The Pittsburgh Steelers made their first seventh round selection wide receiver Demarcus Ayers from Houston after selecting cornerback Artie Burns from Miami in the first round, safety Sean Davis from Maryland in the second round, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave from South Carolina State in the third round, offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins from LSU in the fourth round and linebacker Travis Feeley from Washington in the sixth.
This article provides an initial grade on that pick as we have done for each Steelers pick in this draft. We will use the same metrics as before. Keep in mind that honest grades at this point cannot be accurate for the long term, based on the fact of not being able to foretell how a player will pan out, but can measure a few key attributes:
Best Player Available: meaning that according to our official BTSC big board, constructed by our own Scott Pavelle, this player was ranked either at the top or close to the top of the remaining candidates. The closer to the top the higher the grade.
Positional Need: meaning that Pittsburgh addressed a key position needed for their depth chart. The bigger the need, the higher the grade.
NCAA Performance: this metric grades the players' reputation based on their performance in NCAA.
Combine Statistics: based on the numbers posted at this year's scouting combine.
Each metric will be measured on a 1-10 scale, ten being the highest and one being the lowest. The total of the scores will average out to a grade that allows for a normal range:
E: 5 or below.
Best Player Available: 8. The Steelers wanted to take a late round stab at addressing the returner position so that Antonio Brown would not have to continue to be put at risk for injuries on punt returns. Ayers is a not-so-speedy wide receiver that can return punts and be explosive in that position.
Positional Need: 7. While punt returner is always something nice to have, the Steelers are also stacked at wide receiver. The good thing is that this is the seventh round so this is where you can spend a pick on addressing the need of a returner instead of a third round pick like Dri Archer.
NCAA Performance: 8.5. Ayers' career as a wide receiver blossomed in his junior year with Houston when he caught 97 passes for 1221 yards and six touchdowns. Though many who have followed his collegiate career say that he should have stayed for his senior year, Ayers declared for the draft after he became a star for his program. He also returned 28 punts in his senior season, averaging about ten yards per return and scoring one touchdown. The biggest highlight to his style of play is that he was difficult to cover out of the slot with plenty of head and shoulder fakes that threw off defenders and was a nightmare to cover when they could not get their hands on him.
Combine Statistics: 6. This is the biggest problem for Ayers; he is 5'9" as a receiver and only ran a 4.72 forty yard dash without any eye-popping combine numbers. While it's not necessary for a returner to have super blazing speed, it means that
Overall Grade: 7.375 - C
The biggest knock on picking a returner is that if he does not have supreme speed it can look like a waste on its face, but this is why the Steelers waited until the seventh round. Ultimately Ayers will have an opportunity to make the practice squad and earn a spot on the roster for preseason. But don't automatically assume that he'll be tossed aside come cuts time; a small-framed, not-so-speedy wide receiver drafted late by the name of Antonio Brown came onto the Steelers' roster amid a group of talented wide receivers and has now become the most elite at the position in all the NFL. While nobody should expect this from Ayers, except for Ayers, he will be one of the players to watch for in later parts of preseason games.