The Steelers’ draft haul was initially intriguing, and might eventually prove to be downright inspiring.
But it’s going to take awhile.
That’s what longtime NFL personnel man Doug Whaley maintained on a visit with the DVE Morning Show.
Whaley, a former pro personnel coordinator for the Steelers and a former general manager for the Bills, is of the opinion teams can’t count on impactful contributions from their rookies this season as they otherwise might because of the current environment.
“You gotta think of that as just gravy on top,” Whaley maintained.
No Rookie Minicamp. No OTAs (presumably). No Mandatory Veteran Minicamp. And maybe not even a traditional training camp due to the pandemic.
All of that will conspire to make the traditional rookie transition much more difficult, in most instances, if and when the NFL gets back on the field.
“No. 1 they’re going to be swimming,” Whaley continued. “At least when you have the (normal) offseason they will be able to get in and kinda get a feel of the land. Little things like knowing where to go to practice, where their locker is, where the training room is, just the logistics of going into a new job.
“And then learning a system and then being able to perform physically, that’s gonna be an uphill battle for any rookie or any new player to a new system.”
That’s not a theory that’s unique to Whaley.
But when it comes from a guy who learned about the game and about players from the greatest scout in the history of scouts, Bill Nunn, there’s a lot of weight behind the words.
“The thing that I think is going to be very difficult to overcome is going to be the soft-tissue injuries,” Whaley explained. “Everybody knows you can train on your own but there’s nothing like live reps of football. You cannot duplicate that any other place except on the field with 22 players, so that’s gonna be tough.
“And these rookies are going to come back and say, ‘Hey, I need to make an impression quickly,’ so they’re going to be pushing as hard as possible. And unfortunately, I think you’re going to have a lot of soft-tissue injuries where guys are going to be set back even further. So any contribution from a rookie this year is definitely a bonus.”
The good news, as Mike Tomlin has pointed out regarding such virus-related alterations to the game’s standard procedures and protocols, is they affect the league globally. The Ravens shouldn’t be counting on Patrick Queen being a game-changer any more than the Steelers should be counting on Chase Claypool.
The bad news is, based on the way last season ended, the Steelers need more from Claypool and Alex Highsmith and Anthony McFarland and maybe Antoine Brooks than the Ravens do from their new additions.
There are those in the NFL’s Class of 2020 who will overcome all that’s being thrown at them.
Not as many as you’d see in most seasons, but a few will be heard from.
The question is, how many?
And, have the Steelers uncovered not only players who meet the physical and positional necessities that had to be addressed in the draft, but also players who are special?
Those answers won’t be forthcoming any time soon, either.
As those players gradually reveal themselves, we’ll learn something abut their teams, as well.
“In my opinion, I believe two to three years from now you’ll be able to determine the true evaluators from the information gatherers, because you didn’t have all the steps in the process that everybody was used to, 30 visits, a lengthy interview process, all that other information they get away from the season, after the season, and it was truly based on what the scouts and coaches saw on tape,” Whaley said. “Two to three years from now, when we reassess how the draft broke down and who drafted best _ you have to wait until two or three years and see how these guys are playing in coordination with where they were drafted _ you’ll see the teams that are true evaluators instead of teams that have to take the whole process to get information and then make a decision.”
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