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 continues with the AFC North.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: WR Breshad Perriman (26th overall), TE Maxx Williams (55), DT Carl Davis (90), DE/LB Za’Darius Smith (122), RB Javorius Allen (125), CB Tray Walker (136), TE Nick Boyle (171), OG Robert Myers (176), TE Darren Waller (204)
Best pick: Za’Darius Smith
Smith did not start a single game as a rookie but still managed to produce 5.5 sacks in 15 appearances. Things really took off in 2018 when he played in every game — starting eight of them — and finished with 45 tackles and 8.5 sacks. He signed a four-year, $66 million deal with Green Bay prior to last season and made the Pro Bowl thanks to a 55-tackle, 13.5-sack campaign. Smith’s 32 career sacks are the fifth-highest total of anyone drafted in 2015.
Worst pick: Robert Myers
Baltimore released Myers during final roster cuts in 2015. He joined the Ravens’ practice squad after a six-day stint with the Colts. The Broncos signed Myers off Baltimore’s practice squad near the end of the season but he never appeared in a game. He spent the 2016 season — Myers’ last in the NFL — on the Seahawks’ practice squad. Myers has since played in both the Alliance of American Football and XFL.
The Ravens drafted a wide receiver and three tight ends, yet Allen has more receptions than any of them. Perriman didn’t post 500 receiving yards in a season until this past year when he finished with 645. Walker tragically passed away in 2016 due to injuries sustained during a dirt bike accident. Waller came out of absolutely nowhere with 90 catches for 1,145 yards in 2019. He had 18 receptions in his career before last season and was suspended for all of 2017. Williams, Smith and Boyle are the only ones with more than 20 starts.
Picks: OT Cedric Ogbuehi (21), OT Jake Fisher (53), TE Tyler Kroft (85), LB Paul Dawson (99), CB Josh Shaw (120), DE Marcus Hardison (135), TE C.J. Uzomah (157), DB Derron Smith (197), WR Mario Alford (238)
Best pick: C.J. Uzomah
After making 12 starts over his first three seasons, Uzomah has started 31 of 32 games since 2018. He set career highs in receptions (43), receiving yards (439) and touchdowns (3) in 2018. The former Auburn Tiger has more receptions and receiving yards than Kroft and Alford combined. Uzomah’s 43 starts lead the group and his 61 appearances are second to Kroft’s 62.
Worst pick: Cedric Ogbuehi
Ogbuehi’s professional debut was delayed until Week 12 as he recovered from a torn ACL he suffered in college. His first start did not come until 2016. By 2018, he was a healthy scratch for a majority of the season, playing a total of 58 snaps. The Bengals declined his fifth-year option and Ogbuehi signed with the Jaguars for the 2019 season. He served as a backup for Jacksonville, appearing in 14 games.
Ogbuehi has failed to solidify himself as a starter while Fisher was done after four seasons and 48 games. No one except Kroft and Uzomah has more than 25 starts in their career. Dawson never started a game and Hardison never played in one. Shaw is currently suspended through at least the end of the 2020 season for betting on NFL games. Six guys have at least 38 appearances, but that’s the best thing that can be said about this class.
Picks: DT Danny Shelton (12), C Cameron Erving (19), DE Nate Orchard (51), RB Duke Johnson (77), DT Xavier Cooper (96), DB Ibraheim Campbell (115), WR Vince Mayle (123), DB Charles Gaines (189), TE Malcolm Johnson (195), TE Randall Telfer (198), LB Hayes Pullard (219), CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (241)
Best pick: Duke Johnson
Johnson is one of 34 players to appear in every game over the past five seasons and one of 15 to do so while as a member of multiple teams. He has produced between 630 and 1,041 yards of offense every season despite only starting 12 times. Since entering the league, Johnson ranks second among running backs in receiving yards with 2,580. Though he’s never rushed for more than 410 yards in a season, Johnson has been a reliable, versatile threat in the backfield from day one.
Worst pick: Xavier Cooper
Cooper’s two seasons with the Browns included two starts, 1.5 sacks, 39 tackles and multiple healthy scratches. He was waived on Sept. 2, 2017, and the 49ers claimed him the next day. Cooper played five games with the 49ers and eight with the Jets in 2017. His 40-game career came to a close when he failed to make the Jets’ roster in 2018.
Neither Shelton or Erving has proven worthy of being a top-20 pick and there was no hidden gem in the later rounds. However, Shelton has started 60 games and Erving started eight times for the Super Bowl champions last season. Ten of the 12 players Cleveland selected have played in at least 19 games, which is why the grade is a C- and not a D+.
Picks: LB Bud Dupree (22), CB Senquez Golson (56), WR Sammie Coates (87), CB Doran Grant (121), TE Jesse James (160), DT Leterrius Walton (199), DE Anthony Chickillo (212), DB Gerod Holliman (239)
Best pick: Bud Dupree
Dupree recorded four sacks and as a rookie and has steadily improved his production since then. He set a new career high with six sacks in 2017 and nearly doubled that with 11.5 in 2019. The five-year veteran has played every game the past two seasons, compiling 17 sacks, 110 total tackles and 24 tackles for loss since 2018. Dupree’s 55 starts are eight more than any other player in Pittsburgh’s draft class.
Worst pick: Senquez Golson
Talk about injuries derailing a career. Golson suffered season-ending injuries before preseason games started in 2015 and 2016. He got hurt again in 2017, forcing him to miss the Steelers’ preseason games for the third year in a row. Pittsburgh waived Golson on Sept. 2, 2017. He spent a week on the Buccaneers’ practice squad in 2017 and six weeks with the Raiders during the 2018 offseason. The former second round pick never played in an NFL game.
What happened to Golson was extremely unlucky, but that doesn’t explain six picks with fewer than 10 career starts, three of whom were selected in the first three rounds. James has appeared in all 16 contests for four consecutive seasons with career totals of 1,331 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Dupree, Coates, James, Walton and Chickillo have played in more than 35 games. It wasn’t a horrific draft for the Steelers, but it sure wasn’t a good one.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by Erik Drost / Flickr