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 2012 NFL Draft re-grade marches on with the AFC South.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: DE Whitney Mercilus (26th overall), WR DeVier Posey (68), OG Brandon Brooks (76), C Ben Jones (99), WR Keshawn Martin (121), DE Jared Crick (126), K Randy Bullock (161), OT Nick Mondek (195)
Best pick: Brandon Brooks
Following a rookie season where he was on the field for 160 snaps, Brooks started 15 games in 2013, 15 games in 2014, 14 games in 2015, 14 games in 2016, 16 games in 2017, 16 games in 2018 and 16 games in 2019. He won the Super Bowl in 2017, played every down on offense in 2018 and made his third straight Pro Bowl in 2019. Last season was the eighth year in a row Brooks played over 1,000 total snaps between offense and special teams.
Worst pick: DeVier Posey
Posey appeared in 25 games over his first two seasons, catching 21 passes. The only start of his career came in the only game he played in 2014 as a result of rupturing his Achilles in the 2014 playoffs. He was traded to the Jets prior to the 2015 season and failed to make the team. Posey signed with the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League in 2016. After an unsuccessful attempt to return to the NFL with the Ravens, Posey returned to the CFL and remains an active player.
In the first four rounds, Houston found a guy with 89 starts and 50 sacks (Mercilus) as well as two offensive linemen who have started 106 games apiece (Brooks and Jones). Martin and Crick played in another 137 games. Bullock has 147 made field goals in his career and went 27-of-31 as a member of the Bengals in 2019. You wouldn’t know the Texans had a single pick in the first two rounds looking at this group.
Picks: QB Andrew Luck (1), TE Coby Fleener (34), TE Dwayne Allen (64), WR T.Y. Hilton (92), DT Josh Chapman (136), RB Vic Ballard (170), WR LaVon Brazill (206), OT Justin Anderson (208), DE Tim Fugger (214), QB Chandler Harnish (253)
Best pick: T.Y. Hilton
Hilton and Julio Jones are the only two players who rank in the top 15 in receptions, receiving yards, yards per reception and receiving touchdowns since Hilton entered the league. Last season was the first time in Hilton’s career he failed to post over 850 receiving yards, and that was because he missed six games. The four-time Pro Bowler led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards in 2016 and is indisputably the best receiver in the 2012 class.
Worst pick: Josh Chapman
You know a team chose wisely when the first guy who didn’t make at least 50 starts was taken in the fifth round. Chapman spent 2012 on injured reserve and appeared in 13 games in 2013. He started 15 times in 2014 but was only on the field for 36% of the Colts’ defensive plays. Indianapolis released Chapman during final roster cuts before the 2015 season and that was it. He made 36 tackles in 29 games.
Luck was the easiest pick of the decade but that doesn’t mean he was guaranteed to turn into the player he was. Fleeener and Allen have a combined 394 receptions for 4,644 yards and 42 touchdowns. Ballard started 13 games and Brazil played in 25. The three seventh-rounders never appeared in an NFL game. This is about the first four picks though. Luck and Hilton practically transitioned the Colts franchise out of the Peyton Manning Era by themselves and did so rather effortlessly.
Picks: WR Justin Blackmon (5), DE Andre Branch (38), P Bryan Anger (70), LB Brandon Marshall (142), DB Mike Harris (176), DT Jeris Pendleton (228)
Best pick: Brandon Marshall
Since becoming a starter in 2014, Marshall has recorded over 100 tackles all three seasons he played in at least 13 games. His 90 solo tackles in 2014 were the seventh-most in the league. Marshall also has two interceptions, five forced fumbles and 6.5 sacks in his career. He has made 63 starts and appeared in a total of 74 games.
Worst pick: Justin Blackmon
Blackmon got arrested for driving under the influence before he played a down in the NFL. He had 236 receiving yards against the Texans on Nov. 4, 2012, the third-most by a rookie in NFL history. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2013 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He played in four games before getting suspended again, this time indefinitely without pay. Blackmon has not appeared in a game since but was still on the team’s reserve list last season.
Branch posted at least three sacks for five consecutive seasons and finished his career with 25.5 in 95 games. Anger led the league in punts and punt yardage in 2013, which is really a commentary on Jacksonville’s offense. He is about to enter his ninth season and has played in 126 contests. The Jaguars did a decent job after the Blackmon pick, but the bottom line is that they took a player in the top five who was active for 20 games and got suspended twice in a calendar year.
Picks: WR Kendall Wright (20), LB Zach Brown (52), DT Mike Martin (82), DB Coty Sensabaugh (115), TE Taylor Thompson (145), DB Markelle Martin (190), DE Scott Solomon (211)
Best pick: Zach Brown
Brown wasted no time making his presence felt in the NFL. He played in every game his first two seasons and produced 184 tackles, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and four interceptions. In 2016, Brown received an invitation to the Pro Bowl thanks to his 149-tackle, four-sack campaign. He is one of seven players with at least 650 tackles and 17 sacks in the last eight seasons.
Worst pick: Mike Martin
Martin served as a rotational piece for Tennessee for four seasons, recording four sacks and 68 tackles in 46 games. Three of those sacks and 37 of those tackles came in his rookie season. The most eventful moment of Martin’s career was the $15,750 fine he received for a hit on Andrew Luck.
All seven guys appeared in a minimum of 15 contests. Wright had a 1,000-yard season in 2013 and 3,858 receiving yards in his career. Sensabaugh solidified himself as a role player on defense as evidenced by the 107 games he’s played in. The Titans got about equal value for the picks they had, which is a rare enough achievement that it is worth acknowledging.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by Chris C. / Flickr