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, we are 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 next stop in our 2011 NFL Draft re-grade is the AFC South.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: DE J.J. Watt (11th overall), LB Brooks Reed (42), DB Brandon Harris (60), DB Roc Carmichael (127), DB Shiloh Keo (144), QB T.J. Yates (152), OT Derek Newton (214), DE Cheta Ozougwu (254)
Best pick: J.J. Watt
Absolutely no surprise here. Watt (96) trails only Von Miller (106) in sacks over the past 10 seasons and has 17 more tackles for loss than any other player in that span. From 2011 to 2015, he started every game, led the leagues in sacks twice and recorded at least 76 tackles four times. Even with his recent injury struggles, Watt has played in 78% of regular season games in his career. The man is a five-time First Team All-Pro and wasn’t taken in the top 10.
Worst pick: Brandon Harris
Harris compiled 48 tackles in the 42 games he appeared in. He never made a start in his four-year career and was spending more time on special teams than defense by 2013 when he got on the field. The Titans claimed Harris off waivers after the Texans cut him and he spent his final season with them. He has been a member of the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League since 2017.
Watt’s obviously a generational talent and Reed’s played in 129 games, starting 86 of them. The other notable find is Newton, who started 62 games in a four-year stretch from 2012 to 2015. The rest of the class has a combined 23 starts, which is why Houston comes up just short of an A. Yates went 4-6 as a starter with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Picks: OT Anthony Castonzo (22), OT Ben Ijalana (49), DT Drake Nevis (87), RB Delone Carter (119), DB Chris Rucker (188)
Best pick: Anthony Castonzo
This is very simple. Ijalana, Nevis, Carter and Rucker played in a total of 102 games. Castonzo appeared in his 103rd game back in 2017 and has played in 29 more since. Ijalana made more starts (13) than the other three combined (10). Castonzo has started all 132 games he’s played in. If that’s not enough, he is the only one to have caught a touchdown pass. Case closed.
Worst pick: Drake Nevis
Now we’re to the more interesting discussion. Nevis wins out as the highest pick besides Ijalana, who has three times as many starts as any of the other candidates. He played in 14 games over two seasons with the Colts and split time between the Cowboys and Jaguars in 2013. Nevis, ironically enough, signed with the Toronto Argonauts in February. It will be the eighth professional football team he has been on in some capacity.
Some recognition must be given to the fact that finding multiple long-term contributors in five picks is a tall order. It’s also worth noting all five players did make at least three starts in their careers. Still, four of those picks were in the top 120 and Castonzo was the only one to make any kind of impact. No one except him and Ijalana played in a game after 2013.
Picks: QB Blaine Gabbert (10), OG Will Rackley (76), WR Cecil Shorts (114), DB Chad Prosinski (121), DB Rod Issac (147)
Best pick: Cecil Shorts
Shorts went from two catches as a rookie to 55 receptions and seven touchdowns in 2012. That was the first of four consecutive seasons where Shorts caught at least 40 passes and posted over 450 receiving yards. Those were also the only four seasons he had more than 11 receptions. Shorts tore his ACL, MCL and PCL on Dec. 6. 2016, signaling the end of his career. The fact he is here says more about the rest of the class than him.
Worst pick: Blaine Gabbert
The Jaguars spent their only pick in the top 75 on a quarterback who went 13-35 as a starter and finished with one more touchdown than interceptions in his career. Gabbert started at least three games in seven different seasons and finished with a winning record once, leading the Titans to a 2-1 mark in 2018. Jacksonville won 19% of the 27 games he started for the team, which sums up the effectiveness of the pick pretty nicely.
Nobody started more games than Gabbert’s 48. Isaac played three games in 2011 and never appeared in an NFL game again. Prosinski was a significant contributor on defense in 2012 and spent the rest of his seven-year career primarily on special teams. Rackley made 25 starts in four seasons. That’s all that came of five players taken in the top 150, one of whom was supposed to be a franchise quarterback.
Picks: QB Jake Locker (8), LB Akeem Ayers (39), DT Jurrell Casey (77), LB Colin McCarthy (109), RB Jamie Harper (130), DT Karl Klug (142), OT Byron Stingily (175), DT Zach Clayton (212), DB Tommie Campbell (251)
Best pick: Jurrell Casey
For every game Casey has missed in his nine-year career, he has a Pro Bowl selection. Casey’s made as many Pro Bowls (5) as fellow 2011 draft picks Cameron Jordan, Richard Sherman and J.J. Watt. Interestingly, those five Pro Bowls have come in the last five seasons. Caesy has compiled 137 starts, 51 sacks and 493 tackles, all as a member of the Titans. The rest of Tennessee’s picks have started a combined 117 times.
Worst pick: Jake Locker
Locker made 23 starts in four injury-riddled seasons as a Titan. He won the starting job in 2012 and led the team to a 4-7 record in the 11 games he was healthy for. The Titans declined the fifth-year option on Locker’s contract and he announced his retirement on March 10, 2015. He threw 27 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in his career.
Tennessee fared pretty well other than the obvious disappointment of Locker, which is made up for in part by Casey. Ayers registered 104 tackles in 2012 and appeared in 97 games. Klug played 109 games over seven seasons for the Titans. Clayton and Harper were the only ones who were out of the league by 2014. Locker’s decision to leave the NFL on his own terms has to be factored in as well. He almost certainly could have played longer if he wanted to.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by Jeffrey Beall / Wikimedia Commons