The Pittsburgh Steelers used one of their 2017 NFL Draft picks for an unexpected player.
Many Steelers fans were annoyed when they drafted long snapper Colin Holba in the 6th round of 2017 NFL Draft. But upon further review, despite being unconventional, it’s a smart move.
If you haven’t heard, the Steelers used a 6th round draft pick on a long snapper. I’m talking about Colin Holba out of Louisville. He was the 5th long snapper ever drafted by an NFL team. It’s certainly unconventional. We can verify that mathematically. However, in the long run, it makes a lot of sense.
His credentials as a long snapper are certainly strong. He’s got a football background and has family who’ve played college ball. He’s a smart guy who gets good grades. He has snapped for kicks and punts, both left and right footed kickers. Scouts raved about his placement and velocity. He could add more weight, but he’s got the frame for it.
Furthermore, the Steelers current longtime long snapper Greg Warren is 35 years old. It’s not the most grueling position, but you can only be a professional athlete for so long, James Harrison being a notable exception.
Colbert said of the decision, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Not many long snappers come along that we believe are draftable. New England took a kid a few years back who is their starting long snapper. And, when we see one, we want to add him in the mix just like we would any other position and provide competition for Greg [Warren]. Colin certainly fit that bill, and that’s why we pulled the trigger when we did.”
But you might say, so what? He’s a long snapper. Why buy one when you can get them for free? Why waste a 6th round pick on one?
This outrage is based on two premises. First, long snappers are not important or valuable. Second, a 6th round pick is important and valuable. However, neither of those are true.
Long snappers are important and they are valuable. These special teams niche positions, from field goal kicker down to the holder, are all skilled positions that you can’t just walk off the street and do. It’s true that a long snapper is never going to win you a game, but he sure can lose you a game.
Look no further than the 2015 season to see how disastrous uncertainty in one of these overlooked positions can be. Shaun Suisham was the Steelers kicker for years and did a great job navigating those tricky winds of Heinz Field. Then he tore his ACL. Then the Steelers signed Garrett Hartley. He also suffered an injury. So the Steelers then acquired Josh Scobee for a 6th round pick from Jacksonville.
Scobee, starting the season with no experience with the team or field, did not perform well. He missed two field goals in the first game against the Pats, likely costing the game. In week 4, he missed another pair of field goals against the Ravens, likely costing the game. Then Steelers the acquired Chris Boswell, formerly of the Giants, and things finally settled down. They went from 2-2 before to 8-4 afterward.
These positions matter.
But do they matter enough for a 6th round pick?
Sure there’s Tom Brady and Antonio Brown, but let’s consider some of the 6th round draft picks that preceded Brown. There was Ra’Shon Harris in 2009. There was Mike Humpel in 2008. No 6th rounder in 2007 but Marvin Philip in 2006. Chris Kemoeatu in 2005, there’s a name we recognize. Then Drew Caylor in 2004, Lee Mays in 2002, Roger Knight in 2001, and Chris Combs in 2000. Do I need to go on?
From 2000 up until 2010, the year Brown was drafted, the average 6th round pick lasted less than 2 and a half seasons with the team. Compare that to Greg Warren’s 11 seasons of solid play, at a good price too.
These special teams positions are those you don’t want to worry about. The Steelers bought, with a draft pick that usually results in a player who doesn’t get out of the practice squad, a decade of peace of mind. That sounds like a pretty good deal.