Red Zone League Articles

Grading the 2018 Draft Picks
By Keith Van Wagner
Special to rzl-football.com

It's easy to grade a team's draft based on how a player looks on paper. But it’s quite another to judge the pick based on three years of actual on-field production.

So below are my subjective grades for the first round of the 2011 draft, after the draftees have had an opportunity to show us what they've got.

DISCLAIMER: Please note, these are just for fun. I don't know what scheme you play, or if the guy has been hurt, or any of that. Honestly, I’ve probably never even seen him play. I don't pay attention to your team, so truth is, I don't know what I'm talking about and am just going by what their player card says. So save your bitching -- hey, it’s just meant to be enjoyed as a conversation starter.


1.1 – MLB Justin Houston, Jaguars. Despite his amazing attributes and decent production, Houston has to be considered something of a bust. Moved to MLB last year, Houston saw a modest uptick in tackles. But as a 3 year starter, his average of 50 tackles and 4 sacks a year don’t justify being selected first overall. GRADE: C-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS (BY AF*): B -- Could have solidified position of need at WR and went LB with 5th overall pick.

1.2 – WR AJ Green, Seahawks. Green has been a beast since landing in the Pacific Northwest. The 2018 offensive Rookie of the Year has managed to gain an average of nearly 1,400 yards and 9 TDs in each of his three seasons. GRADE: A

DRAFT DAY GRADE: A+ -- The Seahawks nailed it.

1.3 – WR Julio Jones, Patriots. In 2018 most acknowledged Green and Jones were the two best WRs available, though there was not a consensus. They came of the board back-to-back and Green outperformed Jones, slightly, in their rookie campaigns and again in 2019. However, Jones hit his stride last season, collecting 100 catches for over 1,800 yards and 16 TDs, in the process becoming the WR of the Year, and bettering Green in career totals. GRADE: A+

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B- -- Think OT was much bigger need for the team.

1.4 – OLB Martez Wilson, Colts. Getting an OLB so high is risky as there is often little production to show for the effort. For an OLB, Wilson has proven himself amongst the best, averaging 62 tackles a year and 6 sacks in his career. Traded to the Seahawks (who, barring a rejected trade, will have 3 of the top 4 players from 2018), Wilson has proven himself a productive player. GRADE: B

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: A -- Solid Choice, safe and immediate impact maker, will be a great Pro.

1.5 – RT Tyron Smith, Jaguars. No one questioned Smith’s preeminence on the line coming out and his attributes demonstrate his value. A rare combo of speed (68 ) and strength (92), Smith has averaged almost 90 pancakes a year. However, the big tackle has given up 18 sacks the past two seasons. That’s too high for an elite player. GRADE: B+

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS (BY AF*): A -- No WR left on board, he will be a future Hall-of-Famer, if he doesnt go down, most likely.

1.6 – CB Demarcus Van Dyke, Cowboys. Van Dyke was a controversial pick in 2018, as some loved his speed (97), while others saw too many red flags with his awareness (52) and strength (32). Van Dyke lasted one season in Dallas before being shipped to New Orleans. After 3 total interceptions his first two seasons, in 2020 the CB performed well, nabbing 3 more picks. A solid CB, it’s clear Van Dyke went too early. GRADE: C-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: D -- The first CB off the board, and one that likely SHOULDN'T have gone until round 2. Not a fan.

1.7 – LE JJ Watt, Saints. Coming out of college Watt was something of a tweener, either a DT or DE. But either way, teams knew he would be disruptive. Perhaps more suited as a quick 4-3 DT, Watt has played DE in both the 3-4 and 4-3. The former Badger has been productive and consistent, but not much more. Averaging 6 sacks a season is good, but not great. GRADE: B

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: A- -- I like him, but think he was a bit of a reach at this point, better DE's that were going to get more attention were still on the board.

1.8 – LE Brooks Reed, Eagles. Reed came into the league with a rare blend of speed (82) and power (82). Very much a bust in his first two seasons (8 total tackles and 1 sack in two years), Reed acquitted himself nicely last season by collecting a very respectable 9 sacks. GRADE: B-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: A -- Love the pick, great value in such a weak class.

1.9 – MLB Bruce Carter, Panthers. After a rookie season on the bench, Carter has proven himself worthy of his selection in the Top 10, averaging over 100 tackles in the past two seasons. In 2020, he lead the league in tackles. While not generating many sacks in the 4-3, Carter patrols the middle well. GRADE: A-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B+ -- For the simple fact that I don't know if he belongs and isn't a truly rare talent that just makes sense. A good solid player that I'm sure will start from day one, I just have my reserves here at 1.9.

1.10 – LE Ryan Kerrigan, 49ers. Kerrigan may be the biggest impact player in the Top 10. Blessed with amazing speed and strength, the Purdue product has used these abilities to amass 32 sacks in his young career, including a league leading 17 last year. GRADE: A+

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: A -- Going to go with same grade I gave Reed for the fact that he was taken 2 picks later and is more physically gifted, giving some on the pro-readiness edge.

