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2010 NFL Draft Re-grade: NFC South

by Joshua Doering

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 sixth installment of the 2010 NFL Draft re-grade features the NFC South. 

*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.

Atlanta Falcons

Picks: LB Sean Weatherspoon (19th overall), DT Corey Peters (83), OG Mike Johnson (98), C Joe Hawley (117), DB Dominique Franks (135), WR Kerry Meier (165), DB Shann Schillinger (171)

Best pick: Corey Peters

About to enter his 10th NFL season, Peters is the only player from Atlanta’s draft class who is still active. He has appeared in 129 of a possible 144 games and made 112 starts, 58 more than any other player the Falcons took. In those 129 games with the Falcons and Cardinals, Peters has recorded 17 sacks and 277 tackles. He started all 16 games in his age 31 season for Arizona in 2019. 

Worst pick: Mike Johnson

Johnson spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve and only played in two games. He served as a backup guard and blocking tight end in 2012 and caught a one-yard touchdown pass against the Saints in Week 9. Projected to be Atlanta’s starting right tackle in 2013, Johnson fractured his fibula and dislocated his ankle in August before the Falcons’ first preseason game. Atlanta released him in 2014, marking the end of his NFL career. 

Grade: B-

Aside from Johnson, every player Atlanta took in the first five rounds played in at least 52 games. Weatherspoon had back-to-back seasons with over 95 tackles and three or more sacks before suffering a rash of injuries. Peters was the only player to produce at a high level for more than a season or two, but that had more to do with injuries than failing to identify talent. 

Carolina Panthers

Picks: QB Jimmy Clausen (48), WR Brandon LaFell (78), WR Armanti Edwards (89), LB Eric Norwood (124), DE Greg Hardy (175), WR David Gettis (198), DB Jordan Pugh (202), QB Tony Pike (204), DB R.J. Stanford (223), DB Robert McClain (249)

Best pick: Brandon LaFell

LaFell caught at least 36 passes and compiled more than 450 receiving yards each of his first eight seasons in the NFL. In 2014, he posted 74 receptions, 953 receiving yards and seven touchdowns for the Super Bowl champion Patriots. He added another 13 catches, 119 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs that season. LaFell tore his Achilles in Week 11 of the 2018 season, ending his NFL career. 

Worst pick: Jimmy Clausen

By Week 5 of his rookie season, Clauson, widely projected to be a top-10 pick, had already taken the starting job from Matt Moore for three games and gotten benched. Moore replaced Clauson following a Week 6 bye until a 34-3 loss to the Saints in Week 9 prompted another quarterback change. Clauson played the rest of the way, finishing the season with a 1-9 record, three touchdowns and nine interceptions in 10 starts. The Panthers drafted Cam Newton, signed Derek Anderson and demoted Clauson to third string in 2011. After getting released by Carolina, Clauson appeared in nine games for the Bears and Ravens and was out of the NFL by 2015. 

Grade: C-

Seventh-round pick McLain was the only player other than LaFell to play in over 75 games. Hardy’s 15 sacks in 2014 tied a Panthers franchise record but his career will be remembered for the domestic violence charges, and rightfully so. Edwards, Norwood, Gettis, Pugh and Pike didn’t make it past 2013, at least in any meaningful way. Missing that badly on three picks in the first four rounds means the rest of the draft class better be something special. 

New Orleans Saints

Picks: DB Patrick Robinson (32), OT Charles Brown (64), TE Jimmy Graham (95), DT Al Woods (123), C Matt Tennant (158), QB Sean Canfield (239)

Best Pick: Jimmy Graham

In addition to making five Pro Bowls, being a First Team All-Pro in 2013 and leading the NFL in touchdown receptions that season, Graham has missed a total of seven games in his career. He posted over 1,200 receiving yards in 2011 and 2013. Not even Rob Gronkowski has two 1,200-yard seasons. The next time Graham catches a touchdown pass, he will tie Antonio Brown for the second-most since he entered the league. What more is there to say?

Worst pick: Matt Tennant

Tennant spent three seasons as a backup for the Saints, Patriots and Eagles. He never stepped onto the field for New England and played in 36 games in a limited capacity. All but one of the snaps he was on the field for with Philadelphia were as a part of the special teams unit. Sports Illustrated projected Tennant would go in the second round. Instead, he was waived by New Orleans after two forgettable seasons. 

Grade: A

Half the players New Orleans drafted are still in the NFL and have played in at least 111 games. Robinson started eight times and played in every game for the Super Bowl champion Eagles in 2017. Woods went from a journeyman clinging to a roster spot to making 45 starts in the last five seasons. It’s all the more impressive when you remember New Orleans managed to put this group together with six picks as the defending world champions. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Picks: DT Gerald McCoy (3), DT Brian Price (35), WR Arrelious Benn (39), DB Myron Lewis (67), WR Mike Williams (101), P Brent Bowden (172), DB Cody Grimm (210), LB Dakoda Watson (217), DE Erik Lorig (253) 

Best pick: Gerald McCoy

McCoy has proved worthy of being drafted third overall from both a production and reliability standpoint. He made six straight Pro Bowls from 2012 to 2017 and was a First Team All-Pro in 2013. In 10 seasons, McCoy has missed more than three games just once. Additionally, all 139 of his appearances have been starts. Only Ndamukong Suh, Devin McCourty, Cam Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan and Earl Thomas have started more games in the last decade. 

Worst pick: Brian Price

Price only played 20 games in his NFL career but managed to get himself benched by Raheem Morris for an ill-advised unnecessary roughness penalty after a sack in one of them. He made 14 starts in 2011 and was traded to the Bears for a seventh-round pick prior to the 2012 season. Price lasted just over a month with Chicago before he was released. 

Grade: B

Only McCoy and Williams started more than 30 games, though the three seventh-rounders have made a combined 49 starts. Lorig started 30 games in five years. Watson just finished his 10th season in the league but hasn’t played more than 100 snaps on defense since 2013. Williams finished with over 3,000 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns. The ineffectiveness of the second and third-round picks is the glaring weakness of this draft class. 

To view the 2010 draft grades for other divisions, click here

Photo by Michael Tipton / Flickr


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