The annual PFT draft grades

Once the draft ends, folks throughout the media apply grades to the picks that were made. Because why? Because click. Click. Click.

It’s a waste of time to write them, and it’s a waste of time to read them. No one knows what any player is going to do at the NFL level until the player gets on the field. In the absence of a crystal ball or a time machine, the grades applied by a given member of the media will reflect the extent to which the team did what the media member would have done with the various picks.

Ultimately, draft grades try to make something that is inherently subjective seem objective, with no way of determining whether the assessment is right or wrong until three or four years have passed. By then, however, no one cares enough to go back and sift through careers compiled by the various picks, compare them among the 32 teams, and devise a fair system for dispensing a representative amount of A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s, and F’s.

There’s only one reliable grading process. As noted by MDS, the decision to exercise or not exercise the fifth-year option provides a simple pass/fail assessment, three years later. By then, however, there’s no appetite for grading draft picks from three years earlier.

That’s the weird irony of the draft. No one really knows enough after it ends to apply a reliable grade. By the time that knowledge is available, no one really cares.

So here are the official PFT draft grades, for the 2016 draft and every draft to come: Incomplete. After that, it’s  time to sit back and wait to see which teams shoot their eyes out.

87 responses to “The annual PFT draft grades

  1. I agree! You can only give an accurate grade a few years after the draft. As a Dolphins fan, I was mad that they passed on Brady Quinn several years ago; looking back, I’m glad they did.

  2. Can you just give the Jags an A, though?

    It will be the fourth year in a row that we feel great going into a season only to pick top 5 again the next year…

  3. “There’s only one reliable grading process. As noted by MDS, the decision to exercise or not exercise the fifth-year option provides a simple pass/fail assessment, three years later.”

    That criteria is not a reliable grading nethod either. As a result of the cost of exercising the option many players whose options were not exercised were subsequently retained by teams.

  4. There are multiple ways to meaningfully grade a draft that don’t involve projecting a player’s future. (For example, Atlanta taking a safety in the first who would likely have been available in the fifth was probably not such a smart move.) Taking this route is just a cop-out that shows you guys aren’t willing to do the work.

  5. Well, we mostly all read them so that we can express our disappointment that the media member’s opinion is not the same as our own.

    Most fans will find a way to believe their team did a good job in the draft. It’s purely based on your inherent optimism or pessimism, though.

  6. Tampa Bay and Miami wanted Eli Apple but the Giants blew the draft.

    Until we find out team draft boards, it really is a lesson in futility beyond the obvious 3 years it takes to see the success and failures.

  7. If everyone is wasting time (and I agree they are), why not write an insightful report card, on the 2011 NFL Draft. Everyone says wait 3-5 years before knowing. So while every bone head is grading the 2016 draft before any rookie has even signed a contract, take it upon yourself to grade the draft that happened 4 or 5 years ago, every year. 2011 this year, 2012 next year, 2013 the year after, and so on. Maybe start a new trend

  8. This article makes a good point regarding . PFT should pay their guys to give out draft grades on the draft from 2012. That would actually be an interesting read.

    I disagree that there’s no appetite for draft grades from 3 years ago. I would read the heck out of that and look for parallels to what just happened in the current draft. Three things especially interest me:

    1 – draft grades determined now from the draft 4 years ago
    2 – draft grades that were handed out just after the 2012 draft, and grading the 2012 “draft grades” themselves” in comparison to reality
    3 – a compilation of draft grades from the 2016 draft

  9. Florio hit it on this one.
    Media “Analysts” get a big fat F for doing their jobs incompetently.
    A true NFL analyst’s job IS to go back to drafts from a few years ago and give grades based on current knowledge… that would be called analysis
    Instead, they are just giving predictions disguised as analysis.

  10. Steelers: D

    They reached for too many players. Passing on Hunter Henry will come back to haunt them.
    Colbert should have traded up to get William Jackson III. Staying put is a gutless move. Passing on Vonn Bell (tOSU) and Jeremy Cash (Duke) were huge mistakes.
    Burns will be a reach, just like Deon Figures (1993), Anthony Smith (2006), Bryant McFadden (2005), Ricardo Colclough (2004), Chris Hope (2002), Hank Poteat (2000), Scott Shields (1999), Chad Scott (1997).

  11. I love the criticism that player A would’ve been available in round X….. How could you possibly know that? Because Mel Kiper said so??

  12. How about draft grades on the 2011 draft ?
    Assign points for starts,games played, probowls, fifth year options, etc Somewhat objective look .
    When Grading current drafts, graders only look at the order they had the draft layed out,
    and who’s draft followed what they thought the closest. Further affirming the view of the writer.

