5 for Friday: Drafting remains an inexact science

The NFL Draft is an inexact science, despite all the time, effort and money spent on it.

How much so?

The last time the Steelers held the 17th pick in the draft as they do this season came in 2013. They selected linebacker Jarvis Jones of Georgia.

And nobody batted an eye – despite revisionist history now. After all, in two seasons at Georgia Jones had 28 sacks and 45.5 tackles for a loss.

Sure, he didn't test real well at the NFL Scouting Combine. But he had starred in the SEC, college football's most competitive conference.

Yet, within a couple of seasons, it became obvious that Jones wasn't going to be an impact player. In four seasons with the Steelers, he appeared in 50 games, 35 of them starts, making 130 tackles, six sacks and forcing four fumbles with two interceptions.

But the Steelers made up for Jones not being a hit by selecting running back Le'Veon Bell in the second round with the 50th pick in the draft.

Unlike the selection of Jones, the pick of Bell did cause some harrumphs from the draftniks. After all, he was the first running back taken in that draft and most people had Alabama's Eddie Lacy rated as the best back in the draft class.

And Lacy had the more productive rookie season, rushing for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns while winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, while Bell had just 860 yards and eight scores as he missed the first three games of the season with a foot injury.

Two years later, teams could have called the Steelers and offered Lacy and a first-round draft pick for Bell and they would have heard silence on the other end of the line.

Bell became one of the most indispensable offensive players in the league, while Lacy was essentially done after three seasons, hanging on until 2017.

Plenty of people focus their efforts on the first round of the draft, which will be held next Thursday through Saturday. You'll see plenty of mock drafts out there that make the picks of the first round.

But the reality is that there is plenty that happens in the rounds after the first-round picks are made.

• There have been 107 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who were selected in the first round of their respective NFL drafts.

The second round has produced 35 future Pro Football Hall of Fame members, while 22 were taken in the third round. Nine Hall of Famers were taken in the fourth round, while seven have come from the fifth round. The sixth round has produced one Hall of Fame member, while 10 were selected in the seventh round. Twenty-three players were selected after the seventh round, though the NFL Draft now only consists of seven rounds.

So, there have been as many Hall of Fame members taken in the first round of the draft (107) as there have been drafted in rounds after that (107). And that doesn't include the 22 undrafted players in the hall such as former Steelers safety Donnie Shell and defensive back Jack Butler.

While the hit rate is certainly higher for players taken in the first round, again, the draft does not end after Round 1.

• As mentioned, there are thousands of mock drafts out there proclaiming this or that. This team absolutely has to take that guy or that one is going to trade up to take this player.

It's become its own business.

But the reality is that they're all guesses. Nobody knows what all 32 teams are going to do. In fact, nobody really knows what more than a handful of teams are going to do.

As of this writing, the general consensus is that Alabama quarterback Bryce Young will be the first player selected when the Carolina Panthers are on the clock.

The Panthers, however, haven't announced anything saying that will be the case.

That's why when people make their guesses regarding who the Steelers will select at 17 or 32 or even 49, they're just that … guesses.

Not knowing who is going to be selected in the first 16 picks makes knowing who the Steelers will take at 16 impossible.

That is especially the case this year given what the Steelers have accomplished in the offseason via free agency and trades.

If the Steelers had to line up and play on Sunday, they would have 22 starters to put on the field who all have considerable NFL experience. Not every team in the league can say that.

Could they upgrade at certain positions? Sure. You can always use depth or a young player at a position with an eye to the future.

• Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

But there are no obvious pressing needs.

• All of that said, the Steelers' 30 pre-draft visits do give a glimpse at the team's intentions – at least to some degree.

For example, of the team's 30 visits, not one was a running back.

With Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren and Anthony McFarland all returning this season, the Steelers aren't interested in that market.

But the team did bring in a couple of late-round quarterback options and multiple wide receivers, offensive tackles, interior offensive linemen, defensive linemen, edge rushers, safeties and cornerbacks.

And it wouldn't be surprising in the least if they selected players off the list of those they brought in. Or not.

In another week, we'll know what was real and what was a smoke screen.

• One of the helpful things that happen when you have change at the top – at least when it comes to setting the draft board and such – is that there is no clear book on what GM Omar Khan and company value in the draft.

While it's never a bad thing to have continuity anywhere within the organization, when there is little change, other teams begin to get an idea of how teams approach things. They have a feel for what that team will do.

Such was the case, for example, when Ozzie Newsome was still running the draft for the Ravens. Having been in place for so long, it wasn't all that difficult to determine the kind of players Newsome valued.

The same could be said of former Steelers GM Kevin Colbert and his scouting department.

But with so many new scouts working under assistant GM Andy Weidl and Khan now one of the decision makers, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, changes come for the Steelers.

The things the team values aren't going to change. The Steelers want tough players who love the game. And they want high-character players.

The differences might be a little more subtle, especially given the fact head coach Mike Tomlin and team president Art Rooney II still play major roles in who the team picks.