With the NFL Draft on the horizon, it is time for parades of prospects to start making their way to facilities across the nation. Every year, teams and potential draft picks go through these motions with each NFL franchise allowed up to 30 visitors (not counting players from the local area). The big question is how many of these players are drafted by the organization, and what can these visitors tell you as a fan.NFL franchises, there is always going to be similarities on player rankings and positional needs. However, if anything, the positional breakdown may at least tell you something. When fans look at the past five drafts, the Pittsburgh Steelers have drafted (or signed as an undrafted free agents) 21 of their 150 pre-draft visitors. In fact, only one of the Steelers first round selections, center Maurkice Pouncey, has visited the organization prior to the draft during this period.
In looking at positional trends, they fall this way. In 2013, the Steelers brought in nine defensive backs, eight wide receivers, eight linebackers, three running backs, and two offensive linemen. During the draft, they used four picks on visitors and signed one as an undrafted free agent. Those selections were linebacker Jarvis Jones (first), safety Shamarko Thomas (fourth), wide receiver Justin Brown (sixth), and linebacker Vince Williams (sixth). After the draft, they signed offensive lineman Nik Embernate from San Diego State to round out the list. As one will find, the positional trends showed that the team stayed true to their philosophy of sticking to the positions they brought in.
In 2012, the Steelers brought in nine offensive linemen, seven linebackers, six defensive linemen, five wide receivers, four tight ends, and three defensive backs and two running backs (some of the visits were local products). During their draft, the used four of their nine selections on players that visited. That list includes offensive lineman Mike Adams (second round), wide receiver Toney Clemons (seventh round), tight end David Paulson (seventh round) and offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum (seventh round). The team also claimed another one of their visitors nose tackle Hebron Fangupo late in the season off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks. In looking at the positional breakdown against the draft, every one of the nine selections came from the positions that visited.
In 2011, the Steelers brought in seven cornerbacks, six offensive linemen, six defensive linemen, five wide receivers, three running backs, two tight ends, and one linebacker. In their draft with their seven selections, they picked two cornerbacks (including two visitors- Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown), two offensive linemen (with two visitors- Keith Williams and Marcus Gilbert), one defensive lineman, one outside linebacker and one running back, and they signed visitor TE Weslye Saunders as an undrafted rookie free agent. In all, five of the players that were selected and signed came from their visitors and they stayed decently true to the positional trends outlined with the position breakdown.
Similar numbers seem to exist when looking at the other drafts as well. In 2010, the Steelers brought in seven wide receivers, six linebackers, six defensive backs, six offensive linemen, four defensive linemen, and one running back. Again, they matched the highest visitor totals with picks within their 10 selections. They drafted three linebackers, two wide receivers (including visitors- Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown), two offensive linemen (including C Maurkice Pouncey), one cornerback, one running back and one defensive lineman.
In the 2009 draft, the team brought in nine offensive linemen, nine defensive backs, six defensive linemen, four wide receivers, and two running backs. Again, the Steelers stayed somewhat true to their visitor trend drafting by two defensive linemen (with visitor- RaShon Harris), two offensive linemen (including visitor- A.Q. Shipley), two cornerbacks (visitor- Joe Burnett), one wide receiver, one running back (visitor- Frank Summers) and one tight end.
With this process in the beginning stages, it will be interesting to see how these trends hold up in the 2014 draft. Sure, a lot of the draft prognostication is educated guess work. Fortunately, in the case of the Steelers, their trends may not identify the specific players, but they do help outline the positions of interest.
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