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 2014 NFL Draft re-grade rolls on with the AFC South.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: Jadeveon Clowney (1st overall), OG Xavier Su’a-Filo (33), TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (65), DT Louis Nix (83), QB Tom Savage (135), DE Jeoffrey Pagan (177), RB Alfred Blue (181), FB Jay Prosch (211), DB Andre Hal (216), DB Lonnie Ballentine (256)
Best pick: Jadeveon Clowney
While Clowney hasn’t quite turned into the player he was supposed to, he is one of eight players with more than 30 sacks and 65 tackles for loss in the past five seasons. Other players on that list include Chandler Jones, Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack and Calais Campbell. After a torn meniscus limited the three-time Pro Bowler to four games as a rookie, Clowney’s made at least 13 appearances each of the last five years. His best season came in 2017, when he recorded 9.5 sacks and 59 tackles.
Worst pick: Louis Nix
Three knee surgeries in less than a year prevented Nix from taking the field in 2014 for Houston, who released him after just one season with the team. The former Notre Dame standout was on and off the Giants’ roster during the 2015 season, appearing in four games. Nix spent time on Washington and Jacksonville’s practice squads following his final release by the Giants. The four games he played are tied with Ballentine for the fewest of any Giants draft pick.
Clowney turned into a very, very good player, which is far from a guarantee, even for the first overall pick. Su’a-Filo made 31 starts in a two-year stretch from 2016 to 2017 and has 53 in his career. Six players hit the 50-game threshold and four made at least 40 starts. Hal was a regular starter for three seasons and picked off 12 passes. Houston did fine with the picks at its disposal but certainly could’ve gotten more out of them.
Picks: OG Jack Mewhort (59), WR Donte Moncrief (90), LB Jonathan Newsome (166), LB Andrew Jackson (203), OT Ulrich John (232)
Best pick: Donte Moncrief
Moncrief was the only member of the group to appear in a game past 2017 and has played in 32 more games than anyone else. That is enough to secure this prestigious honor by itself. Moncrief’s put together two seasons with over 650 receiving yards and has 21 receiving touchdowns in his career. He is both the longest-tenured and most productive of the Colts’ selections.
Worst pick: Andrew Jackson
The sole player in the group never to start an NFL game, Jackson played in 13 contests as a rookie. He was let go after the season, marking the end of his NFL career. In 2016, he signed with the Spokane Empire of the Indoor Football League. Jackson has since played in both the Alliance of American Football (where he was named Defensive Player of the Week) and the XFL.
Indianapolis did get 86 starts out of its first two picks, which counts for something. Still, only Moncrief stayed in the league for more than four seasons. Newsome, Jackson and John have a combined 53 appearances and six starts. It’s not an awful return from five picks, especially without a first-rounder.
Picks: QB Blake Bortles (3), WR Marqise Lee (39), WR Allen Robinson (61), OG/C Brandon Linder (93), DB Aaron Colvin (114), LB Telvin Smith (144), DE Chris Smith (159), C Luke Bowanko (205), RB Storm Johnson (222)
Best pick: Allen Robinson
Aside from the torn ACL that ended his 2017 season after one game, Robinson has been one of the more reliable wideouts in the league since getting drafted. In his second season, he tied for the NFL lead with 14 receiving touchdowns and was one of six players to compile 1,400 receiving yards, earning his first and only invite to the Pro Bowl. Robinson paced the Bears in receptions (98), receiving yards (1,147) and receiving touchdowns (7) last season while appearing in all 16 contests.
Worst pick: Blake Bortles
Take out the 2017 season when the Jaguars went 10-6 and nearly made the Super Bowl and Bortles never won more than 31% of the games he started in a season for Jacksonville. Even with the 10-6 season, he owns a 24-49 record as a starter. From 2014 to 2016, Bortles threw 20 more interceptions and seven more pick-sixes than any other quarterback. Jacksonville still has not recovered from missing on Bortles six full seasons after he was drafted.
In spite of all his shortcomings, Bortles did manage to lead a team to the AFC Championship Game. Plus, the Jaguars did really well with the rest of the draft class. Telvin Smith registered over 100 tackles all five seasons he played and made the Pro Bowl in 2018. Had he not retired prior to last season, Jacksonville’s first seven picks would’ve been active in 2019. Lee has 2,184 receiving yards and Linder has made 70 starts. Nevertheless, this will always be remembered as the year the Jaguars took Bortles third overall.
Picks: OT Taylor Lewan (11), RB Bishop Sankey (54), DT DaQuan Jones (112), DB Marqueston Huff (122), LB Avery Williamson (151), QB Zach Mettenberger (178)
Best pick: Taylor Lewan
Since becoming a full-time starter in 2015, Lewan has emerged as one of the premier left tackles in football. In 2017 and 2018, he was named to the Pro Bowl and to Pro Football Focus’s first team. Lewan — who also made the Pro Bowl in 2016 — missed a total of two games from 2015 to 2018. A four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy limited him to 12 appearances last season.
Worst pick: Bishop Sankey
Sankey put together a respectable rookie season, rushing for 569 yards on 152 carries. His workload was reduced to 47 carries in 2015 and he was released by Tennessee before the 2016 season. Sankey then joined New England’s practice squad, was signed by Kansas City, got released by Kansas City, was signed to Minnesota’s practice squad, all in 2016. He tore his ACL in the first game of the 2017 preseason, effectively ending his NFL career. In 2019, Sankey played in the Alliance of American Football and Canadian Football League.
In addition to the Lewan pick working out extremely well, Williamson has 496 tackles and 75 starts in five seasons (he missed 2019 with a torn ACL). Jones is second in the group with 83 games played and 77 starts. Any sixth round pick who makes 10 starts at the quarterback position is a success, even if he fails to win a single one of them and throws more interceptions than touchdowns like Mettenberger did.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by Jeffrey Beall / Wikimedia Commons