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 NFC North is up next in our 2011 NFL Draft grades series.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: OT Gabe Carimi (29th overall), DT Stephen Paea (53), DB Chris Conte (93), QB Nathan Enderle (160), LB J.T. Thomas (195)
Best pick: Chris Conte
Conte’s 93 starts are only two fewer than the rest of the Bears’ draft class combined. From 2012 to 2017, he started at least 11 games every season. Conte also ranks fourth among defensive backs drafted in 2011 in career tackles with 469. The players directly behind him are Richard Sherman (466) and Patrick Peterson (438). His career came to a close when he tore his PCL in Week 3 of the 2018 season.
Worst pick: Gabe Carimi
A knee injury suffered against the Saints ended Carimi’s rookie season after two games. He made 14 starts in 2012 and was traded to the Buccaneers for a sixth-round pick prior to the 2013 season. Tampa Bay released him on February 10, 2014, and the Falcons signed him to a one-year deal eight days later. Carimi appeared in all 16 games for Atlanta in what would be his fourth and final NFL season.
The Bears deserve credit for finding five guys in six picks who played in at least 48 games and made more than 20 starts. It’s also important to recognize none of them played in the NFL last season and Conte is the only one to start 50 games. Carimi was a backup by year three and out of the league entirely by year five. Paea made 83 appearances over seven seasons. The bottom line is that Chicago failed to find a difference-maker with three picks in the top 100.
Picks: DT Nick Fairley (13), WR Titus Young (44), RB Mikel Leshoure (57), LB Doug Hogue (157), OT Johnny Culbreath (209)
Best pick: Nick Fairley
Fairley started 46 games in his career. The other four players the Lions drafted were no longer playing the NFL by 2014. None of them appeared in more than 26 games, so Fairley is here by default.
Worst pick: Mikel Leshoure
Leshoure edges out fellow second-round pick Young, but only slightly. He tore his Achilles in practice before his rookie season and missed the whole year. Leshoure then got suspended for the first two games of the 2012 season, meaning he didn’t make his NFL debut until Sept. 23, 2012. He played in 17 games before the Lions let him go on Aug. 30, 2014.
Fairley was not a disaster by any stretch, which is the most positive thing that can be said about this draft class. None of the other four guys played a game in three different seasons. Young sucker-punched teammate Louis Delmas and was sent home by the team on multiple occasions, leading to concerns about his mental well-being. It’s a tough scene all around.
Green Bay Packers
Picks: OT Derek Sherrod (32), WR Randall Cobb (64), RB Alex Green (96), DB Davon House (131), TE D.J. Williams, OG Caleb Schlauderaff (179), LB D.J. Smith (186), DE Ricky Elmore (197), TE Ryan Taylor (218), DT Lawrence Guy (233)
Best pick: Randall Cobb
Unsurprisingly, Cobb has played more games (120) and made more starts (79) than anyone else in this group. He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2014 when he caught 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. Cobb followed that up with a 79-reception season that included six receiving touchdowns. In 2019, he posted his fourth season with over 800 receiving yards. Cobb also has two punt return touchdowns and a 108-yard kick return touchdown to his name.
Worst pick: Derek Sherrod
Of the five guys Green Bay took in the first five rounds, Sherrod is the only one to play in fewer than 29 games and not make multiple starts in his career. The first Mississippi State Bulldog taken in the first round since 1996, he saw action in seven games as a rookie. A broken leg in Week 15 cost him the rest of 2011 and all of 2012. He played in seven games in 2013 and eight in 2014. The Chiefs signed him to a future free agent contract on Dec. 31, 2014 and released him on Sept. 5, 2015.
The second most accomplished player in this class is Guy, who started 10 games before 2016 and has started 56 since. Aside from Cobb and Guy, House is the only one to play in a game after 2014 or make more than 59 appearances in his career. Cobb is a nice receiver to have but only produced one exceptional season. Ten picks — half of which were in the top 150 — should result in more than that.
Picks: QB Christian Ponder (12), TE Kyle Rudolph (43), DT Christian Ballard (106), DB Brandon Burton (139), OT DeMarcus Love (168), DB Mistral Raymond (170), C Brandon Fusco (172), LB Ross Homan (200), DE D’Aundre Reed (215), WR Stephen Burton (236)
Best pick: Kyle Rudolph
Oddly enough, Rudolph is a two-time Pro Bowler who didn’t make the Pro Bowl in either of his best two seasons. He leads all tight ends drafted in 2011 in receptions (425), receiving yards (4,154) and receiving touchdowns (47) by a wide margin. In 2016, he hauled in 83 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. Rudolph ranks fourth among tight ends in touchdown receptions over the last 10 seasons, trailing only Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Antonio Gates.
Worst pick: DeMarcus Love
Love has the distinction of being the highest-drafted non-quarterback in 2011 never to appear in an NFL game. He made the team out of training camp as a rookie but was inactive the entire season. Love was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs in 2013 and released after the suspension ended. He bounced around on multiple teams through August 2015. Half of the Vikings’ picks came after they took Love, which is a significant reason he ended up here.
Yes, Minnesota only had two picks in the top 100. However, the first one was used on a quarterback who had one decent season and finished with a 14-21-1 record as a starter. Of the 10 players the Vikings drafted, two appeared in a game past 2014. One was Rudolph and the other was Fusco, who started 87 contests in his eight-year career. Aside from Fusco, none of the players taken after Rudolph made more than 10 starts or saw the field in more than 32 games. It’s Rudolph, Fusco and eight underwhelming selections.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by Kevind810 / Wikimedia Commons