With the regular season in the books it’s time to revisit the first round of the 2015 NFL draft and see how those picks fared in their rookie season. Admittedly we can’t come to any sweeping conclusions based on just one year. Disclaimer: these grades below are based on year one and they don’t necessarily have any impact on the future. Many players hit the ground running in year one only to have their career derailed quickly for various reasons. Some players are labelled busts from the minute they step on the field and it turns out they just need time to develop. But the climate in today’s modern NFL demands immediate results and overnight impact. Some of these picks gave that, others didn’t. Here’s the list:
1st – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB
The Bucs may have finished last in the NFC South at 6-10 and just fired their coach Lovie Smith, but you have to find some optimism in the play of their star quarterback. Winston threw for 4,042 yards, 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He also rushed for 6 touchdowns. He finished 11th in the NFL in passing yards. A promising rookie season and nowhere to go but up. Some thought taking him over Mariota was crazy, but so far they’ve both seemed like good picks.
2nd – Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB
If the Titans are picking 1st overall, he obviously didn’t have a fantastic season by any means. And the fact that he only played in 12 games, missing 4, means injuries will be a concern going into next season. Still, when he played, he was effective. He completed 62% of his passes (better than Winston) and had a QB rating of 91.5 (better than Winston). He finished with 2,818 yards passing, 19 touchdown and 10 interceptions. While the Titans didn’t experience much in terms of wins, they can find solace in the fact that they’ll have the first overall pick to hopefully help bolster the talent around what seems to be the makings of a franchise quarterback… if he can stay healthy.
3rd – Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Fowler, Jr., OLB
We’ll see how 2016 goes but this was a disastrous of a scenario as possible. Fowler tore his ACL on his first practice as a pro. Four days later he received a fully guaranteed 4 year, $23.5 contract. He spent all season on IR in 2015 and he’s yet to play a snap for the Jaguars. Hopefully he can bounce back from this injury.
4th – Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR
Cooper player 16 games in 2015 and finished with 72 catches for 1,070 yards and 6 touchdowns. On paper that looks ridiculously awesome. But he also led the league with 18 dropped passes according to Pro Football Focus and his catch percentage was 80th out of 119 qualifying receivers. So while he made plenty of plays and the future is really bright, there are some things to work on.
5th – Washington Redskins: Brandon Scherff, G
Started 16 games at right guard for the Redskins and all indications are he’s delivered in a promising first season. He’s a big part of their playoff run and has a bright future.
6th – New York Jets: Leonard Williams, DE
Played in 16 games, finishing with 63 tackles and 3 sacks. A very good rookie season that suggests all the hype was justified. While he needs to develop as a pass rusher, he’s already proven himself as a premiere run defender and a versatile every down player.
7th – Chicago Bears: Kevin White, WR
Like Fowler, White never played for the Bears in 2015. He suffered a shin injury that kept him out of the majority of camp and that later developed into a stress fracture that required surgery. Hopefully he can bounce back, the Bears offense could certainly use him.
8th – Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, OLB
Viewed as one of the most explosive pass rushers in the draft, Beasley finished the season with 16 starts, 4 sacks and 1 interception. A decent first season, and he looked pretty good in coverage. He just needs more talent around him and needs to polish off his run support as well.
9th – New York Giants: Ereck Flowers, T
Started 15 games at left tackle for the Giants as a rookie. He graded 76th out of 76 qualified tackles on PFF, mostly due to poor pass protection. He gave up 5 sacks and was penalized 10 times in 2015. He’ll need to improve significantly if the Giants offensive line is to make strides.
10th – St. Louis Rams: Todd Gurley, RB
Made the Pro Bowl as a rookie despite only playing in 13 games. Finished 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,106. Some criticized what they viewed as a risky draft pick by the Rams because Gurley was coming off a gruesome injury and his position has been de-valued in recent years. But Gurley proved the Rams right so far as he’s already a superstar.
11th – Minnesota Vikings: Trae Waynes, CB
Played in 15 games as a backup and finished with 30 tackles. Struggled to live up to his billing as the draft’s best corner. The Vikings would have been better off with Peters. We’ll see if he can make a big jump in year two.
12th – Cleveland Browns: Danny Shelton, DT
A good space eater. Finished with 36 tackles in 16 games. Not much of a pocket pushing threat but made an impact in run support with his size. He was viewed as a one dimensional player so that’s ok, but he needs to get better at what he does best.
