2013 NFL Draft: Grading the 1st-Round Picks Based on Rookie Production
There’s a chance the 2013 NFL draft may go down in the books as one of the worst ones in quite some time. Only one quarterback was taken in the first round and not a single running back, meaning EJ Manuel needs to develop or this will become the first draft with no first-round Pro Bowlers at either position since 2009 (and Matthew Stafford will probably make one soon).
Through one season, a player’s performance in no way determines how he will fare the rest of his career. After all, Eli Manning turned in a miserable rookie campaign before winning two Super Bowls. That’s comforting for the Kansas City Chiefs, who saw scarily awful play from their first overall pick, Eric Fisher.
Here’s a rough ranking of the 32 first-round picks so far and the production they’ve given their franchises. The spot at which the player was taken has been factored in, so a player like Fisher will be graded more harshly than the player taken 32nd overall.
32. Jonathan Cooper, G, Arizona Cardinals (7th Pick)
Injuries wiped out Jonathan Cooper’s rookie season before it really had a chance to start. The highest-drafted guard since Jim Dombrowski in the 1986 NFL draft broke his leg in the final preseason game and was subsequently placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Cooper was a top prospect entering the draft, and given the usual success rate of guards in transitioning to the next level, he should still blossom into a Pro Bowler in the near future.
31. Eric Fisher, OT, Kansas City Chiefs (1st Pick)
The first overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft was downright awful this season. Eric Fisher rated as the 70th best offensive tackle among 76 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Fisher allowed seven sacks and 35 quarterback pressures, committing six penalties. He was only marginally better in run blocking.
Fisher missed three games due to shoulder injuries, which forced fellow rookie Donald Stephenson into action. Perhaps the best comment to sum up the way Fisher has played this season came from Rotoworld’s Lance Zierlein, who said Fisher has played like the little kid getting pushed around by his bigger brother on the playground.
Fisher will undoubtedly be moving to the left tackle role in 2014, as free agent Branden Albert is unlikely to re-sign with the team. For the Kansas City Chiefs to compete for an AFC West title, they’re going to need better play from Fisher.
30. Dion Jordan, DE, Miami Dolphins (3rd Pick)
Jordan was buried behind a talented Miami defensive line. Cameron Wake picked up 8.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl again. 2012 third-round pick Olivier Vernon broke out to the tune of 11.5 sacks, and the tackle spots were solidified by Randy Starks, Paul Soliai and Jared Odrick.
Jordan finished ‘13 with just two sacks and 18 quarterback hurries in 339 snaps. It’s not concerning yet, but Dolphins fans certainly need better production out of him next season, especially since the team traded up nine spots to acquire him.
29. Bjoern Werner, OLB, Indianapolis Colts (23rd Pick)
The Indianapolis Colts made a risky selection picking Bjoern Werner to fit their 3-4 defensive scheme, considering most scouts said he was a better fit for a 4-3 system.
Werner missed over a month of time with a torn plantar fascia, and he was largely ineffective when he played. Werner picked up just 2.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries in 312 snaps. He didn’t stop the run particularly well, and he is mediocre in pass coverage. For the Colts to see better results from Werner, they may have to try him as a 7-technique end in four-man fronts.
28. D.J. Hayden, CB, Oakland Raiders (12th Pick)
The Oakland Raiders certainly raised some eyebrows when they drafted D.J. Hayden with the 12th overall pick (and then it turned out they wanted to select him third overall).
Hayden was a borderline first-round talent who has underachieved immensely thus far with the Raiders. He was a major reason the Philadelphia Eagles’ Nick Foles torched that secondary for seven touchdown passes, giving up 139 yards and two scores in that Week 9 contest.
For the season, Hayden was beat for a 110.0 passer rating, and he ended on injured reserve.
27. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers (17th Pick)
Jarvis Jones seemed like a picturesque fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is why his struggles were so surprising.
Jones picked up just 20 tackles and a single sack in 11 games, and he was even benched in midseason for Jason Worilds. Considering Worlids is a free agent, the Steelers need Jones to develop in 2014. He’s just a mediocre pass-rusher, and he’s awful in pass coverage.
