Hey Redditors! This went over the 15,000 character count allowed by the page, so I’m posting here on my crappy shell of a website.
In recent weeks, I’ve been doing team-by-team reviews of the last ten years of first round drafting. So far, I’ve done:
- St. Louis Rams
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Tennessee Titans
- New York Jets
- New Orleans Saints
- Minnesota Vikings
- Dallas Cowboys
- Chicago Bears
- New York Giants
- Detroit Lions
Today, I wanted to take a look at the 2012 First Round. Most experts say it takes three full years to be able to begin truly judging a player. Now that the 2012 (regular) season has concluded, I think we can fairly assess these players, with the understanding that it’s still not too late. Some notes on my criteria: I graded based on draft slot with more harshness at the top of the round and slightly less as we got to the lower half. How did this player address (or not address) the team’s need is something I factored in as well. I’m open to discussion, debate, and criticism of these grades, and if I don’t reply, it’s because I’m about to board a plane to St. Louis.
- Cleveland, you really messed this one up. Big time.
- Most of the teams picking top 10, you messed this one up. Big time. Richardson, Barron, both traded. Futures in doubt: RGIII, Justin Blackmon, Morris Claiborne. In the “dude you got to step up your game” category: Matt Kalil.
- Biggest Hit: Andrew Luck. He’s lived up to the #1 overall expectations and then some.
- Biggest Miss: A.J. Jenkins. Because that’s what you get when you last one season with the team and get 0 yards total.
- Best Value: Harrison Smith. No one is giving this guy Pro-Bowl or All-Pro nods, but he’s one of the best FS in the NFL.
- Some gems selected past round 1: Alshon Jeffery, Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner, Alfred Morris, T.Y. Hilton, Russell “Danger” Wilson, Nick Foles, Blair Walsh, Justin Bethel…and Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft, minus the drugs and stuff.
Pick by Pick Analysis
#1 Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)- Not only did Andrew Luck have sky high expectations to live up to as the #1 overall pick, but he was touted as a prospect on the same level as an Elway or Peyton Manning. In three seasons with the league, he has played to those expectations and perhaps exceeded them. Already a 3x Pro-Bowler and the 2014 passing touchdown leader, Luck has been nothing short of amazing. In his critical third season, he threw 4,761 yards, 40 TDs, and threw 16 interceptions. Between Manning and Luck, the Colts have picked the right time to suck. My preseason Super Bowl prediction was Colts over Packers. Let’s see how far he’ll bring them this postseason! Grade: A+
#2 Washington Redskins – Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor) – Trading up from the #6 draft slot, the Redskins had to sacrifice an unprecedented number of picks to swap with the Rams to take the Heisman winning QB: three first rounders and a 2nd. Initially, the move looked brilliant: RGIII was deemed offensive rookie of the year while leading the Redskins to an NFC East title. He was electric on the field as well, running for 815 yards as a rookie. Two things knocked his career off course: 1, RGIII’s insistence on staying in the Seahawks playoff game (and Shanahan agreeing) and; 2 inability to protect himself while leaving the pocket. Following the ACL tear against the Seahawks, RGIII has played only 22 games and has even been benched due to poor performance at times. It’s sad to see him play as a shadow of his healthy, athletic self and one has to wonder if the Redskins will retain him after this year. Due to the ransomed picks given to select him and his subsequent regression, I’m harsh on the overall grade. Overall Grade: D
#3 Cleveland Browns Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama) – Let me be the first to say how wrong I was on projecting Richardson to the NFL. I believed he was the next Adrian Peterson, a surefire pick who would become an instant All-Pro. Oops. As a rookie, Richardson ran for 950 yards and 11 TDs with a low 3.6 YPC average. Two games into year 2, the Browns pulled the plug and traded him to the Colts for a first round pick. He has been disastrous with Indianapolis too, averaging 2.9 and 3.3 YPC in 2013 and 2014. My guess is he will be released this offseason. Richardson has been a huge bust, but he has an orgy video so he has that going for him, which is nice. Overall Grade: F
