route runner of the do-it-all, RAC type.
- A liquid fast deep threat.
The earlier the pick (or higher the pay), the faster and more versatile we will expect that player to be. Yes, it is reasoning by analogy; but I think it works in this particular case.
A LOOK AT THE 2022 DRAFT CLASS
Please – please! – share your thoughts on the draft grades to follow. They need to be Pittsburgh specific, yes, but with this many holes the only real limit is that we do not need another giant with skills akin to Chase Claypool’s. I’ve done my best to get the grades right, but I do not trust my own results.
Writing these Big Boards has taught me to be wary of my own biases, which often lurk below the surface out of my conscious sight. Unusual clustering is a telltale sign of that kind of bias. And as noted above, this group is chock full of those dratted clusters! We need to either break them up, or else to raise an eyebrow and treat it as a characteristic of this unusually deep, but not unusually talent group.
In fact… I am so worried about the possibility of bias that I’m going to start with a names-only table to highlight the issue. [NOTE: there are discounted players in the first group due to scheme fit issues.]
A LOOK AT THE WIDE RECEIVER CLUSTERS
|TOP 10-15 STEALS|
|FAIR FOR 1:20||
|LATE 1ST TO EARLY 2ND||
|FAIR FOR 2:20||
|LATE 2ND TO EARLY 3RD||
|FAIR FOR 3:20||
|LATE 3RD TO EARLY 4TH||
|FAIR FOR 4:COMP||
|5TH THROUGH MID-6TH||
Do you see what I mean?
- No steals.
- Then a few fair values for Round 1, followed by a large pool who should not be available in Round 2.
- A few fair values for Round 2, then a large pool who should disappear before Round 3.
- Then almost nothing either for Round 3 or soon after.
- Followed by a giant cluster who’d be okay for 4:comp.
It’s almost like someone artificially created that distribution in order to tell the Steelers, “maybe you’ll get lucky, but if things go the way they should it’s going to be rough sledding if you want a WR in the early rounds…” Was that someone me? Or have I just identified the reality of how this particular class is clustered?
ON TO THE FULL BOARD
Wondering who those players really are? Wonder no more! Here are the Big Board summaries and the actual HV grades.
|1:15||WR Jameson Williams, Alabama. (Junior). 6’1½”, 179 lbs. with 32⅛” arms and 9¼” hands. Transferred from Alabama because he couldn’t beat out Wilson & Olave, and then promptly became a star. An all around weapon with fabulous speed that kills both CB’s and potential tacklers (probably a 4.2-something player but could not prove it due to injury). Williams gets quick separation, makes defenders miss, and then heads off to the races. Lacks the size & build to be a physical presence on the field, but has pretty much everything else you want. Devin Jackson’s gif-supported Depot scouting report describes Williams as a Top 10-15 talent even with the ACL tear that he suffered in January. This gif-supported March scouting report from a Patriots POV calls him, “by far the most talented receiver in this class.”||8.9|
|1:15||WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio St. (Junior). 5’11¾”, 183 lbs. with 32” arms and 9⅞” hands. [Mtg. at Combine]. A moderately bigger, faster, and higher pedigreed version of Diontae Johnson, complete with an awe inspiring ability to get open, and the occasional but curable concentration drop. A combination of artist and craftsman who’d be a perfect fit for what Pittsburgh could use at this position, but is likely to go long before the Steelers would pick a receiver. Daniel Jeremiah’s top WR in the class. The gif-supported Depo scouting report by Daniel Kitchen describes Wilson as downright “poetic in the air” with essentially no flaws except limited top-end speed and physicality. Lance Zierlein’s #2 overall WR. This goes to a relatively critical scouting report from a Falcons POV that ends with a rare late-1st grade.||8.7|
|1:20||WR Chris Olave, Ohio St. (Senior). 6’0⅜”, 187 lbs. with 31⅛” arms and 9½” hands. An elegant, already professional, route running possession receiver from Ohio State with 4.3 speed that Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile describes as “buttery smooth” and “effortless in the air”? It’s just unfair. The only issue is whether he’ll be able to deal with NFL physicality. Wesley Cantliff’s gif-supported Depot scouting report digs down into deep detail, ending with a “great WR1-b” description that reminds me a lot of the 1980’s 49er star Jonathan Taylor, a fringe HOF player who was never The Man on his own but was so good that he opened the field for everyone else – including the one and only Jerry Rice. This excellent gif-supported scouting report from a Washington POV sums Olave up as “a starting level Z receiver [top-three] that you will win with in a vertical offense that allows him to run in the intermediate and deep-level routes (curls, comebacks, speed outs, post, flys), allowing him to manipulate his speed.” This Falcons-oriented scouting profile sees Olave as a tremendous deep threat who is limited to that role because of his slender physique.||8.6|