26. Luke Joeckel, OT, Jacksonville Jaguars (2nd Pick)
Among the big three offensive tackles—Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Lane Johnson—Joeckel was probably the safest choice. And he still has a chance to be a standout tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It was a rough rookie campaign for Joeckel. He began at right tackle and allowed 11 hurries in a little over four games before an injury against the St. Louis Rams landed him on injured reserve.
Next year will be a much bigger test for him, as the Eugene Monroe trade will send Joeckel to protect the blind side of the new franchise quarterback.
25. Datone Jones, DE, Green Bay Packers (26th Pick)
Like Sylvester Williams, Datone Jones had a limited impact on his team. He played in a part-time role as a 5-technique defensive end used to spell B.J. Raji, Johnny Jolly and Mike Daniels.
For the season, Jones picked up 3.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. Among 3-4 defensive ends, he rated 74th out of 79 players, per Pro Football Focus. Inexplicably, PFF credited Jones with four missed tackles to just six actual tackles. That’s a horrendous ratio that needs to be vastly improved upon.
He was a perfect scheme fit for the Green Bay Packers’ 3-4, and he will likely develop into a quality NFL player. It just hasn’t happened yet.
24. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Minnesota Vikings (23rd Pick)
Drafting Sharrif Floyd with the 23rd overall pick in this year’s draft was a best-player-available selection, considering many draft pundits thought Floyd could go top five.
Floyd contributed mainly as a part-time player, filling in behind Kevin Williams, Fred Evans and Letroy Guion. He didn’t make much of an impact either way, registering 2.5 sacks and 12 hurries in 472 snaps. That’s subpar production so far, and Floyd will have an opportunity to get back on track in year two.
23. Dee Milliner, CB, New York Jets (9th Pick)
The fact that the New York Jets traded Darrelle Revis away means they really needed Dee Milliner to develop quickly. But Milliner’s season was one to forget until the final month.
Milliner was benched twice, and he allowed seven touchdowns and 770 passing yards on passes thrown his direction. The Jets better hope Milliner’s poor play is just the result of him getting adjusted to the NFL, because they spent a first-round pick on him for a reason. Fortunately, Milliner did pick up as the season went on, eventually earning AFC Defensive Rookie of the Month honors for December.
He recorded three interceptions in his final two games, which definitely bodes well for Jets fans heading forward. The Jets will count on Milliner to be a full-time starter in 2014, since Antonio Cromartie won’t likely be back.
22. Matt Elam, S, Baltimore Ravens (32nd Pick)
Matt Elam’s performance for the Baltimore Ravens was much like the Ravens as a team—mediocre.
He’s not much better than Ed Reed, who was flirting with being washed-up even as he played a big role in the Super Bowl championship a year ago. For the 2013 season, Elam picked up just one interception, no forced fumbles and 54 tackles.
He was a standout college player who will likely develop into a big impact player for the Ravens, which will help the team retool and get younger.
21. Sylvester Williams, DT, Denver Broncos (28th Pick)
Sylvester Williams seemed like a great fit for the Denver Broncos, as he is a talented defensive tackle who looked as if he could wreak havoc on the opposing quarterback.
Williams struggled in his rookie season, although the team did reach the Super Bowl. Williams appeared in 301 snaps for the year despite numerous opportunities for more playing time. Kevin Vickerson dislocated his hip and went on injured reserve, but 2012 fifth-rounder Malik Jackson took more of Williams’ snaps.
As the season went on, the Broncos began playing Jackson more at defensive end, leaving Williams to take his snaps at tackle. Williams will have an opportunity to start full time in 2014.
20. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, Cleveland Browns (6th Pick)
The Cleveland Browns entered 2013 with a pretty good defense, and they upgraded that unit by drafting outside pass-rushing linebacker Barkevious Mingo with the sixth overall pick.
Mingo wasn’t a breakout player yet, but he did finish second on the team with five sacks. He struggled in pass coverage and will get a bigger opportunity to play in ‘14. His best game was probably in a Week 5 win against the Buffalo Bills, when Mingo was relentless against EJ Manuel, pressuring him four times and recording three QB hits.
19. EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills (16th Pick)
EJ Manuel was solid, if unspectacular, in his rookie season. He threw 11 touchdowns to just nine interceptions, posting a 77.7 passer rating. Manuel ran the football 53 times for 186 yards, adding two more scores on the ground.
As a starter, Manuel went 4-6 in his 10 games. He missed six others due to a knee sprain that forced Thaddeus Lewis to start. Simply put, it was just a mediocre year by Manuel, but he will have time to establish himself as the franchise quarterback of the Buffalo Bills.
18. Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams (8th Pick)
The St. Louis Rams made a bold draft-day decision when they traded up to the eighth overall spot to acquire West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin.
Austin scored two touchdowns in his second NFL game, then was quiet until he broke out in a midseason contest against the Indianapolis Colts. Austin scored three times that game, taking a punt 98 yards for a touchdown and catching touchdown passes of 57 and 81 yards.
Austin finished his rookie season with 40 receptions, 418 yards and four TDs, a stat line that compares to players like Rishard Matthews (41 REC, 448 YDS, 2 TD) or Jason Avant (38 REC, 447 YDS, 2 TD). Austin scored six times in all, and while he disappeared for large stretches at a time, he quite simply had the ability to score every time he touched the ball.
His overall grade gets docked slightly because he was drafted so highly.
17. Chance Warmack, G, Tennessee Titans (10th Pick)
The Tennessee Titans made two huge offseason moves to bolster their interior line, signing free-agent guard Andy Levitre and drafting Chance Warmack with the 10th overall pick.
Warmack wasn’t quite as good as expected. He was the last player to sign his rookie deal and really struggled in training camp and preseason. Warmack rated 50th among Pro Football Focus’ guards in 2013, and just two guards surrendered more sacks than Warmack (7).
Warmack was much better down the stretch, turning in his three highest single-game ratings after Week 11. PFF charged Warmack with allowing just five hurries in his final five games after giving up 21 in the initial 11 games. He has the physical tools to be one of the best guards in the game, and he will be a Pro Bowler before long.
16. Lane Johnson, OT, Philadelphia Eagles (4th Pick)
Lane Johnson is an extremely raw player, and he started slowly. Johnson allowed 29 hurries in his first eight games and rated as one of the worst offensive tackles in the league.
Over the final eight weeks, everything clicked for him, though. He surrendered just 12 hurries from that point on, and his success coincided with Nick Foles’ tremendous passing.
He’s a phenomenal athlete who is a perfect fit for the Chip Kelly offense. Johnson is a terrific run-blocker who rates as one of the top at his position. He was a major contributor to LeSean McCoy leading the NFL in rushing yards, and Johnson may move to left tackle in 2015 if Jason Peters is not re-signed.
15. D.J. Fluker, OT, San Diego Chargers (11th Pick)
D.J. Fluker and Lane Johnson rated nearly identically per Pro Football Focus, checking in as the 38th- and 39th-ranked offensive tackles in 2013. They got there in opposite ways, as Fluker started sharp and trailed off, while Johnson hit his stride late.
Fluker gets the nod over Johnson simply because he was a lower draft pick, and thus the expectations were slightly less. Fluker was tremendous for the first six weeks of the season, contributing immediately as a right tackle. He seemed to hit a wall for the next nine weeks but then played extremely well in helping the San Diego Chargers earn wins in the final two regular-season games, and thus a playoff spot.
14. Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals (21st Pick)
The Cincinnati Bengals spent a first-round pick on tight end Tyler Eifert, giving quarterback Andy Dalton another target to catch passes.
Eifert had a solid rookie campaign, putting up 39 catches for 445 yards and two touchdowns. He played the entire season without committing a penalty. He rated as one of the better pass-blocking tight ends, per Pro Football Focus. And just six tight ends forced more missed tackles (10).
With Jermaine Gresham set to hit free agency after next season, Eifert will soon be the focal tight end in Cincinnati’s offense.
13. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Detroit Lions (5th Pick)
Ezekiel Ansah was considered one of the more risky draft prospects from last April, but the Detroit Lions reaped the benefits in 2013. Ansah teamed nicely with star interior linemen Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, giving the Lions one of the more formidable defensive lines in the league.
