The Pittsburgh Steelers had one of their best draft classes in years in 2017 and should have plenty of rookie contributors this season.
While T.J. Watt is the clear-cut star of the group, there are plenty of other names to keep an eye on. Second round pick, JuJu Smith-Schuster, third round selections James Conner and Cameron Sutton, and even late round picks Colin Holba and Keion Adams could impact the team this season.
With this much talent, it’s safe to say that eventually, all of these eight draft picks will make their mark in Pittsburgh. No matter what round they were selected, or whether or not they’ll make the 53 man roster in 2017, every one of these players has a ton of potential.
2017 belongs to two players, though. T.J. Watt being number one and potentially one of the best defenders on the team in his first year. Number two is Cameron Sutton. Yes, JuJu Smith-Schuster may score more touchdowns and in the long run could become one of the best receivers in the game, but in 2017, Sutton is the rookie to watch.
As the likely first man in at the slot corner, Sutton is looking at a lot of playing time at nickel. As long as he can beat out Senquez Golson in training camp, he’ll be handed plenty of opportunities during his rookie campaign.
At Tennessee, Sutton was one of the more reliable corners in the SEC. Allowing only three touchdowns during his college career, Sutton finished with seven interceptions, and 37 passes defended.
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His biggest weakness being his lack of physicality and ability to tackle can be taken care of rather quickly in the NFL. As long as he’s able to add a few pounds and learn to attack receivers at the line in press coverage, Sutton’s coverage skills will be nearly perfect for a rookie corner.
While Sutton is only competing for the nickel right now, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him earn a starting gig on the outside. As productive as Ross Cockrell has been over the last two years, he may be more valuable as an inside bump and run type of corner, allowing Sutton to play on the outside.
James Conner and Smith are both projected to have significant roles during their first year in the league, but neither will match the impact of Sutton. Even as a third-round pick, he’s got the talent to start immediately and is going to fill a huge hole in this defense.
If Sutton fixes his small issues, he’s one of the best AFC rookies outside the first round. With that said, don’t let it surprise you if he turns into a star during his first year in the league.
T.J. Watt is going to be one of the best players in the NFL in 2017. Cameron Sutton is going to be one of the biggest surprises.