21 April 2016

Grading the 2015 NFL Draft, one year later

(AP)
Given that we are inside of one week to the 2016 NFL Draft, let's take the opportunity to see how teams did last year. Here are my grades. one year later,

2015 Grades

1. Buccaneers - Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014 - Pres)Winston's tenure in Tampa Bay didn't get off to a good start thanks to a dreadful performance in their opener against the Titans but in the end, Winston's rookie campaign has to be considered a success. He made your typical rookie quarterback mistakes and struggled with his mechanics at times but once he settled in, he showed off the skill-set that made him the top draft pick in the first place. With greater familiarity with the league and Dirk Koetter's offense, he could be poised for a big 2016.
Grade: A-

2. Titans - Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Tennessee Titans (1999 - Pres)Whereas Winston had his ups-and-downs, Mariota was more solid and consistent as a rookie after kicking off his career with a brilliant performance against Winston's Buccaneers. His issues were more as he was hurt as he missed four games due to an MCL sprain but I don't think the injury concerns will stick. As the Titans build their mediocre supporting cast, Mariota looks poised to become part of the next crop of franchise quarterbacks.
Grade: A

3. Jaguars - Dante Fowler Jr., DE/LB, Florida
Jacksonville Jaguars (2013 - Pres)Fowler looked to be a great fit for Gus Bradley's defensive scheme and part of the solution of Jacksonville's need for a dominant edge pass rusher. Unfortunately for them only a couple of weeks after the draft, Fowler tore his ACL in minicamp and was lost for the season without playing a single game. Considering that they fell from sixth in sacks in 2014 to 20th in sacks in 2015, they probably could have used him.
Grade: Inc.

4. Raiders - Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Oakland Raiders (1963 - 1963)For Derek Carr to realize his potential, the Raiders were going to have to provide him with some weapons and they succeeded in doing that with this pick of Cooper. Cooper made an immediate impact last season in leading Oakland in receiving yards and showing some immediate chemistry with his quarterback. He showed the talent to become a number one wideout and he and Carr seem ready for big 2016 seasons.
Grade: A

5. Washington - Brandon Scherff, G, Iowa
Washington Redskins (1965 - 1969)Washington looked to improve the interior of their offensive line early in last year's draft and while I still think that drafting a guard in the top five is still early, Scherff had himself a solid rookie campaign. He may have not gotten off to an amazing start but he showed over the course of the season that he has the talent to be one of the top guards in the league.
Grade: B

6. Jets - Leonard Williams, DE, USC
New York Jets (2002 - Pres)This was solely a value pick as many thought that Williams should have gone earlier than this and that he was too good for the Jets to pass up, even with one of the top defensive lines in football. But even factoring the linemen already in the mix, Williams came in and made an immediate impact as he saw plenty of burn while putting up some decent stats. Ultimately, he may have helped to make Muhammed Wilkerson expendable.
Grade: A-

7. Bears - Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Chicago Bears (1999 - Pres)Jay Cutler had himself a comeback season of sorts in 2016 under former coordinator Adam Gase but one would have to wonder how good he could have been had White been able to play. White was lost for the season in August when he suffered a stress fracture in his shin and had to undergo surgery. Therefore considering we didn't see him play, I find it hard to give out a legitimate grade. Unless you hate the Bears, you're probably hoping we get to see more of the talented WVU product.
Grade: Inc. 

8. Falcons - Vic Beasley, DE/LB, Clemson
Atlanta Falcons (1998 - 2002)Beasley came to the Falcons and started every game this past season and put up four sacks. It may not seem that impressive of a total but considering that Beasley fought a torn labrum for a good chunk of the season, and came into the league pretty raw, that had to be considered to be a good start. Atlanta's pass rush was still not very good last season and thus if the team wants to rebound from their disappointing 2016, they'll need a healthy Beasley.
Grade: B+

9. Giants - Ereck Flowers, T, Miami
New York Giants (1975 - 1975)The Giants sorely needed help along their offensive line a year ago and unfortunately for them, they still have problems with their offensive line, not exactly signifying that Flowers had the best of rookie seasons. In his defense, Flowers came into the league as needing a bit of polish and he was pushed into the lineup and ultimately started 15 games. He definitely had some growing pains but he did show some promise, enough where with further experience he can turn into a solid tackle.
Grade: C

10. Rams - Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Los Angeles Rams (2016 - Pres)Gurley only fell to this point thanks to him coming off a torn ACL but when he did get onto the field as a rookie, he made such an impact that already looks like a star running back. Considering he missed the first three games of the season, for him to finish third in the league in rushing was a great accomplishment, especially considering that he didn't play behind a great line and he had no passing game to help the cause. It looks like the Rams are going quarterback in this year's draft and if said quarterback (Jared Goff) can make an immediate impact, who knows how good Gurley can be.
Grade: A

