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.
Up next in the 2012 NFL Draft re-grade is the NFC South.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: C Peter Konz (55th overall), OT Lamar Holmes (91), RB Bradie Ewing (157), DE Jonathan Massaquoi (164), DB Charles Mitchell (192), DT Travian Robertson (249)
Best pick: Peter Konz
Konz is tied for the most games played in the group and made the most starts, so we’ll go with him. He started 10 games as a rookie and followed up with 15 starts in 2013. Konz made three more starts in 2014 and that was it.
Worst pick: Bradie Ewing
Ewing never recorded a rushing attempt in the two games he saw action in. He did, however, catch two passes for 29 yards. Ewing missed the 2012 season with a torn ACL and separated his shoulder in Week 2 of his second season. Those were the only two years he spent in the NFL.
Not a single one of these guys played in a game past 2014. Two of them started more than seven times and two of them never made a start. Konz — who started most of the time for two seasons — is the crown jewel of the class, and not by a small margin.
Picks: LB Luke Kuechly (9), OG Amini Silatolu (40), DE Frank Alexander (103), WR Joe Adams (104), DB Josh Norman (143), P Brad Nortman (207), DB D.J. Campbell (216)
Best pick: Luke Kuechly
On Jan. 14, 2020, Kuechly announced his retirement from the NFL after eight seasons. He led the league in tackles as a rookie and was a First or Second Team All-Pro every year after. Five of those were first team selections, by the way. Kuechly registered over 100 tackles every season and was a seven-time Pro Bowler. The 2013 AP Defensive Player of the Year and future Hall of Famer is the NFL’s leading tackler over the past decade.
Worst pick: Joe Adams
Adams served as Carolina’s return man for three games until two fumbles against the Giants led to his benching. He appeared in nine games and caught one pass for seven yards. The Panthers released him prior to the 2013 season. He is currently playing for the Texas Revolution of Champions Indoor Football.
Kuechly nearly makes this an A by himself. Norman was an elite cornerback for a brief period and was a First Team All-Pro in 2015. The two of them have 209 starts between them. Nortman played in every game from 2012 to 2017 and punted the ball at least 70 times each season. Silatolu reached the 50-game mark and made 31 starts in his career. The disparity between this draft class and the one preceding it is quite something.
New Orleans Saints
Picks: DE/DT Akiem Hicks (89), WR Nick Toon (122), DB Corey White (162), OG Andrew Tiller (179), OT Marcel Jones (234)
Best pick: Akiem Hicks
This past season was the first time Hicks missed a game in five years. He played in every contest from 2015 to 2018 and made 51 starts in that span. Hicks recorded at least seven sacks in 2016, 2017 and 2018, when he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. Twenty-four of his 33.5 career sacks have come since 2016. He has played in 114 games and made 86 starts.
Worst pick: Nick Toon
Toon spent his first year as a pro on injured reserve and saw action in 16 games over the next two seasons. He caught 17 passes and his only career touchdown in 2014. New Orleans waived Toon prior to the 2015 season and the Rams signed him to their practice squad. He got on the field once for St. Louis. It was the 17th and final NFL game Toon played in.
The Saints got 225 (and counting) appearances and a Pro Bowl invite out of their five picks in rounds three through five. White played in 66 games, starting 24 of them. Tiller started half the 28 games he saw action in. Seventh-round pick Jones never got into an NFL game, but the other four guys were still active in 2015. Context is everything when grading draft classes like this.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Picks: DB/LB Mark Barron (7), RB Doug Martin (31), LB Lavonte David (58), LB Najee Goode (140), DB Keith Tandy (174), RB Michael Smith (212), TE Drake Dunsmore (233)
Best pick: Lavonte David
David reeled off four consecutive seasons with more than 135 tackles to begin his career. He was named a First Team All-Pro in year two and made the Pro Bowl in year four. Three players have eclipsed the 1,000-tackle threshold in the past decade. Ironically, they were all drafted in 2012: Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner and David. The former Nebraska Cornhusker’s 116 tackles for loss over that same period put him behind only Calais Campbell and Von Miller.
Worst pick: Najee Goode
Until 2019, Goode had never played more than 200 snaps on defense in a season. He has built an eight-year career on special teams and recorded a total of 107 tackles in 90 games. Seven of Goode’s eight starts have come since 2017. He would not be close to the worst pick in most draft classes but that’s what happens when the three guys ahead of you have a combined 324 games played and 287 starts.
Both Martin and David have a First Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl to their name. Martin posted two seasons with over 1,400 rushing yards and had 5,356 in his career. Barron never developed into an elite player but has compiled 710 tackles, 12 sacks and nine interceptions. Goode and Tandy each saw the field in 90 games. The first five guys Tampa Bay selected were still active in 2018.
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Photo by Tammy Anthony Baker / Wikimedia Commons