2017 rookie grades: Saints earn top grade; Raiders’ class lacking

By Jeremy Bergman and Nick Shook
NFL.com
Read full post on NFL.com

When Jeremy Bergman and Nick Shook graded the 2017 rookie classes of all 32 NFL teams, three earned “A” marks and 11 received “C” marks or worse. Below you’ll find what Bergman and Shook had to say about the groups that stood out and those that struggled, with the teams in each subsection listed in alphabetical order.

NOTE: Click here for the full division-by-division rookie rundowns.

EXCEPTIONAL ROOKIE CLASSES

Kansas City Chiefs

Round 1: (No. 10 overall) Patrick Mahomes, QB, 1 game/1 start.
Round 2: (59) Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, 16 games/1 start.
Round 3: (86) Kareem Hunt, RB, 16 games/16 starts.
Round 4: (139) Jehu Chesson, WR, 12 games/1 start.
Round 5: (183) Ukeme Eligwe, LB, 14 games/1 start.
Round 6: (218) Leon McQuay III, S, 1 game/1 start.
Notable rookie FA signings: Harrison Butker, K, 13 games (drafted by Panthers).

Shook: The last draft of the John Dorsey era netted the Chiefs their heir apparent under center and a running back who’s poised to be the franchise’s lead back for years to come. That alone should make this draft more than passable in the eyes of critics. The long-term grade for this group also relies on the development of Kpassagnon, who was selected due to his measurables with the knowledge he likely wouldn’t be an immediate contributor (despite 2.0 sacks and 14 tackles in a backup role). Years 2 and 3 will provide us with a more determinable grade on this group. GRADE: A-

New Orleans Saints

Round 1: (11) Marshon Lattimore, CB, 13 games/13 starts; (32) Ryan Ramczyk, OT, 16 games/16 starts.
Round 2: (42) Marcus Williams, S, 15 games/15 starts.
Round 3: (67) Alvin Kamara, RB, 16 games/3 starts; (76) Alex Anzalone, LB, 4 games/4 starts; (103) Trey Hendrickson, DE, 12 games/0 starts.
Round 6: (196) Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE, 4 games/0 starts.
Notable rookie FA signings: Justin Hardee, ST, 14 games/0 starts; Taysom Hill, ST, 5 games/0 starts.

Bergman: When four players in your draft class make the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team and two of your first-years sweep the Rookie of the Year categories for the first time since the Johnson administration (Lyndon, not Andrew, to be clear), you get one perfect draft grade. New Orleans’ haul in 2017, reeled in by Mickey Loomis and Jeff Ireland, is an historic achievement. Lattimore and Williams led the team with five and four interceptions, respectively, with the former securing the most first-place votes in any category at NFL Honors (45). Ramczyk was just one of three rookie offensive linemen to start all 16 games. Kamara was a revelation at running back, terrorizing defenses with slippery elusiveness and devastating acceleration en route to 1,901 all-purpose yards and 14 total touchdowns. GRADE: A+

What about the San Francisco 49ers?

Bergman: San Francisco’s rookie class initially received an “A” grade, but in light of recent developments, it’s time to re-evaluate. Reuben Foster’s Sunday arrest, his second in a month, clouds his future, and that of his draft class. When he was on the field, Foster was a dynamic presence in the middle of the front seven, assuming the mantle of NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. But his off-the-field behavior — a litany of personal conduct issues that now includes suspicion of domestic violence, threats and assault weapon possession — indicates that he is at risk of sabotaging his career. Therefore, while I initially handed the Niners one of the few “A” marks in this exercise — praising John Lynch’s first draft haul for its value selection of Foster, as well as the solid returns from CB Ahkello Witherspoon, S Adrian Colbert, TE George Kittle and WR Trent Taylor — I deem it necessary to change the assessment to “TBD” until we see what comes of Foster’s recent troubles.

UNDERWHELMING ROOKIE CLASSES

Arizona Cardinals

Round 1: (No. 13 overall) Haason Reddick, LB, 16 games/3 starts.
Round 2: (36) Budda Baker, S, 16 games/7 starts.
Round 3: (98) Chad Williams, WR, 6 games/1 start.
Round 4: (115) Dorian Johnson, OG, 0 games/0 starts.
Round 5: (157) Will Holden, OT, 7 games/5 starts; (179) T.J. Logan, RB, 0 games/0 starts.
Round 6: (208) Rudy Ford, DB, 10 games/0 starts.
Notable rookie FA signings: Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, 10 games/1 start.

