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 NFC West rounds out the 2015 NFL Draft re-grade.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: OT D.J. Humphries (24th overall), DE/LB Markus Golden (58), RB David Johnson (86), DT Rodney Gunter (116), DE Shaquille Riddick (158), WR JJ Nelson (159), TE Gerald Christian (256)
Best pick: David Johnson
Two players have at least 3,000 rushing yards and more than 2,000 receiving yards in the last five seasons: Todd Gurley and Johnson. In fact, Johnson’s 2,219 receiving yards and 15 receiving touchdowns are the most of any running back since he entered the league. Those numbers would be even better had Johnson not dislocated his wrist in his first game of the 2017 season. The 2016 First Team All-Pro hasn’t been quite the same since.
Worst pick: D.J. Humphries
It’s not very often a first round pick is a healthy scratch for their entire rookie season as Humphries was. To his credit, Humphries came back a different player in 2016 and started all 13 games he played in. Injuries limited him to 14 games over the next two seasons. Humphries stayed healthy in 2019 and played every offensive snap for Arizona. While he’s certainly not a bust at this point, his 43 appearances are 19 fewer than anyone the Cardinals took in the first four rounds.
This draft class could’ve been something special if not for a few bad breaks with injuries. Golden’s posted double-digit sacks twice and ranks seventh among 2015 draftees with 29 in his career. Gunter and Nelson have played in a combined 135 contests. All five of those players were active last season. Christian appeared in three games and Riddick failed to get on the field in the NFL.
Los Angeles Rams (then the St. Louis Rams)
Picks: RB Todd Gurley (10), OT Rob Havanstein (57), OT Jamon Brown (72), QB Sean Mannion (89), OT Andrew Donnal (119), WR Bud Sasser (201), OG Cody Wichmann (215), LB Bryce Hager (224), DE Martin Ifedi (227)
Best pick: Todd Gurley
Remember that little factoid about Gurley and David Johnson? Now consider Gurley ranks first in rushing yards (5,404), first in rushing touchdowns (58) and second in rushing yards per game (74.0) since 2015. The three-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro has three seasons with over 1,100 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns. No player was more responsible for the Rams getting to Super Bowl LIII than Gurley, who was named the 2017 AP Offensive Player of the Year for his efforts.
Worst pick: Andrew Donnal
The guys the Rams took ahead of Donnal were Gurley, two players with more than 45 starts and an established backup quarterback. Donnal has six starts and 408 offensive snaps in his 31-game career. Since Los Angeles released him in November 2017, Donnal has played for the Ravens, Lions and Dolphins. He signed a reserve/future contract with the Colts on Dec. 30, 2019.
Seventh-rounder Hager is second in the group behind Gurley in games played with 69. Havenstein has started all 68 games he’s appeared in and played every offensive snap in 2018. The Rams followed up the Gurley pick with solid — if unspectacular — selections the rest of the way.
San Francisco 49ers
Picks: DE/DT Arik Armstead (17), DB Jaquiski Tartt (46), DE/LB Eli Harold (79), TE Blake Bell (117), RB Mike Davis (126), WR DeAndre Smelter (132), P Bradley Pinion (165), OG Ian Silberman (190), OT Trent Brown (244), TE Rory Anderson (254)
Best pick: Trent Brown
In less than four years, Brown went from seventh round pick to the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL. His four-year, $66 million deal with the Raiders has since been surpassed, but Brown lived up to it last season, making the Pro Bowl for the first time. In 2018, he started every game for the Super Bowl champion Patriots. His 55 starts are the most of anyone in San Francisco’s 10-man draft class.
Worst pick: Eli Harold
Harold appeared in every regular season game during his three seasons with the 49ers, recording five sacks and making 24 starts. He was traded to the Lions for a conditional 2020 draft pick on Aug. 23, 2018. Harold played in 13 games for Detroit and signed with the Bills the following offseason. Another trade sent him to the Eagles, where he was released during final roster cuts in 2019. He has not played in the NFL since.
The 86 starts and 121 appearances from Armstead and Tartt combined with finding Brown is enough to earn an A-. Pinion hasn’t missed a game in his career and led the NFL in punts in 2016. Seven players have played in more than 45 games, including each of San Francisco’s first five picks.
Picks: DE Frank Clark (63), WR Tyler Lockett (69), OT Terry Poole (130), OG Mark Glowinski (134), DB Tye Smith (170), DE Obum Gwacham (209), DT Kristjan Sokoli (214), DB Ryan Murphy (248)
Best pick: Frank Clark
Clark is one of 14 players with more than 40 sacks since 2015 and one of 10 with four seasons with at least eight sacks in the last five years. The 2019 Super Bowl champion recorded 136 tackles, eight forced fumbles and 35 sacks in his four seasons as a Seahawk. Clark was dealt to the Chiefs right before the 2019 draft and promptly signed a five-year, $105.5 million deal. He made the Pro Bowl for the first time in addition to winning the Super Bowl last season.
Worst pick: Terry Poole
Poole spent his rookie year on the Seahawks’ practice squad and landed on injured reserve before the 2016 season began. He was released a month later and never appeared on an active NFL roster again. Poole played in the Alliance of American Football and XFL after his NFL career came to a close.
Lockett made the 2015 Pro Bowl as a returner, meaning Seattle drafted future Pro Bowlers with its first two picks. He has emerged as a go-to receiver the past two seasons, catching 139 passes for 2,022 yards and 18 touchdowns. The 18 receiving touchdowns are tied with Devante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins for the most in that span. The rest of the group minus Clark, Lockett and Glowinski has a total of four starts, which is why the grade isn’t higher.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by Thomson200 / Wikimedia Commons