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.
We hop over to the AFC North for the next part of our 2012 NFL Draft re-grade.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: LB Courtney Upshaw (35th overall), OT Kelechi Osemele (60), RB Bernard Pierce (84), OG Gino Gradkowski (98), DB Christian Thompson (130), DB Asa Jackson (169), WR Tommy Streeter (198), DT DeAngelo Tyson (236)
Best pick: Kelechi Osemele
The only thing that really needs to be said is that Osemele has more starts (96) than the rest of the draft class combined (93). He started every game as a rookie and made 51 starts in four seasons as a Raven. Osemele signed with the Raiders as a free agent in 2016 and was a First Team All-Pro — as well as a Pro Bowler — his first season with the team. He played every snap and made the Pro Bowl again the following year. Osemele has never appeared in a game he didn’t start.
Worst pick: Christian Thompson
As a rookie, Thompson saw action in seven games on special teams before landing on injured reserve. He received a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy at the beginning of the 2013 season and was released on Oct. 1, 2013. Thompson’s career ended without him making a tackle.
The four guys taken in the top 100 played in over 50 games with varying levels of success. Upshaw was a starter for three seasons and recorded 216 tackles in his career. Gradkowski was on the field for every offensive snap in 2013 and only started four other times. Pierce rushed for 1,345 yards in four seasons. Tyson and Jackson appeared in another 60 games between them. Osemele stops the grade from dropping any lower but the rest of the group failed to make a meaningful impact.
Picks: DB Dre Kirkpatrick (17), OG Kevin Zeitler (27), DT Devon Still (53), WR Mohamed Sanu (83), DT Brandon Thompson (93), TE Orson Charles (116), DB Shaun Prater (156), WR Marvin Jones (166), DB George Iloka (167), RB Dan Herron (191)
Best pick: Marvin Jones
Out of all the receivers drafted in 2012, Jones ranks fourth in receptions (347), third in receiving yards (6,671), third in receiving touchdowns (42) and fifth in receiving yards per game (52.6). Every player ahead of him in those categories was selected in the first three rounds while Cincinnati took Jones in the fifth. Jones compiled 1,101 receiving yards and led the league in yards per reception in 2017.
Worst pick: Brandon Thompson
Thompson recorded one tackle in three appearances as a rookie. The following season, he played in every game and made seven starts. Thompson tore his ACL in the final week of the 2015 season. That game turned out to be the last one he would ever play in. He made 39 appearances in his career and registered three sacks.
Still took his focus away from football to help his daughter successfully fight cancer, so that was taken into account when evaluating his 33-game career. Even taking Still’s career at face value, half of the players in this class appeared in more than 90 games and started at least 67 times. That group is led by Zeitler, who has 118 starts and played every offensive snap from 2016 through 2018. Sanu has actually caught more passes than Jones. All 10 guys were still active in 2015.
Picks: RB Trent Richardson (3), QB Brandon Weeden (22), OT Mitchell Schwartz (37), DT John Hughes (87), WR Travis Benjamin (100), LB James-Michael Johnson (120), OG Ryan Miller (160), LB Emmanuel Acho (204), DT Billy Winn (205), DB Trevin Wade (245), TE Brad Smelley (247)
Best pick: Mitchell Schwartz
Schwartz has more than three times as many starts (128) as any of the other 10 guys Cleveland drafted. He has not missed a game in his career and was a First Team All-Pro in 2018. End of discussion.
Worst pick: Trent Richardson
The Browns were willing to deal the former third overall pick to the Colts for a first-rounder 17 games into his career and won the trade. That’s really all you need to know. Richardson scored 11 touchdowns in his rookie season and three the rest of his career. He failed to make it past the preseason with the Raiders in 2015 and Ravens in 2016, never playing in an NFL game past 2014.
What started as a catastrophe turned into a halfway decent draft for the Browns. Richardson and Weeden were supposed to be the future of Cleveland’s offense. The Browns won five of the 20 games Weeden started for them. On a more positive note, Benjamin has over 3,000 yards in his career and Winn made 23 starts. Everyone except for Miller and Smelley appeared in at least 20 games. It will always be remembered as the draft Cleveland spent first-round picks on Richardson and Weeden, but calling this class a disaster is doing a major disservice to Schwartz.
Picks: OG David DeCastro (24), OT Mike Adams (56), LB Sean Spence (86), DT Alameda Ta’amu (109), RB Chris Rainey (159), WR Toney Clemons (231), David Paulson (240), DB Terrence Frederick (246), OT Kelvin Beachum (248)
Best pick: David DeCastro
DeCastro enters the 2020 season with a chance to make six Pro Bowls in a row. On four different occasions, he has earned a trip to the Pro Bowl while playing every offensive snap of every game. DeCastro missed a game in 2017 and still earned First Team All-Pro honors for the second time in his career. He has started 108 games in the last seven years.
Worst pick: Alameda Ta’amu
Ta’amu didn’t appear in a game as a rookie but got suspended for two games following an incident where he was arrested after allegedly evading police and hitting several parked cars while intoxicated. Pittsburgh waived him midseason and re-signed him to its practice squad. Ta’amu joined the Cardinals the following offseason and appeared in 21 games in two seasons with the team. He recorded seven tackles in his career.
The first and last players the Steelers took have 210 starts between them while nobody in between has more than 23. Adams and Spence both appeared in 53 games. Pittsburgh did a fantastic job with its four seventh-rounders highlighted by Beachum. The issues came at the top of the draft following the DeCastro selection. That being said, it is a solid group overall.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by Eric Drost / Flickr