NFL Draft: Best and worst of the last decade

Typically, a draft review is set in the context of a comparison of years or by round. In this analysis we will take a slightly different approach and compare how players and teams fared within the Draft Ranges described in “Breaking Down the NFL Draft”. In this article, the Draft Ranges for the 2005 through 2014 drafts were reviewed for the purpose of identifying the best and worst selections both for individual players and for teams. Bear in mind that our selections of the teams related to the players selected by the team and do not consider whether the player was subsequently retained or not. Also, kickers and other special teams players were excluded from the analysis. We will first present our opinions in summary form and then briefly discuss each decision. First, this table summarizes our selections for each Draft Range. The rest of the article discusses these selections.  Draft Range 1 (1-4)  The first Draft Range contains a limited number of data points with only 40 players selected over the 10-year study period. Eight teams (Cardinals, Chargers, Cowboys, Giants, Packers, Patriots, Ravens and Steelers) did not have a selection in this Draft Range. Joe Thomas (Browns) was a relatively easy decision as the best individual selection of the 40 players drafted. Thomas has started every game in his eight years in the league and has earned seven Pro Bowl and five All Pro selections. The only challenge to Jamarcus Russell (Raiders) for the worst selection was fellow quarterback Vince Young. Russell started 25 games in his career. All three of the Lions’ selections (Johnson, Stafford and Suh) worked out well and they were the clear leader as the team who did best in the first Draft Range. The Raiders are ranked worst on the strength of their Russell pick plus a wishy washy career, at least so far, from Darren McFadden. Draft Range 2 (5-14)  There are significantly more data points in this Draft Range with 100 selections. Only the Colts and Steelers did not have a selection in this Draft Range. The Bills and Cardinals had six selections each to lead all teams. Patrick Willis (49ers) was judged the best selection as he logged five All Pro selections in his eight seasons. This was a close call as there were a number of additional contenders for best pick including Darrelle Revis (Jets) and Demarcus Ware (Cowboys), each of whom have had four All Pro selections. The worst selection was another quarterback in Matt Leinart, a selection by the Arizona Cardinals. Leinart started even fewer games than Jamarcus Russell. Also considered were Aaron Maybin (Bills), Mike Williams (Lions) and Troy Williamson (Vikings). The 49ers scored well in this portion of the draft with their five selections (including Michael Crabtree, Anthony Davis, Vernon Davis, Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis) and were the leader. The Lions did poorly with their five selections and did not take advantage of the opportunities in this Draft Range. Mike Williams was an all-time bust and their other four selections have been minimally successful so far.  Draft Range 3 (15-24)  There were also 100 data points in this Draft Range and all teams had at least one selection. The Bengals had the most selections with seven. Aaron Rodgers (Packers) does not have as many starts as others in this group but has been selected to the Pro Bowl four times in his seven years as a starter along with two All Pro selections. Rodgers did not start until his fourth season as he patiently waited his turn behind Bret Favre. Still, we thought he belonged at the top of the list. Tamba Hali of the Chiefs also received consideration as he has started every game of his nine-year career and was selected to four Pro Bowls. On the down side, Jarvis Moss (Broncos) started only two games in his NFL career and was considered the worst choice. It was a close decision, though, among Moss, Bobby Carpenter (Cowboys), Matt Jones (Jaguars) and Justin Harrell (Packers). The Chiefs had good success in this Draft Range with four of their picks and were rated as the top team. Their selections included Hali, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Albert and Dwayne Bowe. A fifth selection was Dee Ford who was drafted in 2014 and may ultimately prove successful. Albert and Bowe have moved on in free agency. While the Broncos and Cowboys were also considered, the worst draft in this Draft Range was the Rams. Neither of their two selections (Tye Hill and Alex Barron) met expectations. Barron had injury issues but Hill was just a flat out flop. Draft Range 4 (25-46)  The number of data points start to mushroom once this Draft Range is reached. There were a total of 220 data points (22 draft slots times 10 years). The Bills had the most selections in this Draft Range with 11 while the Chiefs and Redskins had only four. The only negative for Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) has been the injuries he has suffered. Otherwise, he has set the standard for the position with three Pro Bowl and three All Pro selections and is the best selection in this Draft Range. The principal challengers for the top spot were Nick Mangold (Jets) and Logan Mankins (Patriots). John McCargo of the Bills was the worst selection in this Draft Range and started only one NFL game in his career.. McCargo had plenty of competition as Jonathan Baldwin (Chiefs), Chad Jackson (Patriots), AJ Jenkins (49ers), Phillip Merling (Dolphins), Sinorice Moss (Giants), Derek Sherrod (Packers) and Pat White (Dolphins) were also considered. The Texans were judged to have done best in this Draft Range but had problems hanging onto their players. Draftees included Connor Barwin, Duane Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Brooks Reed and Demeco Ryans. Ryans was traded to the Eagles and Barwin and Reed were both lost in free agency. The Falcons challenged the Texans with a list of draftees that included Justin Blalock, Curtis Lofton and Roddy White. Lofton left the Falcons after his first contract to move on to the