Now that the 2013 NFL season is now far over I can look back at the season’s rookies without any anger and bias from the season. Since this time of year is a little light on news, I decided to take a look back at last year. Here are my re-grades for the 2013 Steelers draft class.
Round 1, Pick 17: Jarvis Jones-OLB-Georgia
Original Grade: B+
At the time of this pick I was ecstatic. Perhaps a top 5 player in the draft somehow fell to the Steelers at pick 17. This would be one of those picks like David DeCastro, a player who somehow slips in the draft turns out to be a perennial pro-bowler. I could see the analysts talking about it now. Then the season started. Jones was a colossal failure during the first 15 games of the season. He only managed to amass 31 tackles and 1 sack. For anyone wondering that a whopping 2.07 tackles and .07 sacks per game. Granted he was out for 2 games during that span, but it is still a miserable stat line. He wasn’t much better, if he was even better at all, on film. The only reason that I gave Jones even a half way decent grade is because of the last game of the season. In week 16 against the Browns, Jones racked up a solid 9 tackles, 1 passed defensed, and 1 stuff. He showed enormous promise during this game. The Steelers have a very good track record when drafting linebackers and there is no reason to think Jones will turn out any differently. After all, rookie linebackers usually struggle as rookies in Dick LeBeau’s scheme.
Round 2, Pick 48: Le’Veon Bell-RB-Michigan State
Original Grade: C
I’m going to be honest here, I was completely pissed when I originally saw this pick flash up on the TV screen. Bell was a guy I had a late 3rd round grade on and Eddie Lacy, who I had an early 2nd round grade on, was still on the board. Lacey was the perfect picture of a Steelers running back. He was a tough runner who knew how to grind out tough yards and keep his shoulders pointed north and south. Little did I know that Le’Veon Bell is a better version of Eddie Lacy than Eddie Lacy than is. Bell is a 6’1″, 244 pound monster who just so happens to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield and block. He racked up over 1,200 total yards and 8 touchdowns despite missing 3 games. Had he played in all 16 contests he might have been able to amass over 1,500 total yard. Bell is a true 3-down back in a time when that type of player seems to be almost extinct. That alone is a good enough reason to give him at least a B.
Round 3, Pick 79: Markus Wheaton-WR-Oregon State
Original Grade: A
In the days following the draft this was my favorite pick of the draft. Wheaton was viewed by many, including me, as a top 50 player. The Steelers somehow got him in the third round. He was poised to have a big season with an even bigger future. He was only behind Antonio Brown, an Emmanuel Sanders in what figured to be his last year with the team, and an aging Jericho Cotchery. There were two reasons that Wheaton didn’t live up to expectations. He had multiple nagging injuries throughout the year and Jericho Cotchery turned out to be an absolute gem. While he did struggle last year, Wheaton still has a bright future in the NFL. He should have a bigger role this year and could possibly be Big Ben’s second option as a pass catcher.
Round 4, Pick 111: Shamarko Thomas-S-Syracuse
Original Grade: A-
I was almost excited on draft day about this pick as I was about the Markus Wheaton pick. Just like Bell, Thomas is the picture of a Steelers player. Despite his size, he’s as tough as they come and isn’t too shabby in coverage either. He didn’t play much on defense in 2013, but he was a very solid contributor on special teams. While I fully expect Thomas to become a full time starter at safety after Troy Polamalu retires, at the very least he will be a role player and special teams ace. The only reason that I don’t have Thomas graded out as an A- again is because of the Mike Mitchell signing and Polamalu’s revived play. It seems as though Thomas won’t have the chance to prove himself as a starter for the next 3 years.
Round 4, Pick 115: Landry Jones-QB-Oklahoma
Original Grade: D
I didn’t think quarterback was a big need for the Steelers in the draft last year after the signing of Bruce Gradkowski and Ben Roethlisberger almost inevitably finishing out his career with the Steelers. I also wasn’t high on Landry to begin with (I had a fifth round grade on him). He didn’t even dress for a single game last year. If you ask me, he doesn’t have much chance to see the field in the next 5-10 years with the Steelers. It was a wasted pick in my eyes.
Round 5, Pick 150: Terry Hawthorne-CB-Illinois
Original Grade: D
Not only did Hawthorne not make the Steelers roster or practice squad, but he didn’t make any team’s roster or practice squad. ‘Nuff said.
Round 6, Pick 186: Justin Brown-WR-Oklahoma
Original Grade: B-
Not much could have been expected out of a sixth round pick in last years draft class, not to mention Brown was considerably raw coming out of college. He spent all of 2013 on the practice squad so there isn’t much to say about him. Hopefully he can become a solid 3rd or 4th receiver in the future. But besides that I don’t have many expectations for him.
Round 6, Pick 206: Vince Williams-ILB-Florida State
Original Grade: B
I though this was a very nice pick at the end of the sixth round because I was relatively high on Williams (I had a mid-fifth round grade on him). He wildly outperformed anyone’s expectations of him in his rookie season. When Larry Foote got injured early in the year, Williams took a step up form part time role player to 2-down starter. He didn’t disappoint. The only thing that he didn’t surprise people with was his third down defense, when he was usually on the sidelines. On the first two downs, however, he was a very solid player. He looks to have a very bright future at least as a 2-down starter and possibly as an every down player. A good comparison for him in the future would be a slightly lesser Brandon Spikes. That’s pretty good for a sixth round compensatory pick if you ask me.
Round 7, Pick 223: Nick Williams-DT/DE-Samford
Original Grade: B
It’s hard to say anything bad about a seventh round pick until at least 3 years down the road. Especially when the player is very raw. The only reason I downgraded Williams is because he spent the whole 2013 season on the IR. If Williams can learn some of the nuances of the game form perhaps the best position coach in the league, John Mitchell, he has a very good chance to at least be a very solid backup for a long time.
So there you have it Steelers Nation. My re-grades for the 2013 draft. What do you think? Feel free to respond in the comment section.