Evaluating a team’s draft class has become a right of passage for beat writers of NFL teams, and the process of supplying grades to the fan base became common place several years ago. The fact of the matter is that these grades mean nothing at all, especially when you consider that young men playing a college game are now being transitioned into the dog-eat-dog world of the National Football League.
In the case of of Odell Beckham, Jr. in 2014, the hype met the reality, but often times, this is simply not the case around Big Blue these days. Using the 2015 New York Giants draft as an example, more often than not, the hype, never equals the actual measured reality after a 16 game season. For example, shortly after the 2015 selection process, the NFL Network handed the Giants an “A” grade for their draft effort, but the on-the-field product saw a grade that was very different.
According to Pro Football Focus, safety Landon Collins graded out to a 56.2 that ranked him 78th of 89 graded safeties in 2015. Be reminded that the G-Men moved up to grab Collins, despite a drop from the first-round due to concerns about pass coverage abilities. The pass coverage concerns appear to have been warranted, as Collins was in the wrong “red zone” with an alarming 42.3 coverage grade by PFF. Meanwhile, the team’s first-round selection, Erik Flowers, was given a 28.5 grade (on a scale of 100); ranking Flowers 74th out of 77 offensive tackles graded in 2015.
But almost illogically, many evaluators opined that the Giants hit the jackpot in 2015.
For instance, draft expert Bucky Brooks said this about Collins after the draft, “Love the Giants pick. Collins has been dinged for his coverage skills, but he is much better in coverage than some have projected.” At this point, the accurate assessment on Collins has to be somewhere between NFL Pro Bowler and draft bust, and how close Collins gets to one edge of this assessment than the other will define him moving forward.
Alex Sinclair of Big Blue View gave Collins a B+ grade for the 2015 season, based upon little, if any empirical data. Sinclair said, “Cards on the table; I love Collins. This extends back to pre-draft articles last year when I mocked him to the Giants in the first round.” Perhaps, this post signifies the entire problem in Giants-world for the past several seasons. Mainly, that the evaluator’s personal feelings trump actual empirical data to the contrary.
Ironically, Sinclair doubles-down on his flawed post, by now rationalizing Collins’ play last season. “Collins is better than he gets credit for, and his surrounding cast — a job-sharing scheme of lackluster names at free safety, and a coordinator who is still figuring things out — let him down.”
Don’t let the facts get in the way of your story.
The draft expert that everyone loves to hate, Mel Kiper, Jr., was more realistic in his assessment of first-round selection, Ereck Flowers, and surely he raised the ire of die hard fans of Big Blue. “While the pick made sense, I had Flowers at No. 27 overall on my final Big Board, so for me this wasn’t a ‘best player available’ situation.’ In a nutshell, the Giants reached on Flowers and have to hope he develops into the kind of player that can stick at left tackle,” Kiper said.
But does reaching with the tenth pick make sense for a team that had not made the playoffs in three seasons?
Realistic evaluations are not meant to be a death sentence on the careers of Flowers and Collins, but instead a cautionary tale about looking at the reality, instead of peeking through rose-colored glasses constantly. Looking at a case in point, the 2012 New York Giants draft class, shows that not one player remains with the team after Markus Kuhn departed for New England and Rueben Randle signed with Philadelphia this off season. Ironically, Kuhn, a seventh-round draft pick was the whipping boy for everything that went wrong for the Giants defense in 2015, but he may have been the best selection of the entire class.
Many will argue that this class met with bad luck as first-round selection David Wilson (Virginia Tech) was lost to a career-ending neck injury, but that would only be half the story at best. Wilson was never going to be anything close to an every down player, as ball security, inferior pass blocking skills and poor hands plagued the former Hokie. Others will point out that Wilson was a special teams dynamo, and that is fair, but teams do not select special teams players in the first round.
The make-good deal that Randle signed with the Eagles spoke volumes, as the Giants made no attempt to bring back their second round selection from 2012. That says more about how the team actually feels about Randle than any grading system as well.
But what was the sentiment about these guys a few years ago?
After the 2012 season Ed Valentine also of Big Blue View had this to say about the 2012 draft class, “Wilson, Rueben Randle and Jayron Hosley all flashed potential and should be much better a couple of seasons down the road. Adrien Robinson never had a chance to contribute, and both Brandon Mosley and Markus Kuhn ended up on IR.”
The ink has dried on this class and reality is clear, Wilson was never going to live up to potential, while Robinson and Hosley were absolute busts, as was Matt McCants (6th Round, UAB). Randle was serviceable, but second-round draft picks are not selected to be serviceable parts. In retrospect, a fair draft grade would be a “D”.
Many fans are inclined to make emotional arguments that one player has potential and another player has performed better than he was given credit, but these fans should take a step back and actually evaluate. By doing so, these same folks will emphatically see back-to-back 6-10 records and four seasons of playoff-less football, and not enough high quality players that used to extensively populate the championship caliber teams of previous eras.