Saints. The Lions again checked in with the worst performance in a Draft Range. Of their nine selections only Louis Delmas exceeded expectations. Injuries shortened the careers of two draftees (Daniel Bullock and Jordan Dizon) and the group generally did not live up to expectations. Draft Range 5 (47-73)  There were a total of 268 players selected (excluding kickers) in this Draft Range. The Packers led with 15 selections and the Saints had the least at four. Jamaal Charles (Chiefs) was selected as the winner in a tight race. Charles has been selected to four Pro Bowls and earned two All Pro selections in a career that has been hampered by injury. LeSean McCoy (Eagles) is probably the top competitor for Charles and has been selected to three Pro Bowls and earned two All Pro selections. James Marten (Cowboys) emerged from a crowded field of disappointments to be declared the worst selection. Marten was active for only a handful of games in a single season. Others considered were Jarron Gilbert (Bears), LaMichael James (49ers), and Myron Lewis (Bucs). The Jaguars were judged the leader in this Draft Range. The players selected include Khalif Barnes, Derek Cox, Justin Durant, Terrance Knighton and Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew played eight seasons for the Jaguars before moving on in free agency. The remainder of the draftees left after their first contract. The Dolphins were a close contender in this Draft Range but none of the players are still with the Dolphins. The draftees included John Jerry, Kendall Langford, Samson Satele and Sean Smith. Satele was traded and went on to continue as a starter with the Raiders, Colts and then back to the Dolphins. The other three were lost in free agency. The Broncos had the least contribution from this Draft Range. Of the Broncos eleven draftees, only one (OT Ryan Harris) achieved the expected number of NFL starts, and barely so. Harris has bounced among several teams, including two stints with the Broncos. This earns Denver the bottom spot. The Lions are close to the bottom again as they have experienced virtually no success in the Draft Range. Draft Range 6 (74-114)  There were 407 players selected in this Draft Range. The Titans had the most selections with 18 and the Vikings had the fewest with seven. Two guards are the leaders in this Draft Range. Jahri Evans (Saints) has earned six Pro Bowl and four All Pro selections, while starting 142 of 144 games in his nine-year career. Marshall Yanda from the Ravens trails slightly with four Pro Bowl and two All Pro selections. Maurice Clarett is the worst selection as he went downhill from his college days to the pros and never made an NFL roster after being selected with the 101st selection. Clearly the Broncos rolled the dice with Clarett and it came up snake eyes. The Bucs have had the most overall success in this Draft Range with Jeremy Zuttah, Roy Miller, Tanard Jackson, Mason Foster and Mike Williams. Zuttah and Williams were both traded and Roy Miller was lost in free agency. Tanard Jackson has had a troubled, though somewhat successful, NFL career and was cut by the Bucs after failing a physical. He was signed by the Redskins in free agency and was shortly thereafter suspended by the NFL for substance abuse. Foster remains, at least so far, with the Bucs. The Chiefs had the least success in this Data Range. Nine of their 13 selections failed to live up to expectations and only Tony Moeaki was anywhere near successful. He has suffered from injury problems and saw action with the Seahawks last year and was signed by the Falcons this year. Draft Range 7 (115-187)  There were 712 players selected in this Draft Range. The Packers led with 34 selections and the Patriots trailed with 15. The top player has to be Richard Sherman (Seahawks), just ask him. Sherman has logged three All Pro selections in his four years in the league. Other contenders were Brandon Marshall (Broncos) and Elvis Sumervil (Broncos). No “worst selections” were identified because at this stage of the draft the expectations are low and a player who does not make an NFL roster cannot be called a disappointment. Selecting the team with the best results in this Draft Range was difficult but we went with the Eagles. The Eagles selected Todd Herremans, Trent Cole and Brent Celek among their selections. All three stayed with the Eagles through the 2014 season, though Herremans and Cole were both cap casualties this offseason. The Seahawks also received consideration with their selections of Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Red Bryant and Rob Sims. Sims left in free agency and Bryant was cut and signed with the Jaguars last year. While the four selections were modestly impressive there also a number of draft failures that dragged down their overall rating. The Rams were judged to have the worst draft as only three of their 16 picks met or exceeded expectations, and none by a large margin. Their top selection was Michael Hoomanawanui who moved onto the Patriots in free agency. Draft Range 8 (188+)  There were a total of 653 players selected in this Data Range. The Patriots had the most with 30 and the Saints had the fewest with 11. Antonio Brown (Steelers) came out of the sixth round to earn three Pro Bowl and one All Pro selection in his first five years in the NFL. His principal challenger was Jay Ratliff from the Cowboys. As in the previous Draft Range, no “worst selection” was determined. The Colts had the best drafts, snagging Charlie Johnson, Antoine Bethea and Kavell Connor late in the draft. None of the three remain with the Colts as all moved on in free agency. Bethea played eight seasons for the Colts before signing with the 49ers and Connor started in three of this four seasons with them. Twenty-three of the Bengals 26 selections performed at or below expectations and they were at the bottom. The Bucs also received some consideration as well as they received no net benefit from this Draft Range. Follow Tony on Twitter @draftmetrics

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