The NFL season is pretty much over (unless you’re a fan of either the New England Patriots or the Atlanta Falcons of course). Now, it’s time for the other NFL teams to start focusing on how they can improve their teams for next season, whether it be through free agency or the NFL Draft itself. Before we start pointing our wagons towards this year’s NFL Draft in a few months, let’s take a quick look back at how last year’s rookies performed. Why should you get excited for who your favorite team drafts if they can’t even draft the right players, right?
So here you go.
Last year’s first-round draft picks….all graded.
1. LOS ANGELES RAMS – Jared Goff (QB), California
Total Snaps: 389
Grade for 2016: F
The Rams were a mess this year and Jared Goff definitely didn’t do anything to help matters. We knew things were going to be bad when Goff wasn’t even dressing for the team’s first couple of games. When he finally saw the field, he wasn’t very good. The Rams have invested a lot into Goff and they really need him to turn into a franchise QB within the next few years. If it doesn’t happen, this franchise will be sunk for years. I don’t have a lot of faith in him figuring it out anytime soon unfortunately.
2. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES – Carson Wentz (QB), North Dakota
Total Snaps: 1,114
Philadelphia Eagles fans loved what they saw from rookie Carson Wentz this year, and yes….he was much better than a lot of people were expecting. However, you should pump the brakes on the Wentz bandwagon a little. Yes, the guy played good this season but there are also some concerns about his future. In his rookie season, he looked very similar to a more polished Alex Smith in my eyes. Also, he saw his production dip as the season went on. That’s a sign of NFL defensive coordinators finally getting some tape on the kid and figuring him out. I think Wentz will be a good pro player, I just think his ceiling is limited.
3. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS – Joey Bosa (DE), Ohio State
Total Snaps: 563
Bosa missed the first couple of games of the season and Chargers fans instantly started to worry about his long-term future. All those worries got squashed once Bosa hit the field. This dude is a wrecking ball. In his rookie year, he blossomed into one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL and he will only go up from here. A lot of people blasted this pick when it happened, but not me. I knew Bosa would be a stud in the NFL and he’s going to terrorize NFL QB’s for years.
4. DALLAS COWBOYS – Ezekiel Elliott (RB), Ohio State
Total Snaps: 768
Remember last year when I mentioned how Ezekiel Elliott to the Dallas Cowboys was probably the scariest draft pick I could think of for the rest of the league? Ya, I nailed that one. Some things must make too much sense. Elliott was an absolute stud in college football and if you watched him, you knew that his style would excel in the NFL. When you add the Cowboys offensive line on top of that, and it was just too easy to predict. Who are the idiots that said Elliott would fail in the NFL? Let’s not let those guys talk about draft picks ever again.
5. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – Jalen Ramsey (CB), Florida State
Total Snaps: 1,061
You don’t see a rookie cornerback have a year like Jalen Ramsey did this last season. Ramsey was a stud in both defending the run and in pass coverage. A lot of experts had the Jaguars pegged as one of the surprise teams in the NFL this season, but that didn’t come to fruition. However, if Ramsey keeps improving and blossoms into the best corner in the league like I think he could, it may not be long before the Jags return to the playoffs. That sounds weird, doesn’t it?
6. BALTIMORE RAVENS – Ronnie Stanley (OT), Notre Dame
Total Snaps: 834
Rookie offensive lineman tend to struggle a lot in their first year in the league. Stanley was an exception to the rule. He was the first offensive lineman taken in the draft and as of right now, it looks like the absolute right decision by the Ravens.
7. SAN FRANCISCO 49ers – DeForest Buckner (DL), Oregon
Total Snaps: 1,007
Buckner was an interesting prospect coming out of college. Some people thought he was the best pass-rusher in the draft and others thought he didn’t really have a position to play in the NFL. Well, those people were wrong. Buckner had a solid year all across the board. He was a good pass-rusher, he was decent against the run, and actually looked pretty solid when asked to drop back into coverage. The 49ers were a disaster this season, but at least Buckner was a highlight.
