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 shifts its focus to the NFC North.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: LB Roquan Smith (8th overall), C James Daniels (39), WR Anthony Miller (51), LB Joel Iyiegbuniwe (115), DT Bilal Nichols (145), DE Kylie Fitts (181), WR Javon Wims (224)
Best pick: Roquan Smith
Smith is living up to his billing with 222 tackles and seven sacks in his first two years. He played in every game as a rookie, finishing the season with 121 tackles and five sacks. A torn pectoral ended his 2019 campaign after 12 games but he still produced 101 tackles and two sacks. Smith also intercepted a pass both years. He is precisely what the Bears hoped they were getting when they used a top-10 pick on him.
Worst pick: Joel Iyiegbuniwe
Though Iyiegbuniwe has missed just one game in two years, 618 of the 644 snaps he’s played have been on special teams. He made nine tackles in 2018 and four in 2019. Iyiegbuniwe is one of two players (the other being Fitts) in the Bears’ draft class who has not made a start. Everyone else has made at least six.
Smith is on his way to becoming a multi-time Pro Bowler. Daniels was on the field for all of Chicago’s offensive snaps last season. Miller hauled in seven touchdowns in year one and caught 52 passes for 656 yards in year two. Nichols is third in the group with 18 starts. Even Wims recorded 18 receptions for 186 yards in 2019. The depth of this class makes it worthy of an A at this point. Of course, time will tell if that assessment holds true.
Picks: C Frank Ragnow (20), RB Kerryon Johnson (43), DB Tracy Walker (82), DE Da’Shawn Hand (114), OT Tyrell Crosby (153), FB Nick Bawden (237)
Best pick: Frank Ragnow
Ragnow was on the field for every one of Detroit’s offensive snaps in 2018, which means he accumulated more starts in his first 16 games than anyone else did in their first 32. Johnson is second in the group with 14 career starts, one less than Ragnow made in 2019. On the most basic level, he is the only 2018 Lions draftee to hold down a starting spot through his first two seasons.
Worst pick: Kerryon Johnson
Johnson impressed in his first season, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and producing 854 yards of offense in 10 games. His performance dipped last season as he rushed the ball 113 times for an average of 3.6 yards. He has yet to play in more than 10 games in a season as well. Josh Allen has more rushing yards than Johnson since they entered the NFL in 2018. That’s more of an observation and point of comparison than a knock on Johnson.
All six guys have made multiple starts and appeared in at least 10 games. The five guys selected in the first five rounds have at least eight starts and 17 appearances. Walker became a regular starter last season and compiled 103 tackles in 13 games. Hand battled multiple injuries last season but produced three sacks as a rookie. While the Lions haven’t gotten terrific value from any of their picks so far, they didn’t miss badly on any of them either.
Green Bay Packers
Picks: DB Jaire Alexander (18), DB Josh Jackson (45), LB Oren Burks (88), WR J’Mon Moore (133), OG Cole Madison (138), P JK Scott (172), WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (174), WR Equanimeous St. Brown (207), DE James Looney (232), LS Hunter Bradley (239), LB Kendall Donnerson (248)
Best pick: Marquez Valdes-Scantling
There are 10 players drafted in 2018 with more than 1,000 career receiving yards. Five of them were taken in the top 50. One went 51st and three more were selected in the first three rounds. The final guy in the group is Valdes-Scantling. While his stats won’t blow you away, Valdes-Scantling has played in every game and is averaging 516.5 yards per season. He has 20 starts and 64 receptions in his first two years.
Worst pick: Cole Madison
Madison — who was selected with the first pick in the fifth round — left the team before the preseason started to attend to a personal issue. It was later reported the suicide of Tyler Hilinksi — Madison’s college teammate and friend — was one of the reasons he stepped away from football. Green Bay fully supported Madison’s decision and he was reinstated on April 8, 2019. He entered the 2019 season as a backup and tore his ACL in practice. The Packers released Madison on July 31, 2020. This is another place to emphasize these re-grades are focused on production and value above all else and don’t make external circumstances a major factor.
Alexander and Valdes-Scantling are the only ones with more than 10 starts. Jackson started 10 times in 2018 but spent most of his time on special teams in 2019. Burks has primarily been a special teams player as well. Scott and Bradley have seen the field in all 32 contests since entering the league. Nobody has made much of an impact outside of Alexander, Valdes-Scantling and maybe Scott.
Picks: DB Mike Hughes (30), OT Brian O’Neill (62), DE Jalyn Holmes (102), TE Tyler Conklin (157), K Daniel Carlson (167), OG Colby Gossett (213), DE Ade Aruna (218), LB Devante Downs (225)
Best pick: Brian O’Neill
Let’s make this very simple: O’Neill has twice as many starts as the rest of the Vikings’ draft class combined. He has 10 more appearances than Hughes, the only player besides O’Neill with more than four starts. Those two factoids sum everything up nicely.
Worst pick: Mike Hughes
The highlight of Hughes’ first two seasons came in his debut when he picked off a Jimmy Garoppolo pass and returned it for a touchdown. Things haven’t gone quite as well since then. A torn ACL ended his rookie campaign after six games. He entered 2019 as the Vikings’ fourth cornerback and started three of the 14 games he appeared in. Hughes has 67 tackles and two interceptions in his career.
There’s just not a lot to get excited about here. Hughes has played a decent amount but hasn’t demonstrated an ability to be a lockdown corner. Holmes has 11 appearances and zero starts. Conklin’s caught a total of 13 passes in 31 games. Minnesota cut Carlson two games into his career and he’s been with the Raiders since October 2018.
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