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Grading the Steelers 2016 NFL Draft: Mediocre at best describes the 2016 draft class

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Giving immediate NFL Draft grades is an exercise in futility, so it only seems appropriate to go back to 2016 and look at where these players find themselves heading into the 2019 season.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

While many NFL football fans cling to those immediate draft grades and consider their contents gospel, it seems rather ridiculous when these ‘experts’ grade a selection who has yet to step foot onto an NFL field.

With that said, it doesn’t seem as ridiculous to go back and look at the 2016 NFL Draft to see just how these players, who are nearing the end of their rookie contracts, have done throughout their first few seasons in the NFL.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic, decided to go back and not only grade the classes, but give the best player, best value, etc. According to Brugler:

The narrative on the players from the 2016 draft class will continue to change, but three full seasons in the NFL is enough of a sample size to judge the teams that drafted well and the teams that are reeling because of poor draft choices.

So, what did he think about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2016 NFL Draft class? Let’s take a look!

Pittsburgh Steelers

Grade: C

1 (25) Artie Burns, CB, Miami (Fla.)

2 (58) Sean Davis, SS, Maryland

3 (89) Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State

4 (123) Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU

6 (220) Travis Feeney, LB, Washington (Free Agent)

7 (229) Demarcus Ayers, WR, Houston (Free Agent)

7 (246) Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple

Best player: Javon Hargrave

A two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the MEAC, Hargrave had a strong pre-draft process, catapulting him into the top-100 conversation. That positive momentum carried over to his NFL career where he has been a three-year starter and important piece of the Pittsburgh front.

Best value: Tyler Matakevich

Special teams might not be sexy but it keeps some players on NFL rosters, and Matakevich is a prime example. Over the past three seasons, his 29 tackles on special teams rank second-best in the NFL. Considering his impact, Hargrave is arguably the better value, but let’s give some love to the special teamers.

Biggest miss: Artie Burns

The Steelers were reportedly set to draft William Jackson at No. 25 before the Bengals pulled the rug out from underneath them and drafted the former Houston corner at No. 24. Desperate for cornerback help, Pittsburgh drafted Burns, who has shown flashes of first-round talent but very little consistency, taking a step back in Year 3 last season.


It is difficult to disagree with the above assessment of the team’s 2016 draft class, but Brugler went a step further and spoke to Steelers’ beat writer for The Athletic, Mark Kaboly, to get his insider view on the draft class. Here is what he had to say:

Beat writer’s take: Kevin Colbert routinely mentions how important it is to hit on their first-round picks because of their organizational philosophy of building through the draft, extending their homegrown players and then supplementing through free agency. Colbert hasn’t missed much over his 20 years but sure whiffed with Artie Burns with the 25th overall pick — the first time they drafted a corner in the first round in nearly 20 years. Burns’ fifth-year option wasn’t picked up, and he will be gone after the season, which is a major disappointment since he was penciled in as a starter last year at this time. Sean Davis has been erratic but positional changes have led to that. Javon Hargrave is easily their best pick as he is a unique talent in the middle. Other than that, the draft has been a major disappointment but that will happen when you miss on your first-rounder. — Mark Kaboly

Is Kaboly right? Has this class been a total disappointment? Hargrave is coming off a season where he had 6.5 sacks in a part-time role, but at a time when fans thought they had three starting defenders in the first three rounds of the draft, this class certainly lacks the luster fans expected immediately after the draft process concluded.

What do you think of the 2016 class? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!