For the first two days, the Steelers had done a fine job at the 2017 NFL Draft. They plugged a future hole at outside linebacker by drafting T.J. Watt, younger brother of J.J. Watt, and got borderline first-round talent at wide receiver, all the way at the back end of the second round, in JuJu Smith-Schuster. In the third, they added Cam Sutton, a slightly undersized corner with excellent man-cover ability, and running back James Conner, who might have the best story in the entire 2017 draft.
Aside from questioning whether the Smith-Schuster pick was really necessary with other holes to fill, that’s a mighty fine way to do things through the first three rounds.
Pardon the hyperbole, but the final day may have been even better. Well, all except the part where they drafted a longsnapper in the sixth round. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Now, expecting first-round talent with no baggage on day three is just idiotic. However, it’s always possible for the value of a pick to exceed that of earlier picks. And in all likelihood, it will for this draft.
They got things going in the fourth round, when they took quarterback Josh Dobbs, from Tennessee. Dobbs isn’t likely to be the heir-apparent to Ben Roethlisberger, but he’s an exceptionally smart guy who has some very fixable issues. At worst, he pushes Landry Jones and Zach Mettenberger. At best, he becomes the next best thing. And for a fourth-round pick, it’s hard to argue the value, even if all he ever does is become a long-term backup in Pittsburgh.
Interesting trivia: Dobbs, a quarterback with questionable mechanics at times, was taken with the 135th pick of the 2017 Draft. In 2016, another quarterback with questionable mechanics was taken with the 135th pick: Dak Prescott.
Utah cornerback Brian Allen could be the best value pick the Steelers have in 2017. If you haven’t heard of him, you are forgiven. With the depth at defensive back in this draft, there were a lot of other guys with greater fanfare. And Allen’s body of work isn’t jump-off-the-screen good. It’s just that his measurables are: 6’-3” tall, with a 4.43 second 40-yard dash is a rare combination, and both are things the Steelers can make use of in the secondary. He’s raw, and will take some time to develop, but he has all the physical tools to succeed.
For such a great draft, it was in the sixth round where things just went weird. It’s not that the Steelers picked a bad player. It’s just that...well...long snappers aren’t exactly a common grab in the sixth round (most end up as undrafted free agents), and especially not for a team with one of the best.
But let’s try to make a little sense of this. Current long snapper Greg Warren is entering his 13th season. He is one of three players on the team, along with Roethlisberger and James Harrison, who were on all three Steelers Super Bowl teams this century. His most recent contract, signed this off-season, was for a single year. It’s distinctly possible that Warren has already informed the higher-ups that this will be his final season, and that they saw something in Louisville’s Colin Holba that they wanted, and weren’t going to risk him being snatched up before their seventh round pick or having to negotiate with him as an undrafted free agent. Long snapper isn’t a position you normally draft just because you think they are the best player available at the time. If you draft a long snapper, you are drafting for a need.
That’s my hope with this pick, at any rate. Otherwise, someone in the front office is drunk, and should go home.
Okay, so drafting Keion Adams from Western Michigan isn’t exactly total redemption. And it’s possible the situation is exactly as I postulated, and redemption isn’t even needed. Still, when you have a chance to quote Dumb & Dumber in an NFL Draft article, you do it. It’s a no-brainer.
Adams is a nice way to wrap things up. If he was 15 pounds heavier, and two inches taller, he would have been gone much earlier than the 248th pick. He has some of the quickest hips in this draft for an EDGE guy, which translates, in his case, to an excellent spin counter that happens in a blur. Those hips are also quite flexible, allowing him to get low and bend the edge well. It’s strange to think that the best thing a 4-3 defensive end can do to help himself out in a 3-4 defense is to gain weight, but that’s exactly the case for Adams. He was a big reason the WMU Broncos had an outstanding year in 2016. His value to pick ration is potentially off the charts.
With another draft in the books, the Steelers look to have positioned themselves to be a strong contender in the AFC yet again. Chances are surprisingly good that part of that success will ride on the shoulders of one or more of the men drafted on day three of the 2017 NFL Draft.