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 next installment of the 2017 NFL Draft re-grade takes a look at the AFC North.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: DB Marlon Humphrey (16th overall), LB Tyus Bowser (47), DE Chris Wormley (74), LB Tim Williams (78), OG Nico Siragusa (122), OG Jermaine Eluemunor (159), DB Chuck Clark (186)
Best pick: Marlon Humphrey
Talk about a breakout season. Humphrey went from starting 43% of the games he played in during his first two seasons to a First Team All-Pro in year three. He picked off three passes, forced two fumbles, returned two fumbles for touchdowns and recorded 65 tackles while playing 98% of Baltimore’s defensive snaps in 2019. Humphrey’s development is a perfect example of why draft classes can’t be fully evaluated until multiple years later.
Worst pick: Nico Siragusa
Siragusa tore his ACL, MCL and PCL during a training camp practice and was sidelined for his entire rookie season. Baltimore waived him during final roster cuts in 2018 and re-signed him to its practice squad. He was briefly on the Packers’ active roster late in the 2018 season but did not appear in a game. Siragusa failed to make an NFL roster last year and was drafted by the Los Angeles Wildcats in phase two of the XFL draft.
Bowser, Williams and Siragusa have a combined zero starts in their careers. Bowser has played more special teams than defense in his career, though he recorded five sacks last season. Nobody except Humphrey has started more than 15 times, and he took three years to become a regular starter. Clark is tied for the most games played in the group with 47. That along with Humphrey’s spectacular season stop the grade from falling to a C+.
Picks: WR John Ross (9), RB Joe Mixon (48), LB Jordan Willis (73), LB Carl Lawson (116), WR Josh Malone (128), DT Ryan Glasgow (138), K Jake Elliott (153), C JJ Dielman (176), LB Jordan Evans (193), RB Brandon Wilson (207), TE Mason Schreck (251)
Best pick: Joe Mixon
Cincinnati controversially decided to draft Mixon knowing there was video of him punching a woman, which is an important — but different — discussion. These grades are about performance above all else. Mixon trails only Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffrey, Chris Carson and Saquon Barkley in rushing yards over the past two seasons. In 2018, he averaged 4.9 yards per carry and led the AFC with 1,168 yards on the ground. He has also caught at least 30 passes all three years.
Worst pick: John Ross
Ross’ sole contribution in 2017 was a rushing attempt for 12 yards. He appeared in three games due to a combination of injuries and healthy scratches. Things went better for Ross in 2018, as he caught 21 passes for 210 yards and seven touchdowns. He broke out last season and posted more receiving yards in the first two weeks than he had in the past two years combined. Ross had 506 receiving yards when another injury shut him down halfway through the season.
Ross and Mixon are the only players with double-digit starts. The other four top-150 picks have 15 starts combined. Elliott lost the kicking competition to Randy Bullock but has since found a home with the Eagles. Dielman never played in an NFL game. Six players — including both sixth-rounders — have made at least 35 appearances. It’s too early to give up on Ross but the return on 11 picks has not been impressive so far.
Picks: DE Myles Garrett (1), DB Jabrill Peppers (25), TE David Njoku (29), QB DeShone Kizer (52), DT Larry Ogunjobi (65), DB Howard Wilson (126), OT Roderick Johnson (160), DT Caleb Brantley (185), K Zane Gonzalez (224), RB Matthew Dayes (252)
Best pick: Myles Garrett
Again, controversy is not a major factor here. Garrett was suspended for the final six games of the 2019 season for hitting Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with Rudolph’s own helmet and still produced 10 sacks. He is averaging .82 sacks and .86 tackles for loss per game three years into his career. No other player with more than 30 sacks since Garrett entered the league has played in fewer than 44 games. Garrett has played in 37.
Worst pick: DeShone Kizer
It took one 11-touchdown, 22-interception season in which Kizer got the start in 15 of the Browns’ 16 losses for Cleveland to decide he was not the future at quarterback. He was dealt to Green Bay and served as Aaron Rodgers’ backup in 2018. The Packers released him when they trimmed their roster to 53 for the 2019 season and the Raiders picked him up the next day. He was waived by Las Vegas this offseason having never seen the field for the team.
Garrett is exactly who he was supposed to be, which is not always the case with No. 1 overall picks. Peppers — who leads the group in starts and is second in appearances — was sent to the Giants in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. Njoku went from 32 catches and 386 yards as a rookie to 56 catches and 639 yards in his second season before missing 12 games last year. The last five guys have a combined four starts. This class looks really good until it’s put in the context of owning picks 1, 25, 29, 52 and 65.
Picks: DE/LB T.J. Watt (30), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (62), DB Cameron Sutton (94), RB James Conner (105), QB Joshua Dobbs (135), DB Brian Allen (173), LS Colin Holba (213), LB Keion Adams (248)
Best pick: T.J. Watt
There is more than one Watt brother putting up ridiculous numbers. T.J. has gotten better every season: seven sacks and an interception in 2017, 13 sacks and six forced fumbles in 2018, 14.5 sacks, two interceptions and eight forced fumbles in 2019. Watt’s 14 forced fumbles since the start of 2018 are three more than any other player. He earned his second straight trip to the Pro Bowl was named a First Team All-Pro for the first time last year. Oh, and he’s missed exactly one game back in 2017.
Worst pick: Cameron Sutton
Sutton began his career on injured reserve after he aggravated a hamstring injury during the preseason. He recovered in time to play in five games and register five tackles. The following season, Sutton recorded his first interception and set a career high with 20 tackles. He played in all 16 contests for the first time in 2019. Sutton has made two starts and 36 appearances in his three-year career.
If the three Pro Bowlers (Watt, Smith-Schuster and Conner) continue performing at this rate, there’s a chance this becomes an A down the road. For now though, it’s a group with three players who have made more than two starts. Even three years in, having a Pro Bowl appearance for every player with multiple starts is rather remarkable.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by Erik Drost / Flickr