Grading the Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers take Cameron Sutton 94th Overall

KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 28: Cameron Sutton #7 of the Tennessee Volunteers runs all the way to the end zone against the Vanderbilt Commodores in a game at Neyland Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Patrick Murphy-Racey/Getty Images)

Grading the Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers take Cameron Sutton 94th Overall

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted University of Tennessee cornerback Cameron Sutton with their first pick in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft

Grading the Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers take Cameron Sutton 94th Overall

Background

Cameron Sutton was a four-year starter in the Tennessee secondary. During his sophomore season, he led the Tennessee Volunteers with 16 passes broken up as a sophomore and only excelled from there. Sutton had a break out junior season where he earned All-American honors as a punt returner with 25 returns for 467 yards and two touchdowns.  On defense he accumulated 28 tackles, three tackles for a loss, one interception and six pass breakups.

There was some speculation that Sutton would enter the draft after his junior season but he decided to stay at Tennessee for his senior campaign. He suffered an ankle fracture early in his senior season which caused him to only play in seven games. But Sutton was still productive, he logged 23 tackles, one interception and four passes broken up his senior year.

How He Fits

Defensively, Sutton is stepping into a suddenly crowded group of corners. Last year’s first round pick Artie Burns, free agent signing Coty Sensabaugh, veteran William Gay, retained restricted free agent, Ross Cockrell and Sutton will all be vying for starting time in the secondary. He is promising corner that has a bevy of experience. Sutton also will have a chance to contribute immediately on special teams as a punt returner.

It seems like Burns is the heir apparent to be the number one corner for the Steelers. Whether he will stay on the weak-side of the formation or transition to being the strong-side corner and matching up against the opposing offense’s best receiver in the coming season is something to watch. Gay is a steady contributor in the twilight of his career and Cockrell has a high football IQ but has been a weak link when the secondary is asked to play man coverage. Sutton will contend with Cockrell, Burns and possibly Sensabaugh for the top two corner spots on the roster. Gay has been the starting nickel corner but will contend with Sensabaugh and Golson (if healthy) for that spot going into the season.

Strengths

Sutton’s experience playing man coverage will benefit him as the Steelers defense tries to implement more man coverage schemes into their game-plan. He is a football player with raw instincts and thrives at breaking up screens and quick passes thrown his way. During his time at the University of Tennessee he was the definition of a consistent corner; surrendering only three touchdowns throughout his career. Sutton should be able to pick up the Steelers zone schemes quickly. They play to his strengths, allowing him to keep his eyes in the backfield and read the quarterback. Also, Sutton is considered a high character locker room influence. He’s known for his team first attitude which should mesh well with a Steelers locker room that already has some big egos.

Needs to Improve

For all of his experience playing man coverage, Sutton struggles with his back to the football at times. He has some issues with fundamentals that hopefully Steelers Defensive Backs Coach Carnell Lake can correct. Sutton is also a little under-sized, he has short arms and small hands. That makes him a liability when trying to cover bigger receivers especially in bump and run coverage. Lastly, throughout his career Sutton has been inconsistent when it comes to stopping the run; something Steelers corners are asked to do with some frequency. Too often he attempts to chop player’s knees out, or swipe at their ankles instead of making a fundamentally sound tackle. Another issue that can be addressed with solid coaching.

Final Grade: B

Sutton may not be the biggest player, but his leadership skills, experience, ability to stay on the field, and special team’s expertise make him a multifaceted asset to the Steelers. There was a record setting run of defensive secondary players taken in the second and third rounds of the 2017 NFL draft and a lot of the names associated with the Steelers pre-draft were already drafted by the time the 94th pick rolled around. Sutton is truly a sleeper, mainly because he sustained an injury his senior year. If he returns to his junior season form the Steelers got away with robbery drafting Sutton 94th overall. It’s very plausible that the 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers start the season with Sutton taking over punt return duties from Antonio Brown and as the year progresses he works his way onto the field and becomes a defensive contributor.

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