Bergman: The Cardinals choosing not to take a quarterback in any round of last year’s draft was pure negligence. In the first round, they were one pick away from Deshaun Watson, and three selections back from Patrick Mahomes. Fast-forward to this offseason: Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer are retired, and Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert are not under contract. Arizona is starting wholly from scratch at the game’s most important position in 2018, but the Cardinals could have prepared for this fate in 2017. Baker was a fine addition to a stellar safety trio, perhaps the league’s best. Arizona fared well outside of the draft, stealing Seals-Jones from the undrafted FA heap. Jury’s out on Reddick, who needs more snaps at one position next season. GRADE: C-

Atlanta Falcons

Round 1: (No. 26 overall) Takkarist McKinley, DE, 16 games/0 starts.
Round 3: (75) Duke Riley, LB, 12 games/6 starts.
Round 4: (136) Sean Harlow, OG, 0 games/0 starts.
Round 5: (149) Damontae Kazee, CB, 16 games/1 start; (156) Brian Hill, RB, 1 game/0 starts; (174) Eric Saubert, TE, 14 games/0 starts.

Bergman: The Falcons needed help in the front seven, and they got it when they traded up for McKinley. A hyperemotional fan favorite from Day 1, Takk further endeared himself to Atlantans with a six-sack rookie season, nearly matching top overall pick Myles Garrett. But outside of the rambunctious pass rusher, the Falcons saw little initial return on their draft investments. Riley, Kazee and Saubert played for a sizable part of their first seasons, but the #JuryIsOut on all of them. Riley suffered a midseason knee injury that kept him from improving and cementing a starting role, and both Riley and Kazee played in less than a quarter of Atlanta’s defensive snaps. GRADE: C+

Baltimore Ravens

Round 1: (No. 16 overall) Marlon Humphrey, CB, 16 games/5 starts.
Round 2: (47) Tyus Bowser, OLB, 16 games/0 starts.
Round 3: (74) Chris Wormley, DE, 7 games/2 starts; (78) Tim Williams, OLB, 8 games/0 starts.
Round 4: (122) Nico Siragusa, OG, 0 games/0 starts (tore ACL, MCL, PCL in camp).
Round 5: (159) Jermaine Eluemunor, OG, 8 games/2 starts.
Round 6: (186) Chuck Clark, DB, 15 games/0 starts.
Notable rookie FA signings: Patrick Ricard, FB/DL, 16 games/0 starts.

Shook: Humphrey started to grow into the corner Baltimore was hoping it was getting at No. 16 overall, but the 21-year-old’s still a season or two away from reaching his full potential. The rest of this class was fairly spotty, with Bowser leading the way as the most important contributor (11 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 1 interception) not named Humphrey. Siragusa unfortunately had his season wiped out by a serious knee injury, and the majority of these other mid-round picks were stuck at the bottom of the two-deep behind more experienced players, with Williams suffering from a lack of playing time the most. Credit GM Ozzie Newsome for unearthing two-way throwback Patrick Ricard, who did a nice job of replacing Kyle JuszczykGRADE: C+

Cincinnati Bengals

Round 1: (No. 9 overall) John Ross, WR, 3 games/1 start.
Round 2: (48) Joe Mixon, RB, 14 games/7 starts.
Round 3: (73) Jordan Willis, DE, 16 games/1 start.
Round 4: (116) Carl Lawson, DE, 16 games/1 start; (128) Josh Malone, WR, 11 games/7 starts; (138) Ryan Glasgow, DT, 16 games/1 start.
Round 5: (153) Jake Elliott, K, 15 games/0 starts (with Philadelphia); (176) J.J. Dielman, C, 0 games/0 starts.
Round 6: (193) Jordan Evans, LB, 15 games/4 starts; (207) Brandon Wilson, RB, 8 games/0 starts.
Round 7: (251) Mason Schreck, TE, 0 games/0 starts.

