Perhaps the only thing more impressive about the NFL draft than the amount of time it takes to complete all seven rounds is the amount of grades produced in the aftermath of each selection. The draft’s winners and losers are decided before any pick plays a down of professional football.
For all the immediate evaluation that is done, it is impossible to fairly assess a draft class without data and the gift of time. Starting with 2010, 110 Sports is going back and grading every NFL draft of the past decade on a team-by-team basis.
These grades are based first and foremost on production. Other factors were taken into consideration, but the primary goal is figuring out how successful teams were at identifying talent.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: WR Dez Bryant (24th overall), LB Sean Lee (55), DB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (126), OT Sam Young (179), DB Jamar Wall (196), DT Sean Lissermore (234)
Best pick: Dez Bryant
Bryant has more games played and starts than anyone else in the Cowboys’ draft class despite his last appearance coming in 2017 at the age of 29. From 2012 to 2014, Bryant averaged 91 receptions, 1,312 receiving yards and 14 touchdown catches a season. Three players have caught more touchdown passes in the last decade than Bryant: Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Jimmy Graham. It takes a special kind of talent to stick around as long as Bryant did considering the baggage he came with.
Worst pick: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah
The Cowboys passed on the likes of Kam Chancellor and Nolan Carroll to take Owusu-Ansah from Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the fourth round. He played in seven games as a rookie before injuring his ankle. Dallas waived him on September 3, 2011, and signed him to its practice squad the next day. Owusu-Ansah bounced between the practice squads and active rosters of five teams for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons. He played in the Canadian Football League for three years after his time in the NFL came to an end.
Were it not for Bryant’s abrupt ending in Dallas and Lee’s struggles with injuries, the Cowboys would get even higher marks. Lee has played in 68% of the games over his career yet still has four seasons with over 100 tackles and was a First Team All-Pro in 2016. Young has 92 appearances in 10 seasons as a backup. Dallas is left wondering what could have been, even with everything Bryant and Lee have accomplished with a star on their helmet.
New York Giants
Picks: DE Jason Pierre-Paul (15), DT Linval Joseph (46), DB Chad Jones (76), LB Phillip Dillard (115), OG Mitch Petrus (147), DE Adrian Tracy (184), P Matt Dodge (221)
Best pick: Linval Joseph
Joseph was inactive in 10 games as a rookie and made eight tackles in the six games he played in. Since then, he has started at least 12 games every season. Five players selected in the 2010 draft have more career starts than Joseph’s 134, and they were all taken in the first round. The 2011 Super Bowl champion made back-to-back Pro Bowls with the Vikings in 2016 and 2017.
Worst pick: Chad Jones
Through no fault of the Giants, Jones never played in an NFL game. Two months after getting picked in the third round, Jones lost control of his car on a six-lane road and crashed into a pole. He broke his left leg and ankle in the accident. Jones wanted to play again but was released by the Giants after failing a physical on May 14, 2012. His career as a professional athlete wasn’t over though, as he was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth round of the 2013 MLB Draft.
New York ended up with two Pro Bowlers and five players who were not in the NFL by 2013. Petrus was the only one of those five who started a game. Tracy and Dodge both played in 16 contests. Jones’s accident makes you wonder how good this class could have been if he was as successful as the two guys the Giants picked ahead of him.
Picks: DE Brandon Graham (13), DB Nate Allen (37), DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim (86), DB Trevard Lindley (105), LB Keenan Clayton (121), QB Mike Kafka (122), TE Clay Harbor (125), DE Ricky Sapp (134), WR Riley Cooper (159), RB Charles Scott (200), LB Jamar Chaney (220), DT Jeff Owens (243), DB Kurt Coleman (244)
Best pick: Kurt Coleman
Over his 10-year career, Coleman has missed a total of 14 games. He has made at least 12 starts five times. In 2015, he recorded 90 tackes and seven interceptions. Coleman followed that up with 95 tackles and four interceptions the following season. He has 226 more tackles than any other player taken after the fifth round in 2010. Of every player selected in the sixth and seventh round in the last decade, only Danny Trevathan has more tackles than Coleman’s 554.
Worst pick: Trevard Lindley
Lindley played in 11 games as a rookie and made one start. He was signed and released by Philadelphia before the beginning of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons. Those 11 games were the only ones Lindley would play in.
Graham, Allen, Cooper and Coleman went on to make over fifty starts. Graham, Allen, Harbor and Coleman played in at least 98 games. The Eagles found four reliable starters and a nice role player in Harbor with three picks in the first three rounds. They hit on their first two selections and found value late. That’s the definition of a successful draft, even if it took 13 picks to do it.
Washington Football Team
Picks: OT Trent Williams (4), LB Perry Riley (103), RB Dennis Morris (174), WR Terrence Austin (219), C Erik Cook (229), OT Selvish Capers (231)
Best pick: Trent Williams
Williams made seven consecutive Pro Bowls from 2012 to 2018 before holding out the entire 2019 season. Prior to being traded to the 49ers this offseason, he was the one constant as Washington kept rebuilding and retooling its roster. Williams has made at least 10 starts in every season he has played.
Worst pick: Dennis Morris
As Washington’s third-highest pick and the only one not to play in an NFL game, Morris claims this spot. He was traded to the Rams for an undisclosed conditional draft pick during the 2010 preseason.
Washington followed up the Williams pick with Riley, who made 74 starts in his career and recorded 337 tackles over a three-year stretch from 2012 to 2014. The team’s next selection was not until the sixth round when it took Morris. With two picks in the first five rounds, any hope of a successful draft hinged on getting both of them right. That’s exactly what Washington did.
To view the 2010 draft grades for other divisions, click here.
Photo by Marianne O’Leary / Flickr