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 2018 NFL Draft re-grade starts its journey in the AFC East.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: QB Josh Allen (7th overall), LB Tremaine Edmunds (16), DT Harrison Phillips (96), DB Taron Johnson (121), DB Siran Neal (154), OG Wyatt Teller (166), WR Ray-Ray McCloud (187), WR Austin Proehl (255)
Best pick: Tremaine Edmunds
In 31 games, Edmunds has compiled three interceptions, two forced fumbles, 3.5 sacks, 236 tackles and a Pro Bowl selection. He started all 15 games he played in as a rookie and posted 80 solo tackles. The numbers weren’t quite as gaudy in 2019, but the Bills’ improvement as a team helped Edmunds earn the Pro Bowl invite. While it would be easy to go with Allen, there’s a real argument Edmunds and that defense are more responsible for the Bills’ playoff appearance last season than Allen is.
Worst pick: Harrison Phillips
Phillips was on the field for 38% of Buffalo’s defensive snaps in his debut season. He made 35 tackles and recovered a fumble while also playing some special teams. Phillips got the first sack of his career last season but a torn ACL ended his year after just three games. He is the only one of the Bills’ top six picks without a start and the only one with fewer than 20 career appearances.
Allen has eight game-winning drives and 1,141 rushing yards to go with his 15-12 record as a starter. He made a significant leap in year two and is clearly the quarterback of the future in Buffalo even if he never becomes a star. Allen, Edmunds and Teller all have more starts than the rest of the group combined. There’s not enough depth two years in to make this an A+, though it’s closer to that than an A-.
Picks: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (11), TE Mike Gesicki (42), LB Jerome Baker (73), TE Durham Smythe (123), RB Kalen Ballage (131), DB Cornell Armstrong (209), LB Quentin Poling (227), K Jason Sanders (229)
Best pick: Minkah Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick put together a fantastic rookie campaign, collecting 80 tackles and picking off two passes. Miami sent him to Pittsburgh two games into the 2019 season and he posted five interceptions in 14 games for the Steelers. Fitzpatrick was named a First Team All-Pro and invited to the Pro Bowl for his performance, which included the second and third defensive touchdowns of his 32-game career.
Worst pick: Mike Gesicki
The standards raise quite a bit when seven of the eight players in the draft class have at least 20 appearances in two seasons. Gesicki was targeted exactly twice a game in 2018 and caught 22 passes for 202 yards. He became more involved in Miami’s offense last season with 51 receptions for 570 yards and five touchdowns. An average of 24.1 yards per game for a tight end taken in the top 50 doesn’t exactly scream good value.
Miami’s first four picks have played in 127 of a possible 128 games, an extremely impressive feat. Fitzpatrick is already a star and Baker is coming off a 126-tackle campaign. Ballage has more receptions and receiving yards as a rotational back than Smythe does. Sanders is 41-for-50 on field goals in his career. There just isn’t much to get excited about outside of Fitzpatrick and Baker.
New England Patriots
Picks: OT Isaiah Wynn (23), RB Sony Michel (31), DB Duke Dawson (56), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (143), LB Christian Sam (178), WR Braxton Berrios (210), QB Danny Etling (219), DB Keion Crossen (243), TE Ryan Izzo (250)
Best pick: Sony Michel
Michel is the best pick in this group based on just about every measurement possible. He has more starts than the rest of the class combined and has played in more games than anyone else. Michel followed up a 931-yard, six-touchdown campaign in 2018 with 912 yards and seven touchdowns last season. That’s really all there is to say on this one.
Worst pick: Isaiah Wynn
There are only so many conclusions that can be drawn from two seasons’ worth of information and Wynn is a reminder of that. He tore his Achilles during the 2018 preseason and was unavailable for the entire season. Wynn began 2019 as the Patriots’ starting left tackle but injured his toe in Week 2. He returned from injured reserve to start six more games, bringing his number of career appearances up to eight.
Not that it needs to be said, but this grade could look drastically different in a year or two. Neither Wynn nor Dawson played a game for the Patriots in 2018. Dawson was traded to Denver last offseason and made three starts for the Broncos. Crossen has played mostly on special teams but is the only one besides Michel with more than 20 appearances. Sam and Etling have yet to take the field in an NFL game.
New York Jets
Picks: QB Sam Darnold (3), DT Nathan Shepherd (72), TE Chris Herndon (107), DB Perry Nickerson (179), DT Folorunso Fatukasi (180), RB Trenton Cannon (204)
Best pick: Sam Darnold
None of the other five guys the Jets took have been particularly impressive and it appears Darnold is at the very least a serviceable starting quarterback. The Jets won seven of the 13 games he started last season partly due to the strides Darnold made. His completion percentage went from 57.7% to 61.9% and his interception percentage decreased from 3.6% to 2.9%. He’s going to get every opportunity to succeed, and rightfully so.
Worst pick: Nathan Shepherd
It’s between Herndon and Shepherd since all three sixth-rounders have at least 15 appearances. Herdon’s got over twice as many starts (12 to 5), which is how Shepherd winds up here. He got five starts and played in every game as a rookie, compiling 15 tackles. The Fort Hays State product was suspended six games for using performance-enhancing drugs to help recover from offseason surgery. Shepherd appeared in nine games for the Jets last season.
The jury is still out on Darnold but it’s clear New York did not make a terrible decision drafting him third overall. Everyone else has played in between 15 and 25 games with fairly limited success, though that counts for something when three of those five guys were taken in the sixth round. Herndon has 40 catches for 509 yards and four touchdowns in 17 games.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
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