#4 Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil (OT, USC)- I don’t know what happened to Matt Kalil. He was touted as the safest pick in the draft and it sure looked that way his rookie season. He was rightfully named to a Pro-Bowl and had a +14.3 cumulative grade as a rookie from PFF. 2013 he regressed, and finished with a -6.0 (which included 33 QB hurries). Through the end of 2014, Kalil’s best game was a +.9. He finished with a -21.1 rating, committed 12 penalties, allowed 12 sacks, and 36 QB hurries. There’s still time to salvage this career, but man, things haven’t been pretty. Overall Grade: D
#5 Jacksonville Jaguars – Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State) – Has played great football when he’s on the field. Blackmon has played 20 games in his (almost) three year career, and by the end of this season, he will have spent 20 games suspended due to drug/alcohol problems. When you spend more time in rehab than you do on the football field, you are a bust, no matter how talented you are. Overall Grade: F
#6 Dallas Cowboys – Mo Claiborne (CB, LSU) – Claiborne was viewed as the consensus #1 CB available after a great career at LSU. Though Claiborne scored a 4 on the Wonderlic test, the Cowboys were willing to forgive the intelligence gap and draft him for his play on the field. Injuries have plagued Claiborne throughout his young career. He was demoted from the starting lineup entering the 2014 season, which caused him to storm out of the Cowboys facility (leaving practice or a game is never a good idea). Claiborne hasn’t played a full season to date, and unfortunately, tore his patellar tendon versus the Saints in week 4 this year, an injury that is awfully difficult to come back to form from (see Williams, Cadillac). Claiborne is tracking towards bust status. Overall Grade: D-
#7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mark Barron (SS, Alabama) – (Note: I’m a Bucs fan so please call me out if I am wrong here) NFL Analyst Mike Mayock said that Barron’s floor was a hall of fame safety, but since entering the NFL, Barron has been as effective in coverage as a punctured condom, so much that we were willing to ship him for a fourth rounder (to the Rams) early on in the 2014 season. He has never graded positively by PFF and QBs have over 100.00 passer rating when throwing in his direction. Massive bust. Overall Grade: D-
#8 Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M) – Every year, things are gradually getting better with Tannehill, a guy who had little experience at QB before being drafted (he initially played WR at A&M). This year, he threw for 4,045 yards, 27 TDs, and 12 INTs with a solid 66.4% completion %. He’s likely never to ascend to the class of Andrew Luck, but he will be a serviceable QB in a tough division. Overall Grade: B-
#9 Carolina Panthers – Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College) – Well, this one’s worked out damn well so far. In year two, Kuechly was named the Defensive Player of the Year and he has quickly become the best ILB in football. He has been especially stout in pass coverage (PFF gave him a +18.3 in this category in 2014, oh, and 84 stops). Did I mention he’s only 23 years old? Overall Grade: A+
#10 Buffalo Bills Stephon Gilmore (CB, South Carolina) – Gilmore has certainly been better than Claiborne, the first CB off the board, but the play has been unspectacular in three seasons. This season, he received his first positive cumulative season grade from PFF (+3.9) and had three INTs for a stout Bills defense. Hardly a shutdown corner or All-Pro, but he hasn’t been a liability like some of the picks taken ahead of him. Overall Grade: C
#11 Kansas City Chiefs – Dontari Poe (DT, Memphis) – “You guys, look at that butt … are you kidding me…I’m beside myself.” These were the words uttered by Mike Mayock at the scouting combine as he marveled at Poe’s large badonkadonk. Poe has definitely backed that ass up in the NFL and been named an All-Pro and 2x Pro-Bowler. Poe has been excellent as the 3-4 NT for the Chiefs, wreaking havoc in the backfield in both the run and pass. PFF has credited him with over 60 QB hurries in the last two seasons. Poe has been an excellent pick so far. Overall Grade: A-
#12 Philadelphia Eagles – Fletcher Cox (DE, Mississippi State) – Cox finally got recognition as a 2nd team All-Pro this year, deservedly so. He finished the season with a +30.5 from PFF, being credited with 39 QB hurries and 44 stops. A dolt will look at Cox and say “he only had four sacks.” Anyone who watched an Eagles game this year (or before) will see how much of a disruptor he is. Want evidence? Watch the Eagles versus Panthers game this season. Overall Grade: A-
#13 Arizona Cardinals – Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame) – The Cardinals front office made a promise to Fitzgerald that if Floyd was available at #13, they would take him. Well, he was, so they did just that. After surpassing 1,000 yards his second season, Floyd took a step back this year, mostly due to injuries at the QB position. Floyd has been a serviceable #2 WR and will likely resume #1 responsibilities if Fitzgerald moves on as many speculate he will. Overall Grade: C+