8. TENNESSEE TITANS – Jack Conklin (OT), Michigan State
Total Snaps: 1,062
The Dallas Cowboys offensive line gets all the hype. However, did you know that there was actually an offensive line unit that was BETTER than the Cowboys this season? That’s right. Some people may not be aware of this, but the offensive line of the Tennessee Titans graded out as the best offensive line unit in the 2016-17 season. A big reason for that was rookie Jack Conklin who had a tremendous rookie year. Now, Conklin received a lot of help this year as far as double-teams, which no doubt made him look a little better than he actually was. He should continue to develop and grow though and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him blossom into an elite offensive lineman in the NFL.
9. CHICAGO BEARS – Leonard Floyd (OLB), Georgia
Total Snaps: 537
Leonard Floyd’s rookie year was a rough one. The kid showed signs of potentially blossoming into a good pass rusher in the NFL. When he was on-the-field, he was pretty good. He was good rushing the passer and was pretty good dropping back in coverage as well and should continue to improve in those areas. My concerns with Floyd are mostly health-related as he suffered two concussions in his rookie season and that’s extremely alarming. Hopefully the Bears can do something to fix that problem, both for Floyd’s future health and the good of the Bears organization as they really need all the help they can get.
10. NEW YORK GIANTS – Eli Apple (CB), Ohio State
Total Snaps: 772
One of the hardest positions to play in the NFL as a rookie is cornerback. No matter how good you are, rookies tends to struggle when they are asked to defend NFL QB’s who are throwing the ball to elite WR’s. The NFL is a much different game than the college game and it’s typical for rookie CB’s to struggle like Apple did in his rookie year. The Giants defense was one of the most improved units in the league this year, and Apple should continue to improve….at least the Giants better hope so.
11. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – Vernon Hargreaves (CB), Florida
Total Snaps: 1,038
Remember what I just said about how it’s difficult for rookies to play CB in the NFL? Another case in point, Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves struggled even more than Apple did this season and I’m honestly not sure he’ll ever improve. He was excellent in defending the run, but he was extremely awful in coverage and could potentially be a liability in that area his whole career. The Bucs had better hope they see some improvement next season or this pick could end up blowing up in their face.
12. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – Sheldon Rankins (DT), Louisville
Total Snaps: 334
Rankin’s rookie year was a mixed bag. When workouts started, Rankins was running with the first-team defense and by all accounts, was looking like a solid NFL starter. Then he got injured and everything went off the rails. He missed a big chunk of the season, but returned in November and could never really get caught up. He did show some signs of potentially blossoming into a really good defensive tackle and next year is going to be a huge one for him. The Saints need this guy to develop into a stud if they want their defensive misfortunes turned around anytime soon.
13. MIAMI DOLPHINS – Laremy Tunsil (OT), Ole Miss
Total Snaps: 867
Tunsil was widely regarded as the best offensive lineman (some people even had him as the #1 overall prospect) in last year’s draft, but ultimately some extremely bad timing and an unfortunate video ended up causing him to slip in the draft. As for how he played on the field this season, Tunsil was pretty solid. He has some work to do as far as a run blocker is concerned, but his pass blocking was extremely effective this season and was one of the reasons the Dolphins returned to the playoffs for the first time in years. This guy will be a solid left tackle in the NFL for a while, as long as he keeps those gas masks off.
14. OAKLAND RAIDERS – Karl Joseph (S), West Virginia
Total Snaps: 623
The Raiders were surprisingly one of the best teams in the NFL this season. Unfortunate injuries ultimately ended their season, but the Raiders will likely be good for a while. Karl Joseph is a one of the reasons why. Joseph had an inconsistent rookie season, but there were definitely more highs than lows. As long as he remains healthy, Joseph will a good player in the NFL and will likely be a big reason the Raiders defense could eventually blossom into one of the league’s best.
15. CLEVELAND BROWNS – Corey Coleman (WR), Baylor
Total Snaps: 536
Corey Coleman was having a good rookie season, and then he suffered an unfortunate injury to his hand and he was never the same. Which Corey Coleman is the real one? The one who looked like a potential elite WR before the hand injury? Or the one who got injured and fell behind and could never get caught up? Next year will be a big year for the youngster. The Browns need him to blossom into a #1 WR as the team is really devoid of offensive talent.
