The Steelers might boast the best roster in the AFC, top to bottom, and they added three fantasy football eligible players in the 2018 NFL draft, but are they worth looking at? How will they fare in 2018? We’ll explore all three of these players below.
James Washington, Wide Receiver, Round Two
At 5’11”, 213 lbs, Washington is built like a strong and stout running back, but he has the skills of a deep threat wide receiver. He has a pretty unrefined route tree, but he has wonderful hands and ball tracking skills. He knocks off massive chunk plays because he runs a ton of nine and post routes, and manages to get past the defense. He’s not super twitchy and spent most his time running in a straight line or at angles in college, allowing his build up speed to do the work.
It’s telling that the Steelers traded Martavis Bryant almost immediately before taking Washington in the second round. He slots into the #3 receiver role, so he will be extraordinarily annoying to own. A fire hydrant sized Martavis Bryant, who was always on the verge of being on the verge. Use him in DFS, don’t believe his lies in season-long unless JuJu or AB84 go down.
Mason Rudolph, Quarterback, Round Three
If there is an antithesis to Baker Mayfield in the 2018 NFL Draft, it’s Mason Rudolph. Dude is a statue in the pocket and has that prototypical quarterback size that guys old school guys lose their minds over. He has a good pocket presence, but has difficulty on rollouts and scrambling behind the like of scrimmage, unlike Mayfield. The biggest issue with Rudolph’s ceiling is that despite his downfield accuracy, he has a pop gun for an arm.
Rudolph can effectively go through his reads, but the Oklahoma State offense he was tasked with running was mostly one read and go. The secondary reads he did make were mostly to wide open playmakers like James Washington running free in the secondary. He doesn’t do great scrambling but has that classic “stand tall in the pocket” profile. He’s definitely an old-school QB evaluator’s dream player. But so were Christian Ponder and Paxton Lynch.
Rudolph’s ceiling feels low, but his floor feels high. He will get a chance to start at least a couple of games this year, given that Big Ben has played sixteen games just three times as he enters his fifteenth season. Rudolph will do… okay, and the knock that he gave it up to playmakers and let them do the work is not an issue with Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Le’Veon Bell and (his college teammate) James Washington in tow.
Jaylen Samuels, Running Back, Round Five
Evaluating Jaylen Samuels, the running back, is hard, because he lined up pretty much everywhere in college (even as a wildcat QB). He is the living embodiment of a flex spot in your fantasy football leagues, getting snaps at tight end, slot, out wide and as a running back. He says he wants to be a running back in the NFL, which means backing up Le’Veon Bell. At 5’11” and 225, he made the right decision. His size is right for a running back at the NFL level.
He’ll be the de facto backup running back, but he will likely act as a fourth receiver on some plays. Samuels will need every bit of that versatility to shine if they are going to use Samuels effectively in the NFL, as his strength is in his versatility, not his ability to be a good running back in the NFL. He’s okay as a runner, but doesn’t have the tenacity or churn you want out of your RB. No offense gets one running back the ball more than the Steelers, so unless Bell gets hurt, Samuels is completely irrelevant. If Bell does get hurt, it’s unlikely Samuels will do well enough as a running back to garner using. He’s more of a pass catching small tight end or H-back… think of a tiny Kyle Juszczyk.