The NFL Draft always reveals a lot about the game of football and how teams value certain positions. The 2022 draft was certainly an interesting exercise in the value of certain positions. Sure, every draft class has strengths and weaknesses, but there are some positions which have been so devalued over the years it still amazes me.
This year the quarterback class was known to be both thin, and not as talented as previous draft classes. When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected 20th overall in this year’s draft, never in a million years did most think the team would have their pick of quarterbacks available without them trading up to get their guy.
But this year’s class was an aberration. The quarterback position is still considered the most important position in professional sports. Even though Pickett was the only quarterback taken in the first round, and no other quarterback was selected until the third round, next year it wouldn’t shock me to see 3, likely more, quarterbacks selected in the first round of the draft.
For the Steelers, them taking the only player at a specific position isn’t new. Just look at the 2021 draft when Pittsburgh was the only team to take a running back in the first round. Some NFL experts laughed at the thought of a wasted pick of a running back as a team’s top pick.
With today’s NFL becoming so pass-happy, and mid-round players to even undrafted rookie running backs turning in tremendous careers, many thought it to be foolish to spend a first round pick on Najee Harris out of Alabama.
Clearly, the Steelers don’t care about the trends in the NFL, but it still doesn’t mean the other 31 organizations don’t view certain positions like second-class citizens.
Outside of running back, another position which has been devalued is safety. While Kyle Hamilton was taken by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round, the thought of a team trading up in the first round to get a safety, like the Steelers did in 2003 to take Troy Polamalu, seems to something which would never happen in the modern game.
As stated earlier, some positions will always hold their value. Quarterback, offensive tackle, EDGE rushers. The value those positions bring to an organization will always be considered paramount when the draft process begins. However, you have to wonder if the game will evolve back to where it was just a decade, or so, ago. You know, back when players like Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Marshawn Lynch were household names and must-have commodities on an NFL roster.
While that seems like a pipe dream at this point, I couldn’t help but notice Le’Veon Bell’s response to KDKA’s Bob Pompeani when he was asked what he would do differently if he could do it all over again.
In hindsight, Bell sees what him being a running back did to his career. Sure, he also turned down a contract with would have kept him in Pittsburgh for a long time, but the way he valued himself was more of a receiver than a running back, in a league which has severely degraded the value at the position.
Will it ever revert back to the way it was even in the early 2000s? I doubt it, but it makes you wonder what the future holds in terms of how teams value positions in the NFL.
(Note: The Letter From the Editor feature runs every Sunday morning during the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason.)