  13. Maybe your annual draft grades should be the drafts from three years ago. Usually the first round is brought up, but it would be interesting to see how a whole draft is graded out several years down the road.

    And, just a thought here, if you have extra time on your hands, it would be great to see the talking head commentary (Kiper etc.) for at least the first and second round picks.

    In fact, go ahead and just grade the talking heads on their accuracy three years on. I would read that article. Twice.

  14. I think you’re wrong, I would love to see retroactive grades. Every time this year I look for them, and never get them…

    I would especially love to see Kiper/McShay/othertools knee-jerk grades from 3 years ago, compared to how things look now.

  15. Florio is right, as usual. 🙂

    Unrelated – I’m looking at the 6th round draft chart from 2000… seems like a few decent players taken in that round along with the GOAT Tom Brady…Marc Bulger, Adalius Thomas, Matt Bowen, Neil Rackers…

  16. “There’s only one reliable grading process. As noted by MDS, the decision to exercise or not exercise the fifth-year option provides a simple pass/fail assessment, three years later.”

    This is wrong. Many solid players do not get the fifth year option fora variety of reasons. Bruce Irvin stands out.

  17. whiteybulgersson says:
    May 3, 2016 1:41 PM

    Patriots: A+

    And it’s not even close.

    Thank God I’m a Patriots fan.

    We play with integrity and never break the rules.


    GREAT POST!

    🙂

  18. You could just do it like ESPN did it, where each teams’ ESPN blogger gave their team a “thumbs up” except for like two of them. Click click

  19. seatownballers says:
    May 3, 2016 1:46 PM

    Vikings get an F for not drafting a kicker

    Wide left


    Better to lose wide left than lose a much bigger game because R.Wilson pass short right intended for R.Lockette INTERCEPTED by M.Butler at NE -1. M.Butler to NE 2 for 3 yards

    🙂

  20. jf1339 says:
    May 3, 2016 1:49 PM

    I agree! You can only give an accurate grade a few years after the draft. As a Dolphins fan, I was mad that they passed on Brady Quinn several years ago; looking back, I’m glad they did.
    —————-
    Yeah, they did so much better drafting Ted Ginn, Jr. and John Beck.

  21. That criteria is not a reliable grading nethod either. As a result of the cost of exercising the option many players whose options were not exercised were subsequently retained by teams.

    —-
    Yeah – declining an option doesn’t mean you don’t want to retain the player…..

  22. ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!!!

    It is much too bad others in the rest of the sports media have to stoop so low to try to generate buzz and hype their failed assessments because teams did not draft according to their faulty evaluations.

    Case in point, anyone remember how all of the draft “experts” denegrated the drafting by the Cardinals of John Brown?

  23. People enjoy grades on the draft for the same reason everyone watches it to begin with-> we have players in mind that we think will be a good fit for our team. Plus, if you put grades down each year in ink at PFT, you could always review those grades later between your writers to see who was on spot and who missed the mark. Would make for a fun/interesting read. Also reminds us of the great/poor decisions made by each team on a given year.

  24. seatownballers says:May 3, 2016 1:46 PM

    Vikings get an F for not drafting a kicker

    Wide left
    ——————————————————————————————

    Malcom Butler says “Should’ve ran the ball” F –

  25. Well most of the media gave the Cowboys an A…..that’s all you need to to know about grades.

  26. “It’s a waste of time to write them, and it’s a waste of time to read them.”

    Mike, what? … This is a sport. It’s funded and propelled by fandom. And not just a sport, it’s THE sport. It’s never a waste of time to speculate about your favorite team or other teams. Outside of the three hours we cheer for our team on 16 (and hopefully more) weekends, that’s what we do–speculate and anticipate.

    Respectfully,
    Titans Superfan

  27. COWARDS!! I get the fact that we won’t know who guessed right and who guessed wrong for several years, but we come you MORE MORE MORE footballtalk because we are junkies. So express your opinion, print it, and let us read it and tell you how much we disagree. Don’t hide behind some idealistic and/or pompous excuse NOT to do it.

  28. Evan Silva of Rotoworld gave my Bears an A- for drafting this year. Hope he’s right.

  29. Awesome Florio. I agree 100%. I don’t remember the Patriots getting an A+ for drafting Brady the day after the draft. Nobody had ever heard of him. Same deal when 49ers drafted Montana in round 3. But the Redskins sure got high marks for trading the future away for RG3. I give the Raiders an A+ for taking Conner Cook in the 4th round. I think he’s this year’s Tom Brady.

  30. media doesn’t want to give out draft grades from years back because those same guys would then have to eat their own words based on the over hyping they always do on their mock drafts for first round guys that ultimately fail and bashing of guys that teams “reached” for that ended up being superstars.

