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 2015 NFL Draft re-grade starts with the AFC East.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: DB Ronald Darby (50th overall), OG John Miller (60), RB Karlos Williams (155), LB Tony Steward (188), TE Nick O’Leary (194), WR Dezmin Lewis (234)
Best pick: Ronald Darby
Darby’s been hampered by injuries throughout his career but has started 56 of the 57 games he’s played in. He was a starter from day one in Buffalo and was named Pro Football Focus’ defensive rookie of the year. Darby was dealt to Philadelphia after two seasons, where he was a crucial component of the 2017 Super Bowl champions. Darby has ended the past two seasons on injured reserve and signed with Washington this offseason.
Worst pick: Karlos Williams
Williams actually had a promising start to his career, scoring a 26-yard touchdown on his first carry in the NFL. He went on to tie an NFL record by scoring a touchdown in each of his first six games. Buffalo released Williams — who reportedly showed up to camp out of shape — after one season. He joined the Steelers’ practice squad and was suspended three times between August 2016 and June 2017 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Williams never appeared in a game after his rookie season.
Darby, Miller and O’Leary have played more than 55 games in their careers. Darby and Miller have 116 starts between them. None of the other three players appeared in a game after 2016 and Williams’ 11 games played are more than Steward and Lewis combined. Darby’s injuries and the ineffectiveness of half the draft class make justifying a higher grade difficult.
Picks: WR DeVante Parker (14), DT Jordan Phillips (52), OG Jamil Douglas (114), CB Bobby McCain (145), RB Jay Ajayi (149), S Cedric Thompson (150), CB Tony Lippett (156)
Best pick: Bobby McCain
The former Memphis Tiger played in every game from 2015 to 2017 and has made at least four starts all five seasons he’s been in the NFL. McCain signed a four-year, $27 million extension with Miami following the 2017 season and then had the best year of his career in 2018. He started 13 games, compiling 61 tackles, two sacks and an interception. McCain is the only player the Dolphins drafted with 70+ appearances and 40+ starts.
Worst pick: Cedric Thompson
Thompson spent his entire NFL career on practice squads and never appeared in an NFL game. He was a member of Miami, New England and Minnesota’s practice squads at one point between 2015 and 2016. Thompson retired after being waived by the Bengals in the leadup to the 2017 season.
Ajayi made the Pro Bowl in 2016 thanks to a 1,272-yard, eight-touchdown season but has played a total of seven games since winning the Super Bowl with the Eagles in 2017. Parker hadn’t produced more than 744 receiving yards in a season until last year, when he caught 72 passes for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns. While six of the seven players were still active in 2018, the inconsistency of Parker and Ajayi as well as the six top-150 picks make the end result slightly disappointing.
New England Patriots
Picks: DT Malcolm Brown (32), DB Jordan Richards (64), DE/LB Geneo Grissom (97), DE Trey Flowers (101), OG Tre’ Jackson (111), C Shaq Mason (131), LS Joe Cardona (166), LB Matthew Wells (178), TE A.J. Derby (202), CB Darryl Roberts (247), LB Xzavier Dickson (253)
Best pick: Trey Flowers
In the four seasons Flowers has been relatively healthy, he is averaging seven sacks and 54 tackles. After missing 15 contests due to injury as a rookie, he played in every game in 2016. Flowers has appeared in 44 of a possible 48 games since then. He is one of three players drafted in 2015 to force seven fumbles and accumulate at least 28 sacks. The other two players were taken eighth overall (Vic Beasley) and 63rd overall (Frank Clark).
Worst pick: Geneo Grissom
Grissom played more snaps on special teams than he did on defense all four of his seasons in the NFL. His playing time and production also decreased every year. Grissom registered a career-high six tackles and the lone sack of his career in 2015. In 2017, he went back and forth from New England’s practice squad and active roster. Grissom got on the field in two playoff games for the Colts after the Patriots waived him for good in the middle of the 2018 season.
This is a typical Patriots draft in the sense that they found a bunch of useful players in later rounds. Mason leads the group with 70 starts, followed closely by Brown’s 67. Long snapper Cardona has played in every possible game and made at least one tackle every season. Eight of the 11 players New England selected have appeared in at least 25 games. It’s not quite good enough of a group to get an A- but deserves better than a B.
New York Jets
Picks: DE Leonard Williams (6), WR Devin Smith (37), LB Lorenzo Mauldin (82), QB Bryce Petty (103), OG Jarvis Harrison (152), DT Deon Simon (223)
Best pick: Leonard Williams
Williams has nine more appearances and 59 more starts than the rest of the Jets’ draft class combined. Williams recorded seven sacks and 68 tackles in 2016 en route to the Pro Bowl. Williams started every game from 2016 to 2018. There is no point wasting energy defending this selection any more.
Worst pick: Devin Smith
Smith caught nine passes in 10 games before a torn ACL prematurely ended his rookie campaign. He missed most of 2016 recovering from the injury and caught one pass for 20 yards that season. Smith tore his ACL in the same knee again, causing him to miss the entire 2017 season. He made the Cowboys’ roster in 2019 but slid down the depth chart as the season went on, finishing the year with five receptions. Smith has 15 catches for 248 yards in his career.
A weak class means Williams would go in the top 10 if the draft were re-done today, but the Jets did not get a steal at No. 6. Harrison never played a down in the NFL while Petty threw 2.5 interceptions for every touchdown. Nobody except Williams has started more than seven times in their career. New York did fine in the first round and missed on its other five selections.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by Neon Tommy / Flickr