|1:20||STEELERS ROUND 1 PICK||—|
|1:25||WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas. (Junior). 6’2”, 225 lbs. with 33½” arms and 9⅞”hands. This is the guy to root for if you want a 1:1 replacement for Juju Smith-Schuster at his best. Same kind of “big slot” player except even taller, heftier, with more native playmaking talent, and even better hands. The problem, as outlined in Devin Jackson’s gif-supported Depot scouting report, comes down to weighing his enormous things-you-can’t-teach assets against his desperate need to learn his craft at a professional level. Came in at #11 overall in Daniel Jeremiah’s first big board. This Falcons-oriented scouting profile ends with an early-2nd grade. This Giants-oriented scouting profile leans toward late-1st: “Some may be disappointed in Burks’ measured athleticism, but those concerns don’t show up on the field. He is seldom caught from behind, and was a consistent big-play threat against some of the best defenses in the country.” This gif-supported, Washington oriented scouting report sees Burks as a perfect, bruising, possession-receiver complement to that team’s WR1 Terry McLaurin.||8.9|
|1:25||WR Jahan Dotson, Penn. St. (RS Senior). 5’10⅝”, 178 lbs. with short 30¾” arms and big 9½” hands. [Mtg. at Combine] An oily smooth, sneaky good route runner on the smaller side, Dotson creates easy separation, has the best hands in the class to finish the catch, and has the pure speed to turn any catch into a TD if all those bigger folks don’t get a solid grasp. He tested at 4.43, but knowledgeable reviewers say he plays more like a 4.2-something on film. You only worry that he’ll get sawed in half by some over-eager Safety. This quality, clip-supported January scouting report from a Raiders POV raises a number of questions that largely center around Dotson’s lack of the high quality play strength required to break tackles in addition to avoiding them. Owen Straley’s detailed, gif-supported Depot scouting profile sounds an excited note for an early-2nd talent with “elite, sticky hands,” who could “stretch the field vertically with nuanced technique and speed.” Owen also notes that he “plays tough for his size [and is a] fundamental, very willing blocker.”||8.5|
|2:01||WR Skyy Moore, W. Mich. (RS Sophomore). 5’9⅝”, 195 lbs. with 31” arms and huge 10¼” hands. [Mtg. at Combine] A Pittsburgh boy from Shadyside, Moore was one of the main reasons why Pitt lost in a major upset. Known for his speed, quickness, route running, and hands, his Combine testing raised new questions because of surprisingly poor agility grades that drag down a 4.41 dash. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report describes him as a playmaker who is “dynamic both before and after the catch…, a nightmare for CB’s to cover,” and worthy of a Round 2 grade. The Bleacher Report scouting profile ends with the same Round 2 grade as JH, and also the same player comp: Golden Tate, who enjoyed a 10-year career as one of the best WR2’s in the business. The TDN scouting profile has the same grade and ends with a comp to Sterling Shepard. “[Moore will be] good for one tough as nails catch over the middle per game.” The PFN scouting profile adds: “On top of his receiving ability, Moore is simply an all-out competitor who brings phenomenal energy and competitive drive on the field.” This gif-supported, late March scouting report goes back to Golden Tate as the comp. Golden Tate for this April scouting profile too. Is anyone sensing a pattern?||8.4|
|2:01||WR Christian Watson, N. Dak. St. (RS Senior). 6’4⅛”, 208 lbs. with 32½” arms and big 10⅛” hands. [Mtg. at Senior Bowl, Combine] Looks like he ought to be a contested catch specialist, but he also runs very good routes, has surprising shiftiness, and put up a 4.36 dash at the Combine. Those are top 2% of the NFL numbers. His father was an NFL safety. Has also shown good special teams play as a punt/kick returner and also in coverage. This goes to a TDN article/interview during the Senior Bowl. This admiring and gif-supported article by Tyler Wise digs into Watson’s physicality and how much he enjoys blocking as well as pass catching. Here is the NFL.com scouting profile, which really only worries about a lack of deep bend for sudden stop/start moves. Tyler Wise’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends in a Round 3 grade after describing what I would call a Round 2 player: someone comparable to an extremely raw Martavis Bryant with his head screwed on straight, who’s also willing to block. This long Tampa-oriented scouting profile agrees on a Round 2 grade.||7.6|
