With a sigh of relief, NFL fans all over the world sat down Thursday night to watch the Super Bowl of the off-season, the NFL draft. Finally, the wait was over. All the workouts, the smokescreens, and those horrible mock drafts were in the past, and the future of the NFL was about to change forever. Three days later, everyone loves/hates their team’s draft and now the slow crawl to kickoff begins.
Unfortunately, that means there aren’t as many organic writing topics popping up, so the people who make money off clicks have to get a little creative. Mock draft season might be over, but something even worse has begun. Draft grade season is in full effect.
Draft Grades Are Meaningless
Sometimes when a team selects a player, you know pretty quickly that it was a mistake. This year, the New York Giants used the sixth overall pick on Daniel Jones, and as a result, they’ve been the butt of everyone’s jokes. But the vast majority of the time, nobody knows whether any of these players will be good for several years.
There are so many variables at play, trying to determine whether someone will or won’t have success in the NFL based off of college film is laughable. Ironically, if someone’s ability to thrive in the NFL were so obvious, you wouldn’t need draft grades because every pick would be a hit. Jamarcus Russell was the first overall pick in 2007 and Tom Brady was the 199th overall pick seven years earlier. The coaches and general managers who do the drafting don’t even know if these guys will pan out, so how does a journalist?
To prove my point, I went back and found draft grades from the last three drafts and picked out a few of my favorite grades. For total transparency, I didn’t spare myself, sharing arguably the worst draft grades on this list.
My 2016 First Round Grades
So here are my reactions to the first round picks from 2016, just so you know I’m serious about this. I gave A’s to the Cleveland Browns for taking Corey Coleman, the Carolina Panthers for taking Vernon Butler, and the Buffalo Bills for taking Shaq Lawson while giving the Philadelphia Eagles a C+ for taking Carson Wentz.
I gave the Dallas Cowboys a D for taking Ezekiel Elliott, and while I understand my own logic, I was obviously wrong. The Cowboys have built playoff teams around their run game, and they can’t do it without Zeke. One of many, many foolish picks on my end.
But that’s just me, I’m nobody. I write satirical mock drafts and tweet about pro wrestling. In no way should anyone take me seriously. However, I’m not the only one who has written clickbait like this so let’s wind the clock back to 2015 and see what a professional has to say about one of these drafts.
Sports Illustrated’s 2015 First Round Grades
Here’s a sweet, sweet review of the first round of the 2015 NFL draft from Sports Illustrated, the king of sports magazines. This particular beaut was penned by Doug Farrar and Chris Burke, both of whom have over 30 thousand twitter followers and are considered draft experts.
These two are so generous with their picks, because they give out A’s like Oprah gives out cars. A few picks that received top grades from this dynamic duo are Chicago Bears receiver, Kevin White (25 catches for 285 yards, zero touchdowns in four seasons), DeVante Parker in Miami (averages 41 catches for 554 yards and two touchdowns a season), Cleveland’s Danny Shelton (1.5 sacks in his career), and Pittsburgh’s Bud Dupree (20 sacks in four years).
Why even grade a draft if everyone gets an A or a B grade? Was it really just the most productive draft of all time? I guess you can’t miss if you’re nice to everyone! I’m not trying to be hard on these guys, I’m just trying to prove my point. Based on who was in this draft, and what each team needed, these guys picked the players they thought fit the best… even if they ended up being wrong.
Bleacher Report’s 2014 First Round Grades
On May eighth, Bleacher Report’s Michael Schottey published his first round grades, and oh boy, are there some funny grades. Greg Robinson got an A grade, but he’s played for three teams in three years here in 2019. He gave Sammy Watkins an A, and he’s also played for three different teams over the last three years. When the Cleveland Browns took Justin Gilbert with the eighth pick, he restrained himself, only giving the pick an A-, though he’s not even on a NFL roster anymore.
He wasn’t a fan of Ryan Shazier though, only gave that pick a C+, saying he was bad in space and an iffy tackler. Before Shazier’s injury, he was one of the most exciting linebackers in football, and a great piece on Pittsburgh’s defense. However, my favorite pick in this class is number 22 overall.
Mike gave the 22nd pick in the 2014 draft, Cleveland selecting Johnny Manziel, an A+. Only two picks got A+ grades, Manziel at 22 and Teddy Bridgewater at 32 (neither man is starting in the NFL or on the team that drafted them), but he insisted that Manziel was “going to bring game-changing ability, innovation at the position—even when things break down around him—and he’ll mesh well with Josh Gordon on those long broken-play throws he loves so much. ”
Everyone’s Favorite Miss, the 2007 NFL Draft
I searched high and low for draft grades from 2007, but believe it or not, most of them are mysteriously gone. I wanted to find someone who gave the Raiders an A grade for taking Jamarcus Russell, but I couldn’t find an actual round-by-round grading. I found a few close ones, like John Clayton calling Al Davis and Lane Kiffin winners for getting their guy, but no dice.
I found Charles Robinson’s NFC grades from 2007, but I swear, if you hit the AFC hyperlink, it just takes you back to the Yahoo! Sports homepage. I’m not kidding, try it yourself.
I’m not saying there’s a conspiracy here, but I was able to find 2006 and 2008 draft grades. I don’t get it guys, everyone’s wrong sometimes. If the Raiders hadn’t taken the biggest bust in NFL history, someone else would’ve. It probably would’ve been Cleveland, but they settled for taking Brady Quinn much, much later.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that draft grades are meaningless. I wasn’t going “old takes exposed” on people because as I stated at the very beginning, I know I couldn’t do a better job. I’m just saying that trying to grade draft picks while the podium is still warm is an exercise in futility. So when talking head #4 says that your team reached or that you had a bad draft, it’s just as likely that he’ll be proven wrong as it is that he’s right. The draft is a crap-shoot, and if I’m being honest, that’s probably why we love it so much.