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Re-grading the 2016 NFL Draft, one year later

Who got the biggest bargains and best players of the last year’s first round?

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

After the 2016 NFL draft, we here at SB Nation gave each team an emoji grade for its performance. But now that we’ve had a chance to see the players in action, some of those picks look much different.

The New Orleans Saints were graded as one of the big winners immediately after the draft, but Sheldon Rankins was injured for most of 2016. The jury is still out on players who dealt with injuries as rookies, like Rankins, Josh Doctson and Karl Joseph.

But one year later, it’s time to hand out some new marks for the selections made in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft:

1(1) Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff

Original grade: B

2017 Grade: B-

The closest Goff got to NFL action the first half of his rookie season was on his Xbox. Jeff Fisher refused to play his prize rookie until the playoffs were officially out of reach, instead forcing Los Angeles fans to suffer through Case Keenum and comprehensively sucking the air out of the franchise’s return to the West Coast. Goff looked every bit a rookie quarterback, but he remains a better prospect for 2017 than any of this year’s crop of college passers. The Rams don’t know if they have their quarterback of the future yet, but taking Goff was a necessary risk.

1(2) Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz

Original grade: B

2017 Grade: A-

The North Dakota State product made good on his potential, standing out as a potential franchise quarterback and raising the profile of his prairie-based alma mater. Wentz hit the turf running and opened his NFL career with a bang, but he struggled once opponents got more usable game footage of him. An extra season to correct those mistakes should help him settle into his role as the team’s quarterback of the future.

The Eagles paid a ransom to get Wentz, but like Goff, he’s a better prospect for the coming year than any member of this season’s draft class.

1(3) San Diego Chargers: Joey Bosa

Original grade: B+

2017 Grade: A

The Chargers got the league’s top defensive rookie with the third overall pick, bringing a game-changing pass rusher into the fold with the Ohio State product. Bosa had 10.5 sacks in 12 games last season, overcoming an early injury to make his mark as one of the league’s most disruptive defenders.

1(4) Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott

Original grade: B

2017 Grade: A

Elliott feasted in 2016, earning every bit of his signature celebration move. His 1,631 rushing yards were the second-most ever by a rookie tailback. His wizardry helped the Cowboys run all the way to the NFC’s top seed last fall.

1(5) Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey

Original grade: A

2017 Grade: A-

Ramsey was good as a rookie. The Jaguars were not. The contrast of going from a national champion to 3-13 team was enough to bring him to tears on the sideline. Even so, he looks like a building block in north Florida.

1(6) Baltimore Ravens: Ronnie Stanley

Original grade: C+

2017 Grade: B+

Stanley had a solid rookie campaign and turned out to be a good pick for the Ravens after they passed on Laremy Tunsil at No. 6. Stanley started 12 games for Baltimore last fall, struggling at times but mostly showing the promise that made him a low-risk, high-reward pick in 2016.

1(7) San Francisco 49ers: DeForest Buckner

Original grade: B+

2017 Grade: B

Buckner finished the season with six sacks and 73 tackles on a terrible defense, so he’s off to a pretty good start. With San Francisco slated to add more defensive help this draft, he could have the kind of supporting cast that allows him to thrive soon.

1(8) Tennessee Titans: Jack Conklin

Original grade: B-

2017 Grade: A+

Conklin was named first-team All-Pro as a rookie, erasing any doubts the Titans may have had in taking him over Tunsil. He’s the foundation of a budding Tennessee offensive line and should be a driving force behind the team’s playoff push in 2017. The Michigan State player is the kind of building block who makes his teammates better, earning the rare A+ grade for his team in this year’s re-draft.

1(9) Chicago Bears: Leonard Floyd

Original grade: B-

2017 Grade: B

Floyd had seven sacks in his rookie year, showcasing the speed and athleticism that made him so dangerous at Georgia. He still has plenty of room to grow but could be a pass-rushing presence in Chicago for years to come.

1(10) New York Giants: Eli Apple

Original grade: C

2017 Grade: C+

Apple had a solid enough rookie season, even if he was overshadowed at times by his own mother. He had 41 tackles and an interception last fall but often blended into the background in his first year in the league.

1(11) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves

Original grade: A-

2017 Grade: B

The burn-resistant Hargreaves started all 16 games last year and only surrendered two receiving touchdowns. His 68 tackles ranked third among all rookies.

1(12) New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins

Original grade: B+

2017 Grade: B-

Rankins sat out the first seven games of 2016 due to an injury he suffered in college, but he managed to tally four sacks in the final nine games of the season despite coming in off the bench in every game. He looks primed for a breakout year in 2017 after flying under the radar in his rookie season.

1(13) Miami Dolphins: Laremy Tunsil

Original grade: A

2017 Grade: B

Before last year’s draft, Tunsil was known for lighting up defensive linemen, not weed. He hasn’t yet lived up to his potential as the top lineman in the draft, but he started 14 games last fall and showcased the athleticism and fast hands that could make him a Pro Bowler in the near future.

1(14) Oakland Raiders: Karl Joseph

Original grade: B-

2017 Grade: C

Joseph was solid when he was able to play, but the safety managed to play in only 12 games (nine starts) due to multiple injuries. The jury’s out on his overall impact with the Raiders, who have to hope he won’t be the next D.J. Hayden.

1(15) Cleveland Browns: Corey Coleman

Original grade: B-

2017 Grade: C

A hand injury limited his productivity in his rookie season, so we’re not sure what Coleman is fully capable of just yet. He’s fast as hell — and you can’t teach that — but he’s also stuck on a team with terrible quarterback help and few receivers who can distract defenses with support, especially now that Terrelle Pryor has gone to Washington.

