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A unique way to grade the Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL Draft class

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You want grades on the Steelers 2020 draft class? I got’em.

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

I’m usually not one to jump in on the Internet traffic bonanza known as grading things, but if I don’t do it now, right after the Steelers just selected their entire 2020 NFL Draft class, I’m doing a disservice to the click-bait gods in the sky.

I only have two grades for this process: Jump for Joy and Smashed Remote.

Obviously, a Jump for joy, as in “When they called his name, I was jumping for joy!” is a positive grade (or plus). I can’t really picture grown adults jumping for joy over the thought of a football player getting drafted by their favorite team, but many often describe this as their reaction to it. Therefore, it must happen a lot.

And if a Jump for Joy is a positive grade, that can only mean a Smashed Remote, as in “If they take that guy, I’m going to smash my remote!” is a negative (or minus). It seems counterproductive to smash something like a remote over a draft choice, but I’ve seen enough people break their flat-screen TVs over a missed tackle to know that it probably happens quite a bit.

OK, let’s dive right into the grades, shall we?

Second round (49th, overall), Chase Claypool, wide-receiver, Notre Dame

I think it’s safe to say the Steelers went into the 2020 NFL Draft in search of depth at many positions. But not only depth, players who could potentially take the place of current starters who may depart as early as next offseason. Considering their first pick wouldn’t come until just after the midway point of the second round, it was really anyone’s guess as to who they would take and what position they would address first.

However, the second round is always a prime area of the draft for the “Why did they take that guy when that other guy was available?” reaction—I think this is due to so many known names dropping into the second round every year. With that in mind, I figured I’d see a ton of “Noooooooo!” knee-jerks on social media immediately after the pick. This happens every year—even when the Steelers make their first-round choice—but I expected it to be even more pronounced this time since the fans had to wait an extra day for the first choice.

What’s with that, btw--the "NOOOOOOO!"? Do some fans encounter Michael Myers at the exact moment the Steelers make their first draft choice every spring?

I digress.

Sure enough, Steelers fans didn’t disappoint with their reaction to the selection of Claypool.

But, again, Pittsburgh could have gone in any number of directions with its first pick.

And that’s why I give the selection Five Jumps for Joy for the Steelers taking a potential play-maker with great physical gifts—including size and speed—whose production increased each season at South Bend. Claypool may not have been quite as productive at ND as JuJu Smith-Schuster was at USC, but I think he’s a bigger and faster version of JuJu and with a higher ceiling.

I would give the pick a few Smashed Remotes due to the team passing on so many other players, such as J.k. Dobbins and (insert about a million other names here). But I’m guessing people would have included Claypool as a name they wished the Steelers would have taken had they gone in a different direction.

Speaking of social media and the “NOOOOOOO!” I would also add a few Smashed Remotes due to the fact that I found out about the pick about five minutes before I watched it on TV. But that’s more a me problem, due to having basic cable and a slower feed.

Final tally on the Jump for Joy/Smashed Remote grading scale: Plus-five


Third round (102nd, overall) Alex Highsmith, EDGE/OLB, Charlotte

As I wrote about already, I barely knew the name or the school. One Smashed Remote. And since the third round is often like the second round with so many familiar names sitting there for the taking, perhaps the Steelers could have gone in a different direction. Another Smashed Remote.

But Highsmith was rather dominant at Charlotte, a school that has been playing FBS football for less than a decade. And if dominating lesser competition was an endearing quality for Javon Hargrave, who played at tiny South Carolina State, why can’t it be for the new outside linebacker? One Jump for Joy.

Also, in a world where compensatory picks weren’t handed out each spring like Xanax during a pandemic, the 102nd spot of the annual NFL Draft would actually be the early portion of the fourth round. Viewing it from that perspective, you can appreciate the selection of Highsmith a bit more. The Steelers have a raw talent, sure, but someone who, if they were to mold him into a regular starter (or more), could one day be viewed as a steal. Another Jump for Joy.

And if Joey Porter, the former Steelers outside linebackers coach, could wring every last ounce of ability out of Anthony Chickillo, a converted defensive end, I’m confident Keith Butler, the current defensive coordinator/outside linebackers coach, can do the same with a better talent in Highsmith. A Third Jump for Joy.

Final tally on the Jump for Joy/Smashed Remote grading scale: Plus-one


Fourth round (124th, overall), Anthony McFarland Jr., running back, Maryland

I believe the fourth round could wind up being the sweet spot of the Steelers 2020 draft class, starting with McFarland, their first of two fourth-round selections on Day 3.

When I first heard about the pick on the radio, I immediately gave it Three Smashed Remotes. But that was due to the bias of the radio host who wanted Pittsburgh to trade for Leonard Fournette. When I got home and started researching McFarland, I was intrigued. One Jump for Joy. Then when I watched highlights of him, I was blown away by his speed. Two Jumps for Joy. And when I discovered his speed was 4.4, I was in love. Three Jumps for Joy.

But then I remembered that the Steelers passed on the likes of Cam Akers and Dobbins in the second round and took a receiver, instead. I mean, couldn’t they have waited until the fourth round to select a receiver in a class that was considered to be historically deep? One Smashed Remote. But, wait a minute, the running back class wasn’t too shabby, either. And it looks like the Steelers took a talent in the fourth that may one day offer great draft value. Two Jumps for Joy.

