Home NFL 2018 NFL Draft Re-grade: AFC South

2018 NFL Draft Re-grade: AFC South

by Joshua Doering

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 moves past the halfway point and onto the AFC South. 

*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season. 

Houston Texans

Picks: DB Justin Reid (68th overall), OT Martinas Rankin (80), TE Jordan Akins (98), WR Keke Coutee (103), DE Duke Ejiofor (177), TE Jordan Thomas (211), LB Peter Kalambayi (214), DB Jermaine Kelly Jr. (222)

Best pick: Justin Reid

Reid put together an excellent rookie season with three interceptions (including one he returned 101 yards for a touchdown), a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and 88 tackles. He did much of the same in his 15 starts last season and finished the year with 78 tackles. Reid’s 27 starts are 12 more than anyone else has. 

Worst pick: Martinas Rankin

Rankin played in all 16 contests as a rookie and made four starts. The Texans traded him to the Chiefs in exchange for running back Carlos Hyde on Aug. 31, 2019. He started five of the six games he played in for Kansas City before landing on injured reserve with a knee injury. There’s no way Rankins ends up here if he stays healthy last season. 

Grade: B+

The ceiling of this group is rather low compared to an average class though that’s to be expected for a team without a pick in the first two rounds. That being said, the Texans should feel really good about what they were able to do. Akins and Coutee have 105 receptions and 1,223 receiving yards between them. Ejiofor’s had terrible luck with injuries and Thomas has more touchdown receptions (4) than Akins and Coutee combined (3). 

Indianapolis Colts

Picks: OG Quenton Nelson (6), LB Darius Leonard (36), OG Braden Smith (37), LB Kemoko Turay (52), DE Tyquan Lewis (64), RB Nyheim Hines (104), WR Daurice Fountain (159), RB Jordan Wilkins (169), WR Deon Cain (185), LB Matthew Adams (221), LB Zaire Franklin (235)

Best pick: Darius Leonard

Leonard is the only player in football with at least 200 tackles, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and six sacks in the past two seasons. Here are Leonard’s actual numbers: 284 tackles, seven interceptions, six forced fumbles and 12 sacks. What the 2018 First Team All-Pro and 2019 Pro Bowler has done in two years is incredible. And by the way, he did all that while missing an average of two games per season. 

Worst pick: Tyquan Lewis

Lewis got six starts in 2018 and produced 13 tackles and two sacks in eight appearances. He got on the field nine times in 2019, registering five tackles in a reduced role. Lewis was hampered by long-term injuries both seasons, which is why eight of the Colts’ 11 draft picks have played in more games than him.  

Grade: A+

Nelson is the best interior offensive lineman in the NFL, hasn’t missed a game and is a two-time First Team All-Pro. You will be hard-pressed to find a better pair of picks that doesn’t involve a franchise-altering quarterback. Smith has 29 starts and played every offensive snap for Indianapolis last season. If that’s not enough, Adams and Franklin — the two seventh-rounders — have seen the field in every game and started multiple times.  

Jacksonville Jaguars

Picks: DT Taven Bryan (29), WR D.J. Chark (61), DB Ronnie Harrison (93), OT Will Richardson (129), QB Tanner Lee (203), LB Leon Jacobs (230), P Logan Cooke (247)

Best pick: D.J. Chark

Chark gets the nod by virtue of having the best single season of the group. After a 14-catch rookie campaign, he hauled in 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019. The former LSU Tiger was one of just of 12 players to be absent for at least one game and still surpass the 1,000-yard mark. Chark was invited to the Pro Bowl thanks to his breakout season. 

Worst pick: Taven Bryan

The fact that Bryan has played in every game almost works to his disadvantage in this situation because only nine of those 32 appearances were starts. He hasn’t been more than a rotational piece on the Jaguars’ defensive line in his first two years. It should be noted that eight of those nine starts came last season when he received more playing time. Bryan has three sacks and 52 tackles in his career. 

Grade: B

Five of the seven picks have more than 25 appearances and Bryan hasn’t been particularly bad. Harrison started all 14 games he played in last season and finished the year with 71 tackles, two picks and two sacks. Jacobs has 10 starts and 63 tackles. Cooke’s held down the punter position since being drafted. The stark contrast between year one and year two for this group makes it difficult to assume they will always perform like they did in 2019 moving forward. 

Tennessee Titans

Picks: LB Rashaan Evans (22), LB Harold Landry (41), DB Dane Cruikshank (152), QB Luke Falk (199)

Best pick: Harold Landry

There is almost no difference between Evans and Landry, so the tie goes to the later draft pick who has contributed in more ways. Landry has an interception, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 13.5 sacks and 112 tackles in 31 games. Nine of those sacks came last season when he started all 16 contests. Landry is one of two players in the 2018 draft class with over 100 tackles and more than 12 sacks. 

Worst pick: Luke Falk

Falk is the only one of the four players Tennessee selected not currently in the NFL. He failed to make the Titans’ roster and was claimed off waivers by the Dolphins. They waived him on May 1, 2019, and the Jets claimed him the next day. He performed well in his NFL debut but went 27-of-48 for 218 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions in his two starts. New York let him go the week after the second start. 

Grade: A-

Evans also started every game in 2019, compiling 2.5 sacks to go with his 111 tackles. He has more starts than the rest of the group combined because Cruikshank has zero and Falk has two. Speaking of Cruikshank, he earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in 2018 for scoring a 66-yard touchdown on a fake punt. Last season, he blocked an Adam Vinatieri field goal attempt that Tye Smith returned for a go-ahead touchdown.   

Click here to see the entire draft grades series. 

Photo by Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons

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