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Revisiting the 2017 draft: Was drafting JuJu Smith-Schuster a mistake?

When the Steelers announced they had selected a wide receiver with their second round pick, it came as quite a surprise to most.  It lead to many questions like “Is there something going on with Martavis Bryant’s reinstatement?” or “Is Sammie Coates injuries worse than we thought?”.  As it turned out none of these questions became reality.  This has resulted in a substantial glut at the wide receiver position.  The team will presumably keep six wide outs, resulting in some talented players being cut by the Steelers.  So now the question needs to be asked, wouldn’t they have been better served drafting another position with such a high draft choice?

When scanning through the players that were drafted after Smith-Schuster, a few names stand out that would have helped at other positions.  Center Pat Eflien went early in the third round to the Vikings.  A strong case could be made that it’s time to start grooming the next center for PittsburghMaurkice Pouncey is a terrific center, but his age and assorted serious injuries have to be a concern going forward.  The only real backup on the roster is BJ Finney, who is clearly a better guard than center.  A run on edge rushers began right after the Eflien selection.  Players like Jordan Willis, Alex Anzalone, Tim Williams, Tarell Bashum, and Derek Rivers all were drafted between the Steelers second and third round picks.  Tim Williams in particular is getting rave reviews for the arch rival Ravens.  It could be argued the Steelers had already addressed the edge rusher spot in round one with the selection of TJ Watt.  I would argue double dipping at a position that has been such a sore spot for years would have been a prudent move.

Perhaps the player the Steelers may regret passing on the most of all is corner back Fabian Moreau out of UCLA.  An injury during his pro-day pushed what many thought was a sure first round talent to the early third round.  Drafting Moreau represented some risk, which is something the Steelers generally avoid.  Reports varied from him missing the entire 2017 season, to being ready as soon as training camp.  As it turned out, Moreau is already practicing for the Redskins and represents a real draft coup for them.  A six-foot tall corner with 4.35 speed and all the other traits needed for a sucsessful corner just don’t last to the third round.   in the end, the Steelers won’t be the only team kicking themselves for passing on Moreau. 

Let’s say the best case scenario becomes true and JuJu Smith-Schuster indeed turns into a better version of Hines Ward.  In a vacuum that becomes an excellent selection.  What happens though if we combine that scenario with the very likely scenario of the other Steeler recievers also realizing their potential?  Is the possibility of Martavis Bryant becoming pro bowl caliber, and one of Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers, or Justin Hunter having breakout seasons so far fetched?  That’s not even mentioning the potential of Demarcus Ayers and Cobi Hamilton.  There’s no question that at the time of the draft all these players had real questions surrounding them.  Maybe with the extra third round selection, drafting a wide receiver prospect was warranted.  Using a second round pick on a position with so much depth could end up costing the Steelers this season.  If TJ Watt and Cam Sutton become home run selections, none of this may matter.  It just seems adding depth to positions of need rather than loaded positions would have been the better play.

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