Now that the grades have been handed out for the 2016 and 2017 draft classes, it’s time to turn towards the 2018 draft. The previous two drafts saw a wide range of players from budding superstars to guys now out of the league. These grades may not seem fair because the players have only taken part in one season, but that is the point. They are being graded solely on the 2018 season, and not their future success.
Here is the way the draft class will be graded.
The letter grades will not consider 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.
2018 Steelers draft
Round 1: Terrell Edmunds
Grade: C Rising
Fans grumbled right after the selection was made due them seeing Edmunds as a reach while the fans saw better safeties still on the board. That criticism continued into the season when Edmunds struggled in both the running and passing game. The second half of the season, the game slowed for Edmunds and he started to not be caught out of position so much or take poor attack angles. While playing 966 snaps, Edmunds logged one sack, one fumble recovery, one interception, four pass deflections, and 78 tackles.
Pro Football Focus shows how they saw Edmunds progress from the first half of the season to the second.
Rookie S Terrell Edmunds had his highest single-game grade of the season against the Patriots (79.9).— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) December 17, 2018
Weeks 1-8 grade: 53.8
Weeks 9-15 grade: 69.8
Round 2: James Washington
Grade: D Rising
Washington had big expectations coming into 2018 with the departure of Martavis Bryant. Those expectations were not met during a disappointing season. Against the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington played in 80.5% of the snaps where the Steelers scored 37 points. Fans would think playing so many snaps in a game where quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 452 yards would translate into a full stat sheet. This was not the case as Washington logged one catch on five targets. The poor connection with Big Ben continued to plague the rookie wideout the rest of the season as he soaked up 16 catches on 38 targets.
With the possible departure of Antonio Brown, Washington should be in line for a huge 2019 season. But will he?
Round 3: Mason Rudolph
Grade: F Rising
How can the lowest grade be handed out to a player who did not see the field in 2018? That in itself is the answer. He did not see the field. Rudolph could not surpass Josh Dobbs for the backup duties at quarterback, and it was Dobbs who subbed in for an injured Roethlisberger during the Oakland Raiders game while Rudolph watched from the sidelines. This came as a surprise since Steelers GM Kevin Colbert quipped that Pittsburgh had a first-round grade on the young quarterback.
Rudolph has the tools and talent to surpass Dobbs on the depth chart, but will he? Did his inability to pass Dobbs tarnish fans thoughts of him possibly being the quarterback of the future?
Round 3: Chukwuma Okorafor
Grade: D+ Rising
Okorafor was viewed as being raw coming out of college and needed time to learn and grow into an NFL tackle. After logging 66 snaps through nine weeks he was called upon to start against Von Miller and the Denver Broncos. While the rookie had struggles, he was not a complete liability. The game showed both his potential and his rawness as he was aided often in pass protection.
Due to not winning the swing tackle position outright, his grade suffers for it. Expect better and more snaps out of Okorafor.
Round 5: Marcus Allen
Grade: F Holding
After being injured much of the preseason, Allen made the 53-man roster but Allen saw the field only two weeks during the season. While logging 17 snaps against the San Diego Chargers, Allen did have an assist. His play during the game was nondescript except for an early missed tackle.
Being a late round draft pick and not being active even for special teams is a huge hill to climb for his future and a black eye for his grade.
Round 5: Jaylen Samuels
Grade: D+ Rising
Samuels was highly regarded coming out of college because of his Swiss army knife ability. This had fans salivating regarding his potential. Through 12 weeks, Samuels had 12 carries for 31 yards to go along with seven receptions for 56 yards.
With James Conner being injured Samuels was handed three starts with mixed production. While he floundered in a loss against the Oakland Raiders, he exploded against the New England Patriots. Samuels ran through massive holes and arm tackling en route to a 172-yard all-purpose performance.
His grade would have been higher if his use earlier in the season would have been more and effective. The poor performance against Oakland and their 30th ranked run defense just cannot be glossed over.
Round 7: Joshua Frazier
The massive defensive tackle did not make the final roster and was not offered a spot on the practice squad. Frazier was without a team until the Detroit Lions signed him to their practice squad in December. He did not make it a month with the Lions and is currently playing in the AAF.
While the grades are harsh with only one season under the classes’ belt, there is optimism to be had with a few of the players. Edmunds showed a nice progression that fans should be optimistic in 2019. Washington and Samuels have to be more productive with their opportunities going forward. Both have talent and ability to be more of impact players, they just have to be on the field more to ensure that happens. Okorafor has Matt Feiler in his path to the swing tackle position and a healthy Gerald Hopkins may add another obstacle. Will he be able to compete for a starting role or is he destined to be a backup?
Please share your thoughts and your own grades in the comments section below.