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Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers last three Draft Classes: Part 1, Class of 2016

As we go back and review the Pittsburgh Steelers’ past three draft classes, we start with the 2016 grouping.

Pittsburgh Steelers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

People have been ingrained most of their life by grades or assigning numbers in their daily lives. Letter grades show how well students do in school while numbers are assigned to show students did on their SAT or ACT tests. Once people get into the world of employment, their employers may show their job evaluations by grade or broken down into a numerical performance.

The media breaks down players’ performances in the same way whether it be during the NFL draft, after the draft or after the season. While people may not think it is fair to assign grades to players even though they have not even signed an NFL contract yet, the process generates interest.

How many go back two or three years and look at the overall performance of the player during the span? The media may gloss over or do more of an evaluation when a player comes up for a new contract or if a team offers a player an extension. What about players who have just finished up their second and third seasons?

What better way to get a useful conversation going at BTSC during a relatively boring time of the year (unless you’re fixated on the Bell and Brown situations) than to do a three-year evaluation of the Pittsburgh Steelers last three draft classes?

Here are a few questions that were wrestled with before starting the evaluation.

Should A+ through F be used or a numerical scale for the evaluation?

Should the round the player was drafted matter?

How will the evaluations be judged?

In the past three seasons, 22 players have been drafted by the Steelers. Below the 2016 draft class will be evaluated. The letter grades will not take into account the round they were drafted and be based on a personal evaluation. All-Pro will receive an “A” while Pro Bowl caliber players may also receive an“A” grade and diminishing performance will follow a diminishing grade. The evaluation will be as a whole for the two years but the 2018 season will carry more weight than the 2017 season.

2016 Draft Class

Round 1: Artie Burns D+ with the grade trending lower.

After a tough rookie season, 2017 was a bright spot but still inconsistent. Early in 2018, Burns lost all confidence. After Week 6, the Steelers had seen enough, and he played only 15 snaps the rest of the way.

Will Burns even be in the mix for starting duties in 2019?

Round 2: Sean Davis C with the grade trending higher

Davis made 25 starts his first two seasons with the Steelers and just did not seem to be acclimating to the NFL or his position. In 2018, Davis was moved to free safety and his game changed. Missed tackles were down while his angle of attack and coverage was vastly improved.

Will Davis keep progressing or revert back to his first two seasons?

Round 3: Javon Hargrave B+

Gravedigger has made 39 starts in his first three seasons. Even though he is not a prototypical NFL nose tackle, he performed adequately his first two seasons. The 2018 season saw him set new career highs in sacks (6.5) and tackles (49). Until Week 9 last season, he had not been on the field more than 40% in any game and only three games over 60%, that needs to change in 2019.

Round 4: Jerald Hawkins F grade holding firm

Hawkins was the darling of the BTSC boards after the NFL draft but a shoulder injury ended his season before it started. During 2017, Hawkins received 48 offensive snaps, mainly in jumbo packages as he struggled to see the field. Injury again ended his 2018 season, this time a torn quad. The 2019 season will be a make or break year.

Round 6: Travis Feeney F

Feeney was released in 2016 and signed to the practice squad. The New Orleans Saints poached Feeney off the Steelers’ practice squad but never logged a snap. Out of football for the two past seasons, he is playing in the American Alliance of Football.

Round 7: Demarcus Ayers F

Because of injuries, Ayers was active for two regular season games and two playoff games in 2016. Ayers was waived prior to the 2017 season. The Chicago Bears and New England Patriots have had him on their practice squads parts of the last two seasons but he has not seen any game action.

Round 7: Tyler Matakevich D and falling

Dirty Red has not been involved much on defense over the past three seasons logging 133 snaps. Where his value is on special teams. He has not stood out in either aspect.

Matakevich is athletically challenged but with a high motor.

Will the Steelers bring in competition that will cost the fan favorite his roster spot?

The above may be viewed as harsh criticism by some but that is the reality of the NFL. What a player has done in the past will hang around his neck like a stone but fans should consider what the player has done lately too. The above grading process is not going to be agreed to by fans but it is a starting point for spirited conversation.

In the next installment, the 2017 draft class will be evaluated.

Please share your thoughts and your own grades in the comments section below.