#14 St. Louis Rams Michael Brockers (DT, LSU) – Brockers hasn’t quite been the interior presence the Rams hoped him to be, paired alongside Long and Quinn. Brockers has racked up 11.5 sacks in three regular seasons. He received a +.4 grade from PFF in 2014, but ht’s been hardly what the Rams expected him to be. Overall Grade: C-
#15 Seattle Seahawks Bruce Irvin (OLB, WVU) – Irvin had a freakishly good combine that made him soar up the draft boards. The Seahawks surprised many by picking him here. Irvin has had 16.5 sacks in three years and has been a solid presence in Seattle’s stout run defense as well. A large number of penalties (7 in 2014) have hurt his performance, but Irvin has been a solid role player in Seattle’s historical defense. Overall Grade: B-
#16 New York Jets – Quinton Coples (OLB, UNC) – Whereas the “Sons of Anarchy” managed to establish themselves in former Head Coach Rex Ryan’s defense, Coples has been ineffective and gotten negative grades from PFF in each of his three seasons. Like Irvin, Coples has had 16.5 sacks in three years, but has failed to establish himself in run defense or pass coverage. Overall Grade: C-
#17 Cincinnati Bengals – Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama) – After the Bengals committed highway robbery of the Raiders and traded away Carson Palmer for a first rounder, the Bengals had 2 selections. Following an injury his rookie season, the Bengals have used Kirkpatrick sparingly (he plays 28% of defensive snaps). He hasn’t been particularly effective on the field, getting negative grades in 2013 and 2013 from PFF- hardly the snap count and production you want from a first rounder. Overall Grade: D
#18 San Diego Chargers – Melvin Ingram (OLB, South Carolina) – Ingram has tiny, tiny, tiny little raptor arms…never a good trait for a pass rusher. After seeing action in all 16 games as a rookie, Ingram has struggled with health, tearing his ACL in year 2 and only playing 13 games total after his rookie season. He has racked up 6 career sacks to date. Between Merriman, English, and Ingram, the Chargers have not luck in the pass rush department. Overall Grade: D
#19 Chicago Bears Shea McClellin (OLB, Boise State) – To put it frankly, McClelllin has been horrible so far. In his first season with full action (2013), McLelliln had four sacks and was given a cumulative season grade of -30.6 by PFF. Things didn’t get much better in the 2014 season, and McLelliln finished with one single sack. Hardly the pass rushing force the Bears drafted him to be. Don’t be surprised if he’s released or traded when the new Bears GM comes to town and cleans house. Overall Grade: F
#20 Tennessee Titans Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor) – RGIII’s top target at Baylor, Wright had a quiet rookie season. In 2013, he started 12 games and came out with a very respectable 94 catches for 1,079 yards and 2 TDs. Like Arizona, Tennessee’s QB corps has been rattled by injuries, and so Wright’s numbers have gone down. Not a bad selection. Overall Grade: C+
#21 New England Patriots Chandler Jones (DE, Syracuse) – Jones was one of those players who had minimal production in college and was drafted largely on upside. In this case, it has worked for Jones. Jones has gained 23.5 sacks in three seasons. In week 2, Jones transitioned to the ROLB role in New England’s D, and was graded as high as a +9.0 by PFF in this role this season. Jones has been versatile and a key cog in New England’s defense, and is one of those players that it still might be too early to judge. Overall Grade: B
#22 Cleveland Browns – Brandon Weeden (QB, Oklahoma State) – When you draft two offensive players in the first round and neither are on your roster come 2014, you have messed up royally. Weeden entered the league as a 28 year old rookie (he played pro baseball). He failed to establish himself, completing few passes, turning the ball over a lot, and looking panicked. Like his buddy Trent, Weeden was sent packing, and was shipped to Dallas this year, where at a tender age of 31, he backs up Romo. Overall Grade: F
#23 Detroit Lions – Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa) – Reiff has been a decent Pro who is finally adjusting to the NFL (a reminder that patience is a virtue with offensive linemen). Reiff began his career on the right side of the line, allowing 0 sacks and just 9 QB hurries as a rookie. In 2013, he transitioned to the LT spot and had some growing pains, allowing 7 sacks and 34 QB hurries, but with the end of the 2014 season in place, he’s finally coming into his own protecting Stafford’s blindside. This year, Reiff allowed 2 sacks against Buffalo– and 0 in his other 15 starts, finishing with a +6.8. Worth noting- he only had one penalty this entire season. Good pick, and may become even better with time and age (he’s a young 26). Overall Grade: B