13th – New Orleans Saints: Andrus Peat, T
Played in 12 games and started a handful. The Saints didn’t have a place for him at tackle this season with Terron Armstead and Zach Strief ahead of him, so he filled in a bit for injury and played well at times at tackle. The Saints tried starting him at guard, too, which was a bit of a failed experiment. He should start full time at right tackle in 2016, but 2015 was a season of learning, injury and poor conditioning.
14th – Miami Dolphins: DeVante Parker, WR
His final three games offered a lot of hope, but a strong finish doesn’t make up for a largely poor season which suffered due to injury and poor play. He finished with 26 receptions for 494 yards and 3 touchdowns. That said, there should be a lot of optimism surrounding him for next year.
15th – San Diego Chargers: Melvin Gordon, RB
He played like a rookie. Finished with 641 yards rushing at 3.5 yards per carry and definitely showed some glimpses, but never found the end zone. The Chargers will have to seriously revamp their abysmal offensive line to give him any chance at success. For the most part, though, Gordon seemed as pedestrian as his backups.
16th – Houston Texans: Kevin Johnson, CB
Played in 16 games and started many. Did a reasonable job on a good defense. He finished with 54 tackles and 1 interception. A promising rookie year.
17th – San Francisco 49ers: Arik Armstead, DT
The fact that he couldn’t find his way onto the field more on a team this poor is concerning. The write up on him coming out was that he was a physical freak that was raw and would take time to develop, though. And when he did play he definitely showed ability. He finished with 19 tackles and 2 sacks in 16 games, mostly as a sub.
18th – Kansas City Chiefs: Marcus Peters, CB
Made the Pro Bowl as a rookie by leading the NFL with 8 interceptions. He’s an absolute stud. Viewed as a character risk in the draft, the Chiefs took a chance and it’s really paying off.
19th – Cleveland Browns: Cameron Erving, C
Played 9 games as a guard and graded 80th out of 82 qualifying players according to PFF. Started 4 games. It was a disappointing season for him as a blocker when he started playing.
20th – Philadelphia Eagles: Nelson Agholor, WR
Finished with 23 receptions for 283 yards and 1 touchdown. A modest contribution.
21st – Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Ogbuehi, T
Was a backup all year and barely played. In fairness, the Bengals didn’t need him this year but he could still have a good future with them.
22nd – Pittsburgh Steelers: Bud Dupree, OLB
Finished with 26 tackles and 4 sacks as a pass rushing specialist. He’s very raw and needs to develop his game in a lot of areas but showed the explosiveness that made so many teams curious about him.
23rd – Denver Broncos: Shane Ray, DE
Finished with 4 sacks in limited play as a backup. He’s in a good situation with a great defense where he can come along slowly. Showing nice signs so far, though.
24th – Arizona Cardinals: D. J. Humphries, T
Buried on the depth chart and deep in Bruce Arians’s doghouse, he hasn’t played all season.
25th – Carolina Panthers: Shaq Thompson, OLB
Finished the year with 50 tackles and a sack. The Panthers have found a role for him on their defense despite it being so good. A promising sign.
26th – Baltimore Ravens: Breshad Perriman, WR
A knee injury washed out his 2015 season. He didn’t play.
27th – Dallas Cowboys: Byron Jones, FS
While some viewed him as a corner during the draft process, he started at free safety for the Cowboys and played reasonably well. He has a future on that defense. Playmaking needs to improve but he finished with 66 tackles and 8 defended passes.
28th – Detroit Lions: Laken Tomlinson, G
Played well at times and started 14 out of 16 games. Had the expected growing pains as a rookie, but he’s going to be a good player.
29th – Indianapolis Colts: Phillip Dorsett, WR
Played in 11 games before a rough season ending injury. Finished with 18 catches for 225 yards and 1 touchdown.
30th – Green Bay Packers: Damarious Randall, CB
Started 9 of 15 games played and finished the season with 3 interceptions and 58 tackles. A very promising young developing corner.
31st – New Orleans Saints: Stephone Anthony, ILB
An up and down rookie season, but he looked very good at times. Started 16 games for the Saints and led the team with 112 tackles. Showed nice playmaking ability with a an interception, a sack, a fumble returned for a touchdown and a blocked extra point returned for 2 points. As bad as that defense is, he’s a huge building block for improving it.
32nd – New England Patriots: Malcom Brown, DT
A very good addition this deep in the 1st round. Finished with 48 tackles, 3 sacks and a fumble recovery. A very good interior player in his rookie season.