1(16) Detroit Lions: Taylor Decker

Original grade: C

2017 Grade: B

Decker earned the starting left tackle role and quietly had a solid rookie season. His work helped pave the way for the best season of Matthew Stafford’s career and a Lions playoff berth.

1(17) Atlanta Falcons: Keanu Neal

Original grade: C

2017 Grade: B

Neal was labeled a reach at the time, but he showed how well he fit in Atlanta’s young, scrappy defense en route to a Super Bowl appearance last season. He recorded 77 tackles (second most among rookies) and had forced five fumbles (first) in a promising rookie season.

1(18) Indianapolis Colts: Ryan Kelly

Original grade: B+

2017 Grade: B+

After a nice rookie season, the center looks like he could anchor the Colts line for the next decade or so. Andrew Luck needs all the help he can get; giving Kelly some more help is a likely priority for the 2017 NFL draft.

1(19) Buffalo Bills: Shaq Lawson

Original grade: B+

2017 Grade: C-

Veteran edge rusher Lorenzo Alexander stole Lawson’s shine in 2016, coming out of nowhere to tally 12.5 sacks while Lawson spent the early part of the season recovering from injury. The former Clemson defensive end will likely get his first real opportunity at some playing time in 2017.

1(20) New York Jets: Darron Lee

Original grade: A-

2017 Grade: C-

On paper, Lee looked like a great player coming out of Ohio State in the makings of former teammate, Ryan Shazier. But in 2016, the rookie looked raw, struggling to make plays in coverage. He still has potential, but Lee will need to develop if he’s going to be an effective player. He made only nine starts last season and had a limited impact for a bad Jets team.

1(21) Houston Texans: Will Fuller

Original grade: B-

2017 Grade: B

Fuller didn’t have solid quarterback play last year, but he still emerged as a legitimate deep threat, recording 11 catches of 20 or more yards. He’ll have to make chicken salad out of, uh, Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden, in 2017 to buoy a Houston offense that has playmakers at every position but the most important one.

1(22) Washington: Josh Doctson

Original grade: B

2017 Grade: D

Doctson played in two games last year, catching two passes. With Washington’s top two receivers opting to leave in free agency, Doctson should carve out a larger role in the offense in 2017 — though Pryor’s arrival could hamper any breakout.

1(23) Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell

Original grade: A

2017 Grade: D

Treadwell was limited to just one catch for 15 yards on just three targets last season. Injures kept him out, but with Cordarrelle Patterson gone and Sam Bradford emerging as a perfectly cromulent replacement for Teddy Bridgewater, he should be seeing more burn in 2017.

1(24) Cincinnati Bengals: William Jackson III

Original grade: B+

2017 Grade: INC

The Bengals don’t often give rookies ample playing time, but Jackson — who suffered a torn pectoral muscle and was placed on injured reserve — never even had a chance. It took teammate and former first-rounder Dre Kirkpatrick nearly five years to hit his stride, so the jury’s still out on Jackson here.

1(25) Pittsburgh Steelers: Artie Burns

Original grade: C

2017 Grade: B

Burns, who likely wouldn’t have even been Pittsburgh’s pick had the Bengals not taken Jackson with the previous pick, was viewed as a reach upon being selected. But Burns emerged as a solid player in 2016, picking off three passes and emerging as a ballhawk in Pittsburgh’s secondary.

1(26) Denver Broncos: Paxton Lynch

Original grade: B

2017 Grade: C

We still don’t know what Lynch will be for the Broncos. He started two games for the Broncos, with Trevor Siemian getting the majority of time under center for Denver. The Broncos are still having a competition for the starting spot, so all is not lost with Lynch just yet.

1(27) Green Bay Packers: Kenny Clark

Original grade: B-

2017 Grade: B-

Green Bay surprised many with its selection of Clark, but the former UCLA defensive lineman has been an immovable object on the Packers defensive line. The former Bruin is one of the more athletic players at his position and looks like he’ll have a bright future, despite not making much of an impact on the stat sheet in 2016.

1(28) San Francisco 49ers: Joshua Garnett

Original grade: D+

2017 Grade: C-

The Niners’ decision to trade up for Garnett was a questionable last April, and it’s not much clearer now. The guard saw his fair share of struggles in his rookie year, and by most accounts, he wasn’t even the best guard left on the board when San Francisco made this pick. Players like Joe Thuney and Cody Whitehair would have been better fits without requiring a trade.

1(29) Arizona Cardinals: Robert Nkemdiche

Original grade: B+

2017 Grade: C

Nkemdiche had only a handful of snaps in five games during the 2016 season due to an injured ankle. With Calais Campbell gone, he should see a bigger role, so his impact has yet to be seen.

1(30) Carolina Panthers: Vernon Butler

Original grade: B

2017 Grade: C

Butler has been a refreshing change of pace for the Panthers. Battling for snaps in a loaded position group behind Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei, he offers fresh legs at one of the more important positions on D. However, he has yet to make a distinguishable impact — he had only five tackles in 10 games last fall, though 1.5 of those were sacks.

1(31) Seattle Seahawks: Germain Ifedi

Original grade: B

2017 Grade: D+

The Seattle Seahawks had plenty of trouble on their offensive line this season, and Ifedi was a part of that equation. In Week 12, Ifedi was responsible for seven pressures on Russell Wilson, as well as three sacks. In 2017, the team may try to move him to right tackle as a solution.

1(32) New England Patriots: NO PICK

Original grade: N/A

2017 Grade: N/A

Thanks to Deflategate, the Patriots didn’t have a first-round pick last year.


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