    Keep in mind most articles right now is how former first round must have guaranteed successes like Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez and RG3 are hoping to revitalize their careers on new teams and the greatest QB drafted since John Elway Andrew Luck is hoping to bounce back after being severly outplayed by half the league including his backup who was a 40 year old Matt Hasselbeck all the while 3rd rounder Russell Wilson has Qb’d two superbowls already.

  31. Why not grade the three drafts between 2011-2013 then? Or even better, go back and see how Kiper (and others) graded those drafts and compare it to how they really panned out. At the time, SI thought Jacksonville, San Francisco and the St. Louis Rams had great drafts. They thought Pittsburgh reached in the second for Le’Veon Bell, but did great in first with Jarvis Jones. Riiiiiight.

  32. The following picks did not meet my criteria for maximizing value while at the same time addressing need in a fundamentally sound way that takes into account game tape and sophisticated analytics: 91, 141, 16, 4.

  33. Patriots A+

    Why?

    Because the last time the League robbed the Patriots of their #1 draft pick, they went 18-1 the following season.

    So based on precedent alone, the Patriots are the clear winners of this year’s draft.

  34. Meh, it’s fun to debate stuff that you can never prove. Like, who would win in a fight — Mike Tyson in his prime or Muhammed Ali in his prime? You debate and argue and never can prove anything. But, you have fun with the debate.

    The key is to do it, but not to take it too seriously…

  35. I love the draft and I’m old and have nothing else to do. I love all these experts from ESPN, NFL Network and all the . com guys that grade and criticize the teams picks like they know more then the teams scouting staffs. I have watched and followed football since 1958 and these experts should be happy I watch because anybody smart would not waste their time. They are a joke.

  36. cropslx says:
    May 3, 2016 1:58 PM
    I would love an article written on previous draft classes and grade them for every team.

    I’d also like to see the grades the “experts” like Kiper, Mayock, et al gave each team immediately after each draft so we can all see how wrong they were then.

  37. And I’ll make the same comment that I make every year when you do this: the point of grading a draft right afterwards is to judge the decisions made based on the information that was known at the time those decisions were made.

    For example, Vernon Gholston, terrible decision, because many people warned at the time the Jets picked him that he was highly likely a bust. Aaron Curry, not a bad decision by the Seahawks, just bad luck. The vast majority of people thought Curry was a 3-down, day-1 starter at LB.

    The fact that it’s easier to tell 3 or 4 years later who’s succeeding and who’s failing is exactly the point of rating draft decisions before you have the benefit of that hindsight.

  38. Raider Jon says: “… So express your opinion, print it, and let us read it and tell you how much we disagree. Don’t hide behind some idealistic and/or pompous excuse NOT to do it.”

    Exactly! PFT is not just a news site; A big part of it is dedicated to you and your minions giving your opinions on items in the news in the world of the NFL – don’t get pompous and imply that everyone who does give their opinions on the draft are somehow beneath PFT. If you don’t want to do it, then don’t, but don’t put your nose in the air and sniff, “WE’RE not going to do it because we are MUCH smarter than the rest of the football reporting world.”

  39. Does this mean you’re going to stop you weekly pick all the games contest, since that’s an inexact science as well and you guy barely go 500 picking games straight up, let alone against the spread.

  40. “It’s a waste of time to write them, and it’s a waste of time to read them. No one knows what any player is going to do at the NFL level until the player gets on the field.”
    ================================

    Agreed 100%!

  41. I think to grade the 2016 draft in 2019 is too easy. The grade should be based on potential, not performance. Therefore, why not indulge as it is now. I don’t care about the 2013 draft. Could / should / would is really boring.

    Look at Tunsil and others like him that drop. Why should 12 team beat themselves up in 2017 if the guy becomes a beast in the NFL. It’s a lesson. You either risk or you don’t.

  42. ha- if Steelers would’ve drafted better there damn sure would have been a grading.

  43. I agree with this post 100%. Draft grades are based on what the observer thinks of the draftee’s potential added to what the observer thinks is the team’s present needs.

    It’s all subjective, there’s nothing objective about it, and only time will reveal the true grade of a team’s draft class.

  44. All draft grades should take into account the team’s draft position. For example, the Packers and the Pats are always drafting in the bottom 5 of the round because of their success.

    That is, if the Pats haven’t cheated again and forfeited their 1st round choice.

    The bottom feeders, like the Jags and the Vikings are almost always at the top of the draft.

  45. You have to consider the coaching involved with the player, too. Falcons drafted Favre. Does that make their draft a good one or a bad one?

    Being a Browns fan makes this whole process moot….and you know what I mean.

