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2011 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 2011 NFL Draft re-grade rolls on with the NFC South.

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

Atlanta Falcons

Picks: WR Julio Jones (6th overall), LB Akeem Dent (91), P Matthew Bosher (192), OL Andrew Jackson (210), DE Cliff Matthews (230)

Best pick: Julio Jones

Jones had 862 more receiving yards than any other NFL player this past decade, and the three guys directly behind him — Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald and Demaryius Thomas — played all 10 seasons while Jones has only been in the league for nine. He led the NFL in yards per game over the last 10 seasons with 96.2. Jones was a First Team All-Pro in 2015 and 2016, pacing the league in receptions (136), receiving yards (1,871) and yards per game (116.9) in 2015. The only receiver taken in the last 10 years with a comparable resume is the aforementioned Brown. 

Worst pick: Akeem Dent

Dent did play six seasons, though he only started more than seven games once and saw most of his playing time on special teams. He never recorded more than 65 tackles or 1.5 sacks in a season despite appearing in an average of 15 games per year. Dent ended half his seasons with 20 or fewer tackles and made a total of 203 in his career. He is now an assistant coach for the Texans.

Grade: A

All four players taken before the seventh round appeared in at least 90 games. Everyone except Jackson was still playing in 2016. Bosher was Atlanta’s primary punter for nine seasons and suffered a groin injury that limited him to three games last year. Rodgers finished his career with over 2,000 rushing yards and more than 1,500 receiving yards in 110 games. In six picks, the Falcons found a superstar and three other players who contributed for more than half a decade.

Carolina Panthers

Picks: QB Cam Newton (1), DT Terrell McClain (65), DT Sione Fua (97), DB Brandon Hogan (98), WR Kealoha Pilares (132), LB Lawrence Wilson (166), OL Zachary Williams (203), OT Lee Ziemba (244) 

Best pick: Cam Newton 

This is a no-brainer since Newton has won twice as many games as a starting quarterback (68) than any other player in this group has started in (34). He also has an MVP and was the starting quarterback in a Super Bowl. If that’s not enough, Newton carried the ball 929 times in his first eight seasons and only missed five games. He has played in 125 games, 39 more than any of the other six quarterbacks taken first overall in the 2010s. 

Worst pick: Brandon Hogan 

Hogan began his career on the Physically Unable to Perform list and was activated on November 8, 2011. The Panthers released him less than a year later, ending his NFL career. He played in three games and made three tackles. 

Grade: B

McClain has hung around for nine seasons as a role player and that’s about all Carolina got outside of Newton. The last five players the Panthers took did not last more than a year. Successfully identifying an undisputable franchise quarterback that elevated the franchise for nearly a decade automatically makes the grade a B. Just look at how some of the other teams who took quarterbacks first overall in the last 10 years have faired. 

New Orleans Saints

Picks: DE Cameron Jordan (24), RB Mark Ingram (28), LB Martez Wilson (72), DB Johnny Patrick (88), DT Greg Romeus (226), LB Nate Bussey (243)

Best pick: Cameron Jordan

Since entering the league, Jordan’s been about as consistent as it gets. He has played in every one of the 144 regular season games the Saints have played since drafting him, which means he has more First Team All-Pro selections (1 in 2017) than games missed. Jordan compiled a career-high 15.5 sacks last season, marking the eighth season in a row he’s finished with at least 7.5. He also made his third straight Pro Bowl, bringing his career total to five. 

Worst pick: Martez Wilson

Patrick’s 5-1 advantage in starts puts him just ahead of Wilson in a difficult comparison of three-year careers. In 38 career games, Wilson forced two fumbles and registered five sacks. A five-star recruit out of high school, Wilson spent two full seasons with the Saints and split time between three teams in 2013. He appeared in one Canadian Football League game for the Toronto Argonauts in 2015 and suffered a season-ending injury.   

Grade: A-

Eight Pro Bowls divided between two players means this can’t be any lower than an A-, even though Romeus never played a down in the NFL and Bussey appeared in one game. Ingram has over 7,000 rushing yards, nearly 2,000 receiving yards and 70 touchdowns in his career. The Saints hit two home runs at the end of the first round and got four guys who played in more than 35 games in six picks, with two of those picks coming in the seventh round. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Picks: DE Adrian Clayborn (20), DE Da’Quan Bowers (51), LB Mason Foster (84), TE Luke Stocker (104), DB Ahmad Black (151), RB Allen Bradford (187), DB Anthony Gaitor (222), TE Daniel Hardy (238)

Best pick: Mason Foster

Foster compiled 282 tackles, five interceptions and six sacks in his first three seasons. In 2016, he set a new career high with 124 tackles, including 89 solo efforts. He topped that number in his final season with 131 tackles in 2018. Foster started 92 games over eight seasons and is one of 25 players to make 650 tackles since 2010. He was released by Washington on July 23, 2019.  

Worst pick: Da’Quan Bowers

Six of Bowers’ 10 career starts came as a rookie. It would also be the only year he played more than 13 games. He was arrested at LaGuardia Airport in February 2013 for carrying a gun and eventually pled guilty to disorderly conduct. Bowers served a two-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs in 2014. The Buccaneers re-signed him before the 2015 season, cut him and signed him again that December. He played in 53 games in his career. 

Grade: B-

Clayborn has put together a solid career with 110 appearances and 36.5 sacks in nine seasons. Stocker has played in 114 games as a blocking tight end. Black, Bradford and Gaitor appeared in more than 10 games. That’s about all there is to say about them though. There’s nothing especially inspiring about this group but it did produce three players with over 50 starts and 100 games played. 

Click here to see the entire draft grades series. 

Photo by Parker Anderson / Flickr

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