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 nears its conclusion as it moves to the AFC West.
*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.
Picks: TE Noah Fant (20th overall), OG Dalton Risner (41), QB Drew Lock (42), DT Dre’Mont Jones (71), LB Justin Hollins (156), WR Juwann Winfree (187)
Best pick: Dalton Risner
Risner was inserted into the starting lineup right away and did not miss a game in his rookie season. He played 96% of Denver’s offensive snaps and an additional 58 snaps on special teams. Risner was called for three penalties all season, none of which were holds. The rest of the Broncos’ draft class made one more start combined than Risner did on his own.
Worst pick: Justin Hollins
Somebody usually catches a bad break when a team drafts well in the first four rounds like Denver did. Hollins compiled 21 tackles, two quarterback hits and a sack in 15 appearances in 2019. About a third of his playing time came on special teams. The Broncos waived Hollins during final roster cuts in 2020, and he was claimed by the Rams the next day.
Both Fant and Risner made the All-Rookie team with Fant hauling in 40 passes for 562 yards and three touchdowns. A thumb injury forced Lock to begin his career on injured reserve but Denver won four of the five games he started, cementing him as the guy under center moving forward. Jones contributed 3.5 sacks and an interception in 14 games. Early returns suggest the Broncos hit on all four of their top-150 picks.
Kansas City Chiefs
Picks: WR Mecole Hardman (56), DB Juan Thornhill (63), DT Khalen Saunders (84), DB Rashad Fenton (201), RB Darwin Thompson (214), OG Nick Allegretti (216)
Best pick: Juan Thornhill
Thornhill is the lone member of the Chiefs’ draft class who was thrust into a starting role from day one, which carries an extra level of significance on a roster as loaded as Kansas City’s. He started all 16 contests but tore his ACL in Week 17, forcing him to miss the Chiefs postseason run. Thornhill finished his rookie campaign with 58 tackles, three interceptions and five passes defended.
Worst pick: Khalen Saunders
Hardman made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner and caught six touchdown passes, leaving Saunders as the only viable option for this position taken before the sixth round. He played 303 defensive snaps and registered 22 tackles to go along with one sack. Saunders also started four games, further reinforcing the unfortunate situation he finds himself in.
Hardman posted 538 receiving yards and averaged 20.7 yards per catch. He and Thornhill were unsurprisingly named to the All-Rookie team. All six guys appeared in at least seven games, which points to the group’s depth as well. The Super Bowl champions got an impressive amount of production from their newcomers in 2019.
Las Vegas Raiders (then the Oakland Raiders)
Picks: DE Clelin Ferrell (4), RB Josh Jacobs (24), DB Jonathan Abram (27), DB Trayvon Mullen (40), DE Maxx Crosby (106), DB Isaiah Johnson (129), TE Foster Moreau (137), WR Hunter Renfrow (149), DE Quinton Bell (230)
Best pick: Maxx Crosby
The runner-up for Defensive Rookie of the Year was the only first-year player to post at least 10 sacks and more than 11 tackles for loss. Nick Bosa didn’t do it and neither did Josh Allen. Crosby also recorded 47 tackles and forced four fumbles while playing in every game, earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors in Week 11. He is easily a top-10 pick in a re-do of the 2019 draft one year later.
Worst pick: Jonathan Abram
Abram got the start in the Raiders’ 2019 season opener and made five tackles in a victory over the Denver Broncos. It was revealed after the game that Abram tore his rotator cuff and labrum, ending his season. He recorded a team-high 13 tackles in his return from injury in the first game of the 2020 campaign.
The Raiders had three of the best rookies in the league despite losing a first rounder in Abram after one game. Jacobs led all newcomers in rushing yards (1,150) and rushing touchdowns (7). No one else reached the 900-yard mark, by the way. Renfrow finished with more receiving yards (605) than the wideout and two tight ends taken in the first round. Farrell had a fine debut season with 4.5 sacks and Mullen started 10 games yet they wind up as side notes because of Crosby, Jacobs and Renfrow.
Los Angeles Chargers
Picks: DT Jerry Tillery (28), DB Nasir Adderley (60), OT/OG Trey Pipkins (91), LB Drue Tranquill (130), QB Easton Stick (166), LB Emeke Egbule (200), DT Cortez Broughton (242)
Best pick: Drue Tranquill
Tranquill was the lowest pick of the three players who tied for the most starts in the group with three. He was one of nine rookies to record at least 75 tackles and his 61 solo efforts ranked sixth among 2019 draftees. Only Tranquill and Tillery made more than 13 appearances and started a game.
Worst pick: Nasir Adderley
Adderley played in four games before reaggravating a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the remainder of 2019. He was used primarily on special teams and played just 10 defensive snaps prior to the injury. The former Delaware Fighting Blue Hen registered two solo tackles before being placed on injured reserve.
Tillery, Tranquill and Edbule played in 15 games with varying levels of involvement. First-rounder Tillery posted two sacks and 17 tackles. Pipkins played exclusively on special teams. Stick has yet to appear in an NFL game. This class had a decent first season but their ceiling appears to be rather low.
Click here to see the entire draft grades series.
Photo by Jeffrey Beall / Wikimedia Commons