Looking back at our 2016 NFL draft grades makes us want to gouge our eyes out

You’ve spoken, and we’ve listened.

When I issued my immediate-aftermath team grades for the 2019 NFL draft, there was a clarion call for how ridiculous that exercise was.

<angry Twitter voice>

YOU CAN’T GRADE A DRAFT FOR (insert number between two and five here) YEARS, DUMMY!

</angry Twitter voice>

You know what? We hear you. (Save for the “dummy” part, which is just not nice.)

And at the risk of undermining our own expertise on the topic, we thought we would let you have a laugh at our expense — maybe with one or two back pats thrown in for posterity’s sake — for how we viewed the 2016 NFL draft. Three years feels ample enough to grade a draft fully in retrospect, and so here we go to do just that.

This is all in the sake of transparency. And not taking ourselves too seriously. Hope you appreciate our candor — even if we think that drawing some immediate conclusions from the draft actually holds some merit. These are ordered from worst grades to best, FYI …

Atlanta Falcons

Grade we gave then: C-

Funniest line in retrospect: “Deion Jones is a fast coverage linebacker, but neither [he nor Keanu Neal] are complete players yet.”

Welp, at least we got the “fast coverage linebacker” part right.

Best evaluation in retrospect: If you read what we said about most of the players, we had their evaluations pretty close. We just misjudged the value of those picks and felt most of them were overdrafted.

How we did: We bemoaned their not drafting a defensive lineman that year, which proved to be a little short-sighted considering they almost won the Super Bowl. This might not have been the most exciting draft class in history, but we should have liked it a lot more at the time, it turns out. Fouled out to the third baseman on this one.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Grade we gave then: C-

Funniest line in retrospect: “Reaching for need is a sin.”

It’s funny because it’s true.

Best evaluation in retrospect: We hated the Artie Burns pick then, just as you, dear Steelers fan, do now. We picked Javon Hargrave as our favorite pick, so that’s a win.

How we did: We kinda nailed the whole thing, to be honest. Score one for the immediate-grade crew.

Cleveland Browns

Grade we gave then: C

Funniest line in retrospect: “Unquestionably the best talent the Browns grabbed over the weekend [was WR Corey] Coleman.”

We’re laughing so hard we just broke our sixth and seventh ribs. It’s hard to breathe.

Best evaluation in retrospect: We rhetorically asked “how many true difference-makers” the Browns landed in their 14-man class, and the truth has been delivered: The answer is none. Joe Schobert is a nice player for sure. And maybe Rashad Higgins will turn out decent. But yikes, this class is just brutal.

How we did: What makes it especially bad is when you consider they traded down from No. 2 overall, passing up the chance to draft the likes of Carson Wentz, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Jalen Ramsey, DeForest Buckner, Jack Conklin, Leonard Floyd, Sheldon Rankins and Laremy Tunsil.

Heck, they could have taken Eli Flippin’ Apple and almost done better. Turns out our “C” was being too kind.

Kansas City Chiefs

Grade we gave then: C

Funniest line in retrospect: “K.C.’s two sixth-rounders, D.J. White and Dadi Nicolas, have a chance to surprise.”

The surprise was that they each lasted one season with the Chiefs.

Best evaluation in retrospect: We worried about the character issues with Hill (which is quite topical again now), hated the Parker Ehinger pick and loved Chris Jones. All three calls were right.

How we did: I’d say we pretty much crushed this one. Jones is pretty much the last one standing on the team. We’ll take a short victory lap for this team, even if Hill was a superstar before the disgusting actions he’s accused of in this most recent alleged incident.

Philadelphia Eagles

Grade we gave then: C+

Funniest line in retrospect: “[Carson] Wentz can be brought along at the proper pace and be set up to succeed.”

Turns out the proper pace was Week 1 that year. Huh.

Best evaluation in retrospect: We liked the Wentz pick, although maybe didn’t quite expect MVP-level play in his second season, so that was pretty close. And we had a feeling that a few of those mid-round picks were potential misses.

