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 2017 NFL Draft re-grade.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: LB Haason Reddick (13th overall), DB Budda Baker (36), WR Chad Williams (98), OG Dorian Johnson (115), OT Will Holden (157), RB T.J. Logan (179), DB Rudy Ford (208)
Best pick: Budda Baker
Baker impressed right away, making the Pro Bowl and earning First Team All-Pro honors in his first season. He missed two games in 2018 but still recorded 102 tackles, registered two sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown. Baker was a Pro Bowler again last season thanks in large part to his league-leading 104 solo tackles. On Aug. 25, he became the highest-paid safety in the NFL by signing a four-year, $59 million extension with the Cardinals.
Worst pick: Dorian Johnson
Johnson failed to make Arizona’s 53-man roster out of training camp and joined the team’s practice squad. The Texans signed him off the Cardinals’ practice squad on Oct. 11, 2017. He spent less than a month on the active roster and was re-signed to Houston’s practice squad. Johnson was with the Panthers in 2018 and was promoted from the practice squad near the end of the season. He last played with the DC Defenders in the XFL and has yet to appear in an NFL game.
Arizona did well in the first two rounds and not so well after that. Reddick hasn’t missed a game and is eight tackles away from 200 for his career. Williams was waived after two seasons and has caught 20 passes for 202 yards in 17 games. Holden, Logan and Ford have a combined 66 appearances and eight starts. Nobody except Reddick and Baker has more than eight starts or 33 games played.
Los Angeles Rams
Picks: TE Gerald Everett (44), WR Cooper Kupp (69), DB John Johnson (91), WR Josh Reynolds (117), LB Samson Ebukam (125), DT Tanzel Smart (189), FB Sam Rogers (206), DE Ejuan Price (234)
Best pick: John Johnson
Kupp, Johnson and Ebukam all have strong cases here. Johnson wins out in the end because he has the most starts of anyone in the Rams’ draft class and was the most impactful right away. He followed up an 11-start, 75-tackle rookie campaign with 119 tackles and four interceptions in year two. Johnson was on his way to replicating those numbers again last season until a shoulder injury sidelined him after six games. Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport named him the Rams’ most promising building block in June.
Worst pick: Gerald Everett
The success of the two players Los Angeles drafted immediately after him makes taking Everett in the second round even worse. He played in every game his first two years and caught 49 passes for 564 yards. Everett got more involved in the offense in 2019, hauling in 37 passes for 408 yards in 13 appearances. He is averaging 1.9 receptions and 21.6 yards per game in his career.
None of these guys have turned into stars yet, but everyone except for Rogers and Price has played in at least 31 games. Kupp produced 1,161 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last season, both team highs. Ebukam has at least 40 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble each of the past two seasons. Both he and Reynolds have appeared in all 48 contests since entering the league.
San Francisco 49ers
Picks: DE Solomon Thomas (3), LB Reuben Foster (31), DB Ahkello Witherspoon (66), QB C.J. Beathard (104), RB Joe Williams (121), TE George Kittle (146), WR Trent Taylor (177), DT D.J. Jones (198), LB Pita Taumoepenu (202), DB Adrian Colbert (229)
Best pick: George Kittle
Kittle was the 49ers’ leading receiver the past two years, catching 173 passes for 2,430 yards and 10 touchdowns between the two seasons. His better statistical season was 2018 but Kittle got his First Team All-Pro selection in 2019 instead. Pro Football Focus had him on its first team both years for what it’s worth. Kittle leads all 2017 draftees and ranks 13th in the league with 2,945 receiving yards in his three seasons.
Worst pick: Reuben Foster
Foster’s NFL career did not get off to a great start as he was sent home from the combine after an argument with a medical worker. He played in 10 games as a rookie and made 72 tackles. Foster was arrested on Feb. 11, 2018 on domestic violence and threat charges, leading to a two-game suspension. The domestic violence charges were eventually dropped. He was arrested again on Nov. 24, 2018 and released the next day. Those charges were also dropped and Washington claimed Foster off waivers. He tore his ACL in his first practice with the team in 2019 and was placed on injured reserve again on Sept. 5, 2020. He has not played in a game since being released by the 49ers.
Here’s how things have gone for San Francisco’s first five picks: Thomas has six sacks in 46 games. Foster is ineligible to return from injured reserve in 2020. Witherspoon — the lone bright spot — has 29 starts and 36 appearances. Beathard went 1-9 when he filled in for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo. Williams never played in an NFL game. Kittle and the three players drafted after him with more than 25 appearances keep the grade at a C.
Picks: DT Malik McDowell (35), C Ethan Pocic (58), DB Shaquill Griffin (90), DB Delano Hill (95), DT Nazair Jones (102), WR Amara Darboh (106), DB Tedric Thompson (111), DB Michael Tyson (187), OT Justin Senior (210), WR David Moore (226), RB Chris Carson (249)
Best pick: Chris Carson
Seventh-round pick Carson has more rushing yards than 2018 No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkey since Barkley was drafted. The four running backs who’ve tallied more rushing yards than Carson in the last two years were taken in the first or second round. In each of his three seasons, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy has averaged between 4.2 and 4.7 yards per carry. All 16 of his rushing touchdowns have come since 2018.
Worst pick: Malik McDowell
Long story short, Seattle gave $4.4 million guaranteed to a player who has not suited up for an NFL game. McDowell was in an ATV accident prior to training camp and was placed on the non-football injury list, where he stayed until being released on March 2, 2019. A string of arrests from September 2017 to April 2019 ultimately resulted in McDowell being sentenced to 11 months in prison on Nov. 13, 2019.
There was the good (Carson and 2019 Pro Bowler Griffin), the bad (36 appearances and two starts combined from Jones and Darboh) and the ugly (McDowell) in this draft for the Seahawks. Five guys who have played in 30+ plus games isn’t bad at all, though only Carson and Griffin have more than 16 starts. Two picks in the second round and four in the third more than make up for not having a first round selection. It all comes to a rather average draft class in the end.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by AlexanderJonesi / Wikimedia Commons