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 AFC West and a certain controversial Heisman Trophy winner are next in our 2010 NFL Draft re-grade.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: WR Demaryius Thomas (22nd overall), QB Tim Tebow (25), OG Zane Beadles (45), J.D. Walton (80), WR Eric Decker (87), DB Perrish Cox (137), C Eric Olsen (183), DB Syd’Quan Thompson (225), DE Jammie Kirlew (232)
Best pick: Demaryius Thomas
Thomas produced five straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2012 to 2016, making four Pro Bowls in that span. The only year he didn’t was 2015, when Thomas led the Super Bowl champion Broncos in receiving. He is less than 300 yards away from becoming the fourth player to amass 10,000 receiving yards since 2010. His 63 receiving touchdowns are tied for the sixth-most in the last decade as well.
Worst pick: Tim Tebow
To be fair, this has as much to do with the rest of the players Denver took in the first three rounds as it does with Tebow. All of them lasted at least six seasons and made over 50 starts — except the Heisman Trophy winner. Calling someone who, at one point, won eight of 12 games — including one in the postseason — a complete bust is a bit harsh. That being said, Tebow was never a legitimate franchise quarterback and played his last regular season game in 2012, not exactly what you’re looking for in a first-round pick.
There’s no denying Tebow was a massive reach at 25. Replace him with another Pro Bowl-caliber player and the Broncos get an A+. Thomas and Decker have 15,579 receiving yards and 116 touchdowns between them. Beadles was a Pro Bowler in 2012 and made 120 starts over nine seasons. Denver got significant contributions from each of its first six picks, which is quite an accomplishment.
Kansas City Chiefs
Picks: DB Eric Berry (5), WR Dexter McCluster (36), DB Javier Arenas (50), OG Jon Asamoah (68), Tony Moeaki (93), DB Kendrick Lewis (136), DE Cameron Sheffield (142)
Best pick: Eric Berry
There is a real argument this spot belongs to Lewis but the reality is that Berry made the Pro Bowl all five seasons he played more than six games. He was named a First Team All-Pro on three occasions and is a member of the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team. Berry put together a nine-year career despite a torn ACL in year two, a cancer diagnosis and a torn Achilles. He outperformed expectations as the fifth overall pick even with everything he went through.
Worst pick: Javier Arenas
Arenas made 12 starts in his five-year NFL career, all of which came in his first three seasons. He contributed three sacks as a rookie and picked off two passes in 2011. The most accomplished return man in the history of Alabama football, Arenas never returned a kickoff more than 46 yards in his NFL career. His only touchdown came on a seven-yard run. Arenas was traded to the Cardinals after the 2012 season. He played his final NFL game in 2014.
No one except Berry and Lewis made more than 56 starts in the NFL, though everyone besides Sheffield played at least five seasons and appeared in at least 48 games. Kansas City didn’t wiff spectacularly on any of its picks, found a Hall of Fame-level talent in Berry and got a steal in Lewis. Take Berry out and the results of the other four picks in the first three rounds look much less inspiring.
Los Angeles Chargers (then the San Diego Chargers)
Picks: RB Ryan Matthews (12), LB Donald Butler (79), DB Darrell Stuckey (110), DT Cam Thomas (146), QB Jonathan Crompton (168), TE Dedrick Epps (235)
Best pick: Donald Butler
Butler’s best year came in 2011 after a torn Achilles sidelined him for his rookie season. He started every game and compiled 78 solo tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Butler started another 37 games over the next three seasons, finishing with at least 73 tackles every year. His 67 career starts over seven seasons are the most of any player in the Chargers’ draft class.
Worst pick: Jonathan Crompton
The four players the Chargers took ahead of Crompton appeared in at least 85 NFL games. Crompton was never part of an active NFL roster. He got waived during final roster cuts in 2010 and landed on San Diego’s practice squad for two days. Crompton was signed and released by three other NFL teams before landing in the Canadian Football League with the Edmonton Eskimos in 2013.
The Chargers’ first four picks were all still in the league in 2016. Matthews made the Pro Bowl his second year and went over the 1,000-yard mark twice. He rushed for more than 500 yards in six of his seven seasons. Stuckey played in 89 games without starting a single one. The early success of Matthews and Butler push the grade up to a low B.
Las Vegas Raiders (then the Oakland Raiders):
Picks: LB Rolando McClain (8), DE Lamarr Houston (44), OT Jared Veldheer (69), OT Bruce Campbell (106), WR Jacoby Ford (108), DB Walter McFadden (138), LB Travis Goethel (190), DB Jeremy Ware (215), DB Stevie Brown (251)
Best pick: Jared Veldheer
Veldheer has put together the longest, most consistent career of the nine players the Raiders drafted. His 113 career starts are 42 more than anyone else in Oakland’s draft class. He started every game four times from 2011 to 2015 and has made at least 11 starts three other times. Veldheer was extremely reliable at the beginning of his career, appearing in all 16 games five of his first six seasons.
Worst pick: Rolando McClain
McClain was arrested three times between getting drafted and announcing his retirement on May 15, 2013. He made 29 starts with the Raiders before the team released him in April 2013. McClain signed with the Ravens but retired before he played a game for Baltimore. He returned to the NFL with the Cowboys in 2014 and was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy three times in three years. The third violation led to an indefinite suspension. McClain was reinstated on August 30, 2019, released by the Cowboys on September 2, 2019 and suspended indefinitely again on December 30, 2019. He last played in 2015 and appeared in 65 games in his career.
The last six players the Raiders took were not on an active roster within five seasons, though Brown did make 20 starts. None of them appeared in more than 55 games. Houston compiled 30.5 sacks over eight seasons and played in 100 games. He and Veldheer turned into solid NFL players, but this draft class will always be defined by the off-the-field issues that derailed the career of its top-10 pick.
To view the 2010 draft grades for other divisions, click here.
Photo by OPEN Sports / Flickr