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.
The 2010 NFL Draft re-grade continues with the AFC South.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: DB Kareem Jackson (20th overall), RB Ben Tate (58), DT Earl Mitchell (81), LB Darryl Sharpton (102), TE Garrett Graham (118), DB Sherrick McManis (144), OG Shelley Smith (187), WR Trindon Holliday (197), WR Dorin Dickerson (227)
Best pick: Kareem Jackson
Jackson has made at least 10 starts each of his 10 seasons in the NFL. He posted a career-best four interceptions in 2012 and registered more than 70 tackles for the third straight season in 2019. Jackson ranks in the top 10 among defensive backs in both games played (145) and games started (137) since 2010. He has 630 tackles and 18 interceptions in his career.
Worst pick: Ben Tate
Tate is the first and only running back the Texans organization has taken before the third round. He broke his ankle in the team’s first preseason game, which caused him to miss his entire rookie season. Tate had his best year in 2011, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and finishing the year with 942 rushing yards. He was part of running back rotations in Houston, Cleveland and Minnesota the next three seasons. The Steelers signed him for their Wild Card game against the Ravens in the 2014 playoffs. Tate carried the ball five times in what would be the last game of his career.
Six of the nine players the Texans drafted didn’t see the field after 2015. Mitchell spent nine seasons primarily as a backup. McManis has only made five starts but built a decade-long career for himself as a special teams ace. Jackson, Mitchell and McManis have all played in 130 games. One consistent starter is an underwhelming return from five picks in the top 120.
Picks: DE Jerry Hughes (31), LB Pat Angerer (63), DB Kevin Thomas (94), OG Jacques McClendon (129), TE Brody Eldridge (162), DT Ricardo Matthews (238), LB Kavell Conner (240), DB Ray Fisher (246)
Best pick: Kavell Conner
Conner made an immediate impact for the Colts, starting nine games as a rookie. He followed that up with a 104-tackle sophomore campaign in which he started every game but one. Conner played in least 10 games in all six of his seasons in the NFL. He registered more than 50 tackles in four of those seasons and finished with 328 for his career.
Worst pick: Kevin Thomas
A torn ACL sidelined Thomas for his rookie season. He made five starts in 2011 and saw action in nine games. That offseason, the Colts traded Thomas and a seventh-round pick to the Eagles for two linebackers. He failed to make Philadelphia’s 53-man roster.
Angerer lasted four seasons. McClendon and Eldridge failed to appear in 30 games. The fact that Matthews and Conner both played in more games than Angerer and Thomas combined says quite a lot. Hughes produced five sacks in three seasons as a Colt and then posted back-to-back 10-sack seasons his first years in Buffalo. He has played in every game each of the past eight seasons. By 2017, he was the only player from the Colts’ draft class who was still active.
Picks: DT Tyson Alualu (10), DT D’Anthony Smith (74), DE Larry Hart (143), DE Austen Lane (153), RB Deji Karim (180), DB Scotty McGee (203)
Best pick: Tyson Alualu
Alualu is here by default considering no other player in the group played in more than 33 games. He started every game his first four seasons as a Jaguar and has 100 starts in his career. The former top-10 pick owns career totals of 22.5 sacks and 360 tackles in 10 seasons.
Worst pick: Larry Hart
Hart played sparingly in 14 games as a rookie. The Jaguars released him on September 3, 2011, and he never sniffed the NFL again.
Only Alualu and Lane made a start in their NFL careers. Smith spent his first two seasons on injured reserve and played in a total of 14 games. Jacksonville’s front office must have been awfully thankful Alualu turned into a productive pro.
Picks: DE Derrick Morgan (16), WR Damian Williams (77), LB Rennie Curran (97), DB Alterraun Vernor (104), DB Robert Johnson (148), QB Rusty Smith (176), DB Myron Rolle (207), WR Marc Mariani (222), DT David Howard (241)
Best pick: Alterraun Vernor
Vernor finished his rookie season with 101 total tackles, 85 solo tackles and three interceptions. He led the NFL with 22 passes defended in 2013 and made the Pro Bowl that season. He played in 125 games in his eight-year career, more than any other player in Tennessee’s draft class. Vernor announced his retirement on March 18, 2019.
Worst pick: Rennie Curran
Curran saw limited action in nine games as a rookie and never played in a regular season game again. The Titans released him on Sept. 2, 2011, and he spent time with the Buccaneers in 2012. Curran is now an author and public speaker.
Morgan made 106 starts and recorded 44.5 sacks in nine seasons. Mariani went to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner as a rookie. He returned 138 punts and 154 kickoffs in his career, three of which went for touchdowns. Role and Howard’s careers ended without them appearing in a single regular season game. Smith made one start in 2010 in which he went 20-of-40 and threw four interceptions. None of Tennessee’s picks were outstanding but none of them were horrendous either.
To view the 2010 draft grades for other divisions, click here.
Photo by Marianne O’Leary / Flickr