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 2019 NFL Draft re-grade rolls on with the NFC North.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: RB David Montgomery (73rd overall), WR Riley Ridley (126), DB Duke Shelley (205), RB Kerrith Whyte Jr. (222), DB Stephen Denmark (238)
Best pick: David Montgomery
Montgomery was the second-leading rusher among rookies last season, trailing only Josh Jacobs of the Raiders. He finished with 889 yards and six touchdowns while added another 185 yards on 25 catches. The former Iowa State Cyclone made eight starts to the rest of the group’s zero. The only one to play in more games than Montgomery started was Shelley, who saw action in nine contests.
Worst pick: Riley Ridley
The younger brother of Falcons wideout Calvin Ridley, Riley was inactive for 10 of Chicago’s first 11 games. He wound up playing in five games and catching six passes for 69 yards. Ridley appeared in the fewest games of any of the four players the Bears selected in the top 230.
Montgomery was Chicago’s lone pick before the fourth round and things are working out just fine for him so far. Shelley was primarily used on special teams in the nine games he played in. Whyte began his career on the Bears’ practice squad and was ultimately signed by the Steelers. He posted 122 rushing yards for Pittsburgh and was waived during final roster cuts in 2020. He was then signed to the Lions’ practice squad.
Picks: TE T.J. Hockenson (8), LB Jahlani Tavai (43), DB Will Harris (81), DE Austin Bryant (117), DB Amani Oruwariye (146), WR Travis Fulgham (184), RB Ty Johnson (186), TE Isaac Nauta (224), DE P.J. Johnson (229)
Best pick: Amani Oruwariye
Though he only played in nine games and started just twice, Oruwariye showed enough to get the Lions’ coaching staff excited about his potential. Matt Patrica told MLive he has “some amazing tools.” Oruwariye picked off two passes and defended three passes in his 215 defensive snaps in 2019. None of Detroit’s other picks after the first three rounds started multiple times.
Worst pick: T.J. Hockenson
Any tight end taken in the top 10 should immediately change the complexion of a team’s offense. Hockenson’s 367 receiving yards and two touchdowns clearly suggest he did not do that. After his 131-yard performance in Week 1, he never finished with more than 56 receiving yards again. Another concern is that Hockenson only caught 54% of the passes thrown his way. It just doesn’t look like he is going to be the game plan-altering force the Lions hoped he would.
Tavai appeared in all but one game, racking up an interception, two sacks and 58 tackles. Harris got six starts and played in every game. Bryant started his career on injured reserve and returned to play in four games. The Lions got some useful pieces in the middle rounds but this boils down to how Hockenson develops at the end of the day.
Green Bay Packers
Picks: LB Rashan Gary (12), DB Darnell Savage Jr. (21), C Elgton Jenkins (44), TE Jace Sternberger (75), DT Kingsley Keke (150), DB Ka’dar Hollman (185), RB Dexter Williams (194), LB Ty Summers (226)
Best pick: Darnell Savage Jr.
Savage did a little bit of everything in the 14 games he started for Green Bay as a rookie: 55 tackles, two interceptions, five passes defended and two forced fumbles. He was the only newcomer to pick off multiple passes and force multiple fumbles. Savage was named to the All-Rookie team as a recognition of his performance.
Worst pick: Jace Sternberger
Sternberger was placed on injured reserve before the season began and was not activated until Nov. 2, 2019. He played a total of 108 snaps in six games, 60 on offense and 48 on special teams. His first reception came in the Packers’ divisional round win over the Seahawks. Sternberger caught two more passes — including his first touchdown — in the NFC Championship Game the following week.
Green Bay had five of its eight draft picks appear in at least 14 games with Jenkins joining Savage on the All-Rookie team. The Packers’ other two top-75 picks didn’t fare so well though. Gary contributed 21 tackles and two sacks as a backup. Summers established himself as a valuable member of the special teams unit but never took the field on defense. This class could look really good in a couple of years if Gary develops into a regular starter.
Picks: C Garrett Bradbury (18), TE Irv Smith Jr. (50), RB Alexander Mattison (102), OG Dru Samia (114), LB Cameron Smith (162), DT Armon Watts (190), DB Marcus Epps (191), OT Oli Udoh (193), DB Kris Boyd (217), WR Dillon Mitchell (239), WR Olabisi Johnson (247), LS Ausin Cutting (250)
Best pick: Garrett Bradbury
Bradbury was on the field for 97% of Minnesota’s offensive snaps last season and was in the starting lineup for every game, giving him more starts than the rest of the group combined. He was called for five holding penalties in 2019, a concerning number the Vikings will hope gets reduced in future seasons.
Worst pick: Dru Samia
Samia saw the field twice in his rookie season and played 39 snaps. He made his NFL debut against the Giants on Oct. 6, 2019. Samia won a starting job out of training camp in 2020, so the situation could look quite different in a year.
Smith, Mattison and Johnson made the biggest impact for Minnesota aside from Bradbury. Smith finished his first season with 311 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Mattison got 100 carries and averaged 4.6 yards per rush. Johnson started six times and hauled in 31 passes for 294 yards. It’s a pretty average turn for a team with seven picks in the final two rounds.
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