It should be proven by now the Pittsburgh Steelers do not lie about their draft intentions. That could not have been proven more than on Day 2 of the process when the Steelers selected both Oklahoma State prospects James Washington and Mason Rudolph. Both prospects were given great attention in the pre-draft process with meetings and having the brass at their pro days.
So just what do I think of these of picks?
For starters, I’d like to say that I’m a fan of the James Washington pick. Washington is great in contested catch situations, and is really good at stacking and getting on top of cornerbacks vertically. His length for a short guy is something that’s a bit underrated, and what I believe helps him come down with those tough throws.
Some of my concerns with Washington have to do with the fact he wins like a deep receiver but doesn’t test like one.
Naturally, he’s going to have keep developing more aspects of his route tree if he wants to be as successful in the NFL as he was in college. I also think a concerning part was when I watched him vs. the best CB he went up against in the Big 12, Holton Hill, and how much he seemed to struggled to separate. He’s done well vs. some good competition, like the bowl game his junior year vs. Colorado, and this prior bowl game vs. Virginia Tech.
One of the more interesting aspects of his game is how successful he was against man coverage, according to Matt Harmon of NFL network who does some awesome work with his reception perception data.
Success rate vs. man coverage scores in #ReceptionPerception— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) March 22, 2018
DaeSean Hamilton 77.9%
James Washington 74.2%
Equanimeous St. Brown 73.7%
Calvin Ridley 71.4%
D.J. Moore 70.9%
I like this pick quite a bit, but I don’t believe he’s going to be able to replace the way the Bryant was able to keep a defense honest deep. I think he gives you something more similar to JuJu Smith-Schuster, which isn’t bad, but this team might be lacking in a true vertical threat.
Overall Grade for James Washington pick: B
As for the quarterback who threw James Washington the ball, Mason Rudolph was one of the most prolific deep ball passers in the country because of his anticipation and touch on those deeper throws. Kinda reminds me of Nick Foles, as deep ball passer, but not as strong overall of an arm. Where I have concerns though is on the intermediate side.
I really thought Rudolph struggled mightlily when it came to those 10-15 yard out routes where the ball seemed to sail on him. He looks stiff in the legs as a thrower and that front leg seems to straighten out which causes his back hip to lag behind. As a result it lacks consistency with placement ranging from in the dirt, to getting thrown over the receiver’s head.
Over the middle he shows some better anticipation but his placement is still lacking, and I noted him throwing it high on quite a few attempts, which can get a receiver killed. His general accuracy is solid in some regards, but I think his placement on anything but the deep ball on nine routes and posts have room for improvement.
He’s a vertical passer, which makes sense for a team like the Steelers who run a variation of an air coryell passing scheme. The concern I have, even if he becomes a starter, is his play in bad weather. The ball has a tendency to flutter on him at times, and this is something I hope improves, but his smaller hands don’t give me much hope.
Overall, I think Rudolph behind Ben Roethlisberger will be a nice pairing, and a great guy for him to learn from. The concern is the Steelers being stuck in QB purgatory for years to come after Roethlisberger era, and not being able to get far into the playoffs.
Overall Grade for Mason Rudolph pick: B-
I’m not going to grade the Steelers 3rd round tackle selection because I was very late getting to offensive tackles, and was unable to watch him. Munchak is the best in the business at developing offense linemen so regardless, I have faith.
As for the Steelers selection of Marcus Allen, I’m left with an impression the Steelers drafted him to become a hybrid linebacker, as they weren’t too pleased with the depth of the linebackers left. That, or the Steelers might move Terrell Edmunds to linebacker.
Regardless, Pittsburgh waited too long for a linebacker and it bit them. Marcus Allen makes a lot of sense because of his linebacker-like mentality, and how sure of a tackler he is (boy that’s a refreshing sight for this defense). You’re just not going to see him deep in coverage much though because he isn’t the most fluid safety when turning his hips.
Playing him in the box makes the most sense and moving him to linebacker in subpackages makes a lot of sense as well. I’m not sure if the Steelers are going to have Edmunds at linebacker, or Allen, but the team did get some help in the run support aspect by picking Marcus Allen.
Overall Grade for Marcus Allen pick: B-
I’ve been waiting a while for a pick that would get me super excited and man the Jaylen Samuels pick could not have come at a better time. In a way, he’s the future of the NFL because of how versatile he is when he suits up. He is almost positionless. The possibilities with Samuels in this offense have me giddy and excited.
Samuels did everything for the Pack at NC State, whether it was playing running back at times, being the primary jet motion player, or running routes from the slot. He did just about everything. Samuels could potentially be the heir to Le’Veon Bell in the future at running back, but regardless I expect him to contribute this season on offense.
I love the ability Samuels has, and he’s very fluid dropping his hips and making cuts in succession. I also really believe he has the contact balance to be a full-time running back.
The Steelers can get very creative with Samuels on offense, and I expect him to be used more than we expect this coming season. Really excited about this pick.
Overall Grade for Jaylen Samuels pick: A-
I don’t have many thoughts on Joshua Frazier other than I expected this pick, and he rarely played at Alabama, so there’s not much to go off to grade it. Karl Dunbar, the new defensive line coach and former Alabama defensive line coach would know better than anyone what Frazier brings to the team.
Overall, I think the Steelers had a decent Day 2, and had a really good selection with Jaylen Samuels in the 5th round. I just don’t know what the Steelers are going to be doing with Marcus Allen and Terrell Edmunds, and I really do believe the Steelers should’ve taken a linebacker in the 2nd round.
This wasn’t my favorite draft by the Steelers, and while Kevin Colbert has had plenty of quality drafts, there’s some bad ones on his resume recently which have me skeptical about how this draft will look in a few years. There’s plenty of potential with the future, but the question if the defense got enough help in the short term to capitalize on this Super Bowl window that is closing quickly has me with more questions than answers.
Will this draft be enough to help the Steelers get over the hump now?
That is the ultimate question...