Donte Moncrief was not a splash signing by any nature. It did not make waves across the league, but it does come off as a typical Pittsburgh Steelers move. Considering his status around the league, the Steelers were able to buy low when a player did not have much value.
However, the low risk proposition presents a lot of potential untapped talent.
Donte Moncrief has upside
Donte Moncrief walked onto campus at Ole Miss and immediately led the team in receiving. Whether it’s receptions, yards, touchdowns, or yards after the catch Moncrief led the way.
Ole Miss did not have a talented roster, but it was impressive to walk onto an SEC campus at age 18 and carry his team. Being able to dominate a high share of targets at a younger age than your peers in college has proven to correlate to success in the NFL. It also appears to be something the Steelers pay attention to, as Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Markus Wheaton, and JuJu Smith-Schuster all broke out as their teams leading receiver before the age of 20.
In his sophomore season, he posted 10 touchdowns and completed back to back 900-yard seasons. He accomplished this all by the age of 20.
Donte Moncrief went to the combine and tested extremely well.
As you can see, compared to his peers combine statistics he is not only much taller than an average NFL player, he is heavier, longer and much more explosive. Combining the fact that he had success against SEC competition at a young age, and that he is tall, fast and explosive compares him favorably to elite level athletes. PlayerProfiler.com compared his weight adjusted combine numbers and production data to Andre Johnson.
Of course, Andre Johnson is going to be a Hall of Famer. The difference between the two is that Johnson is a unique route runner who could create separation in the short, middle and intermediate areas of the field. Donte Moncrief, for the most part, was just a deep threat. A successful deep threat, but a one-trick player nonetheless. Despite being drafted in the third round, NFL.com gave him a late first-early second round grade.
Donte Moncrief was drafted to a team that had T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, and a 26-year old Hakeem Hicks. He was not able to see the field much as a third-round rookie who was unrefined as a route runner.
In his second season, he once again broke out at a young age to the tune of 64 receptions for 733 yards and six touchdowns. To put that into perspective in Martavis Bryant’s second season in the NFL he caught 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns. Bryant had a better yards per catch total, but had a 54% completion rate compared to 61% when Luck targeted Moncrief. The big difference is Moncrief was two years younger than Martavis Bryant in their second seasons.
The Colts found an explosive threat who could put the ball into the end zone. Moncrief broke out in his second season in similar fashion to his blow up a sophomore campaign that featured six touchdowns.
Unfortunately, a shoulder injury ended his 2016 season in week nine after eclipsing his career high touchdown total in just seven games played. Extrapolated out, Moncrief was in line for 60 receptions, for 614 yards and 14 touchdowns. The touchdowns are insane, but Moncrief was on track for another strong season.
Little did he know that the next two years of his career were going to go down a much different trajectory.
Coming back from shoulder surgery he was not teamed up with Andrew Luck for year three, but instead saw a season of Jacoby Brissett. From Brissett came Blake Bortles. Still, while it was quiet thanks to the issues in Jacksonville, he did lead the Jaguars in yards per reception in 2018.
His 48 receptions for 668 yards and three touchdowns from Blake Bortles was better than 50 receptions for 603 yards and three touchdowns that Martavis Bryant contributed in 2017 during his last season with Ben Roethlisberger.
Setting the bar high?
This is going to look like cherry-picking stats, but when you think of Moncrief you have to think of not only being tall but heavy, weighing over 220 pounds. There are not many players with his weight to be as explosive and make plays down the field. Most people at his size cannot move that way. He also has production. While it has not been consistent, he is only 25 and has big seasons at Ole Miss and in the NFL.
Most NFL players experience their prime from age 25-30, so Moncrief is just now entering the peak years of his career.
Let’s look at big wide receiver who produced at a young age.
The only wide receivers to stand over 6’1″, 220 pounds with more receptions and more yards per reception than him by their age 25 season are Alshon Jeffrey, Michael Crabtree, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, and Larry Fitzgerald. That list will include JuJu Smith-Schuster at the rate he is going.
Here is a list of every receiver with those measurements to have his type of NFL success by age 25.
There are not many players with his skill set, and most of them wind up being hits in the NFL.
Moncrief has been bordering on the becoming a big hit as well. His second season was on the trajectory of a star wide receiver, but an injury, followed by quarterback issues turned him into a buy-low candidate for the Steelers.
This is exactly the type of calculated risk that you have to take when it comes to replacing a wide receiver who has shown to be as potent as Antonio Brown. The Steelers identified a player ready to enter his prime with the odds of stats and measurements on his side.
