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 AFC North is up next in the 2014 NFL Draft re-grade.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: C.J. Mosley (17th overall), DT Timmy Jernigan (48), DB Terrence Brooks (79), TE Crockett Gilmore (99), DT Brett Urban (134), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (138), OG John Urschel (175), QB Keith Wenning (194), WR Michael Companaro (218)
Best pick: C.J. Mosley
Prior to missing 14 contests last year with a groin injury, Mosley had more Pro Bowl appearances in his career (4) than missed games (3) in his career. He made his presence felt immediately, compiling 250 tackles and seven sacks in his first two seasons. In a five-year stretch from 2014 to 2018, Mosley recorded 579 tackles, the fifth-highest total in the NFL. There’s a reason Mosley got a five-year, $85 million deal from the Jets last offseason.
Worst pick: Crockett Gillmore
Gillmore’s best season came in 2015, when he made 10 starts and hauled in 33 passes for 412 yards. It was the only time Gillmore caught more than 10 passes in a season. The former third round pick ended the 2015 and 2016 seasons on injured reserve and missed the entire 2017 campaign with an MCL injury. Gillmore added 40 pounds during the 2018 offseason in an unsuccessful attempt to switch to offensive line. He played in 32 games in his four-year career.
Brooks actually has more appearances than Mosley, though only one was a start. Mosley, Jernigan, Brooks, Urban and Urschel all have 40+ appearances. After Mosely and Jernigan, however, nobody has more than 19 starts, which is why this is a B+ and not an A. Brooks and Gillmore are underwhelming for a pair of third round picks and none of the later picks stand out at all.
Picks: DB Darqueze Dennard (24), RB Jeremy Hill (55), DE Will Clarke (88), C Russell Bodine (111), QB A.J. McCarron (164), LB Marquis Flowers (212), WR James Wright (239), DB Lavelle Westbrooks (252)
Best pick: Russell Bodine
When five of the eight players have fewer than four starts in their careers, the guy who started every game for four consecutive seasons wins. Even though Bodine didn’t play a snap in 2019, the person closest to Bodine’s 74 starts is Hill with 43. That’s really all there is to it.
Worst pick: Will Clarke
Clarke registered 37 tackles and seven sacks in 53 appearances with the Bengals and Buccaneers. In 2016, he was on the field for a career-high 372 defensive snaps and recorded four sacks. Cincinnati released Clarke after three seasons and he spent another two in Tampa. He was let go in October 2018 and joined the St. Louis Battlehawks of the XFL in December 2019.
There is just nothing exciting about this draft class. Bodine and Hill were the only consistent starters of the group and neither saw the field in 2019. Dennard signed a one-year, $5 million deal to remain in Cincinnati when his rookie contract expired, not exactly a show of confidence by the Bengals’ front office. Hill did rush for 1,124 yards as a rookie and tied for the league lead with 11 rushing touchdowns in 2015, bumping the grade up to a B-.
Picks: DB Justin Gilbert (8), QB Johnny Manziel (22), OG Joel Bitonio (35), LB Christian Kirksey (71), RB Terrence West (94), DB Pierre Desir (127)
Best pick: Joel Bitonio
Cleveland went from Gilbert to Manziel to Bitonio, who’s made two Pro Bowls and started every game the past three seasons. All 79 of Bitonio’s starts have come as a member of the Browns, making the pick even more valuable. Pro Football Focus named him to its first team in both 2014 and 2018, yet another testament to how good he’s been.
Worst pick: Johnny Manziel
Remember when Manziel told then-Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains he wanted to “wreck the league” together in Cleveland? The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner began his career by getting fined for an obscene hand gesture during a preseason game. He started twice as a rookie, producing one touchdown in the two defeats. In 2015, Manziel was demoted from starter to third-string after videos showed him partying during the team’s bye week. Just like that, “Johnny Football” was gone after two seasons.
Have two picks ever done more to ruin a team’s draft? Bitonio has two Pro Bowl appearances, Kirksey has two seasons with 138+ tackles, West rushed for 1,816 yards and Desir is third in the group with 36 starts. Yet those things can only matter so much when the two first-rounders have careers that last a combined five seasons. True to their identity, the Browns managed to turn what should have been a fine draft into a high-profile trainwreck.
Picks: LB Ryan Shazier (15), DE Stephon Tuitt (46), WR Dri Archer (97), WR Martavious Bryant (118), DB Shaquille Richardson (157), OT Wesley Johnson (173), LB Jordan Zumwalt (192), DT Daniel McCullers (215), TE Rob Branchflower (230)
Best pick: Stephon Tuitt
Shazier was clearly the best player Pittsburgh drafted, but the terrifying injury that ended his career after four seasons means the pick that looks the best now is Tuitt. He saw limited playing time as a rookie and emerged in year two with a career-high 6.5 sacks. Tuitt has recorded a minimum of three sacks every season since. His 76 appearances and 64 starts both top the group.
Worst pick: Dri Archer
Archer’s career consisted of a total of 143 snaps, 90 of which came on special teams. His ten rushing attempts and seven receptions produced 63 yards. Archer came into the NFL as a return specialist but never returned a kickoff more than 38 yards. Pittsburgh released him on Nov. 5, 2015, and his time in the NFL came to a close when he refused to report to the Bills after they claimed him off waivers in 2016.
Of course, this is a different story if Shazier — who still managed to make two Pro Bowls — doesn’t suffer a career-ending injury. Bryant produced 2,183 receiving yards in four years but was suspended for the entire 2016 campaign. Richardson, Zumwalt and Blanchflower did not play in an NFL game, making 44% of the group completely ineffective. That, combined with the unfortunate end to Shazier’s incredibly promising career, is just enough to keep the Steelers out of the B range.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by Erik Drost / Flickr