A bit of an obscure draft trend I’ve kept an eye on for several years now is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ penchant for drafting players who were top 10 at the Combine in the broad jump. That trend continued last year with them drafting wide receiver Calvin Austin III in the fourth round. Austin had the second-best broad jump overall at the Combine with an impressive 11’3″.
I believe that the broad jump is a trait the Steelers specifically value in their pre-draft evaluations. So just how much do they like the broad jump? From the 2007-2022 NFL Combines there have been 181 players to finish in the top 10 in the broad jump in their respective years (comes out to a little over 12 per year due to ties, and there was no Combine in 2021). Of those players, the Steelers have drafted 13 and signed one as an UDFA after the draft.
Steelers Selected Top-10 Broad Jumpers
2007 – Dallas Baker, WR, 7th round – 10’9″
2009 – Mike Wallace, WR, 3rd round – 10’9″
2010 – Emmanuel Sanders, WR, 3rd round – 10’6″
2011 – Curtis Brown, CB, 3rd round – 10’8″
2011 – Cortez Allen, CB, 4th round – 10’9″
2013 – Shamarko Thomas, S, 4th round – 11’1″
2014 – Ryan Shazier, ILB, 1st round – 10’10”
2015 – Bud Dupree, OLB, 1st round – 11’6″
2015 – Sammie Coates, WR, 3rd round – 10’11”
2016 – Travis Feeney, OLB, 6th round – 10’10”
2018 – Terrell Edmunds, S, 1st round – 11’2″
2018 – Matthew Thomas, ILB, UDFA – 10’11”
2019 – Justin Layne, CB, 3rd round – 11’2″
2022 – Calvin Austin III, WR, 4th round – 11’3″
The positions are those that you’d expect to garner top-10 broad jump numbers: defensive backs, wide receivers and linebackers. The Steelers have selected them from the first round all the way through to the undrafted pool. These 14 players seem like a lot in fifteen 15; after all it’s nearly one per year. The only years they did not add one were 2008, 2012, 2017 and 2020.
How does that compare to the rest of the NFL? No team in the league had more than the Steelers. The Minnesota Vikings were close behind with 13. The Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons were next with nine each. The Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens were middle of the pack with six and five, respectively. The Ravens interestingly acquired three of their five just last year by drafting safety Kyle Hamilton in the first round and signing wide receiver Devon Williams and linebacker Jeremiah Moon as UDFAs. The Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks bring up the rear with only one each. Overall, the median was five players drafted or signed as original UDFAs. With the Steelers having the most in the league, and nearly three times the median, they clearly place a heavier than typical emphasis on the broad jump at the annual NFL Scouting Combine.
The draft isn’t the only way the Steelers come by these players either. Like with other athletes they show pre-draft interest in, top-10 broad jumpers have a way of circling back to the Steelers if they miss out on them initially. These are the players during that span who have eventually made their way to at least the off-season roster of the Steelers: Jacoby Jones, Joe Haden, Michael Egnew, Justin Hunter, B.W. Webb, Donte Moncrief, Keanu Neal, Bucky Hodges, and Miles Boykin. That’s another nine players making their way to the Steelers. I don’t have league wide numbers to compare that too, but clearly the Steelers keep these guys on their radar. 12.7% of these players spent some time with the Steelers (1/32nd is only 3.1% for comparison).
No draft trend guarantees future results but keep a close eye on this year’s top-10 Combine broad jumpers during the draft. There is a good chance one of them will jump onto the Steelers roster.
Julius Brents*, CB, Kansas State, projected day 2
Deonte Banks*, CB, Maryland, projected 1st round
Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee, projected 1st round
Demario Douglas, WR, Liberty, projected day 3 – UDFA
Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU, projected 1st round
Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina, projected 1st round
Tyler Scott, WR, Cincinnati, projected late day 2 – early day 3
Jakorian Bennett, CB, Maryland, projected day 3
Jartavius Martin, S, Illinois, projected day 2
Christian Gonzalez*, CB, Oregon, projected 1st round
Michael Jefferson, WR, Louisiana, projected day 3
A.T. Perry, WR, Wake Forest, projected day 2
*Had a pre-draft visit with the Steelers