There’s a peculiarity in the methodology of those who do “serious” NFL Draft evaluation and it lies in basing a drafting organization’s grade on whether or not the player is still in the NFL as opposed to still with the drafting organization.
- By that measure, the Steelers performance in the 2008 NFL Draft could still grade out well – not that anyone in Pittsburgh will benefit
The “Serious” qualification is necessary, because NFL Draft Evaluation is plagued by day after “who won and who lost” draft analysis that generates page views and sparks discussion but is ultimately meaningless.
- The Steelers 2008 draft reveals flaws of both “serious” and instant draft analysis.
Not 48 hours had passed since the end of the 2008 draft and the so-called experts were praising the Steelers for claiming Rashard Mendenhall and Limas Sweed, two of the supposed “steals” from the 2008. Beyond that the Steelers had added needed depth at linebacker, offensive line and perhaps had netted themselves a long-term back up quarterback.
Steelers Nation has had painful reminders in just how far target the instant analysis of the 2008 draft fell. The 2013 season promises to offer an equally clarifying less on more serious analysis.
Maturing of a Draft Class
Serious NFL draft evaluation can only begin 3 years after a draft and ultimately should extend further. Yes first round picks should contribute or at least “show something” in their first year. Other draft picks should carve out back up slots and/or contribute on special teams.
But developing talent and working it into your system takes time.
Kevin Colbert’s best NFL draft came in 2002. In the class 2002’s third season the Steelers won 15 games and in their fourth NFL season the Steelers won Super Bowl XL.
- That’s no coincidence.
But the full impact of the Steelers 2002 Draft Class wasn’t felt until those players fully matured with El taking on a starting role, Foote and Chris Hope becoming full time starters, Verron Hayes showing himself to be capable reserve running back, and even Lee Mays showing himself to be a serviceable practice squad/53rd man on the roster who can make a couple of catches when you need them.
- Brett Keisel’s case shows why the evaluation window must be extended, as he did not break the starting lineup until 2006 but has been a fixture ever since.
Given that example, the Steelers 2008 Draft Class should be peaking into their primes, to the Black and Gold’s Benefit…
No Player for the 2008 Draft Remains with the Steelers
…Those still playing from the Steelers 2008 Draft Class might in fact be peaking into their primes in 2013, but unfortunately none of them will be doing it for Pittsburgh.
- Linebacker Mike Humpal, the Steelers 2008 6th round pick never saw an NFL roster, so “Life’s Work” began for him at a young age.
- Limas Sweed of course is famous for dropping sure touchdowns in the playoffs vs. San Diego and Baltimore and then tearing his ACL during the 2010 off season. He’s been out of football since.
Legend holds that during summer 2008 at Latrobe Mike Tomlin matched Bruce Davis one-on-one vs. Tony Hills with the challenge that he was “going to make a player out of one of you.” Davis, the Steelers 3rd round pick from 2008 was a total bust and out of the NFL by then end of ’09.
Tony Hills presents a more curious case. Jim Wexell once compared the Steelers 2008 4th round pick to John Jackson. But while Jackson was starting in his second year, Hills stayed on the Steelers roster for two years without dressing.
In 2010 he shocked Steelers Nation by not only pushing for a roster spot but pushing for time under the tutelage of Sean Kugler. He saw spot duty during 2010, and got a shot at guard during the 2011 preseason. Hills couln’t cut it at guard and got cut.
But that was not the end of the line for Hills. He got signed by Denver, and then Bruce Arians brought him to Indianapolis, where he not only played in five games but started in one.
- Perhaps Hills is another late bloomer like Brett Keisel. Regardless, it won’t be to the Steelers benefit.
Dennis Dixon was one of the most surprising and intriguing picks of the Steelers 2008 draft class. He only started three games in Pittsburgh and wanted out after being unable to unseat Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich. Dixon is in Philly now, where the word is he’ll get a shot at starting.
Ryan Mundy entered free agency looking like someone the Steelers could and should get back if they wanted back. New York signed him away. Mundy might salvage something from a career that was trending down, but he can’t help salvage the 2008 draft class.
The “Star” of the 2008 draft class was of course to be Rashard Mendenhall. Rashard Mendenhall was no bust, and played as top five back in his best games. Mendenhall wore out his welcome in Pittsburgh East and is now in Pittsburgh West, with another shot at attaining the consistency needed to attain his potential.
“Potential.” “Potential” was the watch word here after the 2008 draft. The Steelers had stockpiled potential. Unlocking that potential at first frustrated and ultimately remained elusive.
Now Arizona, Indianapolis, New York and Philadelphia can see if they can benefit from what Pittsburgh has termed a “mistake” or in other words, their 2008 draft class.