Devil’s Advocate: Value Of ‘Draft Value’

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Taking a broad, long-term view of the draft, exactly how valuable is getting good draft ‘value’ on your selections?

For many around here, the story of the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft for the Steelers was not one of excitement, but rather disappointment. Specifically, many are disappointed because they don’t believe that the players that the team selected in the slots in which they were picked up represented good ‘value’ relative to where experts projected that they would go, and relative to other players who were also available.

Okay, fine. Maybe JuJu Smith-Schuster could have been had in the mid-third—where they don’t have a pick. Maybe Cameron Sutton could have been had in the early fourth round—where they don’t have a pick. Maybe James Conner could have even been had all the way in the fifth round, though if you read my mock, in spite of the fact that I mocked him there, I anticipated that he would not be available that late and I warned that they might have to take him higher to get him.

Let’s say all of these players were overdrafted relative to expectations and to other players who were available. Let’s say that’s settled business. Now what? How much will that matter four years from now?

The reality is that it’s ultimately up to the players to justify their draft position by playing up to it. Antonio Brown was a sixth-round pick, but is universally considered a first-rounder in those ‘redraft’ exercises that fill up time in the offseason.

That is, of course, one reality.

The other reality is that no matter where these players’ careers might end up, it’s possible that the Steelers could have gotten more valuable players who will have better careers in those slots. It’s also possible that they could have gotten these same players with less valuable draft resources, factoring in trade-back scenarios.

Personally, I think both positions have merit here. There will always be what-ifs, but unless the player actually fails to perform and there’s a clear comparison to somebody else they could have taken who had a strong career in hindsight that was predictable, an ‘overdrafted’ player who goes on to have a good career doesn’t get me down too much. Of course that’s small consolation on draft day.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Craig M

    “It is what it is” 🙂

  • Burgh Ball

    The NFL draft is nothing more than an educated guess… some players drafted early bust some late bloom.. Our front office does their homework and thru the years have done a great job at putting a quality product on the field – last time I checked no other team has more SB championships than us.. That’s just the facts folks.

    I’ll put my trust in them vs fans that get pissy cause they think a pick is a reach… I’m positive the front office has a bit more experienced and knowledge than the average fan and or blogger.. when selecting future players.

    Please remember not all picks pan out – never have – never will

  • Burgh Ball

    “Draft Value” – I think this goes hand and hand with “Risk”…. an interesting topic

    M.Bryant…. Pro bowler potential that sat till the 4th round..

  • MattHat121

    Regardless of round, are we happy with this draft haul so far?

    TJ Watt
    Ju-Ju Smith Schuster
    Cam Sutton
    James Conner

    And is that haul better or worse than other teams that were more aggressive in trading around in the draft?

  • Dorian James

    I don’t think they got value anywhere. Sutton is the only pick i liked. And I can’t believe they had smith-schuster graded that high that they would pass over a couple of safeties

  • Dorian James

    I just really think this draft was a epic fail, one of the worst I can remember

  • MattHat121

    Given all the talent in this draft class, I’m disappointed. Sutton and Conner will be fine high character players for us. But their upside is limited and there were more exciting, higher ceiling players available. Schuster is going to bring some nasty to our WR core, so I’m happy with him even though it wasn’t a second round need.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    I will almost always fall back to David Todds way of thinking on this stuff. Results are extremely important but almost equally as important is the process. If you are getting the process right, the results you want should follow more often.

    The Steelers are a good drafting team so their process is obviously good on the whole, but we can still talk about “over-drafting”.

    James Conner could certainly be the next Jim Brown and nobody would care where he was drafted. I 100% agree with that point Matthew. The issue I have with that is this. What if you COULD have gotten Conner a pick later and with the pick you took him you passed on a player who was the next Rod Woodson? You could have ended up with Rod Woodson and Jim Brown. Instead you only got Jim Brown. Obviously nobody is complaining about having Jim Brown, but I think the point is clear here.

    So for me I lean towards draft value being important. I don’t think our draft is ruined by reaching for Conner, but is a legitimate point to talk about.

  • Ed Charles

    Draft is terrible for Pittsburgh. Firstly, Foster should have gone over Watt, Not that I dislike Watt, Foster is a BEAST. Schuster is a slow slot receiver, PERIOD. Sutton is bad when his back is too the ball. REACHES. Colbert reaches far too often. You got your azz handed to you by New England and you add a mediocre DB and no up the middle push type player. Incredible this GM keeps a job.

