Home NFL 2018 NFL Draft Re-grade: NFC South

2018 NFL Draft Re-grade: NFC 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 continues with the NFC South.

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

Atlanta Falcons

Picks: WR Calvin Ridley (26th overall), DB Isaiah Oliver (58), DT Deadrin Senat (90), RB Ito Smith (126), WR Russell Gage (194), LB Foyesade Oluokun (200)

Best pick: Foyesade Oluokun

Oluokon immediately became a contributor on defense and special teams after impressing the Falcons’ coaching staff during training camp. He registered 91 tackles and forced a fumble as a rookie. He followed that up with a 62-tackle campaign in 2019. Oluokun has played in all 32 games through his first two seasons. Not too shabby for the 200th guy to come off the board. 

Worst pick: Deadrin Senat

Senat showed some promise as a rookie, collecting 30 tackles in 15 games and making two starts. Then the Falcons added some depth to their defensive line last offseason, causing Senat to slide down the depth chart. He was inactive for most of the season and only appeared in two games without recording a tackle.  

Grade: A-

Ridley has posted back-to-back 800-yard seasons and increased his yards per game average from 51.3 in year one to 66.6 in year two. His 17 receiving touchdowns are the sixth-most in the league over the past two seasons. Oliver started all 16 contests in 2019. Smith and Gage have over 1,000 yards of offense between them. Ridley, Oliver, Gage and Oluokun have played in at least 29 games. 

Carolina Panthers

Picks: WR D.J. Moore (24), DB Donte Jackson (55), DB Rashaan Gaulden (85), TE Ian Thomas (101), LB Marquis Haynes (136), LB Jermaine Carter Jr. (161), LB Andre Smith (234), DT Kendrick Norton (242)

Best pick: Donte Jackson

There are only 10 players with more interceptions than Jackson over the past two seasons. He started every game in his rookie season and ended the year with 74 tackles and four interceptions. Jackson made 10 starts and 13 appearances in 2019, compiling 11 tackles and three more interceptions. He leads the group in starts (26) and is second behind Moore in games played (29). 

Worst pick: Rashaan Gaulden

Gaulden played nearly twice as much special teams as defense in his year and a half in Carolina. The Panthers waived him on Nov. 25, 2019, after 24 appearances for the team. The Giants signed him to their practice squad and he was eventually promoted to the active roster, playing in one game. New York let him go on Aug. 2, 2020. 

Grade: B+

The Panthers got off to a terrific start with Moore and Jackson but things trail off quickly from there. Moore ranks first in receiving yards (1,963) and second in receptions (142) among players drafted in 2018. Thomas and Carter have played in all 32 contests since entering the league. They are also the only members of the group to start a game besides Moore and Jackson. 

New Orleans Saints

Picks: DE Marcus Davenport (14), WR Tre’Quan Smith (91), OT Rick Leonard (127), DB Natrell Jamerson (164), DB Kamrin Moore (189), RB Boston Scott (201), C Will Clapp (245)

Best pick: Marcus Davenport

Davenport and Smith are tied for the most starts (13) and games played (26) but Davenport’s been the more productive of the two. He recorded six tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 13 appearances as a rookie. Last season, Davenport started all 13 games he played in. He improved in just about every statistical category, producing six sacks, three forced fumbles and 31 tackles. 

Worst pick: Rick Leonard

Leonard was the third player the Saints drafted and he is one only one who hasn’t played in an NFL game. He failed to make their roster out of training camp and was signed to the practice squad. By the time the 2018 season ended, Leonard had spent time on the practice squad of three different teams (Saints, Rams and Cardinals). He was on the Texans’ practice squad for 2019 and was released by the team on Sept. 5, 2020. 

Grade: C

Davenport’s turned into a fine player but failed to live up to expectations. Smith caught 28 passes in his rookie season and 18 last year. He has 661 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career. Everyone except Leonard and Moore has at least 13 appearances. Scott started twice for the Eagles last season. New Orleans was really banking on Davenport without another pick until the third round. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Picks: DT Vita Vea (12), RB Ronald Jones II (38), DB M.J. Stewart (53), DB Carlton Davis (63), OT/OG Alex Cappa (94), DB Jordan Whitehead (117), WR Justin Watson (144), LB Jack Cichy (202)

Best pick: Jordan Whitehead

Whitehead is tied with Vea for the most appearances (29) in the group and is second to Davis in starts (25). He recorded 76 tackles in 15 games as a rookie, starting 11 times. The University of Pittsburgh product got the start in all 14 games he appeared in last season, ending the year with 69 tackles and an interception. 

Worst pick: M.J. Stewart

Stewart was thrust into a starting role in Week 2 and held that spot for five weeks until suffering a foot injury. He lost his starting spot when he returned and has only started one game since. Stewart played in 11 games for Tampa Bay in 2018 and 10 in 2019. The Buccaneers released him on Aug. 6, 2020. He was claimed off waivers by the Browns two days later. 

Grade: B+

Vea, Davis and Whitehead all have at least 24 starts and 29 appearances. Jones assumed the lead tailback role in 2019 and rushed for 724 yards while Cappa made 13 starts at right guard. On the other side of the ball, Vea started every game. All eight players have played in at least 10 contests. The top end of this class isn’t going to blow anyone away but Tampa Bay has gotten meaningful contributions from every single guy. 

Click here to see the entire draft grades series. 

Photo by All-Pro Reels / Wikimedia Commons

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