Applying letter grades to each team’s NFL draft has become such a hackneyed practice.
It’s Kentucky Derby weekend, so let’s set numerical Pro Bowl odds for each member of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 draft class.
These are the odds of each player making the Pro Bowl at least once in his career, not necessarily in his rookie year. A draft pick doesn’t have to be a Pro Bowler to be considered successful, but if he does become a Pro Bowler it ends all “bust” discussion.
Here’s the racing form for the 2013 Steelers draft picks:
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (first round, No. 17): Jones had a combined 28 sacks and 44 tackles for loss in two seasons at Georgia. If he beats out Jason Worilds, he’ll become the first rookie to start on defense since Dick LeBeau became defensive coordinator in 2004. The Steelers haven’t had a first-round bust since Kevin Colbert arrived in 2000, and Jones won’t be the first. It remains to be seen how much impact he’ll have at the next level, however. His size (6’2”, 245 pounds) could be a concern, but he has a realistic chance of making at least one Pro Bowl. Odds: 2-1
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State (second round, No. 48): Of the Steelers’ nine draft picks, Bell is the most likely to make a Pro Bowl. He led the Big Ten with 1,793 rushing yards in 2012 despite running behind a shoddy Michigan State offensive line, according to Steel City Insider. Bell’s not easy to bring down. More than half of his yards came after contact, according to STATS, Inc., via MSUSpartans.com. Even though he doesn’t quite have the size of Jerome Bettis, Bell is a bruising back who fits the Steelers’ tradition better than Rashard Mendenhall and Willie Parker. Odds: 3-2
Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State (third round, No. 79): Can Wheaton be the next Mike Wallace? He’s not quite as fast, but he more than makes up for it with a more diverse skill set than Wallace. He runs a variety of routes and also can play as a running back. Wheaton is Oregon State’s all-time leading receiver with 227 catches. He easily could come in on Day 1 as the Steelers’ No. 3 receiver behind Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, after watching the first day of rookie minicamp Friday, said Wheaton is a faster version of Brown. He’ll need to make one Pro Bowl to match Wallace in that department, and that’s a realistic expectation. Odds: 5-3
Shamarko Thomas, SS, Syracuse (fourth round, No. 111): The ultimate measuring stick for this draft choice will be set when the Cleveland Browns use the third-round pick they acquired from the Steelers in 2014. The Steelers traded that pick to the Browns to draft Thomas, and as long as he’s better than the player the Browns take, this will be a “thumbs-up” pick. Thomas is listed as a strong safety, which technically makes him the heir apparent to Troy Polamalu. He can fly all over the field like Polamalu, but might not quite have the hands to make as many game-changing interceptions. NFL Draft Scout compares Thomas to Bob Sanders, who didn’t quite have the career or the durability that Polamalu has had. It’s reasonable to hope for something in between. Whether or not he makes any Pro Bowls, Thomas can turn out to be a vital cog in the Steelers defense when his time comes. Odds: 7-4
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (fourth round, No. 115): The odds drop off precipitously here. Before Jones can be considered a long-term replacement for Ben Roethlisberger, he’ll have to beat out Bruce Gradkowski as the Steelers’ No. 2 quarterback. There’s no guarantee of that happening. Odds: 40-1
Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois (fifth round, No. 150): Ike Taylor turns 33 May 5, which makes cornerback an underlying need for the Steelers. Both NFL Draft Scout and NFL.com say that Hawthorne had a down year as a senior. It’s a little troubling that Hawthorne was part of a 2-10 Illinois team that finished the season on a nine-game losing streak. Hawthorne also comes with durability concerns and technique that needs work, according to Steel City Insider. Odds: 20-1
Justin Brown, WR, Oklahoma (sixth round, No. 186): Brown transferred from Penn State and had his best year playing with Landry Jones in 2012. He caught 73 passes for 879 yards. Ben Roethlisberger always likes tall receivers, and Brown is 6’3”. However, Gil Brandt of NFL.com pointed out that he’s not the best route runner and that he has 4.6 40 speed, which would have put him in the bottom five among receivers at the NFL Scouting Combine. Odds: 30-1
Vince Williams, ILB, Florida State (sixth round, No. 206): Williams was the middle linebacker on a Florida State defense that ranked first in yards allowed per play (3.86) and second in yards allowed per game in 2012. Stevenson Sylvester is the top backup behind Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons at inside linebacker, so Williams would have to have a bad training camp to not make the team. Foote will be 33 next season, so Williams eventually could start next to Timmons and form an all-Seminole inside linebacker tandem. He might only be a two-down player, however. Odds: 18-1
Nick Williams, DT, Samford (seventh round, No. 223): Williams is a project, but the 6’4”, 320-pounder ran a 4.94 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine. Odds: 30-1