    On a separate note.. Bengals draft a Mixon and the Steelers draft a Connor…. There you have the difference in franchises !

  • James Cowan

    Nobody knows what value is. All the guys you pick might’ve gone a pick or two later, because draft ‘experts’ like a player doesn’t mean teams will.

  • Nolrog

    The other thing is that the guy they coveted, Obi, went a couple spots ahead of us, just like Jackson did last year. Instead of being aggressive and going after the guy you wanted, Colbert just sat there, and said, dang it, the guy we loved is gone. Oh well. . . .

  • nikki stephens

    I will correct you on foster. One of the dumbest in draft (test), shoulder issues, and behavior). Plus TJ fills a bigger need. All football beast, hell he didn’t even know college nightspots because he is always working out – dedicated! With you on other points, gonna be painful to see sutton (if at slot) w/ short arms trying to get around to slap down quick slants against NE edelman types. Just painful

  • Burgh Ball

    Don’t ya think you ought to wait a couple a three years before you label it a failure?….. Let’s see how these guys pan out… patience

  • Darth Blount 47

    Draft value is absolutely crucial to potentially maximizing the draft. However, the value is perceived, not actual. It only becomes actual years down the line. But if you don’t think it’s important at all, what if I tell you that the guy you drafted at 62, would have been there for you in the 4th round? How would you feel? Would you feel kinda dumb for taking him at 62? I know I would. The draft is a game. But it’s also a living and breathing animal. And it’s a gamble. I think that’s why I love it so much, combined with the pageantry and seeing guys fulfill their dreams. Everything in life is a series of calculated risks. And on draft day, there is always a war being waged in order to maximize a team’s haul.

    Take San Fran for example. They moved back 1 pick in the 1st round, gained a bunch of picks, and took the guy at 3, that they certainly were just about to take at 2. Is that not good value? Was that not smart? Was that not maximizing the hell out of the living and breathing draft? Of course it was. Regardless of who San Fran ultimately took. Or even who the Bars ultimately wanted to take. There are ways to manipulate the draft to make it appear as though you won the day. Just like life. But eating the salad today, doesn’t guarantee that you won’t have a heart attack tomorrow… it just makes it less likely. Just like picking a guy who your scouts say has a 1st round grade, makes it less likely that they’ll bust, than a 7th rounder. Not a guarantee, but again, often perception is the strongest form of reality. And ultimately, only time will tell the true tale.

  • Michael Conrad

    Its an educated guess but you have to pick players who are good not just whats left on the board after others have cherry picked the good ones.

  • Joe Jackson

    I must admit. I thought the LeVeon Bell pick was a reach at first in the second round a couple of years ago. Wasn’t a fan. Looking back, he could have been our first round pick. I know it’s tough to watch good players go by for someone we thought would be a great value but it could very well be another Bell type of situation. Fortunately the FO hasn’t missed very often.

  • capehouse

    Is anyone really complaining about player value? JuJu was borderline 1st round talent. Great value at 62. Gil Brandt had Conner ranked as the 91st overall player, so I think he went right where he was projected. Brandt had JuJu ranked 36th overall! The value I have issue with is the positions. Why on Earth would we select a WR in round 2?! He’ll be lucky to get 100 snaps this year. Why would we select a backup RB so early when we have a franchise RB that takes almost EVERY snap?! Ok I can understand addressing one of these positions especially if it was just RB at the tail end of round 3, but addressing both on a championship team that’s missing some key defenders just makes no sense. Might as well taken a QB too.

  • Hypo Cycloid

    You can’t grade a draft at the current moment as you can in a few years. So if all these players turn into studs, it wouldn’t have mattered where they were drafted. However, if a team simply drafts players willy nilly, the odds of having those players turn into studs are low. And that is how we have to grade the draft at the moment. And in this moment, a receiver in the second was so not needed. And while I am very pleased Conner is on this team (I really wanted him), I feel the team should’ve waited until the 4th round. I would’ve risked him still being available there. Not to mention that a RB wasn’t a pressing need either. I am a big believer in BPA at positions of need. Not BPA any position with no regard to need. So in the top 3 rounds, the only positions I feel the team should’ve been drafting was OLB, ILB, CB, and S. Any order, just BPA.

    Thrilled with the Watt pick. BPA and need. A+
    JuJu. Nice guy. Could be a great slot receiver. Was he BPA of everyone left? Not a position of need.
    Sutton. Position of need in two areas…returner and CB. BPA? A
    Connor. BPA…don’t think so. Not a position of need. But did really want him. C+

    Overall so far for me through 3. B-

  • capehouse

    The value is good especially with JuJu and Sutton. The positions were terrible. We needed a man cover DB that could tackle. A player like Budda Baker. We got a man cover DB but he can’t tackle. We got our prized OLB, who I think was a reach, but he’s a great player with tons of upside if he can stay healthy. The problem is it cost us dearly in terms of adding to the secondary. 1 OLB was taken in between our 1st and 2nd rd pick, but 11 defensive backs were taken in that time.

  • Hypo Cycloid

    Especially with Knile Davis in the backfield too. Should’ve waited at least 1 more round for Connor. Take the gamble.

  • Hypo Cycloid

    I get that. But there are occasions when I think are there even pros there evaluating these guys. Dri Archer was one. I was so livid that they wasted the 3rd round pick. Because I knew immediately he was not going to be in the league. They give us these headscratchers on occasion when some things are so obvious. And I’ve never seen them hit on these headscratcher picks.

  • Hypo Cycloid

    You have two different grades. The grade now, based on need and BPA. The risk taken and values given. And the grade in the future. How they actually turned out.

    I think it is appropriate to grade drafts as they go along. And then revisit a couple years down the road.

  • Hypo Cycloid

    Excellent post!

  • Hypo Cycloid

    Excellent post Blount!

  • capehouse

    I’d go…

    Watt (B-)
    -Really should have taken a DB here. 11 taken between our next pick. Would have given this a B+ but it cost us a secondary player. Slight reach which should be obvious to all since only 1 OLB was taken in between our next pick. Had the choice of any other OLB at 62 beside Ryan Anderson.

    -Great player but terrible pick with so many other needs. Great value though or I would have given it an F.

    -Good value and a major area of need. Will allow us to play more man cover but he lacks physicality and a poor tackler.

    -Good value and a position of need but a little too early to address the position considering we have a franchise RB already. The pick is even worse when you consider how defensive needy we are and already took an offensive player in rd 2.

    Overall grade: B-
    Good players but disappointed overall.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I thank you, kind Hypo. Much obliged.

  • StolenUpVotes

    I have always believed that if you really like a guy at the spot you are at then you take him. They really liked JuJu in the 2nd. They really liked Sutton and Connor in the 3rd. No guarantee they will be there later. Only takes one other team to fall in love with a prospect and they are gone.

  • Edjhjr

    I think they all have good potential. But I’m still interested in how kizner and peppers end up

  • capehouse

    I don’t mind taking him there. I think that’s where he was projected. He wouldn’t have made it to our pick in rd 4. It’s addressing the position all together.

  • Jonas

    I think you’re correct but I also think it’s to early to declare it a ‘epic fail’.

  • Bryan

    My opinion is that I trust the Steelers front office, sure they’ve had some misses, but more often than not ever since I’ve started watching football (2004), the Steelers have gotten it right far more than they’ve gotten it wrong. But as for this specific topic, I think if the player’s there that you want and you don’t think they’ll be around next round you pick them, even if it’s possible you could trade back and acquire that player, risking not getting the player you want just for a couple extra late round draft picks isn’t really worth it. Especially since it’s likely the Steelers aren’t alone in valuing a player in a certain way. Maybe 30 other teams wouldn’t have drafted player X until Round 5, but all it takes is 1 team to draft them in the 3rd or 4th for you to have lost out on that player. If he’s the best player on your board at round y, then you’d be best to take them there unless it’s a really obscure pick that you’re confident will be available 1-2 rounds later (which I imagine would rarely happen)

  • AndyR34

    Name a safety taken after JuJu that was a better ‘value’

  • AndyR34

    You may get your wish early today. LOL!

  • AndyR34

    I agree…I think they may have wanted/picked Josh Jones at 62…he went 61 and JuJu was next on their board.

  • capehouse

    I’ll kick myself in the nuts if that happens!

  • James Cowan

    I wouldn’t feel stupid if you told me a guy I pick at 62 would be there in the fourth round because unless you have a functioning time machine you have absolutely no idea where someone will be picked.

    Great post other than that though.

  • AndyR34

    So you would have picked Anzalone at 62…highest graded ILB remaining…hasn’t played a full season in college…and considered by all draftniks to be a 3rd round choice??? Or maybe Witherspoon, who can’t tackle a marshmellow or Moreau, who is risky…both of these caried 3rd round grades also.

