Now that we’ve had a couple of days to let the draft sink in its time to evaluate how the Steelers did in the 2019 draft. Now of course its WAY too early to know how this draft will turn out. All we can do is go on what we know about these players right now, and how they might fit. With that said, lets go over each pick individually and assign our grade:
Round one: Devin Bush – LB – Michigan………A+
This one is a no brainer no matter how you look at it. When I updated my draft chart with the new information that the Steelers had a pro-day dinner with Bush, he became the overwhelming favorite as the team’s number one pick.
He is a tremendous player who fits a glaring need on the team. Can’t do any better than that if you are Kevin Colbert.
Round 3A: Diontae Johnson – WR – Toledo…..B
I will forever compare Johnson to Hakeem Butler who was my favorite receiver in the draft, and was available when the Steelers made this selection. There have been some who’ve said Johnson has similar traits to Antonio Brown. If he becomes 75% of AB, this pick becomes an A+++++++++. I like this pick much more than the second rounder the team used on James Washington last year.
Round 3B: Justin Layne – CB – Michigan St…..B+
Layne was pretty much the best corner available at this spot. He’s a converted wide receiver with some decent athleticism. Layne ranked in the top twenty at corner for SPARQ score at 128.9. He has only played corner for two years, so there is plenty of room for improvement. This is a good little risk, with high upside for a third round pick.
Round 4: Benny Snell – RB – Kentucky………A-
In a vacuum, I love this pick. Snell is exactly the type of running back the Steelers have had great success with. If James Conner continues to be injury prone, I can see Snell taking over the starting duties for this team. The one drawback is I would have like the team to draft a quicker, faster back to compliment the power backs already on the roster. This team has a serious lack of speed on offense, and Benny Snell does not help that problem.
Round 5: Zack Gentry – TE – Michigan…..C
Well he’s tall. At 6’8″, that’s about all the positives I can come up with here. There isn’t much athleticism or production here. We are looking at a slightly lesser version of Jesse James with this player. Not terrible in the fifth round, not great either.
Round 6A: Sutton Smith – LB – Northern Illinois…..B-
If you added up his percentiles for height (0), weight (0), wingspan (1), arm length (1), and hand size (4) you would get a total of SIX! In other words, he’s too small to play edge in the NFL. Some are suggesting a move to inside linebacker. If he ever becomes a contributor anywhere but special teams it may have to be some kind of hybrid linebacker/safety role. Smith does have outstanding athletic traits, as well as great production at Nothern Illinois. It’s hard to ignore his nearly 30 sacks and 57 tackles for loss the past two seasons.
Round 6B: Isaiah Buggs – DT – Alabama…..D+
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a worse performance at the NFL draft combine for a Pittsburgh Steelers draft choice. Granted he is a defensive lineman, but whew it’s bad. He did have 9.5 sacks last year at Alabama, but one has to wonder if that’s the benefit of playing next to the all-world Quinnen Williams.
Round 6C – Ulysees Gilbert – LB – Akron…..A-
If I’m running an NFL draft room, anywhere rounds five and beyond I’m swinging for the fences with athleticism. You can always find special teams players with your undrafted free agents. Ulysees Gilbert had the tenth best SPARQ score among linebackers at 135.6. He also backed those numbers up with production. Gilbert registered 140 tackles in 2017, and 85 in two less games in 2018. That’s my kind of late round flyer.
Round 7 – Derwin Gray – OL – Maryland…..C
The Steelers have a way of developing late round offensive lineman so I’ll defer to them on this one. Gray is a big man at 6’4″ and 320lbs. He should be a practice squad stash for 2019.
The Devin Bush pick alone makes this draft a successful one. The Steelers filled a gaping hole in their defense with a terrific player. Anything else that hits from this draft is a bonus. Call it a hunch, but I have a sneaky feeling they may have also hit it big with Diontae Johnson. I really like the type of shifty, quick receiver he appears to be. The team may have eventual starters in Justin Layne and Benny Snell. All that, and my favorite sleeper in Ulysees Gilbert too.