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 heads to the AFC West.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: DE Bradley Chubb (5th overall), WR Courtland Sutton (40), RB Royce Freeman (71), DB Isaac Yiadom (99), LB Josey Jewell (106), WR DaeSean Hamilton (113), TE Troy Fumagalli (156), C Sam Jones (183), LB Keishawn Bierria (217), RB David Williams (226)
Best pick: Cortland Sutton
Through two seasons, Sutton has more Pro Bowl invitations (1) than games missed (0). He hauled in 42 passes for 704 yards to rank second on the team in receiving yards in 2018. Last season, he accounted for 33% percent of the Broncos’ yards through the air, posting 1,112 yards on 72 catches. Sutton is one of 25 players with more than 1,800 receiving yards over the past two years.
Worst pick: Isaac Yiadom
Yiadom saw minimal time on defense and also contributed on special teams in his first season, picking off one pass and making one start. He started half of Denver’s games in 2019 and played in all of them. Yiadom finished the season with 43 tackles and four passes defended. The Broncos dealt him to the Giants for a 2021 seventh round pick on Sept. 3, 2020.
Sutton, Freeman, Jewell and Hamilton all have 30+ appearances. Chubb would have been on that list if not for the partially torn ACL that ended his 2019 campaign after four games. He registered 12 sacks and 21 quarterback hits as a rookie. Freeman has 1,017 rushing yards on 262 carries. There is a lot to like about the potential of this draft class.
Kansas City Chiefs
Picks: DE Breeland Speaks (46), DT Derrick Nnadi (75), LB Dorian O’Daniel (100), DB Armani Watts (124), WR Tremon Smith (196), DT Khalil McKenzie (198)
Best pick: Derrick Nnadi
For starters, Nnadi is the lone member of this draft class to start a game after 2018. Additionally, he made more starts in 2018 (11) than the rest of the group combined (6). Finally, Nnadi started all 16 contests for the Super Bowl champions last season. This might have been the easiest decision of the entire NFL draft re-grade series so far.
Worst pick: Breeland Speaks
This call wasn’t quite as easy as Nnadi but it wasn’t too far away. Speaks appeared in every game as a rookie, making four starts and recovering two fumbles. He began 2019 on injured reserve and was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Speaks went back on injured reserve when he was reinstated. Kansas City waived him during final roster cuts on Sept. 5, 2020.
Speaks is just trying to get back in the league right now. O’Daniel and Watts have both played much more special teams than defense in their careers. Smith has yet to catch a pass and has bounced around quite a bit. McKenzie never played in an NFL game. Four guys (Nnadi, O’Daniel, Watts and Smith) have played in more than 20 games, which barely keeps the grade above a D+.
Las Vegas Raiders (then the Oakland Raiders)
Picks: OT Kolton Miller (15), DT P.J. Hall (57), OT Brandon Parker (65), DE Arden Key (87), DB Nick Nelson (110), DT Maurice Hurst Jr. (140), P Johnny Townsend (173), LB Azeem Victor (216), WR Marcell Ateman (228)
Best pick: Kolton Miller
Miller has started every game of his career while nobody else has gotten to 20 starts. He was on the field for every offensive snap for the Raiders in 2019. The former UCLA Bruin only had four penalties called against him last season, three of which were enforced. Miller’s performed well enough at left tackle to keep Pro Bowlers Donald Penn and Trent Brown on the right side of the Raiders’ offensive line.
Worst pick: Nick Nelson
Nelson started three times and made 10 appearances in 2018. He recovered a fumble and collected 20 tackles. Nelson was waived by the Raiders on Aug. 31 2019, and signed to the team’s practice squad two days later. He got back on the active roster in December, playing in two games before being placed on injured reserve. Las Vegas waived him for a second time on May 18, 2020, to make room for the free agent signing of Prince Amukamara.
Miller, Hall, Parker, Key and Hurst all have between 10 and 18 starts. Hurst leads the three defensive linemen with 7.5 sacks in 29 games. He has been the most impactful player outside of Miller. Key started 10 times in his rookie season and Hall made 12 starts last year. Townsend served as the Raiders’ punter for one season and was let go.
Los Angeles Chargers
Picks: DB Derwin James (17), LB Uchenna Nwosu (48), DT Justin Jones (84), DB Kyzir White (119), C Scott Quessenberry (155), WR Dylan Cantrell (191), RB Justin Jackson (251)
Best pick: Derwin James
It is still too early in James’ career to assume he will always struggle to stay healthy. Yes, he missed 11 games in 2019 with a stress fracture in his foot and is out for the entire 2020 season with a torn meniscus. The year James played in every game (2018), the numbers were as follows: 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions. He earned both an invite to the Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro honors as well. A couple bad breaks don’t outweigh the immense potential James has.
Worst pick: Dylan Cantrell
The five guys taken ahead of Cantrell have at least 19 appearances and six starts while Cantell has yet to take the field in an NFL game. He was on the Chargers’ practice squad for most of his rookie season before getting called up to the active roster. Cantrell became a free agent this offseason after being waived and then placed on injured reserve in 2019. He signed with the Cardinals and planned to switch to tight end but failed to make the roster and was released following two days on their practice squad.
James has an opportunity to make this an A- but needs to become more reliable from an availability standpoint to do so. Nwosu hasn’t missed a game and has 5.5 sacks to go with 59 tackles. Jones started all 12 games he played in last season. Everyone in the group except Cantrell has played in at least 19 contests.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by KA Sports Photos / Flickr