11. Vikings - Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Minnesota Vikings (1966 - 2012)As I always stress, it is a big jump to the NFL from the NCAA for a cornerback and many rookies struggle so maybe we should not be surprised in the end that Waynes struggled to see a great deal of action last season. The only time he started was when Terrence Newman became an emergency safety but beyond that, he didn't get a lot of burn beyond playing well on special teams. It is expected that he will get a starting spot next season and for a Vikings team with hopes of going on a playoff run, he will be a key player to look out for.
Grade: C

12. Browns - Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Cleveland Browns (2015 - Pres)Shelton was expected to be an impact player right away in the middle of the Cleveland defensive line and to help play a part in improving what was a dreadful run defense in 2014. Their run defense was only marginally better, going from the worst run defense to the third worst, and while Shelton was not exactly awful, he really wasn't much of a impact player. In the end, he was average at best and that's not great for the 12th pick.
Grade: C-

13. Saints - Andrus Peat, G/T, Stanford
Peat came out of Stanford as a tackle but ultimately, the Saints started him for eight games inside at guard. Given his lack of experience with the position, Peat was hit-or-miss and he had some growing pains but also showed some promise of becoming a quality interior offensive lineman. It looks like the team wants to move him back outside to tackle but unless they move one of their tackles around, he may see more burn at guard.
Grade: C

14. Dolphins - DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Miami Dolphins (2013 - Pres)Unlike your stereotypical rookie season where a player starts out relatively well and then hits the rookie wall later on, Parker got off to a slow start thanks a foot injury but he did play well down the stretch with 445 receiving yards on only 22 receptions in their final six games. That was a strong finish and the hopes are high that under new coach Adam Gase, the offense will open up and that will be to Parker's benefit.
Grade: B

15. Chargers (from SF) - Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
San Diego Chargers (2002 - 2006)San Diego traded up a couple of positions ahead of the Texans in order to take Gordon but for a team that has not run the ball effectively for a few years now, Gordon was not the answer. He struggled to find running room and when he did, he wasn't exactly electric with the football as he averaged a measly 3.5 yards-per-carry. Considering that Gordon himself admits that he was "terrible," he's got a ways to go.
Grade: C-

16. Texans - Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Houston Texans (2002 - Pres)Johnson was a late riser before the draft and it helped to propel him this high in the draft and he had himself a pretty solid rookie campaign despite playing a position famously tough on rookies. Johnson played in every game for the Texans in 2015 and showed some solid cover skills with nine pass deflections and a pick, and he did much of late with a broken wrist suffered late in the regular season. With more experience and some better health, Johnson could turn into an asset at his position for Houston.
Grade: B+

17. 49ers (from SD) - Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
San Francisco 49ers (2009 - Pres)Even after trading back a couple of picks, I thought that the Niners reached for Armstead and I still think that way after a pretty hit-or-miss rookie campaign. Armstead did not get a great deal of playing time considering how raw he entered the league and was really only a situation player all season long. He did show some decent pass rush skills but he also had an inconsistent motor, which isn't great when you are factoring in he was picked to be Justin Smith's eventual replacement.
Grade: C

18. Chiefs - Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Kansas City Chiefs (1972 - Pres)Considering that I picked Peters to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year and considering that he won said award in real life, I think it is a safe call to say that he had himself a pretty good rookie campaign. Peters was the first rookie since 2009 to total eight interceptions for the season, a number which tied for the league lead and he was terrific down the stretch as the Chiefs made their run to the playoffs. More pressure will be on Peters now that Sean Smith signed with Oakland but I think he can handle it.
Grade: A

19. Browns (from BUF) - Cameron Erving, C, Florida State
Cleveland Browns (2015 - Pres)19 seemed early to me to take somebody like Erving but he did appear to fulfill a need at the center position after Alex Mack opted out of his contract before he signed with the Falcons. However for the Browns, Erving struggled all season long as he got manhandled often by defenders. In the end, he only made four starts but was described by a former Browns lineman to as that "he has no clue what he's doing," technically speaking. That's not very good.
Grade: D

20. Eagles - Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
Philadelphia Eagles (1987 - 1995)Agholor was expected to be a great fit and thus a solid contributor to Chip Kelly's offensive scheme but just as Kelly's offense disappointed, as well as the team at large, Agholor was not much of a factor. After all, he only totaled 23 catches and one touchdown and now he will have to learn a whole new offense just as he is trying to find his footing in the NFL. I thought that this was a reach at the time and I certainly think so now.
Grade: D+

21. Bengals - Cedric Ogbuehi, T, Texas A&M
Cincinnati Bengals (1997 - 2003)The Bengals did seek to address a need for depth at offensive tackle with taking Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher with their first two picks but with their first selection, they didn't get a whole lot of him on the field because he was recovering from a torn ACL. Ogbuehi did not see a whole lot of playing time this past season so it is hard to give a strong grade either way but it will be key to watch how well he does next season with Andre Smith signing with Minnesota.
Grade: C

