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 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 wraps up with the NFC West.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: DB Patrick Peterson (5th overall), RB Ryan Williams (38), TE Rob Housler (69), DE Sam Acho (103), RB/FB Anthony Sherman (136), LB Quan Sturdivant (171), DT David Carter (184), WR DeMarco Simpson (249)
Best pick: Patrick Peterson
The most underappreciated accomplishment of Peterson’s career is that he did not miss a game until his ninth NFL season. From 2011 to 2018, he made 128 consecutive starts and made the Pro Bowl every season. No player has more Pro Bowl selections than Peterson since he entered the league. He was a First Team All-Pro in 2011, 2013 and 2015. Arizona managed to find a top-five pick who exceeded expectations.
Worst pick: Ryan Williams
Williams ruptured his patella tendon on his first carry of his second preseason game. The injury caused him to miss his entire rookie season. Williams suffered a shoulder injury five games into the 2012 season and was placed in injured reserve. The Cardinals released him on May 12, 2014. He spent the 2014 season as a member of the Cowboys’ practice squad. Williams ran the ball 58 times for 164 yards in the five NFL games he appeared in.
Aside from Peterson, the only players to make more than 30 starts are Acho and Sherman, both of whom were still active in 2019 and have played in a combined 250 games. The other five players made a total of 117 appearances. Sherman made the Pro Bowl as a fullback in 2018 and played in every game for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs last season. Peterson’s remarkable durability and success helps compensate for getting very little out of Williams and Housler.
Los Angeles Rams (then the St. Louis Rams)
Picks: DE Robert Quinn (14), TE Lance Kendricks (47), WR Austin Pettis (78), WR Greg Salas (112), DB Jermale Hines (158), DB Mikail Baker (216), LB Jabara Williams (228), DB Jonathan Nelson (229)
Best pick: Robert Quinn
Quinn put together quite a run from 2012 to 2014: 40 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, two Pro Bowls and a First Team All-Pro selection in 2013. He is one of 12 players with more than 80 sacks in the past decade and one of 14 people to post double-digit sacks at least four times. Quinn recorded 11.5 sacks with the Cowboys in 2019, the second-highest total of his 125-game career. He has started 14 or more games six of the last eight seasons.
Worst pick: Jermale Hines
Hines played in 10 games in his career, all in 2011. His journey to those 10 appearances was rather chaotic: waived by the Rams, claimed by the Colts, waived by the Colts, claimed by the Panthers, played five games with Carolina, waived by the Panthers, signed by the Colts again and saw action in the last five games of the season. Hines made six tackles, three as a Panther and three as a Colt.
Kendricks has compiled 244 catches and 2,555 receiving yards over nine seasons, finishing with more than 400 yards in a year twice. Pettis and Salas have 157 receptions, 1,738 yards and 10 touchdowns between them. Neither played past 2016. The other four guys combined for 19 appearances and one start. Only Kendricks and Quinn have made more than 11 starts, though they have a combined 198.
San Francisco 49ers
Picks: DE Aldon Smith (7), QB Colin Kaepernick (36), DB Chris Culliver (80), RB Kendall Hunter (115), OG Daniel Kilgore (163), WR Ronald Johnson (182), DB Colin Jones (190), FB Bruce Miller (211), OG Michael Person (239), DB Curtis Holcomb (250)
Best pick: Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick became San Francisco’s starting quarterback in Week 10 of the 2012 season and the team proceeded to win 17 of its next 23 games. In that stretch, Kaepernick threw 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while rushing for 939 yards and another nine touchdowns. The 49ers made a Super Bowl, two NFC Championship Games and Kaepernick once gained 92 more yards than the entire Packers team along the way in a 45-31 win. He remains one of the best 32 quarterbacks on the planet to this day.
Worst pick: Aldon Smith
Smith put together two superb seasons before a string of arrests and legal issues derailed his career. The 49ers released him after his third DUI arrest on Aug. 7, 2015. He registered 44 sacks in four seasons with the team, 33.5 of which came in his first two years. Smith signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys on April 2, 2020, and was reinstated by the NFL on May 26, 2020.
Johnson and Holcomb never appeared in a NFL game. Everyone else played in at least 45. Six guys have made more than 25 starts. Kilgore, Jones and Person were all active last season. The combination of Smith’s legal trouble and Kaepernick getting blackballed by the league makes it nearly impossible to compare this draft class to the rest. No one can be considered a home run, but eight of the 10 selections played at least five seasons and Smith and Kaepernick both reached an elite level for a short period of time.
Picks: OT James Carpenter (25), OG John Moffitt (75), LB K.J. Wright (99), Kris Durham (107), DB Richard Sherman (154), DB Mark LeGree (156), Byron Maxwell (173), DT Lazarius Levingston (205), LB Malcolm Smith (242)
Best pick: Richard Sherman
In Sherman’s first six seasons, he was named a First Team All-Pro three times, made the Pro Bowl five times and picked off 28 passes. He recovered from a torn Achilles in 2017 to make another Pro Bowl and reach the Super Bowl for a third time in 2019. Think about this: Sherman didn’t enter the league until 2011, suffered a potentially career-ending injury, did not pick off a pass in 2018 and still has four more interceptions than any other player in the 2010s.
Worst pick: John Moffitt
Moffit made nine starts in 2011 and six in 2012. He played in 19 games and retired on Nov. 5, 2013. In 2015, he came out of retirement with the Eagles but didn’t make the 53-man roster.
The Super Bowl MVP with two 100-tackle seasons might be fifth-best player in this group. Wright is one of eight players with over 800 tackles in the last decade. Carpenter has 114 appearances and 108 starts in his career. Maxwell has the same number of starts as Smith and the honor of being a Legion of Boom member. It’s no wonder the Seahawks got so good so fast.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by Marianne O’Leary / Wikimedia Commons