1.11 – OT Anthony Castonzo, Colts. One of only two offensive lineman drafted in the first round, Castonzo has struggled to find the field in his three seasons. Totaling only 20 pancakes in his career, Castonzo is one of the bigger busts in the draft. GRADE: F

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B+ -- Nothing wrong with picking Costonzo here, but the actual player is not the elite prospect you want to anchor the offense for years, he could be upgraded at some time and that hurts since he is [1.11].

1.12 – WR Jonathan Baldwin, Dolphins. At 6’4” most teams salivated over Baldwin’s potential. The Dolphins have worked on his speed and he now nears elite attributes. Baldwin had a breakout rookie season with over 1.500 yards, but has averaged closer to 1,000 yards the past two seasons, in part due to injury. Still, he’s paid dividends and with his talent the sky is the limit. GRADE: A-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B- -- Definitely not the worst player he could have taken, and I realize the pick was originally missed, but better talent out there that may have been needed.

1.13 – LE Da’Quan Bowers, Lions. For his freshman and sophomore seasons, Bowers did well, but had not lived up to potential. Last season the beast the Lions drafted emerged, recording 14 sacks and over 50 tackles. Fast and big, Bowers expects to be a force for many years to come. GRADE: A

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: C+ -- I can't get past the size/strength thing, but he isn't the worst pick out there. I will be interested to watch how he does over his career.

1.14 – DT Stephen Paea, Ravens. With a great combination of speed (65) and strength (95), Paea was the first DT off the board. While not stunning in his production, Paea has managed to be a force in the running game and has been consistent against the pass with nearly 6 sacks a season. GRADE: B+

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B -- At least he went Defense, there isn't much out there on the other side of the ball at this point.

1.15 – LE Robert Quinn, Cardinals. Quinn came into the league with great skills, but seemed to be something of a tweener. Big and fast, he didn’t seem to have the strength needed to be an elite pass rusher. Quinn lasted only one year in the desert (2 sacks) but found new life in Miami. Last season Quinn recorded 13 sacks. He has been inconsistent but could be a force in the right scheme. GRADE: C-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: C -- A lesser Bowers, I'm just not a fan of weak DE's. I am sure Richardson has a plan on him, and it most likely will change my grade of this, but for the moment this is where its at.

1.16 – CB Chimdi Chekwa, Lions. The second CB off the board also has not performed up to expectations. Traded last season to the 49ers after picking a total of 3 passes in his first two seasons, Chekwa recorded 0 INTs in San Fran. When you have more careers sacks than interceptions at CB, you’re officially a bust. GRADE: D-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: A- -- Missed by not going with Crawford. Chekwa was #2 CB in this draft IMO.

1.17 – CB Martin Crawford, Seahawks. Crawford has ideal height (6’1”) and weight (215) and some argued he was the best overall DB in the draft. The SD State product has improved in each of his 3 seasons, recording 4 picks last season. While not flashy, Crawford could be a keeper. GRADE: A-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: A+ -- Can't believe a guy like him falls in such a weak CB class. Baffles me

1.18 – K Reid Forrest, Bucs. It’s hard to grade a first round Kicker, but give the Bucs credit for getting the guy they felt they needed to complete their team. Forrest has been the model of consistency, hitting over 90% of his FGs and being a monster kick-off artist. GRADE: A-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: C+ -- Of course a kicker doesn't get an A grade. However, he is great and will have a great career. For the "Hall-of-Fameness" I give him a respectable grade.

1.19 – DT Marvin Austin, Bengals. There were many solid DTs available in 2018 and Austin was amongst the most talented. Austin was certainly considered a nice pick-up this late in the draft and a good pass rushing tackle, though his production hasn’t matched his raw talent. Recording only 8 sacks in three seasons, Austin hasn’t lived up to potential. GRADE: B-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: A -- Great value this late in such a weak draft. Someone I could see going in the top 10 easily. I'm a fan.

1.20 – OLB Kelvin Sheppard, Falcons. Sheppard came into the league as a MLB and was shifted to the outside. He produced nicely there his first two seasons in Atlanta (5 sacks a season). Last season Sheppard notched 103 tackles and may yet be a force in the middle. GRADE: B

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B- -- I like him as a player, may not be the best out there. I personally feel he may be better suited for the edge.

1.21 – DT Corey Liuget, Ravens. Many in the league felt Liuget was too small to be drafted this high, though some felt the DT’s quickness and speed made him an ideal 4-3 DT. In his first season Liuget showed great promise with 6 sacks. However, the past two seasons he has only manged 2 sacks total. GRADE: C+

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: C+ -- Could be higher if this is meant to be a 3-4 DE, I have no idea if that's the idea. I otherwise, don't see this as a good pick. He can't start for a while IMO, and at least Phil Taylor could.

