Mel Kiper Jr. Slightly Raises Steelers 2016 Draft Grade In Annual Reevaluation

It’s almost been one full year since the Pittsburgh Steelers made their seven selections in the 2016 NFL Draft and you’ll probably be relieved to know that ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. still likes the team’s haul.

On Thursday, Kiper did his annual reevaluation of last year’s draft team-by-team and it included him slightly increasing the Steelers grade from a B to a B+.

Here is what Kiper wrote on Thursday after reevaluating the Steelers seven selections in last year’s draft:

This draft was pretty solid at the time — hey, a B is a good grade from me! — and I think it looks even better now because I think they bagged three defensive starters that we can be sure of, and it’s for a pretty good football team. Artie Burns was certain to struggle early — you can repeat that phrase for pretty much any rookie cornerback — but he showed what a competitor he is as he got better during the season, finishing with nine starts and even three interceptions. Sean Davis also had nine starts and should have that starting role locked down going into 2017. He also shined during the playoffs.

The steal? I wrote then, “Defensive line help was a need, and Javon Hargrave has a chance to be really good.” Well, I didn’t think he’d be this good, this early. Hargrave started 19 games and will have a starting role heading into 2017. That’s really it for this class so far, but three starters is pretty good even if none becomes a star, especially because they contributed to a contender.

In case you’re curious, here is what Kiper had to say about the Steelers 2016 draft last May:

Not everyone agrees with me, but I’ve been pretty clear that I think the secondary is the biggest need area for the Steelers — who are a Super Bowl contender if they get things tightened up a bit back there — and apparently someone in that front office agrees with me. Artie Burns fills an obvious need at cornerback (where Senquez Golson is also returning), but he’s not as good as William Jackson III, who Cincinnati grabbed just one spot earlier. I really like Sean Davis and he can be plugged in at safety, though I would have taken Justin Simmons at that spot. Defensive line help was a need, and Javon Hargrave has a chance to be really good. They added useful depth at offensive tackle and a potential future starter in Jerald Hawkins, and Tyler Matakevich is a good player who has a chance to make the team as a seventh-rounder. The value wasn’t amazing, but they sure hit needs and got better, at least on paper.

Now, I applaud Kiper for increasing the Steelers grade, but was it enough? After all, the Steelers top-three selections, cornerback Artie Burns, safety Sean Davis and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, all ultimately became huge contributors during the 2016 season and moving forward, they all are poised to be long-time fixtures on the defensive side of the football. While Davis was ultimately voted the team’s top rookie for the 2016 season, you could have made a strong argument for Burns and Hargrave to win the award as well.

In addition to those top-three selections, both of the Steelers seventh-round selections, linebacker Tyler Matakevich and wide receiver Demarcus Ayers, contributed to the team in some form or fashion as the season progressed. In the case of Matakevich, who played a few snaps on defense during the regular season due to injuries, he was a core special teams player. As for Ayers, who spent most of the 2016 season on the Steelers practice squad, he was ultimately promoted to the 53-man roster late in the year and contributed some on offense.

When it comes to last year’s fourth-round draft pick, tackle Jerald Hawkins, it’s really hard to grade him right now as he missed his entire rookie season due to a shoulder injury. That leaves us with linebacker Travis Feeney, the Steelers fifth-round selection, who was ultimately signed off the Steelers practiced squad by the New Orleans Saints.

With four weeks remaining until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, it’s really not hard to speculate that six of the Steelers draft picks from last year will ultimately make the team’s 53-man roster out of training camp. If that happens, I’m not sure how you could give the Steelers 2016 draft anything less than an A+.

  • Steel Your Face

    Mel Kiper Jr. is a no talent ass clown.

  • Ed Smith

    Ditto!! I’ll never forget that shameless promoting of that QB who he had links to (name escapes me)

  • srdan

    I forgot Artie had 3 picks. Thats pretty good in that many start. Plus I tihnk what he doesn’t metnione is that all 3 of them are good people.

  • Ike Evans

    I actually respect mel kiper….and find this opinion of his to be mostly right to me

  • Brian Tollini

    I have no problem with him either. I think his grade was fair before and after in this case.

  • Mike Lloyd

    “So long Mel…Have a good trip!”
    Lol

  • John Noh

    B+ is a fair grade. If Hawkins stayed healthy and contributed in 2016, I’d think an A- would be justified. With all due respect to Dave, let’s put into perspective what it should really take to get an A+ as a Steelers draft class: four hall of famers and one UDFA who should be in Canton (Shell).

  • John Noh

    “Maybe you can handle one of them first-class tickets to the Resurrection.”

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    What was that line?, who in the hell is Mel Kiper?.

  • DoctorNoah

    Tyler Matakevich is the reasOn this Draft gets an a+!
    #HOF #DirtyRed #SeeYouInCanton

  • Steel Your Face

    So good. I think it was a GM for the Colts way back when.

  • capehouse

    B+ is fair. I was fine with the B too. You have to look at the entire league’s draft classes to get the proper perspective. We had a great class, but there’s easily a handful of teams last year with better ones.

  • capehouse

    Me too. He’s been the centerpiece of the draft since I was a kid. Draft day wouldn’t be the same without him.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    I do believe you’re correct.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Hear Hear!

    #DonnieShellHallOfFamer

  • Darth Blount 47

    If I remember correctly, I said B+ after all of the smoke had cleared. But honestly, like Mel, I think it MAY need to tick up a slight bit. I could see A- when you look at our recent efforts. But I do agree that some teams besides us also had some pretty damn good drafts last year as well.

  • Rusted Out

    Agreed, and I don’t like agreeing with that. The Cowboys found their next franchise QB and star RB. The Falcons found an amazing middle linebacker and SS, both rookie standouts. Let’s give credit where credit is due. B+ is right on the money. Had any of the Steelers rookies made the probowl, I would protest.

  • Steeldog22

    Hawkins is going to be good for us.

  • Roger G

    The Colts GM was banging Kiper bcuz the Colts took Trev Alberts and not Trent Dilfer. Kiper was basically calling into question just what the hell are they (Colts) thinking taking Alberts over Dilfer. Hilarious

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  • IchabodTheGloryHasDeparted

    He changed his A- to a B+ for the Ratbirds…
    Don’t you think the Steelers class did a much better job than the Ratbirds?
    He’s a big mouth on a big stage who is entertaining, but not so accurate

  • Kevin Artis

    I wonder what other team had more rookies contribute their first season compared to us?

  • Sweet Lee

    There may have only been 2 rookies, not 3, but Prescott and Elliott did a whole lot more for Dallas than these 3 did for Pittsburgh.

  • Rocksolid20

    Why does he still get airtime ? He’s rarely right with his picks , no one cares what Kiper thinks !

  • Rocksolid20

    Only Trump has worse hair than Kiper .

  • Heywood Jablome

    Yeah, I do too. I know people love to hate him, but I think he knows his stuff. Expecting him to be right on everything is ludicrous, but he’s right more than alotta other people.

    BTW – I would just say that I think this draft class deserved an A after last season. Hawkins could turn it into an A+.

  • Heywood Jablome

    If that is the threshold to get an A+ than “A+” can be retired permanently. Because that is the only time it ever has or likely ever will happen. Of the 5 Hall of Famers drafted in the 1974 NFL draft class, Dave Casper is the only one who did not play his entire career for the Pittsburgh Steelers. *** hair standing ***

  • Jason

    He’s from Baltimore and his homerism shines bright on many occasions. He doesn’t bother me though. I prefer Mayock on NFL network personally.

  • IchabodTheGloryHasDeparted

    Me also but since the post is about Kiper, I felt to express my inner most self.