How we did: Other than saying the Eagles should have drafted Johnathan Williams (who is on his fourth roster in three years) over Wendell Smallwood, our analysis was fairly spot on. We just would bump up the grade for them having landed Wentz, who still fills the bill as a franchise QB – we think – until proven otherwise.

Tennessee Titans

Grade we gave then: C+

Funniest line in retrospect: “This [draft] has a Mike Mularkey influence.”

LOL, sure it did, bro.

And here we thought Mike Mularkey had any say on the Tennessee Titans' 2016 draft class. (AP Photo)
And here we thought Mike Mularkey had any say on the Tennessee Titans' 2016 draft class. (AP Photo)

Best evaluation in retrospect: We liked Austin Johnson, who is a perfectly acceptable NFL player, and we admitted that Jack Conklin was good (albeit that he came at a high price via trade). We also mentioned the Titans wanting to “maul” people, which holds up well. Other than that, none of our analysis makes much sense now.

How we did: Our greatest fear here was that we had spilled blood extolling the virtues of Kevin Dodd or something similarly disastrous, so we were spared of that. But no mention or Derrick Henry or Kevin Byard just feels ridiculous now. Did we fall asleep for the latter stages of Day 2 of the draft? Yeesh. What a weird assessment this was.

Miami Dolphins

Grade we gave then: C+

Funniest line in retrospect: “[Xavien Howard] was a third- or fourth-round talent.”

Shoot this stuff directly into my veins. Just do it.

Best evaluation in retrospect: “The payoff could be tremendous” was how we hedged on the post-gasmask bong Laremy Tunsil pick, and that’s pretty much what has happened. We’ll take a point for that.

How we did: Why we felt the need to point out Kenyan Drake’s special-teams prowess — when he’s played progressively less on those units each of the past two seasons — is beyond us, although we did have the right idea in that vein with Jakeem Grant. Overall, though our massive failure on the Howard pick is enough to trump any other small wins here, so yeah, you’re free to hammer us on that one.

New England Patriots

Grade we gave then: C+

Funniest line in retrospect: “If there ever was a Patriots player, this is it.”

That line — written about noted bust Cyrus Jones — shall be worn around my neck like a crown of thorns until Round 1 of the 2020 NFL draft. I hereby decree it.

Best evaluation in retrospect: “Joe Thuney and Malcolm Mitchell could contribute right away” was a line that held up, thank god. Even with Mitchell later forced into retirement for health reasons, his second half of Super Bowl LI remains one of the great out-of-nowhere contributions in recent league history.

How we did: Pretty well. Even with the Jones miss (and not picking Thuney as our best choice), much of it still holds up. We were right in panning the Vincent Valentine pick, to the point where if you search for that name online the first several references are to the Final Fantasy VII character. (Although looking back now, mentioning that Valentine had “stamina problems” feels just a little too personal. Yikes.)

Arizona Cardinals

Grade we gave then: C+

Funniest line in retrospect: “Nkemdiche is in an excellent environment to thrive with his personality.”

What in the holy world were we even talking about here?!

Best evaluation in retrospect: We had Evan Boehm as our best pick, which … maybe was true? The guy started nine games at right guard, and that’s seriously an option for the best player who was drafted by the team that year. Goodness. Had they not traded for Chandler Jones (which we thankfully mentioned), this would have been a candidate for worst team draft in the 2010s.

How we did: Really, our grade was way, way too kind. We called some of their picks “shrug worthy,” which now feels like the parents tracing their kids’ bad behavior as adults to that one time they got caught sniffing glue in grade school and received a slap on the wrist for it. Yes, we should have come down harder on them at the time and totally regret it now.

Carolina Panthers

Grade we gave then: C+

Funniest line in retrospect: “The third cornerback the Panthers drafted in this year’s class, [Zack] Sanchez has a chance to be the best of the group.”

My eyes! They’re burning! (Sanchez played five NFL games and was last seen in the AAF before it folded.)

Best evaluation in retrospect: Um. We’re still looking.

How we did: Just awful. We disliked the one player from this class — James Bradberry — who has turned out to be decent. Who knows, maybe Vernon Butler turns out to be a solid player. But this was just a misfire by us — and by the Panthers with the players they selected. Double woof.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Grade we gave then: B-

Funniest line in retrospect: “[Noah] Spence filled a huge pass-rushing void.”

