It's easy to go over the top with optimism or pessimism about any draft, but it's rarely as good or as bad as we think it could be. I’m going to try to give a tempered analysis of the players we drafted, hopefully helping us understand why we made some picks and keeping our expectations at a rational level.
Round Three: Bruce Davis 6’3, 252. 4.78 40, 19 BP
Strengths: Davis was a very productive edge rusher in college with 24.5 sacks and 5 forced fumbles over the past 2 years and has experience at DE and 4-3 SLB. He has good football instincts (son of former OT Bruce Davis), a good work ethic, a non-stop motor, and a fiery personality. He translates well to the 3-4, capable of playing OLB or SILB, and he seems to be able to drop back in coverage, although he needs more experience in that area. He is a talker, but he backs up his talk with strong play.
Weaknesses: Davis needs to get stronger and he struggles to shed blocks and make plays when an OL gets his hands on him. He is not breathtakingly athletic, although that didn’t stop him from producing. He struggled in coverage at the Senior Bowl when he played LB.
Davis didn't test well at the combine, but he knows how to get to the QB.
Analysis: Davis fills a significant need for depth at OLB and may get some early reps to spell Woodley or Harrison. It is likely that Davis will get a shot to start in the next few years with either him or Harrison moving to the SILB position after Farrior leaves or retires. While it’s hard to say at this point if Davis is capable of being a good starter for us, he is a hard worker who was very productive in college and should at the least be able to back up 3 LB positions for us. He also brings a fiery, vocal personality that could help pump up our defense now that Peezy is gone and Farrior’s career is winding down.
Passed on: DE/OLB Cliff Avril, DT’s Marcus Harrison, Dre Moore, and Red Bryant, OT Anthony Collins, CB Justin King
The name that jumps out is Avril, since he was rated higher on most draft sites and is exactly the same size and type of player. Avril’s combine numbers blow away Davis’s, but Davis was considerably more productive in college. It’s hard to say who will make a better pro, but the Steelers always put an emphasis on game tape over workouts, so they stuck to their principles here. It makes me feel better that Avril was taken a few picks later by Matt Millen, one of the worst talent evaluators in the business.
When this pick came around, I was looking for Dre Moore, but they passed on him. Moore tested very well at the combine and looked great at times, but he was inconsistent and poorly motivated, and they obviously didn’t like him. Harrison would have been a three-fold risk with his injury, arrest, and possible motivation issues. I can’t find any problems with Bryant, but he is more of a NT than a DE, and they may have been hoping he’d be there in the 4th.
After 2 no-brainers in the first 2 rounds, the Steelers made a more debatable pick with Bruce Davis. With no obvious BPA, they bypassed the DL prospects and honed in on a need for depth at OLB. Davis gives the Steelers a solid group of 6 LB’s, and he has a chance to be a decent starter in a few years.