Ansah was just the second rookie defensive end in the last six years to record at least eight sacks and two forced fumbles. He hit his stride as the season went on, picking up multiple sacks in two straight games in Weeks 9 and 10. Pro Football Focus even rated Ansah as an above-average run defender.
He has a bright future, and if the Lions can re-sign Suh after next season, they will have an unstoppable defensive line.
12. Justin Pugh, OT, New York Giants (19th Pick)
Following a rough start to his NFL career, Justin Pugh really turned up the pace. He gave up 28 quarterback hurries in his first seven weeks; in the next five weeks, he allowed just four hurries.
His play directly coincided with the New York Giants’ turnaround, as the franchise went 4-1 after an 0-6 start. Pugh was particular impressive in a Week 12 win against the Washington Redskins in which he held Pro Bowl pass-rusher Ryan Kerrigan to no sacks and just two QB hurries.
For the season, Pugh rated as a plus-7.1, per Pro Football Focus. He had so much success as a rookie tackle that the Giants may consider moving him to the blindside spot in ‘14 given how much Will Beatty struggled.
11. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Minnesota Vikings (25th Pick)
Cornerback may be the most difficult position to succeed at as a rookie, and Xavier Rhodes did remarkably well for the Minnesota Vikings.
Rhodes appeared in 13 games, starting six. Per Pro Football Focus, Rhodes was targeted 76 times in pass coverage, allowing just a 56.6 percent completion percentage and 78.3 passer rating. Rhodes’ finest game was probably against the Green Bay Packers in Week 12—he did allow his only touchdown pass, but he surrendered just 40 total passing yards on 11 passing attempts and registered five passes defensed.
For the 2013 season, Rhodes was one of just eight cornerbacks to allow a single touchdown or fewer on at least 75 targets. His 12 passes defensed tied for ninth-best at his position.
10. Alec Ogletree, OLB, St. Louis Rams (30th Pick)
The St. Louis Rams have the makings of a tough defense, and young players like Alec Ogletree are a big reason why.
Ogletree had some struggles as a rookie, rating as one of the worst cover 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. He was charged with allowing a reception every 6.8 snaps he was in coverage, and he allowed 785 yards and 72 receptions in all.
But he was a big-play machine. Ogletree recorded an interception and took it 98 yards to the house in Week 6. He recorded 1.5 sacks, nine passes defensed and 98 tackles. And his six forced fumbles made him just the fifth rookie in NFL history to pull off that feat.
9. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans (27th Pick)
The Houston Texans found themselves a playmaker when they drafted wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins with their first-round pick. Hopkins posted 52 receptions, 802 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, doing so despite playing with an ineffective Matt Schaub and a near rookie in Case Keenum.
Hopkins averaged 15.4 yards per reception, the 13th-best rate in the league among receivers with at least 50 catches. He caught at least 60 yards in seven different contests, and he topped out with seven receptions, 117 yards and one TD in just his second NFL game.
He did wear down as the season went on, but he looks like a more-than-competent No. 2 receiver, even heading into just his second year in the league.
8. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota Vikings (29th Pick)
To replace Percy Harvin, the Minnesota Vikings drafted a dynamic playmaker with game-breaking speed and the potential to score a touchdown every time he touches the football.
Cordarrelle Patterson earned a Pro Bowl spot as just a rookie, starting as the kick returner. He led the NFL with 32.9 yards per kick return, taking two to the house (each 105 or more yards). Patterson was named an Associated Press first-team All-Pro for his performance, and he finished with just over 2,000 all-purpose yards.
As a receiver, Patterson put up virtually identical numbers (45 REC, 469 YDS, 4 TD) to that of Tavon Austin (40 REC, 418 YDS, 4 TD). Patterson added three touchdowns on rushes, giving him nine total scores. His 2,020 all-purpose yards ranked second-best in the league, and it was the highest total by a rookie since Danny Amendola in 2009.
Patterson also was taken much lower in the first round than Austin, hence his higher grade.
7. Kyle Long, G, Chicago Bears (20th Pick)
Kyle Long was the only rookie offensive lineman to make the Pro Bowl, and that’s a remarkable achievement considering he only started four games in his entire collegiate career.
