While acknowledging that post-draft grades may be one of the most pointless exercises undertaken each year, we cannot deny taking some enjoyment from reading reports that paint the Pittsburgh Steelers in a positive light. But as much as some might take comfort in knowing that their team possibly fared better than some other random franchise in the opposing conference they do not really care about, perhaps the only comparison that matters is how well a team did when compared to their divisional rivals.
Last year, it was Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns being heralded for their 2018 draft class, with both teams receiving plaudits for the two first-round selections they each had. The Steelers left languishing last in the rankings, perceived to have taken safety Terrell Edmunds too early.
Deciding the real winner in 2019 is obviously far too premature, as it is at this stage in any year, but if Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus is any judge of talent, Pittsburgh may yet get a step on their rivals with their draft class after he ranked them as the most improved team in the AFC North for their picks.
“Pittsburgh made one of the biggest moves of the first round when they moved up for Devin Bush. After Bush and Devin White, there wasn’t a single linebacker in the class that could replicate their ability in coverage. From there, they got two other PFF favorites in Toledo wide receiver Diontae Johnson and Michigan State cornerback Justin Layne. Johnson drew comps to Antonio Brown from a stylistic perspective inside the PFF offices while Layne is much more suited to zone coverage than former first-rounder Artie Burns.”
The most improved team in the AFC North according to @PFF_Mike is the #Steelers after the draft.— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) May 2, 2019
This guy is a big reason why.
: https://t.co/bDTuvoF2DJ pic.twitter.com/2btQ4IzzxN
Choosing two players who had long been PFF favorites in Diontae Johnson and Justin Layne was always going to meet with the approval of Renner, as was the selection of Sutton Smith in round six, one of the highest graded players in company history.
New San Francisco 49ers edge defender Nick Bosa put forth the PFF College era's highest ever single-season grade for his effort in 2017 pic.twitter.com/kFslctNUOm— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 1, 2019
Looking at the draft classes assembled by the rest of the AFC North, there certainly seems to be a number of questionable selections mixed in with solid picks for each team. Cornerback Greedy Williams may ultimately prove to something of a steal for the Cleveland Browns, but many believe linebacker Sione Takitaki went too soon and a kicker in round five was always bound to raise eyebrows.
Edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson is another player that many experts thought the Baltimore Ravens had taken too early in round three, ranked as PFF’s No.143 overall player. And while offensive tackle Jonah Williams should be a solid pick in round one, tight end Drew Sample and linebacker Germaine Pratt were two names many expected to still be available at the start of day three. Sample coming off the board in the second-round might have been one of the bigger reaches of day two on paper, a player ranked at No. 192 overall on PFF’s board.
As always, time will tell how good each respective draft class actually was, but with no real football until September, fictional bragging rights will have to do for now.