This is going to be the dumbest article I write this year, so I’ll spare the needlessly verbose introduction. So let’s lube up and dive right into a sexy, luxurious post-2018 NFL Draft stock report:
Stock down: Collective “common sense”
You shouldn’t need me to tell you that, in light of Ryan Shazier’s potentially career-ending back injury (more on that in a minute), it probably would’ve behooved the Steelers to draft an inside linebacker early, perhaps even in the first round. They did not oblige, much to the chagrin of Steelers Nation—I did not check the comments section of this website, but Twitter was absolutely sodden with thermonuclear draft takes on Thursday and Friday—and instead drafted Terrell Edmunds, an inordinately athletic hybrid safety from Virginia Tech, and a trio of offensive prospects in the first three rounds. The Edmunds pick was especially contentious.
This is the part where I admit that my particular expertise is not in scouting. Of course, I always try my hardest to familiarize myself with the top 40 or 50 prospects, but I would be lying to you if I attempted to comprehensively remark on the merits of Chukwuma Okorafor, an offensive tackle Pittsburgh scooped up in the back end of the the third round, and the fact that I even know which 40 or 50 prospects to research in the first place is thanks in large part to the Mel Kiper Jr.’s and Lance Zierlein’s of the world. Likewise, I have virtually no cognizance of Terrell Edmonds beyond my own perusal of Combine statistics back in March, which at the time led me to exclaim “gee, this fella sure does jump high!” NFL Scouts and “draft experts” did not regard Edmunds as highly as Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James, Ronnie Harrison, or Justin Reid, and thus, neither did I. Kiper and Zierlein have Justin Reid ranked as the fourth-best safety in the draft, so if the Steelers want a safety, they ought to draft Reid. I’ve been burned by far too many incorrect post-draft predictions to make any firm declarations about Edmunds or his career trajectory, but, I’ll admit, I was a little confused when I saw Edmunds’ name roll across the bottom of my screen. They reached, I thought.
This isn’t necessarily fair. That was me forming a first impression about Edmunds based on...what, exactly? Punditry? Actual NFL scouts hardly know what they’re doing, so it makes little sense to trust Hank Hankerson’s Prospect Rankings 5.0.11 as gospel. Could the Steelers have traded down or perhaps even waited a full round before drafting Edmunds? Probably they could have, as evinced by the fact that both Reid and Harrison were still on the board by the time the Steelers announced their second-round pick. But if Pittsburgh’s scouting department, coaching staff, and front office saw something in Edmunds that other teams did not, then using a first-round pick to bring him to Pittsburgh makes sense.
Stock up: Keith Butler
Unless the Steelers manage to trade for, like, Luke Kuechly or Bobby Wagner or something (God, that would be so, so awesome), it seems like the incumbent Vince Williams and newcomer Jon Bostic will assume the vast majority of Pittsburgh’s snaps at inside linebacker. This might not be so bad! However, because Williams and Bostic have similar athletic profiles, positioning them concurrently on a full-time basis could become redundant, which means that Butler and the rest of Pittsburgh’s defensive coaches might need to get a little creative. I’ll reiterate that I’m not a professional scout of a Supreme Knower of complex defensive nuances, but I think it would be cool if the Steelers played around with some different nickel-based alignments, such as the 33 Stack, which is an intriguing setup that places three safeties behind three linebackers and three down linemen and is designed to accentuate the strengths of defenses with undersized personnel. In this setup, Morgan Burnett and Sean Davis would likely serve as the “traditional” safeties, whereas Edmunds would be a strong safety/Mike linebacker hybrid. Based on some admittedly last-minute and very cursory research, a common slight against Edmunds is that, much like every existing member of Pittsburgh’s secondary, he is a bad tackler. Fixing this will obviously be a central focal point for Pittsburgh’s coaching staff this offseason, but if the Steelers can transform Edmunds into a multifarious Swiss Army knife type defender akin to Arizona’s Deone Buchanan, it’ll quell some of those negative post-draft musings.
Stock down: Roger Goodell
The best part of any draft, unfailingly, is listening to the crowd hammer NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with much-deserved boos. Very much aware of this tradition, Goodell enlisted Roger Staubach, Jason Witten, and Troy Aikman to serve as vitriol deflectors. This plan was not successful. As Goodell entered stage right to initiate Thursday evening’s proceedings accompanied by a triumvirate of legendary Cowboys, the decidedly pro-Dallas/ani-Roger Goodell crowd jeered the commissioner with impunity. It was a special moment.
On the topic of special moments, Goodell welcomed Ryan Shazier to the podium to announce Pittsburgh’s first-round pick, nearly five months after Shazier suffered his back injury against Cincinnati. Shazier, who himself was a first-round draft choice by the Steelers nearly four years ago, was praised by Goodell for his “unyielding determination and unwavering spirit,” but it was never explained why Shazier exemplified these distinct character traits. Of course, the “People Who Watch the NFL Draft” and “People Who are Unaware of the Ryan Shazier injury” Venn Diagram does not contain any overlap, and even on the off chance that it did, an informed watcher probably could’ve ascertained the crux of Goodell’s remarks based entirely on context clues—however, that Goodell didn’t even use the word “injury” struck me as kinda yucky. It was almost as if he was trying to leverage the “feel good story” angle, but doing so by using vague-ish remarks to strip the sport itself of any culpability. Ryan Shazier, who was injured—possibly forever—on a routine play, is the foremost exhibit that underscores the innate dangers of contact football; perhaps Goodell could’ve been a little more explicit in describing the source of Shazier’s “unwavering spirit.”
Stock up: The offense!
For the second year in a row, the Steelers used their second-round pick on a receiver. The pick, Oklahoma State’s James Washington, figures to be a favorite to win the no. 3 receiver job in wake of Pittsburgh shipping Martavis Bryant westward. In the third round, the Steelers also drafted Ben Roethlisberger’s heir apparent in Mason Rudolph—a player who they regarded as a first-round talent—as well as Okorafor, an unrefined offensive line prospect who Mike Munchak believes can be molded into a capable starter. If all goes according to plan, Washington will emerge as a highly-effective tertiary receiving option behind Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, Rudolph will sit on the bench for three seasons and “learn the system,” and Okorafor will seamlessly assume Chris Hubbard’s role as the team’s go-to positionless lineman.
Stock down: Me!
I made this mock draft, which, in retrospect, might be the worst first-round mock draft of all time. Of my 32 picks, I predicted one and a half correctly: Georgia G Isaiah Wynn to the Patriots, and UTSA edge rusher Marcus Davenport at 14th overall, which I’m counting as a half-win even though I projected him going to the Packers. I, along with several of my colleagues, predicted that the Steelers would draft LSU RB Derrius Guice, who was ultimately selected 59th overall by Washington. I’ll keep this in mind next season before I spent 3 hours doing a mock draft.