There are many facets of the NFL Draft process I personally can’t stand. The mock draft scene has gotten extremely out of hand, but as site traffic makes the world go ‘round, sites like this one run weekly mock drafts. While there are other aspects which frustrate me, the grades given to draft classes in the days after the selection process might trump them all.
In my opinion, there are definitely aspects which you can grade. Positional need, trades made and even procedure in which picks were made are open for criticism. But grading players who have yet to even have an NFL practice under their belts makes the process seem a bit ridiculous.
Nonetheless, as I said earlier, traffic is the accelerator.
Some who produce draft content carry more significance than others, and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. is certainly one of those draft experts fans want to know what he thinks. Many can’t stand Kiper, but when he gives an opinion people want to see what he thinks.
Recently, Mel Kiper Jr. gave his grades for the 2019 NFL Draft and a detailed look at each class. Time to check out what he said about the Pittsburgh Steelers draft haul:
Pittsburgh Steelers: B+
Top needs: Cornerback, inside linebacker, wide receiver
In January, in my Mock Draft 1.0, I slotted in Devin Bush to the Steelers at No. 20. It was an easy decision -- yes, I’m patting myself on the back -- as Pittsburgh has struggled to replace the production of star inside linebacker Ryan Shazier. But then Bush ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash and tested off the charts at the combine. He also killed his interviews with teams. There was no way he was going to be available in the 20s.
That’s why I like GM Kevin Colbert moving up 10 spots to get a potential superstar in Bush at No. 10. Yes, it cost a lot -- they gave up pick 20 and 52 plus a third-rounder in next year’s draft -- but Bush can be an impact player and leader in Pittsburgh. And oh, yeah: The last time Pittsburgh traded up in the first round to take a defender? It was 2003, when they moved up 11 spots for safety Troy Polamalu.
Elsewhere, Pittsburgh added a wide receiver with the pick it got in the Antonio Brown trade. Diontae Johnson (No. 66) actually reminds me a little bit of Brown on tape, but he’s not an elite athlete. We obviously can’t expect him to be close to Brown, but if he gets into the rotation as a rookie, that’s a win. The Steelers really like second-year wideout James Washington, a second-rounder a year ago. Cornerback Justin Layne (No. 83), a converted receiver, could be a starter as a rookie. I thought he had a chance to go in the top 40 picks. Sutton Smith (No. 175) is a little undersized, but he landed in a good spot with a 3-4 team.
My affection for Bush is well-known, obviously, and I think he can be a superstar lynchpin for this team. Layne, too, is a great value pick at a need position. Now, can Pittsburgh overtake Cleveland in the AFC North?
In case you are wondering, here are the grades Kiper gave to the rest of the AFC North:
What do you think of Kiper’s comments? What about the AFC North grades as a whole? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for offseason workouts!