Did I mention that my twins had just turned 1 year old at this point? That I was working two jobs and that I never slept? Factor that into how you judge me. Please. I beg of you.

Thank goodness we ripped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers three years ago for using a second-round pick on kicker Roberto Aguayo. (AP Photo)
Thank goodness we ripped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers three years ago for using a second-round pick on kicker Roberto Aguayo. (AP Photo)

Best evaluation in retrospect: We just knew that Roberto Aguayo pick stunk to high hell at the time, and we ripped them for it appropriately. We don’t root against any player, of course, but our hatred was completely justified.

How we did: Honestly, not great. We made it seem as if, even if the value wasn’t great, that they landed three “immediate contributors” with their first three picks. While that was technically correct, we in no way were actually correct. We meant “sort of good” contributors, and that just wasn’t the case. It’s an overall miss, even with nailing the kicker thing.

Indianapolis Colts

Grade we gave then: B-

Funniest line in retrospect: “[Ryan] Kelly, Le’Raven Clark and Joe Haeg could make up three-fifths of a good offensive line in a few years.”

Well, at least parts of this sentence were not factually erroneous?

Best evaluation in retrospect: Crushed our best (Kelly) and worst (T.J. Green) selections. That part was spot-on.

How we did: Here we are, cruising along with some pretty choice analysis and then we just tumbled into the river, face first. Brace yourselves: We gave former GM Ryan Grigson some reluctant credit for his draft plan. He’d be out of a job nine months after this draft class. So there you have it. And we were doing so well, too!

New Orleans Saints

Grade we gave then: B-

Funniest line in retrospect: “[Michael Thomas will] certainly need to improve his blocking in this offense.”

Yes, for sure, because without that development, who knows what he’ll be able to do for them?

Best evaluation in retrospect: To be fair, we actually clapped at the Saints’ first three picks — Sheldon Rankins, Thomas and Vonn Bell — and all three deserve claps. Our claps needed to be louder for sure.

How we did: Not too bad. Although the miss here was in not realizing the Saints got one of the great steals of the decade with Thomas slipping to Round 2. This could have gone far, far worse than it did.

Detroit Lions

Grade we gave then: B-

Funniest line in retrospect: “[A’Shawn] Robinson and Anthony Zettel beef up the D.”

Yeah, nah.

Best evaluation in retrospect: Man, we kind of shredded Jake Rudock. That proved to be sage. We also said it was a “safe and smart” draft class, which is pretty much still the case. There was not a pick that was truly offensive in the lot. So the words and grade reflect about what we now feel about this class.

How we did: We also said Robinson was our favorite pick — over Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow. That was not so hot. But you look at the group as a whole, and our overall feelings mostly held true now. Maybe it’s a C+ class instead. We were not wrong – let’s put it that way.

New York Jets

Grade we gave then: B-

Funniest line in retrospect: “If there’s ever an offensive coordinator who can get [Christian] Hackenberg out of his two-year funk, it’s Chan Gailey.”

Maybe we just felt bad for both of them then. That’s all we’ve got right now.

No, we didn't like the New York Jets' pick of quarterback Christian Hackenberg. But we did try to see the bright side. (AP Photo)
No, we didn't like the New York Jets' pick of quarterback Christian Hackenberg. But we did try to see the bright side. (AP Photo)

Best evaluation in retrospect: Just in case you think less of us, Hackenberg was our “worst pick” choice, so we were not trying to suggest he had a shot to be good. That much needs to be made clear. We also had Jordan Jenkins as our best pick, and when you consider everything in a vacuum, that’s kind of right. A third-round pick starting (and mostly underwhelming) for most of the past three years is probably better than choosing Darron Lee, the first-round pick who has started (and mostly underwhelmed) for most of the past three years. Lee is on the trade block; Jenkins is not and could still start. We’re claiming a victory here.

How we did: They got a punter, a starting right tackle and a few middling linebackers from that draft. They also made one of the worst quarterback picks of all time — dude went 51st, was healthy and literally couldn’t earn one real snap. B- feels a little generous right now.