|2:12||WR Drake London, USC. (Junior). 6’3⅞”, 219 lbs. with long 33” arms and 9⅜” hands. Turns 21 as a rookie. Downgraded on this board due to his similarities to Chase Claypool. An oddball player to evaluate because he doesn’t get open with either speed or agility, but has contested catch abilities so good that he’s open even when he’s covered. A classic example of the big time basketball talent who decided on football instead, and will succeed or fail in the NFL depending on whether he lands with a team that can accomodate his somewhat unique skill set. Could you call him a very undersized, but extraordinarily good Move TE? A fractured ankle toward the end of 2021 prevents athletic testing during the draft process. Came in at #10 overall in Daniel Jeremiah’s first big board based on both the size and being “a nuanced route runner.” Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile sees him as a fantastic but limited role player who has, “the size and skill to dominate the catch phase, [but] his one-speed route-running and lack of separation burst means a career full of contested catches.” This January scouting profile agrees that contested and box-out catches are his main asset, but also loves his blocking. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends in a Round 1 grade, the common comparison to Tee Higgins, and the note that London’s skill set largely mirrors that of Chase Claypool. This excellent gif-supported scouting report from a Washington POV sums up as follows “London is a smart, athletic player with elite competitive toughness and playmaking potential, [who will] struggle as a separator with his foot speed and should not be consistently asked to run routes in the deep areas of the field (post, fade, or fly).”||8.6|
|2:12||WR John Metchie III, Alabama. (Junior). 5’11¼”, 187 lbs. with 30⅝” arms and 9¼” hands. A hard player to evaluate because he combines top production with limited measurables, and could not be tested because of a late-season ACL in 2021. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report makes it clear that Metchie offers a huge number of assets that Pittsburgh could really use. He’s tough, fast, physical, a ferocious blocker for a WR, and above all has the knack of getting open on a regular basis. You know those guys who’d play, “whoops; Now you see me, now you don’t?!” That’s Metchie as a route runner. Polished, with off the charts stop-start ability. There are enough drops to drive you mad, but Jonathan describes those as matters of poor technique rather than bad hands. Not “drops” so much as fixable lapses where he’ll body catch instead of snatching the ball out of the air. So the drops may be maddening, but it really comes down to his knee. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile also worries about a “lack of explosiveness,” but admires the “pro-caliber route tree,… route instincts… [and ability to] snap off route breaks at crisp angles.” This nice, Giants-oriented scouting profile ends with an easy Round 2 grade.||8.3|
|2:12||WR George Pickens, Georgia. (Junior). 6’3¼”, 190 lbs. with 32⅜” arms and 8¾” hands. [All brass were at the pro day, and Pittsburgh’s WR coach put Pickens through his drills]. Long, wiry, and fast with good hands and nice route running talent. The frame is thin enough to create injury concerns, which have been an issue. Tore an ACL in March of 2021, but managed to come back for the championship season (“a medical marvel”), albeit at a lower level than he played in 2020. Projects as a fine field stretcher on the outside who possess that acrobatic ability to twist in the air for difficult jump balls. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends in a comp to A.J. Green, and a Round 2 grade (with medical asterisk) for a “jump ball savant [who] may not have been gifted with elite deep speed [but is] difficult to catch in the open field once he gets going.” The poor (33”) vertical leap at the Combine came as something of a nasty surprise, with the 4.47 speed and the overall 93rd percentile athletic score being good ones. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile also has a Round 2-3 grade, particularly admiring the “vice-grip hand strength.” This January scouting profile describes him as “your traditional X receiver with good size and strength” but worries that he “lacks urgency when he’s not the 1st or 2nd option in the play” and needs to amp up the intensity on his role as a blocker. This Packers-oriented scouting report adds that he has tremendous hands, with an all but nonexistent 2.1% drop rate.||8.2|
|2:20||STEELERS ROUND 2 PICK (# 52 OVERALL)||—|
