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 shifts its focus to the AFC South.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: DB Kevin Johnson (16th overall), LB Benardrick McKinney (43), WR Jaelen Strong (70), WR Keith Mumphrey (175), LB Reshard Cliett (211), DT Christian Covington (216), RB Kenny Hilliard (235)
Best pick: Benardrick McKinney
McKinney has 73 starts in his career while the rest of the group has 43 combined. He started every game from 2016 to 2018, the year he made the Pro Bowl. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2016, McKinney has averaged 107.5 tackles per season. His best year came in 2016, when he produced career highs in tackles (129) and sacks (5).
Worst pick: Jalen Strong
Smith caught 14 passes in 10 games as a rookie and 14 passes in eight games in his second season. He missed the second half of 2016 with a sprained ankle and was suspended for the first game of 2017 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Houston released Strong two games into the 2017 season. Jacksonville claimed him off waivers and he wound up on the Jaguars’ practice squad. Promoted to the active roster on Dec. 23, Strong caught a touchdown and tore his ACL in his only game with the team. He was out of the league in 2018 and failed to make the Browns’ roster last season.
Four of the Texans’ seven picks have not played in a game since 2017. Cliett and Hilliard never played in one at all. Johnson hasn’t started more than four times since his rookie season. Strong and Mumphrey combined for 55 receptions and 528 yards. The lone bright spots are McKinney and Covington, who has 66 appearances as a rotational piece. McKinney’s been too good to drop this to a D+.
Picks: WR Phillip Dorsett (29), DB D’Joun Smith (65), DE Henry Anderson (93), DB Clayton Geathers (109), DT David Parry (151), RB Josh Robinson (205), LB Amarlo Herrera (207), OT Denzelle Good (255)
Best pick: Henry Anderson
There is not a clear choice here, but Anderson’s seven-sack campaign in 2018 is the best single season of the group. Anderson also has the most starts (35) and second-most appearances (58), trailing only Dorsett. He followed up his impressive 2018 season with a career-high 13 starts in 2019. The five-year veteran has 19 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in his career.
Worst pick: D’Joun Smith
Smith was a member of the Colts for one season in which he missed 12 games through injury. He made one appearance with the Titans in 2016 and was out of the NFL by the beginning of the 2017 season. Smith signed with the Orlando Apolos for the inaugural Alliance of American Football season in 2019. He was waived shortly after the season began.
Dorsett is averaging 23 receiving yards per game for his career and has produced more than 400 in a season just once. Anderson, Geathers and Parry are the only three with more than 30 starts, and none of them have more than 35. Smith, Robinson and Herrera played in a total of 13 contests. The Colts certainly had a disappointing draft, but they didn’t walk away completely empty-handed.
Picks: DE/LB Dante Fowler (3), RB T.J. Yeldon (36), OG A.J. Cann (67), DB James Sample (104), WR Rashad Greene (139), DT Michael Bennett (180), WR Neal Sterling (220), TE Ben Koyack (229)
Best pick: A.J. Cann
There is nothing confusing or complex about this decision. In all five of his NFL seasons, Cann has made at least 13 starts and played between 777 and 1,113 offensive snaps for the Jaguars. In 2016, he was on the field for every offensive snap. The other seven players Jacksonville selected have a combined 78 starts while Cann has 75 by himself.
Worst pick: James Sample
Sample made two starts and four appearances as a rookie before a forearm injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. A shoulder injury suffered during the preseason caused him to miss all of 2016. The Jaguars released Sample on Aug. 6, 2017. He signed a future/reserve contract with Washington in January 2018 and was released in April 2018. Sample signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League on Jan 27, 2020.
Everyone except Sample was still playing in 2018 and has a minimum of 16 appearances. After missing 2015 with a torn ACL, Fowler has 27.5 sacks in 63 games over the past four seasons. Yeldon has produced 3,361 yards of offense in 57 games. Koyack is fourth in the group with 18 career starts. Though Fowler and Yeldon haven’t been able to live up to expectations, they were by no means disastrous picks.
Picks: QB Marcus Mariota (2), WR Dorial Green-Beckham (40), OG Jeremiah Poutasi (66), DT Angelo Blackson (100), FB Jalston Fowler (108), RB David Cobb (138), LB Deiontrez Mount (177), C Andy Gallik (208), WR Tre McBride (245)
Best pick: Marcus Mariota
Despite never playing a full season in his career and getting benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill in 2019, Mariota has still started more games than the Titans’ other eight draft picks combined. The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner led Tennessee to three straight 9-7 seasons from 2016 to 2018, the first time the franchise posted a winning record three years in a row since they did it as the Houston Oilers from 1991 to 1993. This is a commentary on the rest of the Titans’ picks rather than Mariota’s greatness.
Worst pick: Dorial Green-Beckham
Dismissed by Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel after two seasons, Green-Beckham spent his final college season as a member of Oklahoma’s scout team. He became the third player in franchise history to score a touchdown on their first two receptions. Green-Beckham finished his rookie season with 32 catches for 549 yards. Tennessee traded him to the Eagles for offensive lineman Dennis Kelly in August 2016. Philadelphia waived Green-Beckham after one season, bringing his NFL career to an end.
Seven of the nine players Tennessee selected have not appeared in a game the past two years. That means 22% of the Titans’ picks made it to the end of their rookie contracts. Mariota, Green-Beckham and Blackson are the only ones with more than 10 starts. Tennessee’s best pick was a quarterback the franchise took second overall and gave up on. Mariota did win the Titans 29 games, which is why the grade isn’t even worse.
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Photo by Neon Tommy / Flickr