Shook: Ross, runner of the fastest 40-yard dash in combine history, registered more rushes (1) than receptions (0) in 2017. Thanks to injury, he was a complete non-factor. There were exciting glimmers of potential from Mixon, but he largely just muddied the running back position in Cincinnati. (The jury’s still out on him.) Cincinnati found a pair of very promising contributors in Willis and Lawson, with the latter racking up 8.5 sacks as a rookie. Glasgow made an impact in his appearances, as well. Round 5 and after weren’t kind to the Bengals, who let both Elliott and Dielman get nabbed by other teams, with the kicker playing in (and winning) the Super Bowl as a result. GRADE: C

Denver Broncos

Round 1: (No. 20 overall) Garett Bolles, OT, 16 games/16 starts.
Round 2: (51) DeMarcus Walker, DE, 10 games/0 starts.
Round 3: (82) Carlos Henderson, WR, 0 games/0 starts; (101) Brendan Langley, CB, 11 games/0 starts.
Round 5: (145) Jake Butt, TE, 0 games/0 starts; (172) Isaiah McKenzie, WR, 11 games/0 starts.
Round 6: (203) De’Angelo Henderson, RB, 5 games/0 starts.
Round 7: (253) Chad Kelly, QB, 0 games/0 starts.

Shook: Injuries robbed Carlos Henderson and Butt of their seasons, but Bolles looks like an excellent pick after starting all 16 games at left tackle and playing well enough to make the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team. Walker was effective in his 10 games played. McKenzie saw spot time at receiver, where he was noticeably inexperienced. He got most of his playing time at returner, though he struggled with multiple muffed punts, including an embarrassing one on “Monday Night Football” against Kansas City on a night that was emblematic of Denver’s entire season. And despite the carousel spinning at quarterback, we were also robbed of the Swag Kelly Experience, thanks to injury. GRADE: C

Green Bay Packers

Round 2: (33) Kevin King, CB, 9 games/5 starts; (61) Josh Jones, S, 16 games/7 starts.
Round 3: (93) Montravius Adams, DT, 7 games/0 starts.
Round 4: (108) Vince Biegel, LB, 9 games/0 starts; (134) Jamaal Williams, RB, 16 games/7 starts.
Round 5: (175) DeAngelo Yancey, WR, 0 games/0 starts; (182) Aaron Jones, RB, 12 games/4 starts.
Round 6: (212) Kofi Amichia, C, 0 games/0 starts.
Round 7: (238) Devante Mays, RB, 8 games/0 starts; (247) Malachi Dupre, WR, 0 games/0 starts.
Notable rookie FA signings: Justin Vogel, P, 16 games/0 starts.

Bergman: In Ted Thompson’s final draft as Packers GM, Green Bay singled out the secondary as its most vulnerable area and attacked the weakness with its first two selections. Unfortunately, King and Jones both underperformed in their rookie campaigns. The same cannot be said for Green Bay’s late-round pickups at RB. Jones was a welcome surprise in filling in for Ty Montgomery, showcasing a needed change of pace from the hard-running Williams. They are a future pairing to fear. The Pack saw little from their other picks. GRADE: C+

Indianapolis Colts

Round 1: (No. 15 overall) Malik Hooker, S, 7 games/6 starts.
Round 2: (46) Quincy Wilson, CB, 7 games/5 starts.
Round 3: (80) Tarell Basham, DE, 15 games/0 starts.
Round 4: (137) Zach Banner, OT, 8 games/0 starts (with Cleveland); (143) Marlon Mack, RB, 14 games/0 starts; (144) Grover Stewart, DT, 15 games/0 starts.
Round 5: (158) Nate Hairston, CB, 14 games/4 starts; (161) Anthony Walker, LB, 10 games/2 starts.

Shook: Hooker was in direct competition with fellow former Ohio State defensive back Marshon Lattimore for Defensive Rookie of the Year before he suffered a season-ending injury. Basham didn’t quite live up to expectations, but was also learning a new position and playing behind seasoned veteran Jabaal Sheard, from whom he can learn plenty. Banner was a massive disappointment, ending up with Cleveland via waivers, but Mack was a pleasant surprise in spelling Frank Gore. Wilson struggled to earn playing time until late in the season, while Stewart, Hairston and Walker all contributed for a young team slogging through a tough season. GRADE: C+

Miami Dolphins

Round 1: (No. 22 overall) Charles Harris, DE, 16 games/2 starts.
Round 2: (54) Raekwon McMillan, LB, 0 games/0 starts.
Round 3: (97) Cordrea Tankersley, CB, 11 games/11 starts.
Round 5: (164) Isaac Asiata, OG, 1 game/0 starts; (178) Davon Godchaux, DT, 15 games/5 starts.
Round 6: (194) Vincent Taylor, DT, 13 games/0 starts.
Round 7: (237) Isaiah Ford, WR, 0 games/0 starts.