#24 Pittsburgh Steelers – David DeCastro (OG, Stanford) – DeCastro was touted as an elite guard prospect, and somehow he fell all the way to 24. Unfortunately, he went down with a torn ACL his rookie season, but since has played 31/32 games. After a decent year 2 (+13.4), DeCastro took a step back this year and graded a +2.4, largely due to allowing 26 QB hurries. Another guy that the jury is still out on. Overall Grade: B-
#25 New England Patriots – Dont’a Hightower (ILB, Alabama) – Between Jones and Hightower, the Patriots struck gold in this draft, and Hightower has emerged as a top ILB in football. Hightower played mostly in the RILB roll for NE this season, finishing with 89 tackles and a +27.1 grade from PFF. Though he hasn’t received All-Pro or Pro-Bowl accolades, he’s been a versatile player in run D, pass D, and pass rushing (11 sacks in three years). He’s a young 24 and will be a great presence for years to come. Overall Grade: A-
#25 Houston Texans – Whitney Mercilus (OLB, Illinois) – Rule of football: you can never have too many pass rushers, and despite the selection of JJ Watt one year before, the Texans decided to take Mercilus to complement the budding Watt. Mercilus has been okay at best so far, gaining 18 sacks in three years, but never a positive season from PFF due to limitations in other aspects of the defensive game. Overall Grade: C-
#27 Cincinnati Bengals – Kevin Zeitler (OG, Wisconsin) – Zeitler has been an impressive pro in three years. Worth noting, in 2014, he committed only one penalty while only allowing two sacks and a minimal number of QB hurries. He has been a mauler in the run game as well. This year he finished with a +19.3 grade and looks like a smart selection from the Bengals with the chance to ascend to a top guard in football. Overall Grade: A-
#28 Green Bay Packers – Nick Perry (OLB, USC) – Drafted with the intention of providing Clay Matthews a book end rusher, Perry has failed to do that (9 sacks in three years). Perry has received negative pass rush grades each season from PFF, and simply looks lost on the football field. Bust. Overall Grade: D
#29 Minnesota Vikings – Harrison Smith (S, Notre Dame) – This was a pick that initially, I said “what???” How wrong I was. Smith has been an enforcer in the secondary and seems to be all over the field on every play. Smith has 10 career interceptions (5 this season), and had a great +17.9 rating this season, playing nearly every snap possible. He allowed just 332 yards thrown his way, and a 67.9 passer rating by his opponents this year. No All-Pros or Pro-Bowls yet, but those will come! This is a guy who just hasn’t been getting the awards, but the play has been outstanding. Overall Grade: A
#30 San Francisco 49ers – A.J. Jenkins (WR, Illinois) – There once was a time when the 49ers killed it in drafting WRs. Two guys you may have heard of named Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens once played on the same field at the same time. But when those guys were gone, the 49ers absolutely blew it picking Rashaun Woods, and in 2012, A.J. Jenkins. Jenkins lasted one season with the 49ers. That’s it. One season. He had 0 catches, 0 yards, and was since shipped the Chiefs where has had a combined 223 career yards. Hindsight is 20/20, but Alshon Jeffery and T.Y. Hilton were still on the board. This was the single worst pick of the 2012 first round. Overall Grade: F-
#31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Doug Martin (RB, Boise State) – Oh Dougie. Oh Muscle Hamster. What the hell happened to you? After a rookie season in which Martin had ~1,800 yards from scrimmage and a 4.5 ypc, he was looking like he would become an elite back. Then came year two, in which he tore his labrum in his shoulder, and he gained ~520 yards from scrimmage (3.6 ypc), and finally in year three, ~550 yards from scrimmage (3.7 ypc). There were rumors we were going to ship him at the trade deadline. Martin’s days in Tampa could be limited. Had he continued to play as he did his rookie season, this would be an A+. However, the reality of Martin makes me give him…. Overall Grade: C
#32 New York Giants – David Wilson (RB, Virginia Tech) – The story of David Wilson is a sad one. A guy who seemed like pure class, particularly with his retirement speech. NFL careers are short and can be ended on a single play. Wilson suffered spinal stenosis and was encouraged by his doctors to retire or face serious debilitating injury. Wilson subsequently retired, and he is now trying to make an Olympic team in track. Hope he makes it! The overall grade I give him is hardly his fault, but when you last two years in the league, that’s just the way it is. Overall Grade: F