San Diego Chargers

Grade we gave then: B-

Funniest line in retrospect: “Taking Joey Bosa over Jalen Ramsey and Hunter Henry over Myles Jack could prove to be mistakes.”

I literally don’t know if this was insightful or super dumb.

Best evaluation in retrospect: Picking Max Tuerk as my least-favorite pick was the right call. It’s one of the few major whiffs this front office has had over a long stretch of time. He was just always hurt and underweight.

How we did: I mean, fine, I guess, except I spent more time talking up Joshua Perry than Bosa? How weird is that? It serves as a good lesson for you young draftniks out there: Sometimes the best player from a team’s draft crop is – brace for stunner – the first-rounder. Yeah, for real. Like the guy they took at No. 3 in the entire draft was actually good.

Instead, I was trying to maybe impress the reader by fawning over Bosa’s college teammate, who went 99 picks after him and who played in 17 games over two seasons and hasn’t been heard from since. This was a K.I.S.S. moment for me. As in, Keep It Simple Stupid.

Denver Broncos

Grade we gave then: B-

Funniest line in retrospect: “John Elway will be proven right in a few years when [Paxton] Lynch is ready to take over.”

This is clearly where the Dilaudid kicked in. And the worst part: I don’t actually remember feeling this way about Lynch!

Best evaluation in retrospect: Who cares? I literally thought Lynch was good at one point. Cancel my draft card. Immediately.

How we did: How do you think we did? I am asking you. Go ahead and say it. It’s fine. I’ve just ruined my career as any type of authority on anything. But by all means, tell me your thoughts on the matter. I want your opinion on why I should keep on doing this. I could have predicted exact career game and stat totals for the other six players the Broncos drafted, and this one miss completely negates any authority I hoped to have.

We’re not even mad. We’re just really disappointed.

New York Giants

Grade we gave then: B-

Funniest line in retrospect: “This [Darian Thompson] will turn out to be an inspired pick.”

Absolute parody account here.

Best evaluation in retrospect: OK, I nailed Eli Apple being a bust, and that’s now the second time in this story I’ve railed on him when, geez, he really wasn’t terrible for the Saints last year. But the important part here for my ego: Apple was bad in New York.

How we did: Better than the Broncos, wouldn’t ya say?! Even so, we gave a class headlined by a first-round pick we disliked a B-. See, that alone is stupid. Reading my words gave off a very “C” vibe, so maybe I was just in a good mood when I assigned it. This exercise is no longer fun.

San Francisco 49ers

Grade we gave then: B-

Funniest line in retrospect: “Oh no, they didn’t.”

That was in response to picking Joshua Garnett. We knew!

Best evaluation in retrospect: That was it for sure. That’s saying a first-round pick was bad, and it happened. YES! We’re back on top now. OK, we know we’re not entirely out of Lynch purgatory. But we’re feeling a lot more confident.

How we did: Fine. We liked Buckner, and he and Ronald Blair are the only two in this class who are really worth a hoot. But yep, time for another B-. This feels like our 13th B-, but who is keeping track?

Los Angeles Rams

Grade we gave then: B

Funniest line in retrospect: “Jeff Fisher has a patterned history of ignoring character issues.”

I just think it’s funny that there once was a Fisher narrative that didn’t involve some combination of the numbers “seven” and “nine.” This might has well have been 100 years ago now, not three.

Best evaluation in retrospect: I liked Jared Goff. Yay, me. No. 1 pick in the draft, and I liked the guy. Go figure. But I also kind dumped on Tyler Higbee and, well, he’s just a guy in the National Football League now.

How we did: We had it right. We liked but didn’t love Goff. We liked Pharoh Cooper, who made a Pro Bowl as a specialist. So it’s OK if we get a few right. Your entertainment is important, but so are our feelings.

Oakland Raiders

Grade we gave then: B

Funniest line in retrospect: “Kudos on the Connor Cook trade-up.”

Yep, that did it. Our bosses just asked for the key fob and just cut up the corporate credit card. The end is nigh.