Long didn’t play quite well enough to justify his Pro Bowl selection—he rated just 44th out of 81 qualifying guards, per Pro Football Focus, and he rated negatively as both a run- and pass-blocker.
Still, Long was a huge upgrade for an offensive line that has struggled immensely in recent years. He appeared in every snap for the Chicago Bears, helping the team rank second in the NFL in scoring offense and eighth in total offense.
6. Eric Reid, S, San Francisco 49ers (18th Pick)
The San Francisco 49ers traded up to the middle of the first round to grab Dashon Goldson’s replacement in the NFL draft. Eric Reid did a great job stepping in as a rookie, and he earned a Pro Bowl selection for his outstanding play.
Reid started all 16 games in the regular season, plus three more in the playoffs. Only three safeties in the NFL topped his four interceptions. Reid is a hard-hitting safety who can play against both the run and the pass. He has a bright future in this league.
5. Star Lotulelei, DT, Carolina Panthers (14th Pick)
Star Lotulelei’s surprise draft-day fall really helped the Carolina Panthers, as they snatched him up with the 14th overall pick.
Lotulelei was a beast from day one in the NFL. He easily has the size to play 0-technique nose tackle. Given that the Carolina Panthers play a 4-3, Lotulelei is too much for just a guard to handle.
Pro Football Focus rated Lotulelei as the 16th-best overall defensive tackle in the league and the sixth-best in stopping the run. He picked up three sacks and 15 quarterback hurries, and his 37 stops ranked fifth among all interior defensive linemen. He and teammate Kawann Short are going to give the Panthers a tremendous tandem of tackles going forth.
4. Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys (31st Pick)
Many draft experts scoffed when the Dallas Cowboys selected Travis Frederick, a second- or third-round prospect, in the late first round of the NFL draft.
Frederick filled a huge position of need for the team, though, and he was a near-Pro Bowl player in year one. He started all 16 games and was rated by Pro Football Focus as the best run-blocking center in the game. Frederick helped the Dallas offense score the fifth-most points in the league in 2013.
3. Kenny Vaccaro, S, New Orleans Saints (15th Pick)
The New Orleans Saints endured a tremendous turnaround on defense from the 2012 to 2013 season. Coordinator Rob Ryan rightfully deserves much of that praise, but his unit received a tremendous boost with the addition of rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Before breaking his ankle in Week 16, Vaccaro was a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Ryan called Vaccaro the best safety in the NFL for his versatility and sheer athleticism.
Vaccaro picked up 62 tackles, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble in his rookie campaign. His ability to line up everywhere on the field helped the Saints go from the last-ranked defense in ‘12 to the fourth-rated defense in ‘13. Even though Eric Reid made the Pro Bowl and Vaccaro did not, Vaccaro gets the slight nod because he played on a less-talented overall defense and did not benefit from a ferocious front seven.
2. Desmond Trufant, CB, Atlanta Falcons (22nd Pick)
As a rookie corner, Desmond Trufant played remarkably well, well enough in fact that the Atlanta Falcons felt comfortable enough releasing Asante Samuel after the campaign.
That means Trufant will enter next season as the No. 1 cornerback for the Falcons. Trufant earned that honor after a spectacular rookie year. He started all 16 games, recorded two interceptions and tied for the league lead with 17 passes defensed.
Trufant was rated by Pro Football Focus as the seventh-best overall corner in the league. He allowed just a 53.4 percent completion percentage on 88 targets. Trufant turned in arguably his finest performance in Week 17 against the Carolina Panthers, allowing just one reception on six total targets.
1. Sheldon Richardson, DE, New York Jets (13th Pick)
Sheldon Richardson’s fabulous rookie season earned him the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He played in all 16 games for the New York Jets, thriving as a 5-technique end. Richardson racked up 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble and 42 tackles.
Per Pro Football Focus, Richardson rated as the fifth-best overall 3-4 defensive end in the league, trailing just J.J. Watt, Calais Campbell, Kyle Williams and Cameron Jordan. He is a tremendous run-stopping end, and he and Muhammad Wilkerson combined to form the best combination of ends in the league. Only Watt finished with more stops than Richardson (41).
Richardson even rushed for two touchdowns in goal-line situations. Now there’s a two-way player.