NFL Announces Coaches can Return to Team Facilities
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that coaching staffs may return to team facilities Friday, June 5 in a memo issued to teams Thursday morning.
Here is the crux of the memo that just went out to teams from the NFL regarding coaches being back in the building safely. Still no players, but a reason for optimism. pic.twitter.com/A8LyqqHJK3— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 4, 2020
Staying consistent with their message throughout the reopening process, coaches may return only if clubs have “received necessary permission from state and local governments.”
Clubs were informed last week that coaches will count towards the maximum number of employees permitted in facilities, but the total number allowed will increase from 75 to 100 tomorrow as well.
While Goodell has not yet announced when all players will be cleared to return, he did add that the league is still working “with clubs medical staffs to implement a program of COVID-19 testing” prior to players coming back.
Injured and rehabbing players were some of the first who received the green light to return to team facilities, and have been back for a few weeks now.
Club facilities were initially closed by the league back on March 25 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While coaches are likely eager to return to their team facilities, they should make themselves comfortable for the long haul.
Goodell’s memo comes a day after multiple reports that the league informed franchises they must conduct training camp from their practice facilities this August.
This would mean the Steelers will be prepping for the season on the South Side, instead of making a 55th-consecutive trip to St. Vincent College in Latrobe.
Art Rooney II, Steelers Issue Statements on Killing of George Floyd, Protests
Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II released a statement Wednesday on the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and the ensuing protests seen across the nation.
“Over the last week, we have witnessed the anger and frustration in our city and around the country relating to the killing of George Floyd and the recent deaths of African-American men and women. We have also witnessed the good in so many people who have peacefully expressed their concerns.”
“I am proud to hear the voices of many of our players who have spoken out against racism and injustice and called for unity. As an organization, we will continue to listen to our players, coaches, alumni and leaders in our community and work together to bring awareness and change in the effort to create a more fair and equal community.”
A number of prominent Steelers players also shared statements and comments regarding Floyd’s death and the nationwide protests, including Cam Heyward, Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner, Vince Williams, JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.J. Watt.
Defensive end Cam Heyward:
“A friend, a brother, a father, a son, just someone you meet, these are different ways people might know George Floyd. To know that the color of my skin could be at the discretion of someone who is supposed to protect is truly disheartening. I’m praying for the Floyd family.”
“To know a brother, a friend or someone I care about could be gone due to this just hurts. It’s not acceptable. Thank you for the people who do serve the right way and continue to protect our freedoms. I wish all held up his end and cared for all.”
“We all have people we care about and the fact that we can’t believe in everyone who is in the position of power to keep all safe angers me and tears me up. Change must happen. Our children are inheriting a world that is not improving. Life should be precious.”
“I still can’t find my words to make sense of it all. Too many have died, and not enough has changed.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger:
“The cruelty and injustice must stop, racism must end, and love must find a way to prevail. We are all children of God, equal in his eyes, and must hold one another accountable to fair and just standards.”
Running back James Conner:
“If we keep showing hate and violence, we will continue to have hate and violence. If we keep showing peace and love, we will have peace and love. I’ve retweeted disturbing and negative videos to HOPE they understand, but I will only be posting love from here on out. We know what’s been done and know it’s wrong.
“Make the Twitter timeline full of positivity. Like I said, I’ve been guilty of retweeting negative content, but that’s not it. They want the sickening and shameless videos at 100,000+ retweets to keep us divided. Make unity and togetherness the only content we see.”
Inside linebacker Vince Williams:
“Send me the GoFundMe of businesses that have been destroyed by the riots. I’ve done independent searches, but hopefully this helps me to be more thorough.”
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster:
“Our country is in pain right now, and coming together is the only way to heal each other. No more injustice!”
Outside linebacker T.J. Watt:
JuJu Smith-Schuster Delivers Pizzas to Steelers Fans
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is bringing some joy to fans during tough times.
Smith-Schuster spent his Tuesday afternoon delivering pizzas for PizzaHut, and even took the time to snap a pic with a young fan, courtesy of JimStamm22 on Twitter.
Hopefully, this gives everyone a little lift today. @TeamJuJu just delivered @pizzahut to our house in Pittsburgh. He even took a little time to take a picture with our son, Ben. Thanks Juju, you made our day!!! 👍😁🍕#Steelers #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/u7u561SheP— ForTheCity_412 (@JimStamm22) June 2, 2020
A fan favorite, Smith-Schuster is entering his fourth season in Pittsburgh.
After an explosive sophomore season in 2018, Smith-Schuster battled injuries and inconsistent quarterback play that combined for a lackluster 2019.
With the return of franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Smith-Schuster appears primed to deliver more than pizzas this upcoming season.