Best evaluation in retrospect: We didn’t like Jihad Ward, and let the record show that Ward was the chic sleeper pick in the middle rounds that year.

How we did: See, we think missing on a QB evaluation is just an unfair stigma. Why is nailing a Ward projection way less impressive than liking Cook is bad? Does that make sense? Of course it doesn’t. But after reading my own words three years ago, nothing at all makes sense in this life.

Houston Texans

Grade we gave then: B

Funniest line in retrospect: “This was a pretty solid haul.”

We now regret writing this story. This is just dumb.

Best evaluation in retrospect: Eh, really nothing worth bragging about.

How we did: We loved the Braxton Miller pick and hated the D.J. Reader. That’s just terrible. We’ve now had a few of these. This is like watching a cross-country skier try to finish a race after a tree fell on his damned leg. Like at some point, dude, we need to just put you out of your misery. It’s for your own good.

Green Bay Packers

Grade we gave then: B

Funniest line in retrospect: “Plus, jumping ahead of the Bears – who would have taken [Jason Spriggs] – was a nice blow to a rival.”

LMAO, yes, I think I will write a book this summer about the history of the Packers-Bears rivalry, and I might lead it off with the moment the Packers stole Spriggs from the Bears.

Truly a where-were-you flashpoint in our lives. I bet Curly Lambeau turned over in his grave when this happened.

Best evaluation in retrospect: I liked Kenny Clark (and, ha, Spriggs, whoops). So that was cool.

How we did: Well, the grade is pretty much exactly what we’d give it now. Maybe a B- today. But we’re so scarred by this point, this is all just white noise … and another day closer to the grave.

Buffalo Bills

Grade we gave then: B

Funniest line in retrospect: “This draft has Rex Ryan’s fingerprints all over it.”

Missing the perfect opportunity for a foot joke? I should have seen this personal decline coming sooner.

Best evaluation in retrospect: I knew after watching Adolphus Washington at the Senior Bowl that I was never going to love him as a player. So that’s what I wrote, and my instincts served me well.

How we did: Eh, sort of terrible again. Just too damned high a grade. I swear I’ve gotten more sardonic and brooding since then. The most accurate statement I might have said in the writeup: “The Bills went defense with their first three picks.” That seriously was the only part I would still keep if I could edit it now.

Washington Redskins

Grade we gave then: B+

Funniest line in retrospect: “It’s a smart tactic.”

We’re not even going to tell you the context of this statement, and yet you already know that wasn’t true. It doesn’t even matter what it was about.

Best evaluation in retrospect: Nothing.

How we did: Let’s not talk about that. Let’s instead talk about my almost unhealthy obsession with Ryan Kelly as a prospect. This is now about the third time I mentioned him in writeups for teams that didn’t draft him. That’s really funny now. I mean, the dude is a good player! He really is. But I was making him out to be the next Mike Webster. And once again I mentioned Jonathan Williams, and he never was a Redskin.

Eh, what’s the point of any of this …

Chicago Bears

Grade we gave then: B+

Funniest line in retrospect: “The Bears tried in vain to land a quarterback several times.”

Maybe that’s why GM Ryan Pace did not mess around the next year to get Mitchell Trubisky.

Best evaluation in retrospect: I liked Cody Whitehair, which was probably their best pick (or Leonard Floyd) from this class.

How we did: But I also thought Jonathan Bullard was good good. I mean, it evens out. He’s fine. Bullard was the 72nd pick, and he’s played about like the 82nd pick to this point. I made it seem like he’d be the 55th best. Not losing sleep over this one. Not after the Lynch Debacle or the Cook Disaster. You can’t hurt us with this.

Dallas Cowboys

Grade we gave then: B+

Funniest line in retrospect: “Yeah, all four picks.”

Dallas had four sixth-rounders that year, and I took all four down with one single chop. That might be the funniest draft analysis ever. See these four sixth-rounders? You ready for it? They aren’t good! Imagine the bravery that took at the time. I bet I went on vacation and wore a hoodie for a week after that plank walk.

