By Christopher DiMarino
The Pittsburgh Steelers addressed their need at tight end with David Paulson in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL draft. Many of you remember the big deal I made out of Coby Fleener, but even before that I did some in-depth analysis of the tight ends in the 2012 class. Paulson is definitely not Fleener, but he might be a better value considering the low price paid for him. First, I want to break down some of his collegiate stats.
Paulson was a red shirted senior at Oregon but only played the past 3 years. He was slowly incorporated into the Duck offense in 2009 where the team had only two loses leading to a Rose Bowl berth. They eventually lost that game in a heart breaker to Ohio State 26-17. Everyone remembers in 2010 when they went undefeated, finished ranked #2 in the country and lost to Auburn by a last second field goal. In 2011, they mirrored 2009 with a 2 loss record and Rose Bowl berth. They however won their only bowl game during the Paulson era, a 45-38 barn-burner against 10th ranked Wisconsin.
In those 3 years he played, Paulson accumulated over 1000 yards and hauled in 10 touchdowns. After a lukewarm TD-less year in 2009, he put 2 good consecutive seasons together each with 400 yards and 4 then 6 TDs. He was very consistent over his career and averaged about 3 receptions a game. The biggest game of his career was against Oregon State where he had his only career game over 100 yards. He also hauled in 8 receptions while he never topped more than 4 in any other collegiate game.
I like looking into deep stats for patterns. For instance, he had about 2/3rds of his yards in the 1st half. In fact, in 2011 he had almost half his stats in the 2nd quarter. That could be attributed to playing for Oregon which was a successful running school while he attended. LaMichael James led their offense in rushing which was ranked 5th in the country. Typically the Duck offense would start with a bit of a run heavier edge in the first quarter and then use the play action to attack the opposition in the second quarter. He was a big piece of that puzzle and that may be the key to his success as a Steeler. The other key is blocking. While he wasn\’t exactly an in-line tight end, he was called upon on several instances to block down on linebackers to spring the run game.
He was dominant in games that were blow outs and also had yard highs against conference teams. That can be misleading unless you consider that their conference really isn\’t too competitive. The telltale stat I liked was how most of his yards and touchdowns came when his team was even or within a touchdown or less. That means that he wasn\’t getting garbage yards and was a key player his coach looked to when it mattered.
He had only two receptions with goal to go, but both were touchdowns. He had a majority of his catches on 1st and 2nd downs. That further solidifies his role as an auxiliary type of weapon. He wasn\’t a key part of their passing attack but rather a tool, that when used effectively, helped them move the chains and prolong drives in close games. Or, the team might have been nursing leads late in typical games which lead to less passes. Either way, he was an important part of an offense that helped Oregon constantly jump of the ranks over the past few years. The past however, is the past, and what fans want to know is what to expect from him. In part two I will look into what the Steelers might expect from him and what he will need to do to succeed or even make the 53 man roster.