|2:24||WR David Bell, Purdue. (Junior). 6’0⅞”, 212 lbs. with 31⅞” arms and 9¼”hands. [Mtg. at Combine] A really good possession receiver who creates separation, catches what’s open, and gets the available yards. Extremely solid floor but moderate ceiling. The perfect player if you want a WR2/3 who’s going to move the chains in the short and midlevel game. Had a horrible Combine that put him in the very bottom of the class from an athletic POV. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report points out Bell’s steady production over several years, and he certainly looks faster on film than he timed at Indy. This interesting scouting profile from January provides insight because virtually every area is marked as average or better, with none being really special. The NFL.com scouting profile uses an interesting metaphor to describe him: “Bell is like a crafty pitcher with a limited fastball but a variety of pitches to get hitters out. He wins with process over speed and has an ability to keep man coverage off-balance with rhythmic route-running and detailed footwork.”||8.1|
|3:01||WR Jalen Tolbert, S. Alabama. (RS Junior). 6’1⅛”, 194 lbs. with 32¼” arms and 10” hands. A small school phenom who dominated the lesser level of competition with a very well balanced mix of size, speed, hands, toughness, and other assets. Plenty of room to grow as he learns his craft. Here is an admiring, clip supported scouting report from a Raiders POV that came out before the Senior Bowl. This goes to a Senior Bowl interview with Steeler Depot’s Tyler Wise, and this to a Senior Bowl interview with TDN. The gif-supported Depot scouting report by Alex Kozora ends in a Round 3 grade for someone who projects as a big-play WR3 with good speed, but is also “a bit of a straight-line player who isn’t incredibly dynamic after the catch.”||7.6|
|3:12||WR/KR Calvin Austin III, Memphis. (RS Senior). 5’7¾”, 170 lbs. with 30” arms and 9¼” hands. A spectacular athlete when it comes to everything but size, where he grades as “very poor.” But is it prohibitively poor? An electric athlete, return man, and nominal WR in the same school as Ray Ray McCloud but with even more juice. Those of us who remember the likes of Dri Archer and Chris Rainey will urge caution about taking the highlight reel at face value. Size really does matter. This Giants oriented scouting profile is a good read, explaining that Austin “is capable of making game-changing plays, [but] will likely need to be protected from man coverage against NFL cornerbacks, which could put some limits on how he is used.” Wesley Cantliffe’s give-supported Depot scouting report ends in a Round 3 grade for an electric gadget player who could be much, much more if he can overcome the size issues.||7.7|
|3:12||WR Romeo Doubs, Nevada. (Senior). 6’1⅞”, 201 lbs. with 32¼” arms and big 10” hands. [Mtg. at Senior Bowl] Mr. Deep Threat at the other end of Carson Strong’s rocket arm, he also knows how to use that speed as a bluff to cut off easy receptions on short patterns. Often used as a playmaker on things like bubble screens. Hands can be inconsistent from game to game, which suggests focus drops more than poor hands. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends with a Round 3 grade after noting the great football character (quoting the WR coach as saying, “he has all the ability of any superstar WR without any of the diva-ness”) and characterizing him as an instant field-stretching threat with the ability to become much more than that. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile offers a grade closer to Round 5 based on concerns that he’s a one trick pony. “He’s a linear route-runner who will struggle to elude NFL press and separate from tight man coverage over the first two levels.” This quality, clip-supported scouting report from a Raiders POV would agree, with some cautionary notes about the issue with occasional drops. Looked good at the Senior Bowl practices. The author of this January scouting report was all but horrified by what he calls “abysmal hands… [that] are some of the worst I’ve seen.” Ouch.||7.9|
|3:12||WR Alec Pierce, Cincinnati. (Senior). 6’2¾”, 213 lbs. with 33” arms and 9” hands. A popular draft target as a chain moving WR2/3 prospect with a chance to mature into something a little better. Big enough, tall enough, fast enough, shifty enough, and possessing flawless hands, he plays a physical game and is also a fine, multisport athlete. The sort of guy whose wiring is so good that everything simply ‘works’ in a coordinated way. All he lacks is a next-level asset in any category to put him over the top. Tom Mead’s gif-supported Depot scouting report describes him as a shorter but shiftier Tee Higgins who can play multiple WR spots and also win above the rim. The NFL.com scouting profile prefers a comparison to Donovan Peoples-Jones, and ends with something more like a Round 4-5 grade due to worries about how much of his game will carry over to the next level. Great athletic profile for size and speed, but poor for agility.||8.5|