We nailed a pick! Dak Prescott was a top-40 player for us in the 2016 NFL draft before the Dallas Cowboys picked him. (AP Photo)
We nailed a pick! Dak Prescott was a top-40 player for us in the 2016 NFL draft before the Dallas Cowboys picked him. (AP Photo)

Best evaluation in retrospect: I said Dak Prescott was their best pick. I had him as a top-40 player that year, No. 37 overall if memory serves. Thank the maker! This was the salvation we needed.

“He’s poised, athletic and driven.” This was huge. Career saved! Ours, of course, not his.

How we did: That Prescott declaration gives us real life. You have no idea how huge this was. We actually kind of nailed their whole class. Wow, this is sort of fun again?

Cincinnati Bengals

Grade we gave then: B+

Funniest line in retrospect: “The Bengals are good at the draft.”

Will you guys still be my friends? Even though I once said such things?

Best evaluation in retrospect: I liked the Andrew Billings pick, as many did at the time, and he’s developed pretty nicely. I happened to be there in training camp the day he suffered that brutal injury, and he’s come back well since. So good on both of us here. And I liked the draft in general – William Jackson, Tyler Boyd, Billings, etc. – so my grade wasn’t too far off.

How we did: I threw shade at Nick Vigil, and he’s turned out to be civil. I could have picked, say, Christian Westerman and looked smarter. Overall not bad. Heck, at this point, this analysis was one of my better teams.

Seattle Seahawks

Grade we gave then: B+

Funniest line in retrospect: “Trading down and still landing Germain Ifedi … was savvy.”

I should have stayed in school.

Best evaluation in retrospect: I liked Jarran Reed – a lot – and said Joey Hunt was a bad pick. That’s about right.

How we did: I am laughing now about me laughing then that the Seahawks drafted three running backs. None of them really did squat for the Seahawks, and two years later they took Rashaad Penny in Round 1. Score one for the good guys. The Reed pick salvaged this class, as well as my analysis. A C+ would have been too kind, it turns out.

Baltimore Ravens

Grade we gave then: A-

Funniest line in retrospect: “A potentially brilliant move [to draft Ronnie Stanley] if [Ozzie Newsome’s] gut about [Laremy] Tunsil is right.”

It wasn’t, most likely, but I will say that it’s hard to blame Ozzie at the time.

Best evaluation in retrospect: I liked Stanley, and he’s not bad. I disliked the Chris Moore pick, and he’s been a bit player since. We had other choices that could have been smarter to highlight – Matt Judon comes to mind – but we didn’t really flub this one.

How we did: We just gave it too high a grade. I mean, it gets a little stranger when you see how gushy I got over Kamalei Correa and Bronson Kafusi. The note to self here: stop giving away A’s like Halloween candy to snotty kids just because they ring your doorbell and everyone is pretending to be in a good mood. Worse grades are character builders. Consider us learned.

Minnesota Vikings

Grade we gave then: A-

Funniest line in retrospect: “Treadwell will wear opponents out ...”

Or just his own team. One of the two.

Best evaluation in retrospect: Hated the Willie Beavers pick. That turned out right.

How we did: Just awful. It’s making us question everything. I had this as one of the league’s better classes, and it turned out to be one of the worst. I feel like Goose in “Top Gun” after they got chewed out for the fly-by stunt and he asks Maverick for the phone number to the Truckmasters truck-driving school.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Grade we gave then: A

Funniest line in retrospect: I referred to the Jaguars as having an “explosive offense.”

This was once an opinion that a human being had. I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now.

Best evaluation in retrospect: Look, I had the pulse here. Everything I said ended up being true. Loved the first three picks, mostly hated the rest. That’s exactly how it has unfolded.

How we did: Amazingly well. But the problem here is that you’ve now read 31 other teams – and a lot of misses. Our biggest regret is that we didn’t arrange these teams in descending order. There’s no way you’re changing your opinion of me now. There are no second chances to make a first impression and all that.

Painful as this has been, we’ve learned so much about ourselves here. This is real growth. We’re proud of ourselves, and you should be too. Of course, feel free to check back on us in three years to see how we feel. That’s ample time, so they say, to grade a man’s soul.

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