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 rolls on with the AFC West.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: DE Shane Ray (23rd overall), OT Ty Sambrailo (59), TE Jeff Heuerman (92), C Max Garcia (133), Lorenzo Doss (164), DT Darius Kilgo (203), QB Trevor Siemian (250), DB Tauren Nixon (251), DB Josh Furman (252)
Best pick: Trevor Siemian
In a group where nobody stands out, the quarterback taken in the seventh round who went 13-11 in two seasons as a starter wins. Siemian beat out first round pick Paxton Lynch and veteran Mark Sanchez for the starting job in 2016. He guided the Broncos to eight victories in his 14 starts and was named as an alternate for the Pro Bowl. The 2017 season did not go as smoothly, but Siemian still is one of four quarterbacks to be selected in the seventh round and start at least 25 games in the last 20 years.
Worst pick: Shane Ray
Ray appeared in 49 games in four seasons with the Broncos, starting 15 times and recording 14 sacks. He battled injuries his last two years and Denver declined his fifth-year option. The Ravens signed Ray in May 2019 but let him go during final roster cuts. He might have gone in the top 10 had he not been cited for possession of marijuana right before the draft.
Heuerman and Garcia are the only ones with more than 25 starts. Sambrailo has played in 57 games with 13 starts. It seems improbable Siemian gets another chance to be anything more than a backup. Everyone except Nixon and Furman played in a full season’s worth of games. This is a D had Siemian’s career gone the way of most seventh round picks.
Kansas City Chiefs
Picks: DB Marcus Peters (18), OG Mitch Morse (49), WR Chris Conley (76), DB Steven Nelson (98), LB Ramik Wilson (118), LB D.J. Alexander (172), TE James O’Shaughnessy (173), DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches (217), WR Da’Ron Brown (233)
Best pick: Marcus Peters
Peters leads the NFL in interceptions (27), interception return yards (797) and interceptions returned for a touchdown (6) since entering the league. Second place sits at 18 (Stephon Gilmore), 353 (Stephon Gilmore) and four (Aqib Talib and Deion Jones), respectively, in those categories. Peters was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, a First Team All-Pro in his second season and a First Team All-Pro again in 2019. He also has three Pro Bowl selections, one for every game he’s missed in his career.
Worst pick: Chris Conley
In four years with Kansas City, Conley never posted more than 530 receiving yards in a season. He caught one touchdown before the 2018 season and finished with less than 200 yards in 2015 and 2017. Conley broke out with the Jaguars in 2019, setting new career highs in receptions (47) and receiving yards (775). His 48 starts are the fewest of any player the Chiefs picked in the first three rounds.
Kansas City got Peters and seven other guys with 45+ career appearances who were active last season. Of those seven players, only Alexander has fewer than 15 starts. The raw talent level aside from Peters isn’t enough to warrant an A+, but there are only a handful of draft classes where Conley would be the most disappointing of the bunch.
Las Vegas Raiders (then the Oakland Raiders)
Picks: WR Amari Cooper (4), DE Mario Edwards (35), TE Clive Warford (68), OG Jon Feliciano (128), LB Ben Heeney (140), LB Neiron Ball (161), LB Max Valles (179), OT Anthony Morris (218), WR Andre Debose (221), CB Dexter McDonald (242)
Best pick: Amari Cooper
The only season Cooper missed more than one game was 2017, when he missed two. That was also the only season Cooper was not invited to the Pro Bowl. He is one of eight players with 350+ catches, 5,000+ receiving yards and 30+ receiving touchdowns in the last five years. Cooper set new career bests in receiving yards (1,189) and receiving touchdowns (8) in his first full season with the Cowboys in 2019. He has three times as many starts as anyone else the Raiders drafted.
Worst pick: Mario Edwards
Edwards was on the field for 596 defensive snaps as a rookie and has not played more than 475 since. The Raiders released him after three seasons and 30 appearances, 24 of which were starts. Edwards has not started a game or played 300 defensive snaps in a season after leaving Oakland. He spent 2018 with the Giants and signed a two-year deal with the Saints prior to the 2019 season. The former five-star recruit has 10.5 sacks in his career.
Edwards’ playing time has continued to decrease while Feliciano had made eight starts in his career before starting all 16 contests for the Bills last season. Warford’s been on a different team each of the past three years and has 74 catches to his name. Valles, Morris and Debose never played in an NFL game. Nobody except Cooper has turned into anything more than a depth piece.
Los Angeles Chargers (then the San Diego Chargers)
Picks: RB Melvin Gordon (15), LB Denzel Perryman (48), CB Craig Mager (83), LB Kyle Emanuel (153), DE Darius Philon (192)
Best pick: Melvin Gordon
Gordon has played more than 14 games just once yet has more appearances (67) and starts (62) than any other member of the Chargers’ draft class. His lone 1,000-yard season in 2017 was sandwiched between Pro Bowl appearances in 2016 and 2018. After not scoring a touchdown his first season, Gordon’s accounted for 47 the past four years. The 2014 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year is second behind Todd Gurley in rushing yards by players drafted in 2015 with 4,240.
Worst pick: Craig Mager
Mager’s 24 appearances and 10 starts are the fewest in the group by a wide margin. Philon ranks second-to-last and is one start away from doubling Mager in both. All 10 of Mager’s starts and 21 of his appearances came in his first two seasons. He was on Los Angeles’ practice squad for most of 2017. Mager played one final game in 2018 before landing on injured reserve and briefly joined the Broncos at the end of that season.
The Chargers have gotten an average of 53 games and 34 starts from their five picks. In other words, they did a fine job. Perryman has registered at least 50 tackles in four of his five seasons. Emmanuel was absent for one game in his four years with the team and Philon recorded 8.5 sacks in his final two seasons before getting charged with aggravated assault in 2019.
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Photo by Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons