By John Harris
April 30, 2012
For the past two years, I've given out grades for the NFL Draft, but not for the draft most immediately completed. Everyone always says that you can't grade these drafts for like three or four years, so okay, here you go.
These are the draft grades from the 2008 Draft and it's not pretty. I'd like to think I graded on a little bit of curve, but I had to...in some sense. A few overall "stats" stood out. First off, of the 252 players drafted, only 13 players have made just one Pro Bowl. Outside of that, only 41 players drafted in this draft are projected as starters in the 2012 season. I'd venture a guess that's a little below average. So, with no further ado, here are my 2008 NFL Draft grades.
The Cards top three picks in the draft - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (1st), Calais Campbell (2nd) and Early Doucet (3rd) - contributed to the Cardinals, but none of the three have been dominant, some not even contributors. Campbell has become one of the pieces of the foundation on defense for the Cards. However, DRC was traded to the Eagles and Doucet will be a bit muted now that WR Michael Floyd is coming Arizona. Tim Hightower (5th) gave them decent touches for a while and Brandon Keith was decent value in the seventh.
The Matt Ryan Draft. This draft grade will continue to change as Ryan (1st - 3rd pick) rises or falls. But, the Falcons did find value throughout the draft. Curtis Lofton (2nd) was the team’s leading tackler for two years before moving on to New Orleans this off-season. Harry Douglas (3rd) is an important slot receiver who has to stay healthy. Cal’s Thomas DeCoud (3rd) one of my favorites, has been a starter for those past couple of seasons. Montana’s Kroy Biermann (5th) is a relentless pass rusher who has contributed more than expected.
I seemingly always love the Ravens draft and this one was no exception. Pro Bowl RB Ray Rice was taken at #55, if you can believe that, while QB Joe Flacco was the team’s necessary first round selection. They didn’t get much from the rest of the draft, outside of Notre Dame’s Tom Zbikowski (3rd), but Flacco and Rice in the first two rounds are good enough to rate at least a B.
The Bills missed on nearly every pick in this draft. The only exception was finding two starters in the 7th round - Demetress Bell and Stevie Johnson. Bell moved on to Philadelphia in the off-season, while Johnson is on his way to being one of the top receivers in the AFC. Leodis McKelvin (1st)? James Hardy (2nd)? Chris Ellis (3rd)? Reggie Corner (4th)? Derek Fine (4th)? Shall I continue? Okay, moving on.
You could argue that 7th rounder Mackenzy Bernadeau was the best value in this draft for the Panthers, but I won’t because the first few picks were solid, just not spectacular. RB Jonathan Stewart (1st - 13th pick) has been the perfect complement to DeAngelo Williams. OT Jeff Otah (1st - 19th pick) was on his way to a stellar career, only to be derailed by knee injuries in the 2010 and 2011. Charles Godfrey has been a starter at FS since day one and has been the leader in the middle of the defense since his arrival.
Similar to the Ravens and Ray Rice, the Bears found their star RB in the second round and Matt Forte saves this class, so to speak. WR Earl Bennett has been a contributor, but will never be the team’s go-to receiver. The rest of the draft is a bunch of names you won’t recognize, unfortunately the one that you do, first rounder Chris Williams (1st - 14th pick) hasn’t lived up to acclaim, whatsoever. He was injured in 2008, moved over to guard in 2010, missed a chunk of the 2010 season and then was put on IR in 2011 mid-way through the year. Without Forte, this grade is a D at best.
Very little to get excited about in the ‘Nati in this 2008 draft. First rounder Keith Rivers just got moved for a fifth rounder. Jerome Simpson (2nd) is known for one heck of a broad jump at the combine and a flip over an Arizona Cardinals defender. At least Simpson was a contributor, as was Andre Caldwell who caught 124 balls in 4 years. The rest? (Blowing raspberries, loudly). Stunk.
The Browns didn’t have a selection until pick 111 of the 4th round and they should’ve probably just stayed home. This draft was horrid. Martin Rucker (4th), Ahtya Rubin (6th), Paul Hubbard (6th) and Alex Hall (7th). Rubin remains at DT and has been solid, but that’s all that ever came out of this draft.
I’m sure if I go back to my thoughts right after the draft, I liked what Dallas did. However, looking at the production over the past four years, yikes. Felix Jones (1st) hasn’t been able to stay healthy, but CB Mike Jenkins (1st) was a productive player until the 2011 season. Martellus Bennett (2nd) continues to live on his own planet and Tashard Choice (4th) had a higher opinion of himself than anyone else. The 5th and 6th rounds produced players but Orlando Scandrick (5th) is the only one to make it work in Dallas as Erik Walden (6th) moved on to Green Bay and contributed for the Packers 2010 Super Bowl championship team.
From the first moment I can remember seeing former Boise St. star LT Ryan Clady (1st - 12th pick) play, I was convinced he was a player. He still is and the Broncos selection at #12 was the right one. He’s the star of this class, but getting value out of Eddie Royal (2nd) before he moved on in free agency was big. There wasn’t much else in this draft of much consequence other than the throw-in, last pick of the draft in the 7th round. Some guy named Peyton Hillis.
At the time, I know I loved the Cliff Avril pick in the 3rd round and still love it to this day. He’s been the biggest impact player in this draft class. Jordon Dizon (2nd) didn’t last two years and was a complete throwaway pick in the 2nd. RB Kevin Smith (3rd) gave the Lions a small bit of production, but could never stay healthy enough to be a consistent 1,500 yard/season running back. OT Gosder Cherilus will be moved to guard or moved altogether, but he was decent, not great, but not a complete bust at #17.
The Packers didn’t have a first round selection in this draft; I can’t remember why, maybe Brett Favre ate it, I don’t know. But, the Packers made the most of the rest of it. The team’s first selection was Kansas State WR Jordy Nelson (2nd). Yeah, he’s good. Texas TE Jermichael Finley was there in the 3rd round, while the Packers found one of the league’s best young guards at the 135th pick in the 4th round Josh Sitton. And, then in the 7th, they selected Matt Flynn, who signed a three-year/$24 million deal up in Seattle after starting two games for the Packers. Of course, we won’t mention the Brian Brohm selection in the second round, but it won’t put any stench on this draft at all.
Thank god, Duane Brown has turned into a major stud at left tackle because the rest of it is a nightmare. Antwaun Molden, Steve Slaton, Xavier Adibi, Frank Okam, Dom Barber and Alex Brink. Outside of Slaton’s strong rookie campaign, not one positive thing was accomplished by this group from 2009 through 2011. Not one. And, not one of those players is still with the Texans. Again, thanks so much, Duane. You proved me wrong in a big way and I’m glad I get to watch you do your work on a daily basis.
The Colts didn’t have a first round, similar to the Packers, but didn’t have near the success in its draft. LB Phillip Wheeler (3rd) had some moments as a starter. TE Jacob Tamme (4th) was a sufficient player to back up Dallas Clark and Pierre Garcon in the sixth was a major steal. The rest of it? Best to just forget it even happened.
What does it say when you draft not one, but two, defensive ends to solve your pass rush problems and neither one does a dadgum thing for you? Derrick Harvey (1st) and Quentin Groves (2nd) were major disappointments and it’s kept the Jaguars in the market for a pass rush ever since. The Jags had only three more selections the rest of the draft and trust me, you don’t even want to know.
DT Glenn Dorsey (1st) and OL Branden Albert (1st) haven’t been outright busts like others taken in the first round, but they certainly haven’t made an impact as many expected. Now, Dorsey has been miscast from jump - he’s a bona fide 3-technique and he’s played every position but that one. RB Jamaal Charles (3rd) was a star in 2010, but tore his ACL in the second game of the 2011 season. The Chiefs found two stars at CB in this draft - Brandon Flowers (2nd) and Brandon Carr (5th). The sheer numbers helped the Chiefs in this draft.
Long has been a Pro Bowler and the only reason this draft gets a B-. He was injured and placed on IR in 2011 and there are some who think he might be moved with such a hefty contract in 2012. Regardless, there was nearly nothing else to speak of in this draft. Chad Henne (2nd) could never put a strangle hold on the starting QB spot and DE Kendall Langford (3rd) had some decent moments. DE Phillip Merling (2nd)? Ouch. We’ll move on.
Here are the names - Tyrell Johnson, John David Booty, Letroy Guion, John Sullivan and Jaymar Johnson. Remember seeing any of them do anything of value in the last four years? Well, it’s hard to pick out what linemen Guion and Sullivan have done, Sullivan in particular. He’s started for the past three seasons, combining for 45 career starts. He signed a 5-year, $25 million deal in the off-season. Outside of those two, pfffffffffttt. Nothing.
Mayo (1st - 10th pick) has been a star when healthy and was the highest riser in this draft prior to draft day. And, now we can see the rise was with good reason. The rest of the draft? A Belichickian nightmare. The only player still anywhere near the squad was WR Matt Slater who played more on defense than offense; however, he made the Pro Bowler as a special teamer. The 2007 and 2008 draft classes were disasters for the Patriots, leading the way for much better classes in the three successive drafts.
DT Sedrick Ellis (1st - 7th pick) has been a solid selection for the Saints, but hasn’t made a Pro Bowl. Tracy Porter (2nd) made an impact early in his career, but moved on to Denver in free agency. Finding G Carl Nicks in the 5th round was a steal and he was one of the best guards in the NFL for years, but the Saints couldn’t afford to keep him and he moved on to Tampa Bay for big money.
This group was drafted after the Giants won their first Super Bowl and drafting at the bottom of the round, the Giants success was better than expected. The 2007 haul was a bit better in numbers, but this group was solid with contributors all throughout. S Kenny Phillips (1st - 31st pick) and CB Terrell Thomas (2nd) have been leaders in the secondary, when healthy. WR Mario Manningham (3rd) probably had the most overall success, but he chose to sign with the 49ers in the off-season.
Thank god for TE Dustin Keller (1st - 30th pick) or this one is a bona fide F. Keller hasn’t been a star, but he’s been an effective contributor. Unfortunately, that’s a lot more than the Jets can say for former Ohio State star Vernon Gholston (1st - 6th pick). B-U-S-T. The rest of the draft is much the same - Dwight Lowery (wasn’t horrible, no longer there) Erik Ainge, Marcus Henry, Nate Garner. Blech.
McFadden (1st - 4th pick) is a star when he can stay healthy and WR Chaz Schilens far out-performed his seventh round selection. S Tyvon Branch (4th) was a starter throughout the past few years. The Raiders didn’t have 2nd, 3rd and 5th round picks, so they did a solid job getting value out of the few picks they did have.
Throw it all completely away, with the exception of the 2nd round selection of Jackson (2nd). Philly didn’t have a first rounder and its first pick of the second round was DT Trevor Laws, who had some moments as a player before he signed a FA deal with the Rams in the off-season. The rest of it is not even worth speaking of (Bryan Smith? Jack Ikegwuonu? Mike Gibson? Andy Studebaker?)
Boy, on draft day 2008, this one didn’t look bad at all. Boy, on draft day 2012, this one is horrid, outside of Mendenhall. The former Illinois product has put together some strong seasons and some lousy seasons. But, he’s a Hall of Famer compared to former Texas WR Limas Sweed (2nd). Yikes. T Tony Hills (4th) had to play given the injuries on the offensive line, but he was well below average (and I’m being nice).
The Chargers only had five selections in this draft and didn’t do much of anything with them. CB Antoine Cason (1st - 27th pick) has been up and down and FB Jacob Hester (3rd) has done a little bit of everything, like he did at LSU. Marcus Thomas (5th), DeJuan Tribble (6th) and Corey Clark (7th) really gave them nothing. Heck, Thomas was cut in camp. Tribble hardly made it through the 2008 season and then went to the UFL. Clark played in one game in two years.
Kentwan Balmer (1st - 29th pick) was one of the biggest draft disappointments in 49er history. The only guy who made any impact at all was WR Josh Morgan (6th) and it was minimal at best and G Chilo Rachal who was replaced in 2011. The rest of it is worth forgetting.
The Seahawks got a few decent years out of TE John Carlson (2nd), but the best pick of this draft was 4th rounder Red Bryant who has been a perfect piece in Pete Carroll’s new defense. RB Justin Forsett was a 7th rounder who gave the team some unexpected production. However, first rounder Lawrence Jackson (1st - 28th pick) did nothing whatsoever for Seattle and has been a journeyman since.
DE Chris Long (1st - 2nd pick) improves each and every year, but he’s not gotten himself to a Pro Bowl. The Rams made Donnie Avery the first WR taken in this draft and suffice it to say, injuries killed his promising career. The rest of the draft is fairly dreadful (John Greco, Keenan Burton, Roy Schuening)
CB Aqib Talib (1st - 20th pick) is a turd and proves that to be true most every off-season. G Jeremy Zuttah will presumably move over to center in 2012 and he’s been, by far, the most outstanding player in this draft class. Dexter Jackson (2nd) could run, but couldn’t play. Dre Moore, Geno Hayes and Cory Boyd...look, don’t kill the messenger. It’s just bad.
The Titans got slaughtered for the selection of CJ28 (1st - 24th pick) and how has that worked out? He didn’t have a great 2011, but up to that point, he was one of the most explosive weapons in the league. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. DE Jason Jones (2nd) started 28 games the past two years which resulted in a one year contract... from the Seahawks. TE Craig Stevens has contributed 21 career catches but has played. That’s more than you can say for most of this draft class.
Second rounder TE Fred Davis has had an up and down start to his career. He overslept on the last day of his first mini-camp. He responded by eventually becoming a starter in 2011 and caught 59 passes for 796 yards and three TDs. Of course, he then got popped for repeatedly failing drug tests. The rest of this abysmal draft is so bad it’s not even worth mentioning. Alright, I’ll mention my guy former Hawai’i QB Colt Brennan, but other than that, I’ll spare you the carnage.