For a few of years now, 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 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 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 offensive tackles 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.
Ohio State’s Paris Johnson tops the interest scores (11.1), who met with Pittsburgh at the combine, had a highly attended pro day that included a dinner meeting, along with a five athletic score (barely missing in hand size and five DNP’s), and is likely going to be the first tackle off the board early in the draft (but we can hope, right?). Dawand Jones (10.6) manned the other side for the Buckeyes, the highly attended pro day that also included a dinner meeting, but his pre-draft visit notably not occurring, along with a four athletic score (five DNP’s), acing the size thresholds at his mountainous stature but his 5.35 40-time and 1.92 10-yard split lower than the Steelers have drafted the last decade, and seems to be a day one/early day two selection that has seemingly fallen a bit out of favor for the black and gold as the process has unfolded. Tennessee’s Darnell Wright (10.5 interest score) had strong pro day attendance with offensive line coach Pat Meyer and assistant GM Andy Weidl at his pro day, and notably had a recent pre-draft meeting that reassures our wonder of the Steelers interest and if he’d be in play in the first round, but a seven athletic score (barely missing with 33 3/4” arms, 9” hands, and two DNP’s).
Georgia’s Broderick Jones (9.8 interest score) who just had a pre-draft visit with the Steelers at the combine, along with strong pro day attendance (sans offensive coaches), pairing this with an eight athletic score (three DNP’s), and is seemingly a slam dunk first round prospect that will be fascinating to monitor. Alabama’s Tyler Steen as the only player in the nines (9.7 interest score), who also had strong pro day attendance, an informal meeting at the combine, with college performance a lower mark comparatively, along with an eight athletic score (lower 32 3/4” arms and two DNP’s) that seems to be a late day two/early day three option.
Two candidates land in the eight tier, starting with Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski (8.1 interest score) also had Meyer at his pro day along with a combine meeting, but size a lower mark in his eight athletic score (along with 32 1/4” arms missing the mark and a DNP in the shuttle), and will likely be selected early first round. Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison (eight interest score) had a pre-draft visit and informal meeting with Pittsburgh at the combine, but less pro day attendance a lower mark, and an eight athletic score (barely missing in height, hand size, and one DNP), who is also expected to go on day one or early day two.
Several prospects (eight) land in the seven range: Oklahoma teammate Wanya Morris (7.8), Oregon’s Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu (7.7), Michigan’s Ryan Hayes (7.7), Boise State’s John Ojukwu (7.5, and notably on Alex Kozora’s ”What The Steelers Look For” list), Florida’s Richard Gouraige (7.5 interest score), Syracuse’s Matthew Bergeron (7.2), Maryland’s Jaelyn Duncan (7.2), and Dalton Wagner of Arkansas (7.1). Ojokwu, Aumavae-Laulu, and Wagner pair this with 10 athletic scores, and all seem to be late/undrafted candidates that will be interesting to keep an eye on, especially if they last post-draft. Morris had an eight athletic score due to three DNP’s, notably checking the boxes he participated in, and personally like him as a likely late day two/early day three prospect for Pittsburgh if they don’t draft the position early.
There are many other intriguing names at the position with strong results, and especially wanted to point out some. Three of the six combine invites in the six range that have yet to be mentioned had pre-draft ties with the Steelers: Pittsburgh’s Carter Warren, Georgia’s Warren McClendon, and BYU’s Blake Freeland, along with Oregon’s T.J. Bass in the five tier. Two notable non-combine invites are Earl Bostick Jr. of Kansas, who didn’t get much pre-draft interest (6.3) but was one of two players to make Kozora’s “What The Steelers Look For Study”. The other is Shephard’s Joey Fisher, who received pre-draft interest and also lands in the five range of the interest scores. Personally hoping Pittsburgh invests early first and foremost, then double dips in the undrafted pool to fill out a position room that needs depth.
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.