16. DETROIT LIONS – Taylor Decker (OT), Ohio State
Total Snaps: 1,089
Taylor Decker was an extremely solid tackle for the Detroit Lions this season. It’s not a coincidence that the Lions find themselves a potential elite offensive tackle and also find themselves back in the playoff hunt at the same time. Football begins and ends in the trenches folks. If Decker can continue to improve even more, watch Matthew Stafford’s game also continue to improve. Dude is a stud.
17. ATLANTA FALCONS – Keanu Neal (S), Florida
Total Snaps: 974
The Atlanta Falcons were one of the best teams in the NFL this season. Why exactly? Well, QB Matt Ryan had an MVP-caliber season for one and Atlanta’s defense took a huge step forward as well. One of the reasons Atlanta’s defense was better than last year was the addition of Keanu Neal. Neal had a very effective rookie year for Atlanta this season. Yes, he’s a little bit of a liability when asked to defend the run, but he’s excellent when dropping back into coverage. The Falcons have found themselves a stud safety and it’s not a freak accident that they also found themselves deep into the playoffs.
18. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – Ryan Kelly (C), Alabama
Total Snaps: 1,018
The Indianapolis Colts have one of the worst rosters in the NFL in my opinion. You can tell how bad the Colts are when last year’s first-round pick is arguably the third or fourth best player on the team. The Colts needed to hit on Ryan Kelly bad after their former GM Ryan Grigson turned this roster into the Cleveland Browns featuring Andrew Luck. Luck is one of the best QB’s in the league, but the guy doesn’t have anything to work with. Ryan Kelly was an exception this year. The rookie center had a great season and will likely continue to develop into one of the league’s best. Andrew Luck is begging that this happens for the sake of his career as well.
19. BUFFALO BILLS – Shaq Lawson (DE), Clemson
Total Snaps: 236
It wasn’t a very good rookie year for Shaq Lawson. He was dealing with a shoulder injury from his college career and the Bills decided to take a slow approach with him this past season. It’s extremely hard to tell what kind of player Lawson will blossom into after a rough rookie season. Next year will be a big one for him as he not only needs to show that he can stay healthy, but that he can be an efficient NFL player as well. There’s a new coaching regime coming into Buffalo, so Lawson will need to show these guys why the old regime considered him a first-round draft pick.
20. NEW YORK JETS – Darron Lee (OLB), Ohio State
Total Snaps: 641
Let’s not beat around the bush here folks. Darron Lee was absolutely awful in his rookie year. Was that because the Jets themselves were one of the worst teams in the league or is Lee just a bum? I have no idea. Next year will be a big season for him. He needs to show some signs of improvement in his second year in the league or he runs the real risk of the team deciding to just call it a wash on him. It shouldn’t be that hard for him to improve upon a rookie year that was straight garbage.
21. HOUSTON TEXANS – Will Fuller (WR), Notre Dame
Total Snaps: 959
Will Fuller had a decent rookie season and I honestly think the guy will be a solid professional NFL WR for years to come. He finished the year ranked 67th in receiving yards, but only caught two touchdown passes on the year. His numbers probably would have been better if Houston had a better situation at the QB position. I expect big things out of Fuller in his second year in the league, especially if Houston can get any kind of decent play out of the quarterback position.
22. WASHINGTON REDSKINS – Josh Doctson (WR), TCU
Total Snaps: 31
Josh Doctson’s rookie campaign was an injury-riddled mess. He rarely saw the field this year due to an Achilles injury and there are all sorts of questions about his future going forward. To say next year is a big one for Doctson would be an understatement. If he isn’t able to stay healthy, does a fringe playoff team like the Redskins keep him on the roster or do they just cut their losses?
23. MINNESOTA VIKINGS – Laquon Treadwell (WR), Ole Miss
Total Snaps: 79
Laquon Treadwell didn’t play a lot at as rookie…..and he wasn’t injured. Yes, that’s a huge red flag in my book. Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer historically likes to take it slow with his rookies. He has an approach where he doesn’t like to just throw a rookie into the fight, he wants to make sure they are prepared and he won’t let them play until they are. The fact that Treadwell hardly saw the field at all basically means he wasn’t prepared for his rookie season. Will he see the field next season? The signs don’t look good at the moment.