  46. This is the most insightful post draft article I’ve ever seen. I am not being sarcastic. Anyone that thinks they can grade a draft before training camp even starts is out of their freaking mind.

  47. Does it really matter?

    As long as you have teams like the Browns hiring and firing coaches every couple of years and drafting a new quarterback every couple of years, you are going to have the same 5 or 6 teams that are good every season, with 1 or 2 that pop up every now and again.

  48. So what are the grades?
    If I don’t know the grades, I’m gonna freak out.
    Crap. I’m freaking out.

  49. I read the entire article and I’ve come to the conclusion that you graded the vikings draft way too high.

  50. Soverytiredoflies said:

    “Anyone that thinks they can grade a draft before training camp even starts is out of their freaking mind.”

    Beg to differ. When you grade a draft, you’re simply saying an “A” equals a well-informed and educated prediction to meet future needs” and an “F” equals an obvious outright guess at best.

  51. This is only a reaction to Seattle’s 2012 draft.

    I gave the 2009 Bills, 2013 Dolphins, 2014 Browns, and 2015 Indianapolis Colts “F’s” for their drafts preceding their pre-seasons.

    Can’t we express our early opinions anymore? Can’t we warn when red flags are evident?

  52. Why don’t you grade the 2013 draft then? I’m interested and I think other people would be to especially during this time of the football season.

  53. The 5th year option is every bit as imperfect in measuring a pick. Sly Williams is a heck of a player and has anchored the Denver run defense the last two years. Pretty solid pick. That said, he isn’t an elite player (which is entirely reasonable for a 28 over all pick), and the 5th year puts him as the 3rd highest paid NT in the land.

    Denver has every intention of extending him, but if they fail, somebody will give him a nice long term deal. A bust or bad pick he is not.

  54. Well done. The best post-draft analysis I’ve seen or heard: intelligent and to the point. Probably the least read and appreciated of them all, unfortunately.

  55. The Patriots get an A for adding a key piece to our dink n dunk offense to help our aging QB.


  56. whiteybulgersson says:
    May 3, 2016 1:41 PM
    Patriots: A+

    And it’s not even close.

    Thank God I’m a Patriots fan.

    We play with integrity and never break the rules.
    Hey cheater:
    Did you notice Gronk couldn’t play the whole 3rd quarter, AFC Championship? Cramps, they say. I say altitude+age+Lifestyle. Crappy combo while Brady got beaten.

  57. How the hell can you give us an “incomplete” grade? Our draft this year was clearly much better than that, and all the other team’s drafts were clearly much worse than that. You have it out for us, don’t you PFT?

  58. The games a goner, but you can still award grades based on PFTs estimated value. How else are we supposed to gamble on this stuff?

  59. You can grade drafts based on the strategies and methods teams use to build their rosters, based on available information. It doesn’t necessarily mean any one particular player becomes a star. Take the Browns for example. Their 1st round pick was brutal. It doesn’t matter if Coleman has the talent to be the next Jerry Rice playing on that roster. Spending high picks on peripheral talent when you have no core is a bad strategy. Just ask Matt Millen. Cowboys, same thing. Their offense is just fine without Elliot when Romo plays. Problem…Romo can’t stay healthy. Their defense is average. They should’ve taken Jalen Ramsey because when Romo is inevitably hurt by week 6, Elliot won’t be helping much.

  60. I know this site detests mock drafts and draft grades and I agree that they are both fundamentally just hot air. However, I disagree that there’s lack of interest in draft grades from three year old drafts especially if it’s the same GM. I would love to read a story about a GM’s cumulative grades over their past drafts. That way when a GM picks a guy in the second round no one has heard of, we can put it in context. A GM with a strong track record could be getting a diamond in the rough but a guy with bad grade could just be fishing. I would love to read this kind of article in the lead up. I would also like a break down by position. This guy is great at drafting LBs but not CBs, for example.

  61. How to score if a drafted player was worth drafting?…

    Pick an arbitrary number of games or years that the player played in the NFL. and any player that played that many was draft worthy. You would probably need to discount or negate players whose careers were cut short by injury. So, at year 2 or 3 or 5, how many of the players drafted are still playing in the NFL?

    Personally, I would go with a star system. O stars for 1 year, 1 star for 2 years, 3 stars for 3 years, and 5 stars for more than three years.

    As to whether the drafted players are good or proper picks for a team, that is a bit tougher. I guess you could use the same criteria, how many of those players stayed with the team or were traded, versus how many were simply cut before the minimum. (If they were cut, even if they were picked up by someone else, they were a bad fit.) Again, discount injuries ending careers.

    Number of games played seems a far better indicator of whether or not a team had a good draft.

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