For a few of years now, I have kept a running spreadsheet during the draft process. The goal for me is 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 Dave and Alex’s studies of draft trends over the years for Pittsburgh, with their in-depth research second to none. It is 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 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 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 players perform in college? Does their height and weight match up to the body type of any player Pittsburgh has drafted at the position the last ten years? 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 meeting(s) with the Steelers pre-draft? Did they appear in the Senior, Shrine, or NFLPA Bowl?
This matches up nicely to the Athletic Score: simply 11 combine metrics excluding wingspan, and whether or not they were within a threshold in each metric of any player drafted at their position by the Steelers since 2013.
Clear as mud? Here are the interior offensive lineman that were combine invites:
NOTE: If you don’t see a name please ask, I have many more non-combine players compiled but excluded them for a cleaner chart.
Here we see the Steelers have shown quite a bit of interest in the interior line positions. Topping this year’s interest scores is Ohio State’s Luke Wypler (9.6). He had a highly attended pro day, including offensive line coach Pat Meyer, and a dinner meeting with Pittsburgh, along with a 10 athletic score (shorter 31 5/8” arms than Pittsburgh has drafted the last decade). He seems to be a strong day-two option. Alabama’s Emil Ekiyor Jr. (9.2) had a highly attended pro day, including Meyer, perhaps a bit less notable with a lack of pre-draft meetings compared to Alabama tackle Tyler Steen, along with just a three athletic score (smaller 9 1/2” hands and 23 reps on the bench, and six DNP’s). He seems to be a day-three pick.
We have eight prospects in the eight range of interest scores. Michigan’s Olusegun Oluwatimi (8.8). He had an informal meeting at the Combine, strong pro day attendance, a nine athletic score (missed with 8 5/8” hands and a 5.38 40-time), and seems he’ll be a late day-two/early-day three candidate. Penn State’s Juice Scruggs (8.7) had strong pro day attendance (sans offensive coaches), a perfect 11 athletic score that included making Alex Kozora’s “What The Steelers Look For” list, but no pre-draft meetings. He is a likely day- two/early day-three option. Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence (8.3) had a pre-draft visit but less pro day attendance comparatively, and an eight athletic score (low 5.31 40-time, 23 bench reps, and 23.5 vertical). He will likely be a late-first/early-second round selection. North Dakota State’s Cody Mauch (8.2) had a pre-draft visit, along with a perfect 11 athletic score (also acing Kozora’s box checking) and attractive position versatility, but age, level of competition, and less pro day attendance low marks. He is a likely in the late-first/early-day two draft range and will be interesting to monitor for the black and gold.
Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz (8.2) had a pre-draft visit, but less pro day attendance and age lower marks, a seven athletic score (32 5/8” arms, 9 1/2” hands, 5.35 40-time, and DNP in the three cone missing the mark). He seems to be a day-two option. Clemson’s Jordan McFadden (8.2) had an informal Combine meeting, strong pro day attendance (sans offensive coaches despite a slew of prospects), an eight athletic score (9 1/2” hands, 24 bench reps, and one DNP). He seems to be a late round/undrafted candidate. USC’s Andrew Vorhees (8.1) stock fell to his unfortunate injury after Pittsburgh met with him at the Combine, along with less pro day attendance and age as lower marks, and a six athletic score that showed toughness with a Combine-high 38 bench reps on one leg (but low 32 1/8” arms). He will seemingly get pushed down to day three, perhaps a steal for a team in the long term.
Five players land in the seven tier of athletic scores: Ricky Stromberg of Arkansas (7.9), Joe Tippman of Wisconsin (7.8), TCU’s Steve Avila (7.2), Notre Dame’s Jarrett Patterson (7.2), and Oregon’s Alex Forsyth (seven). Players in this group who had a pre-draft meeting Pittsburgh include Stromberg, Tippman, and Avila. Tippman had a lower athletic score (four) due solely to DNPs, rounding out an intriguing list of top names in my opinion throughout the draft.
There are some other players with strong results, and I wanted to point out some. NC State’s Chandler Zavala was a Combine snub but fared very well with an 8.5 interest score, including a pre-draft visit, Meyer at his pro day, with age one of his only low marks. He checked all the athletic boxes he participated in (nine). I could really see him in the black and gold as a likely day-three option. Eastern Michigan’s Sidy Sow (6.7) is a seemingly great fit with a perfect 11 athletic score and the final name to pass Kozora’s study. He could be available late or even in the undrafted pool. A few others had informal meetings with the Steelers at the Combine: Nick Broeker of Ole Miss (6.7), Troy’s Jake Andrews (6.6), Washington’s Henry Bainivalu (six), and Minnesota-Duluth’s Brent Laing (5.5). Andrews fared best in athletic score with a 10 (32 1/8” arms missing the mark). Players in this group all seem to be day three/undrafted possibilities.
It will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh handles the interior of the offensive line considering their obvious pre-draft interest despite free agent additions. I’m hoping for players with position versatility, with Mauch topping the list of several players that can offer it.
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.