|3:12||WR/RB/ATH Wan’Dale Robinson, Kentucky. (Junior). 5’8”, 178 lbs. with miniature 27⅝” arms and big-for-his-size 9” hands. Went on my personal radar screen in a big way after he took over the Citrus Bowl against Iowa’s tremendous defense. He simply couldn’t be covered, almost couldn’t be caught, and showed the sort of playmaking creativity that Pittsburgh could really use. He isn’t hugely big or hugely fast (4.45 or so), but awesome hands multiply his effective size just as his sudden burst and COD ability make up for the straight line speed. Tough kid too. He was a highly decorated H.S. running back, and it shows in how hard he is to hit and to get on the ground. There’s a lesson in the fact that Wesley Cantliffe’s gif-supported Depot scouting report describes his position as “RB/WR/ATH,” to reflect the fact that Robinson is a true gadget player that Wes likens to a young Tavon Austin. This nice PFN scouting profile from December contains good background. The TDN scouting profile ends in a fringe-2nd grade for this “impactful weapon… [with] a knack for explosive plays.” Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile describes him as a “much lighter  Deebo Samuel [who is] sudden and slick with an ability to make plays from a variety of alignments.” This detailed scouting profile also ends with a Round 3 grade. This fascinating “boiler room” article/video from Matt Waldman shows some ways in which Robinson could “develop into a playmaking force, especially from the slot.”||7.6|
|3:20||STEELERS ROUND 3 PICK (# 84 OVERALL)||—|
|3:24||WR Jalen “Speedy” Nailor, Mich. St. (RS Junior). 5’11¼”, 186 lbs. with 9¼” hands. Start your research by looking at a combination of Nailor’s intriguing, Top 20% athletic testing (here is a companion analysis) with the story told by Tom Mead’s superior and gif-supported Depot scouting profile, which neatly describes a very sudden football player who does almost everything better than ‘well’ but doesn’t have a defining characteristic to rely on. It’s the subtle things that matter in Nailor’s game, like the instant start/stop/start ability, the sharp and effective cuts, and the high IQ that shows up in the timely blocks. He’s not a haymaker right, or a dominating hook, or a flashy inside uppercut; he’s that deadly sharp jab on the nose that can dominate a bout even when it won’t end one. The downsides come down to play strength and injuries. He can be knocked around and off his routes. And he lost 5 games to a hand injury in 2021; played only 7 games in 2020 because of Covid’s effects; lost all but four games in 2019 to a broken foot; and hurt a “lower leg” in 2018 (ankle?). None of that is connected, but it does create some smoke. This goes to a good March scouting profile that ends with a Round 7 grade out of concerns that big NFL defenders will be able to nullify his short area quickness; a concern that both AB and Diontae Johnson refute imho. The PFN scouting profile is another must-read, in part for the entire section on “execution beyond the physical traits.” Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile ends in something like an early Day 3 grade by taking a Round 2 description and then discounting it because “he’s just not very durable.”||7.5|
|3:24||WR Isaiah Weston, Northern Iowa. (RS Senior). 6’3½”, 214 lbs. with 32½” arms and 9½” hands. [“Extensive” mtg. at pro day] Will turn 25 next October. Made big news when he tested as a Perfect 10.0 on the RAS athletic scale. The NFL.com scouting profile by Lance Zierlein describes him as a spectacular FCS athlete who dominated the lesser competition, but will take some time before he can hope to jump several levels up to where he’ll be dealing with pros. This brief scouting profile admires the “soft hands, toughness, and deceptive jets”, as well as his “knack for getting open and [being] a quarterback’s best friend” on combat catches. Tyler Wise’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends in a barely-draftable grade for a “one trick pony” deep threat.||6.3|
