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 2016 NFL Draft re-grade turns its attention to the NFC East.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: RB Ezekiel Elliott (4th overall), LB Jaylon Smith (34), DT Maliek Collins (67), DE Charles Tapper (101), QB Dak Prescott (135), DB Anthony Brown (189), DB Kavon Frazier (212), RB Darius Jackson (216), TE Rico Gathers (217)
Best pick: Dak Prescott
Prescott has not missed a game in his four years as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback. Dallas has not finished under .500 since drafting Prescott and has won 62.5% of its games. Prescott’s 40 victories since 2016 are tied with Russell Wilson for the second-most in the NFL behind Tom Brady’s 47. He was named the 2016 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and has two Pro Bowl appearances (2016 and 2018). And the Cowboys got him in the fourth round.
Worst pick: Charles Tapper
Tapper registered one sack in two games over an injury-riddled two seasons with the Cowboys. A pre-existing back condition that had gone undiagnosed since birth kept him out for his entire rookie year. Tapper signed a reserve/future contract with the Jets in January 2019 but was waived that May. He announced his retirement from football on June 8, 2020.
Dallas redefined its future with this draft by finding not one but two franchise cornerstones. Elliott and Prescott are enough to warrant an A+ on their own, but Smith also made the Pro Bowl last season and Collins has 55 starts for the team. This is as good as it gets, especially considering six of the Cowboys’ nine picks were outside the top 100.
New York Giants
Picks: DB Eli Apple (10), WR Sterling Shepard (40), DB Darian Thompson (71), LB B.J. Goodson (109), RB Paul Perkins (149), TE Jerell Adams (184)
Best pick: Sterling Shepard
Among 2016 draftees, Shepard ranks third in receptions (247), fourth in receiving yards (2,862), third in receiving yards per game (54.0) and is tied for third in receiving touchdowns (17). The former Oklahoma Sooner has been remarkably consistent, catching between 57 and 66 passes every season. Shepard — who leads the group with 53 starts — signed a four-year, $41 million extension with the Giants last offseason.
Worst pick: Darian Thompson
Thompson has been on a rather chaotic journey in his four-year NFL career. He suffered a foot injury in Week 2 that sidelined him for the remainder of his first season. Thompson then started every game in 2017, lost his starting job that summer, got cut and was signed to the Cardinals’ practice squad. The Cowboys signed him, released him and signed him again in a span of six weeks. Thompson has appeared in 25 games for Dallas and inked a two-year deal to remain with the team in March.
The Giants get docked some for not being able to make things work with Apple or Thompson, both of whom were gone by the middle of the 2018 season. Still, all six players New York selected have at least 29 appearances and were active in 2019. Apple, Shepard and Goodson have played in a combined 160 games. The Giants didn’t make a bad pick, nor did they make a great one.
Picks: QB Carson Wentz (2), OG Isaac Seumalo (79), RB Wendell Smallwood (153), OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (164), DB Blake Countess (196), DB Jalen Mills (233), DE Alex McCalister (240), LB Joe Walker (251)
Best pick: Carson Wentz
Three things have defined Carson Wentz’s career to this point, two of which are extremely positive: an MVP-caliber 2017 season with 11 wins in 13 games that resulted in his team winning the Super Bowl, dragging a bunch of random dudes to the playoffs in 2019 and untimely injuries. Yes, Wentz’s raw talent doesn’t matter when he’s not able to take the field. However, the reality is that having a quarterback capable of carrying a team the way Wentz did last season is worth whatever risks may come with him.
Worst pick: Blake Countess
This gets tricky when Philadelphia only had two picks before the fifth round. Everyone taken before Countess has at least three times as many starts, all of which came with the Eagles. Countess didn’t make Philly’s final roster and wound up on the Rams’ practice squad. Los Angeles eventually promoted him to the active roster and he’s appeared in 43 games over the past four seasons.
The Eagles don’t win the Super Bowl without Wentz, plain and simple. His injuries are the only reason this isn’t an A+. Philadelphia took three players (Smallwood, Vaitai and Mills) after the 150th pick that have played at least 48 games for the team and contributed to a championship. McCalister never appeared in an NFL game. Everyone else has played in 42 or more.
Washington Football Team
Picks: WR Josh Doctson (22), LB/DB Su’a Cravens (53), DB Kendall Fuller (84), DT Matt Ioannidis (152), QB Nate Sudfeld (187), LB Steven Daniels (232), RB Keith Marshall (242)
Best pick: Matt Ioannidis
Washington originally cut Ioannidis and signed him to its practice squad the next day. He got promoted to the active roster and played sparingly in 10 games as a rookie. The former Temple Owl became a starter in 2017 and has appeared in 44 contests the past three seasons. His 20.5 sacks over that span place him just ahead of J.J. Watt, Fletcher Cox, Clay Matthews, Ezekiel Ansah and Vic Beasley. Ioannidis signed a three-year, $21.5 million extension with Washington in 2019.
Worst pick: Su’a Cravens
Cravens played in 11 games as a rookie, sealing a season-opening win over the Giants by picking off Eli Manning. The week before the 2017 season was about to begin, Cravens told the organization he intended to retire. Team president Bruce Allen convinced him to delay his decision and he spent the year on the reserve/left squad list. Cravens ultimately returned to the NFL and was traded to the Broncos. He played five games for Denver and was released during final roster cuts in 2019.
Three of Washington’s picks turned out well and the other four did not. Doctson was released after three seasons and 1,100 yards. Fuller was traded to Kansas City for Alex Smith and is now back in Washington. He and Ioannidis are the only ones with more than 30 starts in the group. Sudfeld has found a nice home as the Eagles’ backup. Daniels never saw the field in an NFL game.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by KA Sports Photos / Flickr