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2015 NFL Draft Re-grade: NFC South

by Joshua Doering

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 moves from the AFC South to the NFC South. 

*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season. 

Atlanta Falcons

Picks: DE/LB Vic Beasley (8th overall), CB Jalen Collins (42), RB Tevin Coleman (73), WR Justin Hardy (107), DT Grady Jarrett (137), OT Jake Rodgers (225), DB Akeem King (249)

Best pick: Grady Jarrett

For starters, Jarrett has played in at least 14 games all five of his seasons as a professional. Three times he’s appeared in all 16 contests, and he’s made at least 14 starts each of the past four years. His sack total has increased every season, resulting in a 7.5-sack, 69-tackle campaign in 2019 that led to a Pro Bowl selection. Jarrett came in 91st in the NFL Top 100 Players of 2020 list compiled based on player voting. 

Worst pick: Jalen Collins

A projected first round pick by most analysts, Collins made two starts and appeared in every game in his first season. Between September 2016 and April 2018, he was suspended four different times by the NFL. The Falcons released him after he was reinstated from the third suspension. Indianapolis signed Collins to its practice squad following the fourth suspension. He was eventually promoted to the active roster but never played in a game. Collins went on to play for the Los Angeles Wildcats and Tampa Bay Vipers in the XFL. 

Grade: A

Atlanta turned seven picks into two Pro Bowlers and four guys with 70+ appearances in five seasons. Bealsey led the NFL and sacks and tied for the league lead in forced fumbles in 2016 and was named a First Team All-Pro for his efforts. Coleman has rushed for at least 500 yards and scored at least seven touchdowns the past four years. This is just a really, really solid draft class. 

Carolina Panthers

Picks: LB Shaq Thompson (25), WR Devin Funchess (41), OT Daryl Williams (102), LB David Mayo (169), RB Cameron Artis-Payne (174)

Best pick: Shaq Thompson

Strangely, Thompson has played in exactly 14 games all five years he’s been in the NFL. He has started 61 of those 70 contests and improved his number of tackles every season. The former Washington Husky went from two sacks and 61 tackles in 2017 to 80 tackles and three-and-a-half sacks in 2018 to 109 tackles and three sacks in 2019. Thompson is one of seven players drafted in 2015 with more than 350 career tackles. 

Worst pick: Cameron Artis-Payne

The first three guys have over 40 starts and Mayo leads the group with 75 appearances, which leaves Artis-Payne. Carolina released Artis-Payne during final roster cuts in 2019, making him the only member of the Panthers’ draft class who was not active in 2019. He rushed for a career-high 183 yards as a rookie and produced a total of 491 in four seasons. The Dallas Renegades selected Artis-Payne in the third round of the XFL draft. 

Grade: B

Carolina got what you would expect from the picks it had, which equates to a B. Funchess has 2,265 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns in 62 games. Williams played every offensive snap for the Panthers in 2017. Mayo was primarily a special teams player for Carolina but started 13 games for the Giants last season. 

New Orleans Saints 

Picks: OG Andrus Peat (13), LB Stephone Anthony (31), LB Hau’oli Kikaha (44), QB Garrett Grayson (75), P.J. Williams (78), LB Davis Tull (148), DT Tyeler Davison (154), CB Damian Swann (167), RB Marcus Murphy (230)

Best pick: Andrus Peat

Peat barely edges out Davison, who tops the Saints’ draft class in appearances (77) and is tied with Peat for the most starts (60). In the end though, New Orleans let Davison leave for the archrival Falcons and signed Peat to a five-year, $57.5 million deal. The biggest knock on the two-time Pro Bowler is that he’s made more than 14 starts just once. That and the 140 picks between Peat and Davison don’t quite make up for the discrepancy in talent. 

Worst pick: Garrett Grayson

Grayson spent one season on an active NFL roster. The Saints released him and then signed him to their practice squad for the 2016 season. Grayson was on the Falcons’ practice squad in 2017 and the Broncos’ practice squad for 2018. On Aug. 8, 2019, Ian Rapoport reported Grayson had turned down an offer from the Falcons and was walking away from football. 

Grade: B-

Peat and Davison are the only ones with more than 23 starts. Anthony had a fantastic rookie season (112 tackles while starting every game) and has done very little since. Grayson was a possible replacement for Drew Brees and a wasted top-75 pick. Kikaha played in 27 games in his three-year career. The Saints chose wisely with Peat and then missed rather badly on their next three picks. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Picks: QB Jameis Winston (1), OT Donovan Smith (34), C/OG Ali Marpet (61), LB Kwon Alexander (124), WR Kenny Bell (162), WR Kaelin Clay (184), FB Joey Iosefa (231)

Best pick: Ali Marpet

Marpet’s ability to perform at a high level at any center or either guard position makes him incredibly valuable. Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the 14th-best interior offensive lineman heading into the 2020 season. Marpet has been on the field for every one of Tampa Bay’s offensive snaps each of the three seasons he played all 16 games. The Buccaneers gave him a five-year, $55 million extension in 2018. 

Worst pick: Jameis Winston

It’s not that Winston was a horrendous No. 1 overall pick, though he wasn’t a particularly good one. Tampa Bay made three excellent picks right after taking Winston, which is why he winds up here. There is also his 28-42 record as a starter and the 30 interceptions Wintson threw last season to take into account. A staggering 4.8% of Winton’s pass attempts went to the opposing team in 2019. The next highest number was Baker Mayfield at 3.9%.  

Grade: A-

Winston wasn’t cataclysmically bad during his five years as a Buccaneer and did lead the NFL in passing yards last season. However, no team taking him first overall is getting an outright A. Smith has started 79 of a possible 80 games for the Buccaneers. Alexander produced 335 tackles in his first three seasons, making the Pro Bowl in 2017. At the end of the day, Tampa Bay found a serviceable quarterback, 40% of its offensive line and a future Pro Bowler in the first four rounds.

Click here to see the entire draft grades series. 

Photo by Thompson20192 / Flickr

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