|4:01||WR Bo Melton, Rutgers. (Senior). 5’11”, 189 lbs. with 31¼” arms and 9” hands. A tricky player to evaluate because he never had a QB at the other end to rely on, Melton has excellent 4.34 speed and good agility (92nd percentile athletic score held back by a lack of height and weight). Multiyear team captain. Good special teams gunner as well as a punt and kick returner. Wesley Cantliffe’s gif-supported Depot scouting report describes him as a poor man’s Curtis Samuel, with great potential who still needs to learn his craft as a route runner despite lots of college experience, and may have WR/RB flexibility for gadget plays. Intriguingly, Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile agrees on that film grade but also notes that (a) “he doesn’t appear to have the vertical burst of a downfield weapon,” which the testing disproved, and (b) “his production was clearly hampered by QB play.” Taken together, those points suggest that Melton may be your classic sleeper who will put up better results in the NFL than he ever did in college. “Just call Bo Melton ‘Terry McLaurin, Jr.” says this gif-supported, Washington-oriented scouting profile; or at least McLaurin minus 20 important pounds.||7.0|
|4:16||WR Kevin Austin Jr., Notre Dame. (Junior). 6’2⅜”, 200 lbs. with 32⅞” arms and 9” hands. A boom or bust, top 1% athlete who had his college career interrupted by a pair of 2020 foot surgeries and never began to live up to his potential until the final 6-10 games or so of 2021, where he looked like he could be a genuine star. Put up excellent times in both the speed and agility drills despite his very solid size. The NFL.com scouting profile emphasizes the tale of two films between his spotty and erratic play early on, and what he showed toward the end of 2021 and in the Combine. The relatively thorough PFN scouting profile comes out much the same: the flashes confirm the awesome testing, but how much can you rely on flashes when there’s so little actual film? Here is a brief, pre-Combine profile of scouting notes on the film. This solid-looking March scouting profile follows the same analysis as the others, ending with a Round 5 projection. Alex Kozora’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends in a Round 4-5 grade for a one-dimensional deep threat.||7.3|
|4:16||WR Erik Ezukanma, Texas Tech. (RS Junior). 6’1⅞”, 220 lbs. with 33½” arms and 9⅜” hands. [Mtg. at Combine] Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile compares him to Donte Moncrief, as a product player with good size, speed, ball skills, agility, and toughness. His best asset seems to be run-after-catch ability, which has been described as “angry,” “powerful,” and with “superb contact balance.” A hybrid RB out of the Steelers big-boy prototype rather than the elusive profile? Team captain. He did little in the way of testing at the Combine, which is a shame because early scouting profiles like this September piece from PFN plugged him as a superb athlete with elite contact balance, while others like this NFL Draft Buzz profile saw a “straight-line athlete with only average speed.” It would have been nice to get some hard data! This “feels” like a solid scouting profile in its praise for specific elements such as route running, blocking, contested catch ability, and YAC ability, balanced off against specific debits for moderate ability to separate with either agility or long speed. This goes to a March interview/profile on a Steelers site, with some useful depth questions. This February scouting profile is useful for its attempt to break down small categories.||—|
|4:16||WR Danny Gray, SMU. (Senior). 5’11⅝”, 186 lbs. with 31⅞” arms and 9⅝” hands. [Mtg. at Combine, WR coach at pro day]. A solid, speedy (4.33!), Day 3 field-stretcher who gets downgraded because that’s really all he’s shown. Gray played in a wide open offense that allowed him to use that speed, stop/start explosiveness, and leaping ability to full advantage without needing to learn much about his actual craft. (NOTE: his 89th percentile RAS includes a poor 34” vertical leap that is belied by what he does on film.) Inconsistent hands, with flashes of both tremendous natural talent and inexplicable drops and body catches. More fast and sudden than shifty and quick. Has also had some academic challenges. Here is a good PFN pre-Senior Bowl scouting profile. Tom Mead’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends with a Round 6 grade based on questions going to just about everything other than a fighting spirit and top notch speed; i.e., the hands, route running, play strength, ability to find the ball in mid-air, and ability to separate other than vertically. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile sees the same issues but ends in something more like a Round 4-5 grade.||6.2|
