NFL Draft

2023 Steelers Draft Interest And Athletic Scores: Linebackers

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. 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. That 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, 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: 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 10 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 participate 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 are within a threshold in each metric of any player drafted at their position by the Steelers since 2013.

Clear as mud? Here are the linebackers who 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.

Very telling chart, with Clemson’s Trenton Simpson leading the position group with a whopping 11.9 interest score. He checked nearly every one of those boxes, including a Combine meeting, highly attended Pro Day (along with a dinner), and a perfect 11 athletic score (also notably made Alex Kozora’s “What The Steelers Look For” list). Seemingly a day one/early day two candidate that Pittsburgh could pounce on early if they choose.

After a drop off, we have two prospects in the nine range. Wisconsin’s Nick Herbig (9.6 interest score) met with the Steelers at the Combine along with linebackers coach Aaron Curry at his Pro Day. He also has a perfect 11 athletic score, including the honor of passing Kozora’s “What The Steelers Look For” as providing Pittsburgh’s beloved bloodlines. His draft range is up for debate, namely for this likely position change. I could definitely see him joining his older brother Nate in the black and gold, especially if he is there in the third round. Alabama’s Henry To’o To’o (9.3 interest score) also had a Combine meeting, including strong Pro Day attendance (less notable with the Crimson Tide’s slew of prospects), along with a nine athletic score (two DNP’s). He is seemingly a late day two/early day three candidate.

Five players land in the eight tier, starting with Tennessee’s Jeremy Banks (8.5 interest score). He had strong Pro Day attendance and a perfect 11 athletic score (making Kozora’s “What The Steelers Look For Study”), but character concerns, college performance, and lack of meetings were lower marks. Oregon’s Noah Sewell (8.3 interest score) had a Combine meeting but less Pro Day attendance. Along with a perfect 11 athletic score he also landed on Kozora’s list and is another likely late day two/early day three possibility. Tulane’s Dorian Williams (8.1 interest score) most notably had Curry at his Pro Day, but lack of pre-draft meetings and level of competition lower his marks, along with an eight athletic score (three DNP’s). Many project him to go early day three. Cincinnati’s Ivan Pace Jr. (eight interest score) had a Combine meeting with Pittsburgh, with level of competition his lowest mark, along with a perfect 11 athletic score that will like get him drafted in a similar range as Williams. Iowa’s Jack Campbell also has an eight interest score. He had strong Pro Day attendance but surprisingly lacked pre-draft meetings considering his seemingly great fit with Pittsburgh, including a 10 athletic score (DNP on the bench). It looks like he’ll be a day two selection.

Six prospects land in the seven range: DeMarvion Overshown of Texas (7.8), Duke’s Shaka Heyward (7.7), Drew Sanders of Arkansas (7.5), Pittsburgh’s SirVocea Dennis (7.4), Auburn’s Owen Pappoe (7.2), and Washington State’s Daiyan Henley (7.2). Heyward and Banks each pair this with perfect 11 athletic scores. Each seems to be late/undrafted candidates (particularly the former) if the Steelers have yet to address the position. A few prospects checked all the athletic score boxes they participated in: Sanders (10), Pappoe (nine), and Henley (eight). All could seemingly go at various points in the draft, something that will be interesting to keep an eye on.

There are many other intriguing names at the position with strong results, and I especially wanted to point out some. A non-Combine invite who had pre-draft ties with Pittsburgh was Syracuse’s Mikel Jones (seven interest score), and a handful were notable with perfect 11 athletic scores: Utah’s Mohamoud Diabate, Michigan’s Ben VanSumeren, Florida’s Amari Burney, Arizona State’s Kyle Soelle and Merlin Robertson, LSU’s Mike Jones, and Texas State’s London Harris. When taking all the information in, and the additions to the position room this offseason, it seems that Pittsburgh is looking at players in the mid- to late-rounds unless Simpson falls. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

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.

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