Once the NFL draft ends, there's a mad rush to grade each team's picks. While a good practice in theory, it's ultimately limited. All one can grade is how well a given team met perceived needs, found value and picked players who had strong college production, all while projecting how those players may perform on the NFL stage.
Many things can change for teams and players alike between the draft and Week 1 of the season, and they certainly change again between that first snap and the final one, which can render those day-after grades useless.
It's better to look at draft classes from previous years after those players have had a chance to make an impact—or not—in the NFL.
Here, we look back at the Cincinnati Bengals' 2010 draft class and hand out grades now that each player has had three seasons to prove his respective worth in the league.
In 2009, the Cincinnati Bengals' two tight ends, Daniel Coats and John Paul Foschi, combined for just 410 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The team's passing game was otherwise quite solid, but the tight end position was a glaring hole.
Unsurprisingly, the team took Jermaine Gresham to help boost the ranks.
In his first season, Gresham surpassed Coats' and Foschi's combined numbers from the previous year, catching 52 passes for 471 yards and four touchdowns. He has a career total thus far of 172 receptions on 269 targets for 1,804 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Gresham has been solid, though not spectacular in his time in Cincinnati, but drafting him met an immediate need. He's been a positive contributor over the course of his first three seasons, helping the offense transition from the Carson Palmer era to the current Andy Dalton-led passing game.
The drafting of defensive end Carlos Dunlap in the second round of the 2010 draft was yet another step in the Bengals' long process of building the strong front seven they boast today.
Though Dunlap was merely part of the Bengals' defensive rotation in his rookie season, playing only 287 snaps (subscription required), he amassed 9.5 sacks. In three seasons, he's had 87 combined tackles, 20 sacks, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, an interception and a touchdown.
Dunlap has technically started few games in his career (owing again to the Bengals' rotational approach), but as a situational pass-rusher, he's exceeded expectations.
Slot receiver Jordan Shipley was taken by the Bengals in Round 3 of the 2010 draft to round out their receiving corps. His rookie season was his most successful for the team, with Shipley catching 52 of the 75 passes thrown his way for 600 yards and three touchdowns.
Shipley tore his ACL and MCL in Week 2 of the 2011 season, ending his year. The extended recovery time combined with the fact that the Bengals drafted two more receivers in 2012 made Shipley expendable from a roster standpoint; he was waived in August of that year.
Circumstances cut Shipley's career in Cincinnati short. If he hadn't become injured, the odds seem good he would have remained on the roster and the Bengals wouldn't have drafted as many receivers in the year following the injury.
Based on Brandon Ghee's snap total in his three years with the Cincinnati Bengals—13 in 2010, two in 2011 and zero in 2012 (he suffered a season-ending wrist injury in training camp)—and it's clear their intention was for him to be a depth cornerback and special teams contributor.
He has just 10 combined tackles with the Bengals thus far and is on the roster bubble heading into this year's training camp, especially with there being nine other corners on their roster at present.
To the Bengals' credit, however, Ghee was a good pick based on the defensive back talent that went both before and after him. It wasn't a strong year for cornerbacks.
Without question, defensive tackle Geno Atkins was one of the biggest steals of the 2010 draft, and the Cincinnati Bengals were the team lucky enough to benefit from it.
Atkins started his career with the Bengals as a situational pass-rusher who played just 356 snaps his rookie year without a single start, amassing just 16 combined tackles along with three sacks.
He was elevated to starter in 2011, playing 794 snaps, with most coming as a pass-rusher. His combined tackles ballooned to 47, his sacks to 7.5 and he added on two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Atkins' best season came in 2012, when he led the Bengals in sacks with 12.5 and had 53 combined tackles along with four forced fumbles—a performance that earned him Pro Football Focus' top grade among the NFL's defensive tackles (subscription required).
At present, there is no better defensive tackle when it comes to either stopping the run or rushing the passer. Atkins is the motive force behind the Bengals' brutal defensive front; to think he was a fourth-round pick is almost shocking.
The linebacker position has rather confounded the Cincinnati Bengals in recent years, sometimes because of circumstances outside of their control. This is the case with their 2010 fourth-round pick of Roddrick Muckelroy.
It was hoped that Muckelroy would become a starting outside linebacker. He learned the ropes his rookie year, playing minimal defensive snaps while appearing in eight games in a special teams capacity. His 2011 season was over before it began, however, when he ruptured his Achilles tendon in the team's first training camp practice.
In 2012, Muckelroy's job fell to rookie Vontaze Burfict, which resulted in Muckelroy being released. He was then re-signed after Thomas Howard tore his ACL but didn't last long on the roster. Muckelroy is now with the Washington Redskins.
It's hard to give the Bengals a poor draft grade for Muckelroy, who met a need and had a lot of potential; things would have been different had he not fallen injured.
The Bengals' fifth-round 2010 pick, offensive tackle Otis Hudson, has spent most of his time in Cincinnati on the practice squad. That's where he landed for all of his rookie year, half of 2011 (though he didn't play any snaps that year) and again in 2012.
Hudson is eligible for the Bengals' practice squad this year, which is where he may stay. He could also make enough of a leap in training camp to make the active roster in a depth role.
All of this sounds about right for a fifth-round pickup.
The sixth round is the time for teams to find some depth or maybe a surprise future starter. While no team wants to waste a pick, even a late one such as this, when the sixth-rounder eventually doesn't work it, it stings a little bit less. Such is the case with the Bengals' 2010 sixth-round pick of wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe.
Briscoe remained with the Bengals until it was time to trim the roster down to 53 men; upon his release, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked him up, and he spent his rookie year on the practice squad. He made their active roster in 2011, appearing in all 16 regular-season games with two starts and catching 35 passes for 387 yards and six touchdowns.
Regime change resulted in Briscoe's release from the Buccaneers in the summer of 2012. He is now with the Washington Redskins, where he caught just two passes for 22 yards in 2012.
Since Briscoe's departure, the Bengals' receiving corps has gotten exponentially better, so releasing him the year he was drafted doesn't sting so much.
The Cincinnati Bengals used their final pick of the 2010 draft on a center, Reggie Stephens.
Stephens spent his rookie year on the Bengals' practice squad before being waived prior to the start of the 2011 season.
Though additional offensive line depth is always welcome, no longer having Stephens on their roster doesn't negatively affect the Bengals in any way.
The Cincinnati Bengals managed to get production where it mattered out of a number of their key draft picks in 2010. Tight end Jermaine Gresham, defensive end Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins were all spot-on picks that met needs and made major contributions over the past three seasons.
Other picks would have been successful for the Bengals if it weren't for injuries—that's the case for Jordan Shipley, Brandon Ghee and Roddrick Muckelroy.
Ultimately, the Bengals missed on their picks in the final three rounds, which is more of a disappointment than an indictment of their scouting department or coaching staff.
Though only four of the Bengals' 2010 picks are currently part of their active roster, it's hard to give them a bad grade overall; the fourth-round selection of the game-changing Atkins skews the overall curve in their favor.
Overall Draft Grade: B