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.
Leading off the 2016 NFL Draft re-grade is the AFC East.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: DE Shaq Lawson (19th overall), LB Reggie Ragland (41), DT Adolphus Washington (80), QB Cardale Jones (139), RB Jonathan Williams (156), WR Kolby Listenbee (192), DB Kevon Seymour (218)
Best pick: Reggie Ragland
Had Ragland not torn his ACL and missed his entire rookie season, he would lead the group in both games played and games started. Even with the missed season, Ragland has 11 more starts than anyone else in the group. Buffalo sent him to Kansas City in exchange for a 2019 fourth round pick prior to the 2017 campaign. He has 160 tackles in 42 appearances with the Chiefs and has made at least seven starts all three years he’s been in Kansas City.
Worst pick: Adolphus Washington
It’s a toss-up between Washington and his college teammate Jones, but Washington wins because Jones’ NFL career lasted just a couple weeks longer. Washington produced 3.5 sacks and 54 tackles in 30 games over his first two seasons. The Bills released him after the season opener in 2018 and he joined the Cowboys’ practice squad. He was signed by the Bengals eight days later and appeared in four games before landing on injured reserve. Washington failed to make the Dolphins’ roster in 2019.
Five of the seven players have at least 23 career appearances. Only three of them were on an active roster last season though. Lawson has 16.5 sacks as part of Buffalo’s defensive line rotation. Williams has 79 carries for 329 yards and two touchdowns. By Week 2 of the 2018 season, the Bills’ second, third and fourth round picks were no longer with the team. That’s usually not a good sign.
Picks: OT Laremy Tunsil (13), DB Xavien Howard (38), RB Kenyan Drake (73), WR Leonte Carroo (86), WR Jakeem Grant (186), DB Jordan Lucas (204), QB Brandon Doughty (223), TE Thomas Duarte (231)
Best pick: Laremy Tunsil
Since his social media accounts became the talk of the draft, Tunsil has made 58 starts and emerged as one of the better left tackles in the league. Miami traded him to Houston last offseason as part of a package that brought back two first-rounders and a second-rounder. He started 14 games for the Texans and made his first Pro Bowl in 2019.
Worst pick: Leonte Caroo
Tunsil was not the only player with a checkered past the Dolphins drafted in 2016. Caroo caught 12 passes in three seasons with Miami. He was waived and signed to the team’s practice squad before the 2018 season and was promoted to the active roster on Oct. 24. Caroo was not with an NFL team in any capacity in 2019.
At one point, both Tunsil and Howard have been the highest-paid player at their position and both have made the Pro Bowl. Howard has been limited to 40 games because of injuries but tied for the league lead with seven interceptions in 2018 despite only playing in 12 contests. Drake has received at least 120 carries and rushed for at least 535 yards the past three seasons. To top it all off, each of Miami’s first six picks have appeared in at least 37 games.
New England Patriots
Picks: DB Cyrus Jones (60), OG Joe Thuney (78), Jacoby Brissett (91), DT Vincent Valentine (96), WR Malcolm Mitchell (112), LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (208), LB Elandon Roberts (214), OG Ted Karras (221), WR Devin Lucien (225)
Best pick: Joe Thuney
Every dictionary should put Thuney’s name next to this stat for its definition of “durable:” Thuney did not miss an offensive snap until last season, four years into his career. Since being drafted, Thuney has been on the field more than any other player on the Patriots’ offense, including Tom Brady. The Associated Press and Pro Football Focus had him as a member of their second team in 2019.
Worst pick: Vincent Valentine
Valentine played 13 games for the Patriots in 2016, recording 19 tackles and one sack. He was injured for all of 2017 and released during final roster cuts in 2018. Valentine spent time on the Patriots’, Cardinals’ and Seahawks’ practice squads before getting on Arizona’s active roster for the last three games of the 2018 season. That was the last time he played in an NFL game.
In addition to selecting Thuney and a quarterback with 32 starts, all three sixth round picks have 54+ appearances and 16+ starts. That makes up for the fact that Jones, Valentine and Mitchell were gone for good by the middle of 2018. The grade is an A if the Colts felt confident enough in Brissett to stick with him moving forward. Instead, they brought in 38-year-old Phillip Rivers. The biggest flaw with this group is the lack of top-notch talent.
New York Jets
Picks: LB Darron Lee (20), QB Christian Hackenberg (51), LB Jordan Jenkins (83), DB Justin Burris (118), OT Brandon Shell (158), P Lac Edwards (235), WR Charone Peake (241)
Best pick: Jordan Jenkins
Jenkins has played in 60 of a possible 64 games in his four seasons as a pro, starting 50 of them. His 50 starts are 10 more than anyone else the Jets selected and his 60 appearances trail only Edwards. He is also one of five players drafted in 2016 with more than 20 sacks and at least 100 tackles. Jenkins has increased his sack total every year, recording a career-high eight in 2019.
Worst pick: Christian Hackenberg
The Jets gave a $1.6 million signing bonus to Hackenburg — who never played in an NFL game — as part of a standard rookie contract for someone drafted in the second round. The former five-star recruit began his professional career as New York’s fourth-string quarterback and was bumped up to third string in 2017. Hackenberg was out of the NFL by November 2018 and played in the Alliance of American Football, where he didn’t fare any better.
Everyone except Hackenberg has played in at least 31 games, which is no small accomplishment considering four of those players were taken after the third round. Lee, Jenkins and Shell have a combined 128 starts. The Jets traded Lee to Kansas City last offseason after three years and 241 tackles. Edwards led the NFL in total punt yardage in 2019. As bad as the Hackenberg pick was, New York was able to get some nice value with the rest of its selections.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by swimfinfan / Flickr