Shook: The jewel of this class could end up being McMillan, who looked good in preseason before suffering a torn ACL that ended his rookie campaign in August. In the meantime, that honor belongs to Godchaux, who was an important and productive part of Miami’s defensive interior, recording 40 tackles and a forced fumble. Tankersley also exceeded expectations, stepping into a starting role and excelling in Miami’s young — but promising — secondary. There’s hope for Harris, who recorded 19 tackles and two sacks in spot appearances behind veteran Andre Branch, but didn’t seem to validate his first-round selection. We still don’t know what Miami will get out of Asiata, who didn’t take advantage of the Dolphins‘ interior-line issues during his rookie campaign. GRADE: C

New York Jets

Round 1: (No. 6 overall) Jamal Adams, S, 16 games/16 starts.
Round 2: (39) Marcus Maye, S, 16 games/16 starts.
Round 3: (79) ArDarius Stewart, WR, 15 games/2 starts.
Round 4: (141) Chad Hansen, WR, 15 games/1 start.
Round 5: (150) Jordan Leggett, TE, 0 games/0 starts; (181) Dylan Donahue, DL, 4 games/0 starts
Round 6: (188) Elijah McGuire, RB, 16 games/2 starts; (197) Jeremy Clark, CB, 1 games/0 starts; (204) Derrick Jones, CB, 3 games/0 starts.

Shook: For the amount of picks spent, this draft didn’t yield much in Year 1 beyond Adams (and Maye, which incensed Jets fans were quick to point out this week). The playmaking safety stepped into a leadership role rather quickly, but he also took lumps typical of a rookie seeing a starting role immediately. New York whiffed on both receivers, and Leggett didn’t play a game, ending the season on IR. Silver lining from this class: McGuire contributed in the running and passing games. As is the case for many young, inexperienced and talent-thin teams, these guys could see jumps in performance in Years 2 and 3. As of now, though, this draft didn’t bring much quality to Gotham. GRADE: C-

Oakland Raiders

Round 1: (No. 24 overall) Gareon Conley, CB, 2 games/0 starts.
Round 2: (56) Obi Melifonwu, S, 5 games/1 start.
Round 3: (87) Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, 16 games/13 starts.
Round 4: (129) David Sharpe, OT, 5 games/2 starts.
Round 5: (168) Marquel Lee, LB, 13 games/6 starts.
Round 7: (221) Shalom Luani, S, 16 games/1 start; (231) Jylan Ware, OT, 1 games/0 starts; (242) Elijah Hood, RB, 1 games/0 starts; (244) Treyvon Hester, DT, 14 games/1 start.

Shook: This draft’s top two picks had their rookie seasons severely limited by injuries, with just seven games and one start combined. Conley’s shin injury landed him on injured reserve, with Melifonwu coming off IR (knee) before landing on IR again (hip) near the end of the season. Oakland did find some worthwhile contributors in Lee and Hester, which is a credit to their deeper scouting abilities. GRADE: D+ (Though “incomplete” might be more accurate, given the injuries. This grade can significantly improve with healthy and productive seasons from Conley and Melifonwu.)

Seattle Seahawks

Round 2: (35) Malik McDowell, DT, 0 games/0 starts; (58) Ethan Pocic, C/OG, 16 games/11 starts.
Round 3: (90) Shaquill Griffin, DB, 15 games/11 starts; (95) Delano Hill, S, 15 games/0 starts; (102)Nazair Jones, DT, 11 games/2 starts; (106) Amara Darboh, WR, 16 games/0 starts.
Round 4: (111) Tedric Thompson, S, 9 games/0 starts.
Round 6: (187) Michael Tyson, S, 0 games/0 starts; (210) Justin Senior, OT, 0 games/0 starts.
Round 7: (226) David Moore, WR, 1 game/0 starts; (249) Chris Carson, RB, 4 games/3 starts.

Bergman: It’s an odd year when your best draft selection was a seventh-rounder who missed three-quarters of the season, but that was 2017 in Seattle. Though limited by injury, Carson flashed the talent to be a workhorse. His poor health opened up the door for other young backs, including Mike Davis and J.D. McKissic, but no one outran Russell Wilson. Griffin’s selection will prove to be most important this offseason, as major changes are expected in the leaking Legion of Boom. Pocic made the PFWA All-Rookie Team filling in at guard, but Pro Football Focus was not fond of his play (next-to-last among qualified guards). The jury is obviously out on McDowell, who missed the whole year after suffering an injury in an ATV accident. GRADE: C

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s