But then there are the character concerns. One Smashed Remote. Thankfully, McFarland has many people in his life who can vouch for him—including the secret offensive coordinator and the head coach’s son. One Jump for Joy.

There is a history of injuries: Four Smashed Remotes. But they didn’t involve his knees. Also, he only carried the football 245 times in college: Four Jumps for Joy.

Final tally on the Jump for Joy/Smashed Remote grading scale: Plus-four


Fourth round (135th, overall), Kevin Dotson, guard, Louisiana

Perhaps it’s fitting that Ramon Foster just retired after 11 years of just about the most durable and consistent play the Steelers could have asked for out of an undrafted free agent guard. I say that because if the Big Ragu—charismatic, lighthearted, funny, started lots of games during his career—was about 10 years older, he could probably be Dotson’s father.

Dotson was the first player drafted who wasn’t invited to the Combine. One Smashed Remote, right? However, the more you learn about him—he started 52-straight games in college, was voted Second-Team All-Sun Belt (2017), First-Team All-Sun Belt (2018, 2019) and AP All-American (2019)—you have to ask why he wasn’t invited to the Combine in the first place? Two Jumps for Joy and an Expunged Smashed Remote.

From everything I’ve read about the guy, a week in Indianapolis working out for and talking to scouts and coaches may have increased his draft stock--but maybe his potential can be the Steelers little secret. Two Jumps for Joy.

His drawbacks seem to be physical. One Smashed Remote. But his technique already seems to be fairly polished. One Jump for Joy.

This is the first promising draft prospect handed to Shaun Sarrett since he became offensive line coach. If he’s anything like his mentor—Saint Mike Munchak—I am extremely confident he can ultimately mold Dotson into a starter. Five Jumps for Joy.

As far as Dotson’s personality, I’ve already learned that he likes to tell defensive linemen the play ahead of time just so they can be demoralized after not being able to stop it. One Jump for Joy. He’s worked as a bouncer. Bar 11 Jumps for Joy. He likes to pull pickup trucks for exercise. Harrison Hundred Jumps for Joy. Also, he grew up a Steelers fan. Six Jumps for Joy. Not only that, he’s a big Jerome Bettis fan (the fat man’s Jack Lambert for the modern Steeler Nation) 36 Jumps for Joy. And, finally, he posted a video to social media of him waving a Terrible Towel as he introduced himself to Steeler Nation. IX, X, XIII, XIV, XL and XLIII Jumps for Joy.

Final tally on the Jump for Joy/Smashed Remote grading scale: Plus-282


Sixth round (198th, overall), Antoine Brooks Jr., safety, Maryland

I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to do a whole lot of jumping for joy or smashing of remotes once the Steelers get to this point in the draft. When a player is taken this late, you just have to hope he surprises you by making the team out of training camp. Yes, Tom Brady and Antonio Brown were both drafted in the sixth round, but so were many, many others.

Brooks sounds like another attempt by the team to find that hybrid type who can play safety, slot and dime linebacker. One Jump for Joy for trying. Will he be able to pull it off? At this point, I don’t anticipate him being able to pull it off any better than Marcus Allen, fifth round, 2018 NFL Draft, has up to this point of his young career. One Smashed Remote.

I’ve read some good things about Brooks Jr., such as his ability to play the run and tackle in the open field. One Jump for Joy.

But he doesn’t have ideal speed for pass-coverage. One Smashed Remote.

At the moment, the only two Steelers defenders who seem capable of being dynamic play-makers in the middle of the field—safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and inside linebacker Devin Bush—were high-pedigreed draft choices. Therefore, they may not be able to find another ideal guy who can play safety, slot and dime linebacker until the next time they have a first-round draft pick. Two Smashed Remotes.

But, again, Brooks is a sixth-round pick. If the least he does is provide the Steelers with adequate depth at the safety position—something Pittsburgh was sorely lacking heading into the draft—that would be a sixth-round pick well-spent. Two Jumps for Joy.

The one truly intriguing thing I’ve read about Brooks is that guys like him tend to drop in the draft because NFL teams have a hard time finding the right fit for them in today’s modern defenses. You can look at in both a positive and negative sense when analyzing the kind of career Brooks could have in Pittsburgh. One Jump for Joy. One Smashed Remote.

Final tally on the Jump for Joy/Smashed Remote grading scale: Even


Seventh round (232nd, overall), Carlos Davis, defensive tackle, Nebraska

What I said about sixth-round draft picks also applies to seventh-round draft choices.

At this point, Davis impresses me a little less than Isaiah Buggs, Pittsburgh’s seventh-round pick from Alabama in 2019. Does he impress me more than Big Dan McCullers? I’m afraid to say anything bad about the guy, for fear that he finds incriminating evidence on me similar to what he must have found on head coach Mike Tomlin years ago.

At 313 pounds, could Davis fill the Steelers need for a starting nose tackle? Is there even a need for a starting nose tackle, what with the Steelers implementing their sub-package defenses way more than their base defense?

Even if he doesn’t become a starting nose tackle, does Davis have what it takes to one day factor heavily into the defensive line rotation alongside Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu? Considering those guys—and the recently-departed Hargrave—are all high-pedigreed players, probably not. One Smashed Remote.

However, if Davis can provide the kind of depth that L.T. Walton did during his Steelers career, that wouldn’t be a bad thing for a seventh-round pick. One Jump for Joy.

Final tally on the Jump for Joy/Smashed Remote grading scale: Even