|4:16||WR Justyn Ross, Clemson. (RS Senior). 6’3⅝”, 205 lbs. with 32⅛” arms and 9⅝” hands. [Several mtgs] In the general James Washington mold, his best assets are amazing jumping ability combined with very good hands to win at the high point. Neck surgery to fuse some vertebrae in 2020 cost him that year. On film he is a decent athlete but only that; in testing he proved to be terrible (bottom 3% RAS score). Many people believe he may still be recovering from a 2020 spinal fusion surgery, because he looked better in earlier years, and could have been hampered at the Combine by residual issues from a 2021 fracture in his foot. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends with a Round 5 grade for a player he sees as a WR3/4 with the ability to “play all over the formation” but without the “upper-tier athletic ability to truly dominate.” Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile admires the route running, but seems to agree with Heitritter on the grade due to “below-average juice.”||7.1|
|4:16||WR Tyquan Thornton, Baylor (Senior). 6’2⅜”, 181 lbs. with long 33¼” arms and tiny 8¼” hands. Stood out at the Shrine Bowl for his shifty route running, and corresponding ability to create separation. Tougher than the measurements might suggest. Had a spectacular Combine that featured a 4.28 dash with instant acceleration. Top 2% athlete despite the discount for his bottom 2% weight measurement; the Mockdraftable spider chart is hilarious for its extremes. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile calls him “a vertical threat with the speed and poise to win deep” but warns that “WR’s with his size profile have struggled mightily to succeed in the league.” Josh Carney’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends in a Round 4 grade for a take-the-top-off receiver with the potential to become “a true WR2 in the NFL for a decade” if his slight frame and build can hold up.||7.3|
|4:33||STEELERS ROUND 4 PICK (# 138 OVERALL) (COMPENSATORY)||—|
|5:01||WR Kyle Philips, UCLA. (Senior). 5’11¼”, 189 lbs. with 29⅝” arms and 8⅝” hands. A fast, shifty slot receiver with decent size and tremendous hands. His excellent route running will get him open, he’ll catch what’s thrown in his general area, and then he’ll get upfield and earn those extra yards. A very fine punt returner too; a skill set that fits perfectly with his odd athletic testing (elite agility and short area speed, which amassed a Top 20% RAS despite very poor size and long speed numbers). This goes to an interesting TDN interview/article on his “uncoverable” route running at the Senior Bowl, along with a February follow-up piece on potential team fits. The NFL.com scouting profile sounds some well founded cautionary notes about the lack of speed and burst you look for to enhance the route running and COD prowess.|
|5:01||WR Khalil Shakir, Boise St. (Senior). 5’11⅞”, 196 lbs. with short 29” arms and 9½” hands. Projects like a solid WR3/4 type, with decent assets across the board and no glaring flaws except the need for good NFL coaching. Impressed Daniel Jeremiah at the Senior Bowl with his quickness and “phenomenal hands.” As this TDN article from the Senior Bowl said, “Shakir profiles as a quality slot receiver in the NFL. His short-area separation is top-notch and sets him apart from the other receivers on his squad Thursday.”||—|
|5:01||WR Tre Turner, Va. Tech. (Senior). 6’1⅜”, 184 lbs. with 30¾” arms and 8½” hands. A really good rebounder who wins almost all his 50/50 catch opportunities due to fantastic hand-eye coordination, body control, and grip strength. Plays like he’s 6’6” instead of under 6’2”. Had a Combine so bad (bottom 4% RAS) that one suspects there was something wrong, because it conflicts so badly with the tape and his repeated use on jet sweeps and the like. The NFL.com scouting profile calls him a “rebound king [with] supreme hand-eye coordination… [who] makes acrobatic catches look easy” but worries about how much truth underlies the athletic testing.||—|
|5:16||WR Reggie Roberson Jr., SMU. (RS Senior). 5’11”, 192 lbs. with 32⅝” arms and 9½” hands. Transfer from W. Va. Very fast. Lost all of 2019 to a foot injury, and all of 2020 to a knee. The NFL.com scouting profile sums him up as follows: “When healthy, he takes the top off of defenses with high-power acceleration that can lead to long touchdowns. However, he lacks the short-area agility to beat tight man coverage with route success.” The somewhat hideous testing numbers suggest that he may still be fighting an injury. The Draft Network scouting profile compares him to Cedrick Wilson, as a slender but all-around receiver who can be a decent deep threat. The PFN scouting profile sums him up as “A speedy big-play threat with excellent catching technique.”||—|
|5:16||WR Braylon Sanders, Ole Miss. (Senior). 6’0⅛”, 194 lbs. with shorter 31½” arms but big 10” hands. Known for such dynamic speed that he was seriously disappointed with the 4.48 Combine dash, Sanders also has some decent agility. A good, take-the-top-off, downfield threat that QB Matt Corral no doubt enjoyed. But as the NFL.com scouting profile notes, Sanders “won’t be a guy who can uncover on all three levels,  his contested-catch finishing is below average… [and his] injury background comes with a “buyer-beware” sticker, but speed and talent matters.” Pretty good hands, and has flashed some excellent body control. Has also returned a pair of punts to the house.||—|