1.22 – OLB Colin McCarthy, Cardinals. Drafted as a MLB and moved to the outside, McCarthy is now 30 years old and was recently traded to the 49ers. McCarthy has a great combination of speed and strength, but little to show for it. Averaging 53 tackles and 3 sacks a year is nice, but in retrospect it doesn’t seem worth paying a first round price for. GRADE: C-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: A- -- Awesome pick from a guy known to be good around the draft. Now Tyler just has to hope that he doesn't start regressing in his 6th season...

1.23 – LE Cameron Jordan, Jets. Jordan is fast and has a big body, and this much talent this late in the draft is usually a good thing. After a solid rookie season in which Jordan posted 7 sacks, he’s totaled only 8 the next two seasons. Jordan may lack the strength to be an elite end, but you’d like more production from a first rounder. GRADE: B-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B- -- I think there are better talents on the board and it will take a while for Jordan to become a special talent. If he has the investment, he could be alright, but that is a BIG investment that's needed.

1.24 – MLB Brian Rolle, Saints. When drafted, many were concerned about Rolle’s size (5’10”, 229) being enough to anchor the middle. In his two seasons in New Orleans, such concerns appeared justified as Rolle’s best season included a meager 37 tackles. Traded to the Jets, Rolle improved and secured a respectable 83 tackles. GRADE: C-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B -- Gamble on the size, but has all the other tools to EVENTUALLY be great in this league. Interesting to see if he can hold up like Spencer Adkins from the Chargers. I like him on a strong team like the Saints who won't actually NEED and depend on him.

1.25 – DT Phil Taylor, Texans. Less dynamic than some of the DTs taken ahead of him, Taylor has proven to be a reliable starter. Garnering a respectable 13 sacks in his first two seasons, Taylor managed only 3 in 2020. Still, his production suggests he is the ‘real deal’. GRADE A-

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: A- -- Brings a solid presence, good value in this draft. I like the pick. This draft was filled with DL around 300lbs, Taylor is a big boy that can become elite.

1.26 – FS Steven Cox, Broncos. Not a lot of Safeties go in the first round but Cox’s abilities are good enough to play CB. Cox possesses a rare combination of speed and size, and with them he has 3 career interceptions. More impressive is Cox’s 91 tackles last season. GRADE: B+

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B+ -- Much like Taylor above, just different position. He will bring a presence to the deep half of the field, but has holes.

1.27 – DT Lawrence Guy, Raiders. The last of the DTs taken in the first round, Cox may be among the best in terms of production. Recording 16 sacks in his 3 seasons is just as good as, if not better than, many taken before him. GRADE: A

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B- -- He isn't elite and probably not someone I would start right away, as is. But he isn't a waste, and can only get better.
1.28 – WR Torrey Smith, Bengals. Considered a good, but not great prospect on Draft Day, Smith took some time to get his footing in the league. After a poor rookie campaign and a promising sophomore season, Smith exploded in 2020 for over 1,300 yards receiving and 11 TDs. If he can keep up the progress he will prove worth the pick. GRADE: B

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B -- Solid starter and potential to be great at some point. I'm a fan and Heard did what was needed with his two firsts.

1.29 – WR Edmond Gates, Chargers. Gates’ trajectory mirrors Smith in terms of his output. He has gotten better each season, after a rookie season that featured 11 catches. Last season Gates snagged 86 balls and had double-digit TDs. GRADE: B

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B -- Gates will be a quality sarter, but will definitely have some bumps along the way.

1.30 – OLB Scott Lutrus, Giants. Lutrus is the accidental first rounder, picked after dozens of players were off the board. He does not have elite talent but has actually produced nicely, considering. Averaging over 50 tackles a season and recording 6 sacks in 2020, Lutrus has arguably out-performed a few “legit” first rounders. GRADE: C

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: D+ -- Should be an "F" automatically for missing a pick, but the truth of the players talent still remains.. Could have been much worse. With all things considered, in a weak class picking a player in the 3rd round as your first rounder, this is actually a stellar pick for where he was selected. LOL

1.31 – OLB Harry Morris, Broncos. Morris’ abilities exceed those of the OLB taken right before him, but you wouldn’t know it from the stat sheet. Morris had a decent 55 tackles and 3 sacks as a rookie, before not playing at all in 2019 and getting only 23 tackles with 0 sacks last year. GRADE: D

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B+ -- Solid player this late in the draft. Benefitting from Paglia not being here to possibly take him at 1.30

1.32 – SS Jeremy Wood, Rams. In his 3 seasons, Wood has quietly put together a nice career. While not flashy, Wood has averaged over 55 tackles a season and surprisingly has made 4 INTs in each season, better than all the CBs taken in the first round. A nice gem found late. GRADE: A

DRAFT DAY ANALYSIS: B -- Will make plays, but will see the injury report. Will also miss some plays such as playaction too.
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