For fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, they are used to the fact that defensive rookies aren't going to contribute much. After all, under Dick LeBeau it was rare for a rookie to even see the field outside of special teams, let alone get the trust to actually make plays on the defensive side of the ball.
A laundry list of players like Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and Brett Keisel all had to wait and get their feet wet before becoming play makers on the defense under LeBeau. Under new defensive coordinator Keith Butler, times have changed, or at least they have with the Steelers' first round draft pick Bud Dupree.
Dupree has proven to be raw, yet filled with potential as he has flashed the athleticism and quickness which had the Steelers select the pass rusher from Kentucky with the 22nd overall draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Through two weeks of NFL action, Dupree has registered 2 sacks and 6 tackles, 5 of them unassisted. Dupree is the first Steelers rookie to register a sack in his first two games since 1990, quite an impressive feat for the young outside linebacker.
With all this said, it was rather head scratching to see ESPN's Mel Kiper leave Dupree of his 'Top 20 rookies in 2015' list. Dupree did get a nod in the honorable mention category, but was overlooked for other less productive players.
Take a look at Kiper's parameters for selecting this list:
Here are the parameters, same as always:
- This is a measure for all games this season, not just last week.
- Total snap count matters. Staying on the field is a measure of value.
- Positional value matters, but overall performance and impact on the team matter more.
- Relative value matters. I ask: Would this player be a starter on most teams or on a good team?
Judging by those parameters, you have to wonder why Dupree wouldn't have made Kiper's list. Take a look at the 20 players who Kiper listed as "The best" through two weeks of action.
1. Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs
2. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
3. Mitch Morse, Kansas City Chiefs
4. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5. Henry Anderson, Indianapolis Colts
6. Kwon Alexander, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7. Ronald Darby, Buffalo Bills
8. Vic Beasley Jr., Atlanta Falcons
9. Leonard Williams, New York Jets
10. Danny Shelton, Cleveland Browns
11. Hau'oli Kikaha, New Orleans Saints
12. Amari Coopers, Oakland Raiders
13. Ali Marpet, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
14. Stephone Anthony, New Orleans Saints
15. Matt Jones, Washington Redskins
16. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
17. Brandon Scherff, Washington Redskins
18. David Andrews, New England Patriots
19. Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions
20. Jeremiah Poutasi, Tennessee Titans
Kiper has been known to make some head scratching statements and decisions when it comes to his "big board", but ultimately you look at the above list and have to wonder why Dupree isn't at least mentioned among the best rookies to date.
Dupree is playing limited snaps, but if you follow the snap totals, the team is putting Dupree and James Harrison on the field together more and more every week. This increased exposure not only is providing Dupree with chances to make plays, but also experience which could lead to him being a full-time starter by the end of the season. The simple fact Dupree has registered two sacks in limited time certainly should speak volumes about his play on the field.
Steelers fans will likely disagree with Kiper, and rightfully so, but ultimately the only thing which matters is Dupree's play making ability. If Dupree is able to continue to get to the quarterback with consistency, it will only make the Steelers defense better, the team better and increase their chances of being a true contender in this 2015 NFL season.