|6:01||WR Velus Jones, Tennessee. (RS Senior). 5’11¾”, 204 lbs. with 30⅞” arms and 9¾” hands. Turns 25 as a rookie. Imagine Ray Ray McCloud with good size. He’s lightning fast (4.31) and has good hands, but is really more of a return guy who happens to be listed as a WR on the depth chart. Supposed to be a hard worker and good teammate. Tom Mead’s gif-supported Depot scouting report likes a lot of the assets, but sees Jones as someone who will need to make his bones as a kick returner, and therefore does not fit Pittsburgh’s current needs too well.||6.9|
|6:16||WR Makai Polk, Miss. St. (Junior). 6’3⅛”, 195 lbs. with 32¼” arms and 9½” hands. He’s not particularly fast, quick, nor big from an NFL perspective, nor does he have all that much experience, but the hands and body control are good enough to believe he might develop into a competent WR4 with some upside if he surprises us with his route running. Those not great assets are also not bad, and collectively give him a 60th percentile RAS. Not a great fit for Pittsburgh, which explains the especially low HV. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile equates to something more like a Round 4-5 grade.||—|
|6:16||WR Jaquarii Roberson, Wake Forest. (Senior). 6’0⅞”, 182 lbs. with 31¾” arms and 9” hands. Turns 24 in July. A decent enough slot receiver if you’re looking for Day 3 depth, at least according to Andrew Shaver’s gif-supported Depot scouting report. Boasts good 4.43 speed and the native ability to make difficult circus catches, but just not imposing in any part of his game.||6.3|
|6:29||STEELERS ROUND 6 PICK (# 208 OVERALL) (FROM KC FOR INGRAM)||—|
|7:01||WR Josh Johnson, Tulsa. (RS Senior). 5’10¼”, 176 lbs. with 31⅞” arms and 8⅝” hands. The skinny frame looks like it should be a problem, but according to Josh Carney he dominated the Shrine Bowl practices with crisp route running and explosive cuts that created wide open pass opportunities. There was even a veiled reference to similarities that could be drawn to AB as a draft prospect. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile describes him as “a feast-or-famine slot target with explosive top-end speed but… troubling lack of ball skills.” He concludes that “the playmaking talent [will] hit a little harder than the drops will.” Sounds troublingly familiar in some ways. Can the dropsies be fixed? Andrew Shaver’s gif-supported Depot scouting report expresses genuine doubt, and ends in a UDFA grade for that reason.||6.0|
|7:01||WR Davontavean “Tay” Martin, Okla. St. (Senior). 6’1½”, 188 lbs. with 32⅜” arms and 9⅜” hands. Shrine Bowl standout for his ability to get clean releases off the line, and to separate in the routes thereafter.||—|
|7:01||WR Charleston Rambo, Miami. (RS Senior). 6’0⅝”, 177 lbs. with 32” arms and 9¾” hands. Really good speed and enough shiftiness to be a threat every time he holds the ball, Rambo gets a Day 3 grade because the lack of heft makes him very vulnerable to press coverage, and his hands have been worse than inconsistent. The cries of outrage from the fanbase would be so annoying that I really hope the team goes in another direction. Check out Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report.||—|
|7:01||WR Samori Toure, Nebraska. (Senior). 6’0¾”, 191 lbs. with 32¼” arms and 9⅜” hands. Generally acknowledged by the DB’s as the best of the Shrine Bowl east team WR’s, he excels at contested catches and toe tapping sideline grabs.||—|
|7:04||STEELERS ROUND 7a PICK (# 225 OVERALL) (FROM MIAMI)||—|
|7:16||WR Dontario Drummond, Ole Miss. (RS Senior). 6’1⅞”, 215 lbs. with 31½” arms and 9½” hands. Turns 25 in August, just before his rookie season. Wesley Cantliffe’s gif-supported Depot scouting report describes a big-slot WR who sounds a lot like a somewhat smaller and lesser version of Juju Smith-Schuster, which makes sense for someone who’d be projected to go 2-3 rounds later if he was also a 20-year old like JJSS was. As a 25 year old? He is probably undraftable for the youth-loving Steelers.||7.5|
|7:16||WR Emeka Emezie, N. Car. St. (RS Senior). 6’2½”, 212 lbs. with 32¾” arms and 9” hands. Josh Carney’s gif-supported Depot scouting report describes a poor man’s, wannabe Anquan Boldin: the “bully boy” type of ultra-physical receiver who “thrives on contested catches and dominating in the air instead of separating and creating space overall within his routes.”||6.6|
|7:16||WR Jaivon Heiligh, Coastal Car. (Senior). 6’0¼”, 200 lbs. with 9¼” hands.||—|
|7:20||STEELERS ROUND 7b PICK (# 241 OVERALL)||—|