With the 232nd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select Baron Batch, a 5’9″, 200 lb. running back from Texas Tech.
7th round draft picks are highly unlikely to make most NFL rosters. This is particularly true for a veteran-laden team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are coming off of a Super Bowl appearance. But writing off Baron Batch would be a mistake.
Batch played at Texas Tech, which is a pass-happy team. Because of that, he got lots of opportunities to catch the ball coming out of the backfield. It’s this skill that may allow Batch to make it in the NFL. But if he does stick with a team, he’ll likely only be used as a 3rd down back.
Some might question why the Steelers would waste a pick on a guy who will likely play such a limited role on the team. But you have to remember that the Steelers have kept a guy on the roster for just that role. His name is Mewelde Moore. And he’s a free agent. Moreover, he’s an aging veteran player who is entering his 8th year in the NFL. His experience level means that he’s not cheap. So it may be time to replace him with a younger (or more importantly, cheaper) alternative.
Batch could be just the alternative that the Steelers are looking for. He was a very productive runner and receiver for Texas Tech. He accumulated 816 yards rushing in 2010 (4.6 yards per carry), and caught 32 passes for 226 yards (7.1 yards per catch). 2010 was actually his worst season receiving since becoming a starter. In 2009 he had 57 catches, and in 2008 he had 45 catches. So as you can see, he has a lot of experience catching the ball out of the backfield.
As a runner, Batch is nothing special. He has decent speed, and runs with surprising power for such a small back (think Ray Rice, only not as elusive). He’s unlikely to be used very often as a pure runner. Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, and perhaps Jonathan Dwyer have that covered already.
He will have to make the adjustment of playing in an NFL offense. In college, Texas Tech ran a pass-oriented spread offense. So once Batch caught the ball, he had huge lanes to run down. That’s why he was able to average 10 yards per catch in 2008, 6.9 in 2009, and 7.1 in 2010. NFL teams don’t use college-style spread offenses, and the defenders are much faster. Batch will have to adjust to these differences.
Batch’s diminutive size may actually help him in the NFL. Shorter running backs like Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew are often hard for the defense to pick up behind the larger offensive linemen. So don’t assume that because he’s only 5’9″, Batch has no chance of making it in the NFL.
The one concern that I do have about Batch is his injury history. He’s been injured quite a bit, and the NFL is significantly more physical than college football. He had a broken ankle that ended his season as a freshman (2006). He then had staph infections that required him to have 7 surgeries, and robbed him of his entire 2007 season. He had an elbow injury in 2009, but didn’t miss any games. Then he had surgery for a sports hernia prior to the 2010 season, but he didn’t miss any games.
Some might argue that the Steeler should have spent their 7th round pick on another offensive lineman or cornerback. But I believe that the team now has enough bodies at those positions to make the competition in training camp interesting. It made sense to go in another direction with their final pick.
This pick isn’t likely to make anyone overly excited, but it definitely fills a team need.
Analysis of all 2011 Steelers Draft picks:
(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment by clicking on the square at the top right of this article. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. You can also follow us on Twitter by clicking the bird doohicky below. Also consider following us on Facebook. Thanks.)