24. CINCINNATI BENGALS – William Jackson III (CB), Houston
Total Snaps: 0
William Jackson didn’t play this season due to a torn pectoral muscle. This was horrible news for the Bengals who really needed Jackson to get some reps during his rookie campaign. The injury sets the rookie back even more and there’s guarantee he’ll ever be healthy enough to be a solid NFL starter.
25. PITTSBURGH STEELERS – Artie Burns (CB), Miami
Total Snaps: 991
I was one of the many people who bashed the Artie Burns selection when the Steelers made it last year. I was also one of the thousands of people who missed on the guy. By no means was Burns a shut down corner in his rookie season, but he showed some definite signs that he could potentially blossom into one of the NFL’s best players at the position. With another year under his belt, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Burns blossom into a true shutdown corner that NFL QB’s start to concern themselves with.
26. DENVER BRONCOS – Paxton Lynch (QB), Memphis
Total Snaps: 174
There are still a lot of people who are high on Paxton Lynch. Why? Because he has the John Elway “Stamp of Approval”. Well, I’m here to tell you that John Elway is an ass hat who doesn’t always hit on every single pick he makes. Lynch is garbage. He couldn’t even beat out Trevor Siemian (the ultimate definition of “game manager”) in his rookie year and Siemian is NOT an NFL starting QB. At this point, it would shock me to see Lynch turn into anything but a second-string NFL QB.
27. GREEN BAY PACKERS – Kenny Clark (DT), UCLA
Total Snaps: 410
Kenny Clark is going to be a very effective NFL player, but he’s probably never going to get the respect or attention he’ll deserve. An injury slowed him down at the beginning of the year, but he battled back and had a very efficient rookie campaign. I expect him to see the field a lot more next season with a whole off-season with the Packers under his belt. Green Bay needs their defense to improve for them to return to the Super Bowl. Clark’s development is absolutely huge in that regard.
28. SAN FRANCISCO 49ers – Joshua Garnett (G), Stanford
Total Snaps: 716
The 49ers were one of the worst teams in the league this year and they struggled all-around. That includes rookie guard Joshua Garnett, who wasn’t very good at all in his rookie campaign. Like I mentioned before, that’s come to be expected with rookie offensive linemen in the NFL. A new coaching regime in San Francisco could help Garnett’s development next season. If not, it will set the 49ers back even more than they already are. This team needs players bad and they can’t afford another bust.
29. ARIZONA CARDINALS – Robert Nkemdiche (DT), Ole Miss
Total Snaps: 82
The former #1 overall prospect out of high school had an extremely disappointing rookie year. He rarely saw the field because of troubles with the coaching staff and there were already concerns about his attitude and his love for the game before the Cardinals even decided to take a risk on him in the first-round. I’m not sure Nkemdiche’s head will ever let his talent turn him into the player he could be. Such a waste of talent.
30. CAROLINA PANTHERS – Vernon Butler (DT), Louisiana Tech
Total Snaps: 226
Vernon Butler battled an ankle injury in the beginning of the year that hindered his development. When he returned from injury, he rarely saw the field. When he did play though, he wasn’t that bad. He looks like he has the ability to turn into a very effective pass rusher, but he needs to sharpen his run defense a little. Butler could very well earn a role in the Panthers starting line-up this season with a huge off-season.
31. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – Germain Ifedi (OT), Texas A&M
Total Snaps: 926
Germain Ifedi was not only one of the worst rookie offensive lineman in the NFL this season….he was one of the WORST offensive lineman in the NFL this season. That doesn’t exactly give me a lot of hope that he’s going to get things turned around anytime soon. The Seahawks’ main weakness is their offensive lineman and as long as they keep drafting horrible players like Ifedi, it’s going to continue to be their main weakness.
And there we go everyone! That’s how your first-round NFL rookies from last year played this season. Make sure you continue to check back daily here at The Ultimate Sports Blog as we start ramping up our coverage for this year’s NFL Draft which is just THREE MONTHS AWAY!!!! SMELL THE EXCITEMENT!!!!!!!