With the 2023 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, I wanted to look at how the data from the series held up and provide some takeaways as well. Here is a quick review of what the scores measure and the links by position if you’d like to check those out:
Interest Score: Here I configured a points system for the following important questions. How did the players perform in college? Does their height and weight match up to the body type of any player Pittsburgh has drafted at the position the last ten years? What is their experience/age? Do they play a position of need? What was their level of competition? Who attended their pro day? Did they have meeting(s) with the Steelers pre-draft? Did they appear in the Senior, Shrine, or NFLPA Bowl?
Athletic Score: simply 11 Combine metrics excluding wingspan, and whether they were within a threshold in each metric of any player drafted at their position by the Steelers the last decade.
Interior Offensive Line
There were certainly many questions in the pre-draft process of what changes there would be in Omar Khan’s first draft as the Steelers’ general manager. Until we saw him in action, I kept the “blues clues” as we like to call it the same. Let’s see how that fared with the 2023 Steelers draft class:
Right away we get a sense of how true Pittsburgh stuck to past draft principles, with a whopping five players in the top 15 of the interest scores! These five players were selected within the first four rounds, with the Steelers able to knock these selections out of the park, in my opinion, as the board fell extremely well to them.
Another thing that jumps out is the strong athletic scores: all but one of the Steelers’ selections were above the mean of drafted players. Talented Georgia tackle Broderick Jones, who was Pittsburgh’s first-round selection, missed out on this feat solely due to DNPs which will be interesting to monitor in years to come. He also had a 9.8 interest score, which actually would have been higher with an unknown pre-draft dinner that coach Mike Tomlin unveiled in his post-selection interview. Tomlin and Khan were also at his Pro Day, continuing that previous trend from the Kevin Colbert era.
Joey Porter Jr. of Penn State fell into the Steelers’ lap to start day two at pick 32, with Pittsburgh not hesitating to make the selection after listening to trade offers. He had the highest 10.8 interest score of the Steelers’ draft class (tied for third among drafted players), along with a nine athletic score that checked all the boxes in the drills he participated in (two DNP’s). Later in the second round, Pittsburgh kept its exciting draft going with defensive lineman Keeanu Benton of Wisconsin. He had a 10.5 interest score (T-sixth in the draft) along with a perfect 11 athletic score, highlighting how well he fits the Steelers mold.
Another highly touted prospect fell to the Steelers at 93rd overall in the third round in tight end Darnell Washington of Georgia, which was the first of double dips from highly respected colleges. He had a 9.6 interest score (T-15th in the draft) along with a 10 athletic score that also included one DNP. I’m so excited these players were all available to them with how well they fit.
So far, a couple obvious themes on the first two days of the draft: at least a 9.5 interest score and checking all the athletic boxes they participated in. Another well-documented theme for the class thus far was size: Jones (6053, 311), Porter Jr. (6024, 193), Benton (6036, 309), and Washington (6065, 264). It will be very interesting to see if this becomes a trend.
On day three, Pittsburgh drafted Nick Herbig, another Wisconsin Badgers, in the fourth round. He had a 9.6 interest score (T-15th in the draft) along with an 11 athletic score, which brings us the first selection of the draft with a questionable position/scheme fit. That score came with the notion that he would likely be switching to off-ball linebacker in the NFL with inside linebacker coach Aaron Curry being at his Pro Day. Outside linebackers coach Denzel Martin, however, stated that Herbig would start out playing edge for the black and gold. Looking at the Steelers draft history the last decade, that would bring his athletic score down to a nine, missing in weight (240) and arm length (31 1/4”), which will be enthralling to watch play out.
Too bad there were no fifth- or sixth-round picks to see how the scores and draft tendencies fared, so we will have to wait and see on that.
After the long wait, Pittsburgh had two seventh-round picks and pounced on another prospect that many would agree was surprisingly available in cornerback Cory Trice of Purdue. This was due to medical concerns from many teams, a factor in Washington’s perceived fall as well. This is an interesting takeaway in Kahn’s first draft, accepting possible injury risk for a hopeful reward on talent. Trice had an interest score of 7.3 (that was just above the mean) along with a perfect 11 athletic score, also fitting the size (6033, 206) and athletic theme of this year’s draft. To cap things off, the Steelers went back to the offensive line with Maryland’s Spencer Anderson, who has the experience and potential to play multiple positions. He had a 6.7 interest score and a nine athletic score and was the only pick to set new precedents at the position (viewing him as an interior offensive lineman) in arm length (32 1/8”), which was previously held by Kendrick Green (32 1/4”), and a five second shuttle, previously held by Derwin Gray (4.94).
The draft is unpredictable in nature, so no earth-shattering takeaways in the final round, but did find neither of them having reported pre-draft meetings notable, while they did have scouts in attendance at their Pro Days.
Overall, the Steelers conducted business as usual. Bloodlines, Pro Day attendance, positional coaches, and pre-draft meetings, oh my. A couple other interesting takeaways I’ve yet to mention were the age of the class, with each selection currently 22 or younger in an older, post-COVID class, and only one Senior Bowl participant (Benton) compared to three in the 2022 draft with the same number of selections. Can’t wait to see the rookies in action, how the scores fare in the future, and hope you enjoyed the festivities as much as the Steelers Depot team!
What are your thoughts on Pittsburgh’s 2023 draft class? What about the interest and athletic scores? Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments.