A Blast From the Past: Sixth Round, Part2
The 2011 sixth-round pick would have a pretty hard time topping the 2010 choice of Antonio Brown, and of course it didn’t. In fact, the pick is so obscure I didn’t even recognize the name. The Steelers chose offensive guard Keith Williams, and cut him at the end of training camp. The Bills picked him up for their practice squad, where he stayed until they cut him with an injury settlement in 2013. He plays for the Arena League now.
I had a quick look at who was drafted after him, as one of those pointless “what if” exercises, and even after the very end of the sixth round, where the Steelers were picking, there usually seems to be a few guys who have made the pro bowl, etc., but in the 2011 draft there isn’t one in the rest of the draft, so far at least. So it looks as if the Steelers didn’t miss out on some amazing talent.
Williams didn’t generate much excitement at the time—in fact, the draft class as a whole was characterized by more than one writer as boring but solid. But a few writers thought Green would add needed depth to the offensive line. Which he didn’t.
2012 is even worse. I mentioned in the recent article about Ladarius Green that the Steelers had been interested in him during the 2012 draft, but Green was picked by San Diego in the fourth round, right after the Steelers drafted Alameda Ta’amu. It’s worse than I thought, though—the Steelers actually traded their fourth and sixth round picks to move up for Ta’amu. Major fail. I seem to recall rejoicing in the streets over the pick, despite the cost.
Once again, I think this throws some weight on the “more picks” side of the “more picks” vs. “higher quality picks” equation. One argument I frequently hear for the “higher quality” side of the argument is, why draft people when you’re just going to have to cut them? Honestly, if you think about it even for a moment that doesn’t make much sense. If you were to trade up in the draft and only have two picks, say a top-10 pick and a third round pick, you’re just going to go out and sign a bunch of UDFAs to make up the spots. Maybe they are a bit cheaper, but given the amounts of money involved, the savings is scarcely germane.
In the meantime, you have to compete with other teams for the UDFAs, as the players can decide where they want to go, and not everyone is sensible enough to want to be a Steeler.
And then there is the issue of how far you’re moving up, because every single pick in your current draft is not going to get you into the top ten, most likely, unless you don’t have very far to move up anyway. So then you’re mortgaging the future by giving up future picks, which advanced analytics note are typically heavily undervalued by teams. Furthermore, you are concentrating your risk by throwing all your draft eggs into the basket of one or two picks. (I find most fans, when discussing trades, typically underestimate what it will take to move up even a few slots, at least in the first round.) And if you’re already fairly close to a top-10 pick, you undoubtedly have an awful lot of holes to fill on your team.
And even top-10 picks aren’t a sure thing. When the Steelers need a new quarterback they might have to sacrifice a bunch of picks to get a guy they want, but even that is a huge risk, as we see by the number of failed first-round quarterbacks.
And speaking of quarterbacks, here’s my sixth-round pick for 2012. For once I couldn’t do any worse than the Steelers:
Round 6: Dominique Davis, QB
Tim Tebow is going to the Jets. This says it all. Obviously the NFL is becoming not just a passing league but a multiple passer league, and the Steelers need to keep up with this trend. They are letting Dennis Dixon walk, as far as any of us know, and while they have signed Troy Smith, there’s a need for more, and better-looking, QB depth. (Sorry, Mr. Smith. And Lefty…) But he doesn’t bring just looks. Davis set an NCAA record last October by completing 26 straight passes to open a game. He also set a record for 36 straight completions over a two game span. This breaks Aaron Rodgers’ college record set in 2004. The offense he ran had some designed runs included. Perfect! Start working on the wildcat, Mr. Haley!
Davis did better than a lot of my late-round choices have. He was signed as a UDFA by the Falcons and was their third-string quarterback for two years. After being signed and released by both the Titans and the Colts he now plays in the CFL. In fact, Cold Old Steelers Fan, he now plays for your Winnepeg Bombers.
On to 2013.
This year the Steelers had two picks, their normal pick and a compensatory pick. They use the first to choose Justin Brown, a wide receiver who was somewhat of a camp sensation but didn’t make the roster in 2013. He did make it in 2014, and actually played in a handful of games, but apparently failed to impress, as he was released by the Steelers at the end of the season. The Bills picked him up for their practice squad for 2015, but he was injured, and they settled with him. He is currently a free agent.
The compensatory pick has already made more of an impact for the Steelers. That would be the other sixth-round Williams in this series, LB Vince Williams. He made the roster his rookie year. As I’m sure you all know, he’s still on the roster. In fact, he’s Ivan Cole’s breakout candidate for the coming season.
What was being said at the time? Nothing about Brown and very little about Vince Williams, at least among the “experts.” They were too busy with the rest of the draft, which was a relatively sexy one for the Steelers. Neal Coolong, then of Behind the Steel Curtain, did have some preliminary thoughts about each pick. Here’s what he said about these guys:
6a. Justin Brown
He’s got size, some nice speed, we’ll see how he develops. At the very least, he has return ability. Perhaps I thought too much of that initially, but may as well give him a shot. The size is the nice thing, and again, another highly productive college player. He caught more passes each year he was in school, and like Wheaton, he played four years.
6b. Vince Williams
Tell me you heard the story about how he was put on the Senior Bowl team because of injuries two days after it started, came in and made himself into the leader of the defense throughout the rest of the week didn’t get you fired up. Tell me that. I don’t think you can. I love this guy just on that story. Yes, I’m borderline delirious from fatigue and hand pain. I don’t care. I’m writing anyway cuz I’m thinking Vince Williams is beside me, yelling at me.
And my 2013 pick? I onky made it through the fourth round that year
to be continued…