22. Steelers - Bud Dupree, DE/LB, Kentucky
Pittsburgh Steelers (2002 - Pres)We have seen many rookie seasons like the one that Dupree had this past season. Dupree, who I was surprised to see available at this juncture in the draft, got off to a strong start with four sacks in his first eight games but after that, he didn't record any sacks. So in short, he hit the proverbial rookie wall. He did play relatively well in the postseason with a pair of tackles-for-loss and despite being relatively raw, he was able to catch onto a starting spot. He'll turn into a pretty solid player down the line.
Grade: B

23. Broncos (from DET) - Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
Denver Broncos (1970 - 1992)I was surprised that Ray was available at this point in last year's draft and thus, the Broncos decided that they ha to move up to be able to land him. Denver, with how good their pass rush was in their run to winning Super Bowl 50 but in limited play, Ray showed some promise despite a knee injury to total four sacks. Who knows what he will be able to do should he be fully healthy for a full season and he should get some more playing time were that to happen.
Grade: B+

24. Cardinals - D.J. Humphries, T, Florida
Arizona Cardinals (2005 - Pres)We all knew that Humphries was not a polished, finished player going into the draft and thus, one would have expected that he was not going to contribute right away. But for him not to see the field at all is a bit of a problem and not just because the Arizona offensive line was improved last year. It's not a common sight for a first round pick to not get on the field at all should he be healthy so that means that the pressure is on Humphries big time now.
Grade: D-

25. Panthers - Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
Carolina Panthers (2012 - Pres)I was critical of the Panthers in the draft for failing to address their awful offensive line but the unit did hold up (at least until Super Bowl 50). Instead, they addressed a position that was not a need in linebacker but the player they selected, Thompson, turned out to be a solid piece of a defense that helped them get to that Super Bowl. It took him a few weeks to crack the starting lineup but once he broke in, he showed some promise.
Grade: B

26. Ravens - Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF
Baltimore Ravens (1996 - 1998)The Ravens, amid a flurry of injuries up and down the roster, were a big disappointment this past season and one of the injuries was to Perriman. Perriman failed to play a single down in his rookie season thanks to a sprained cruciate ligament in his right knee. It was hoped that he could provide the deep threat that quarterback Joe Flacco has lacked for a while and so now as the team hopes to improve next season, Perriman has to step up.
Grade: Inc.

27. Cowboys - Byron Jones, S, Connecticut
Dallas Cowboys (1964 - Pres)The Cowboys weren't exactly dominant defensively this past season but considering the average personnel, they were not that bad. One of the bright spots of their defense was the UConn defensive back as he proved himself to be a very solid playmaker at the safety position. He put up 66 tackles and nine pass deflections over his 11 starts and he showed the kind of versatility that a guru like coordinator Rod Marinelli will appreciate.
Grade: B+

28. Lions (from DEN) - Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke
Detroit Lions (2003 - 2008)As I said a year ago, I didn't see Tomlinson as a first round prospect but I was not against the selection considering the team traded down to take him and the position was a big need. Tomlinson started all but two games and certainly filled that need and then some as he played pretty well in his rookie season. He looks to be a key piece of the Detroit offensive line going forward as the team looks to get back to the playoffs.
Grade: B+

29. Colts - Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami
Indianapolis Colts (2002 - Pres)The Colts had no need for another wide receiver when they had plenty of other holes on their roster, a good many of them helped to keep them out of the playoffs. And in the end, Dorsett failed to make much of an impact in his rookie season as he only totaled 18 receptions and 225 receiving yards. Plus, he was dreadful in his one game in which he returned punts as he muffed a pair of them in the team's opener in Buffalo. The Colts opened up some room in their depth chart so the pressure will be on Dorsett in 2016.
Grade: F

30. Packers - Demarious Randall, DB, Arizona State
Green Bay Packers (1980 - Pres)Randall rose on many draft boards late in the process and thus it helped to propel him into the first round and ultimately to Green Bay. And for the Packers, Randall proved to be a versatile playmaker in their secondary and played well down the stretch as the team made its run to the playoffs. Even as he changed positions to corner, he showed some promise with 14 defensed passes and three interceptions.
Grade: B

31. Saints (from SEA) - Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson
New Orleans Saints (2000 - Pres)I thought this was a reach by New Orleans in the pick involved in the Jimmy Graham trade but it turned out to work out well for the team. Anthony started all 16 games and led the team in tackles with 112 (a number likely inflated by the utter garbage around). He did have a solid nose for the football and importantly, he showed the ability to play on all three downs. The Saints have nowhere to go but up defensively but Anthony looks to be a piece of that in the future.
Grade: A-

32. Patriots - Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
New England Patriots (1971 - 1992)Brown was a solid value at the end of the first round and in usual Patriots fashion, Brown turned into a solid contributor. He was not able to fully fill the void left by the great Vince Wilfork but he made some plays for the New England defense as he started 12 games, putting up three sacks and 48 tackles. What really shows how well he played at times is that he had more snaps on the field than any other defensive tackle on the team.
Grade: B+

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