  • AndyR34

    Excellent! When you draft at number 30…you mostly have 2nd round talent available. Similarly for each following round.

  • AndyR34

    You must be much younger than I am…I’m no longer that flexible.

  • Burgh Ball

    Great post Darth – Love the line – “the value is perceived, not actual” Right on point.

  • Rob

    For what it’s worth worth, a lot of national media view the JuJu and Connor picks as steals. I think most places have the Steelers grades as an A-(A-) overall.

    For me, the Conner pick is the only one that I’m not feeling still, but we had DWill as a high quality cheap backup to LVeon, so I guess Conner is our new DWill.

  • Burgh Ball

    Why you draft a WR in round 2? The Front office must have liked the value of JuJu there – combined with M.Bryant and not knowing what this knucklehead will do next and that Coates cant catch a cold – to inconsistent.. I see why they went WR round 2 – I was praying it wasn’t a QB….

  • Boots

    Draft value definitely has merit, but it can mean different things too. Is Juju good value when he’s at your deepest position with other glaring needs even if he’s listed as your BPA? Would Shaquill Griffin right there be that much of a reach when its a much bigger need? I find it hard to believe that with as much movement as this draft has had that moving up to get Jones or moving back a few in the third and getting Moreau or Griffin or Basham or Rivers or Smoot or Willis would’ve been impossible.

  • James Rogers

    I concur. Really disappointed that they didn’t do more for the defense. Really deep at WR now, at the expense of the defense.

  • Darth Blount 47

    It’s about projection and that “gamble” that I was talking about. But I thank you for the comment. Appreciate it.

  • Hypo Cycloid

    Yes. Take bpa of positions of need.

  • Hypo Cycloid

    I wouldn’t call this an epic fail either!

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    As much as this draft has me scratching my f’ing head, there is talent and productivity among of all the picks on days 1&2. All Power 5 conferences. Do they all fill immediate needs? IMHO, not really. Hopefully they will all contribute.

  • dany

    To me the draft is a way for people to show how much better/smarter they believe they are. This is not a science, in fact things like predicting game outcomes are more of a science than the draft. So much of it is guesswork, and hope. If someone has a “track record” of predicting busts that means s*** honestly. Same goes for predicing success, something so many analysts wear proudly on their chest for some reason. Sit back and enjoy it. The season is only 4 months away

  • AndyR34

    Wow! He’d play fewer games than Green!

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think the “should’ve drafted Lacy” crowd has finally died down…

  • Matthew Marczi

    At the same time, you also have to ask, “what if you COULDN’T have gotten Conner a pick later”? Obviously that was the question the Steelers asked themselves and their answer was no. We’ll never know if they were right though.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Personally, I’ve very quickly warmed up to the S-S pick. I see him fitting in as the slot guy over Rogers, offering a big body who can still find the windows and offers a dynamic size presence who will also be an asset in the running game and in the screen game. Because I see what they’re aiming at here, I feel much better with the choice.

  • Matthew Marczi

    A lot of it is definitely ego-patting and wish-fulfillment. Not gonna lie though, I’m butthurt I didn’t get Kittle.

  • Boots

    It’s not so much the player as it is timing. I think he’ll be a pretty decent WR. At this point it just looks like it’s going to take a few days to come to grips with it.

  • Justin Warrenfeltz

    My position on the players the Steelers drafted is this: I like the guys they brought in. TJ Watt is a high-upside pass rusher. Juju has the potential to hold down the slot for years to come. Sutton is a smart nickel / slot corner who can also return punts. Conner is a big back who offers a lot of the same things Bell does, so the offense doesn’t have to change with him on the field. Dobbs is…well, probably better than Jones at least. Allen is a long CB capable of developing into a great depth player. Holba was the best LS available and best prospect at the position in years. And Adams has a lot of desirable physical traits to potentially develop into a great depth guy at OLB.

    My biggest problem is the positions we drafted. We didn’t need another WR. We need better CBs, at least one Safety, and probably a Tight End. And I saw no point in drafting another career backup QB. I don’t think the players we drafted this years will maximize our opportunities to win in the next few years while we still have Ben on the roster. I think the only players seriously capable of pushing for significant starting time in Year 1 are Holba and Smith-Schuster, with TJ Watt and Sutton rotating and functioning as primary backups. The fact is that our secondary got manhandled in the playoffs last year. And I don’t think we’ve significantly upgraded the back end of our defense to avoid a similar situation next year. In two years? Who knows, they might be better. But a lot has to go right for that to happen.