Regrading the 2015 NFL draft’s first round

Senior analyst Steve Palazzolo takes a look back at last year's draft to evaluate which rookies hit the mark, and which ones fell short.

| 6 months ago
(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Regrading the 2015 NFL draft’s first round

We’ve been entrenched in 2016 draft prospects, but today we’re setting aside some time to look back at the 2015 NFL draft.

It’s only a one-year sample, but a number of players lived up to expectations while still others were limited to part-time roles, and there are question marks as to whether or not they can handle the bigger workload. Unfortunately, a few first-rounders didn’t see the field at all in their first year due to injury, so losing a year of production puts on even more pressure as we head into year two.

All evaluations take into account both our college projections, and what we’ve seen of the players thus far in an NFL uniform:

1. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Draft Grade: A

Can’t argue with Winston at the top, as the Bucs took a gamble and banked on his outstanding 2013 season rather than his subpar campaign in 2014. It still would not surprise me to see an up-and-down career for Winston — years in which he looks like a top-5 QB in the league and others that see him in the 20s — but his rookie season had more good than bad as he transitioned to the NFL relatively smoothly.

2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans

Draft Grade: A

The Titans are happy with their selection as well, as Mariota was the obvious pick at No. 2 and while he was not as impressive as Winston in his first year, he showed that he has what it takes to succeed in the NFL. Just as he showed in college, Mariota’s quick release, touch, and athleticism are all good enough for a team to build around, and the Titans must continue to accentuate those skills to maximize his potential.

3. Dante Fowler Jr., ED, Jacksonville Jaguars

Draft Grade: A-

I’m sticking with our initial grade after Fowler didn’t see a snap last season due to injury. He will move around the Jacksonville line this year to provide matchup issues along their revamped defensive front.

4. Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders

Draft Grade: A

Even with a case of the drops as a rookie, Cooper proved to be a game-changing receiver for the Raiders. They’re hoping that his 18 drops last season — after only eight his junior season at Alabama — are more of an anomal,y, but the good still outweighed the bad for Cooper. QB Derek Carr took a major step forward and Cooper was a big reason for that improvement.

5. Brandon Scherff, OG, Washington Redskins

Draft Grade: C

This pick and grade is more about the value at No. 5 overall than anything else. There were a number of better players still on the board, and while Scherff looks like he’s going to be a good guard (particularly in the running game) there were better options to be had.

6. Leonard Williams, DI, New York Jets

Draft Grade: A

A classic decision to take the best player on the board despite the current roster situation, Williams slotted in nicely with fellow big-bodied defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson and Shelton Richardson. He was our defensive rookie of the year runner-up after his strong college production grade translated nicely to the NFL.

7. Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears

Draft Grade: B

Injury kept White off the field his rookie season and he’ll look to add his big-play ability to pair with Alshon Jeffery this year. We saw White as a step below Cooper as a prospect and comparable to DeVante Parker.

8. Vic Beasley, ED, Atlanta Falcons

Draft Grade: A-

While Beasley was not dominant, he still posted the top pass-rushing grade among the rookies with a mediocre effort against the run — neither development a surprise. This was the best option and fit on the board for the Falcons, but for the high grade to remain, Beasley has to take the next step as a pass rusher.

9. Ereck Flowers, OT, New York Giants

Draft Grade: D+

This pick was a shock at the time, and even though Flowers played through injury last year, the results were not good — his -44.1 overall grade finished last among all offensive tackles. Coming out of college, we saw him as more of a late first-round prospect so grabbing him at No. 9 overall with better players on the board was not good value.

10. Todd Gurley, HB, St. Louis Rams

Draft Grade: A

One of the few running backs worth picking in the top half of the first round, Gurley will be the Rams’ workhorse for the foreseeable future and he showed his talent as a rookie with a number of big plays. He led all rookies by forcing 42 missed tackles and scoring 10 touchdowns on the ground.

 11. Trae Waynes, CB, Minnesota Vikings

Draft Grade: C

We were not high on the Waynes pick at the time, as he’s more of a straight-line speed prospect that we saw as second-round value. He wasn’t ready to play as a rookie, but he went to a good situation in Minnesota and held his own on 196 snaps (+0.1). Still, we have our concerns that he can live up to the hype of a full-time role in the future.

12. Danny Shelton, NT, Cleveland Browns

Draft Grade: C+

While we were happy with the Shelton fit in Cleveland during the draft, using him as a pure nose tackle is not the best use of his skill set and he had his struggles early on. He finished strong as the year progressed, grading well against the run but only providing eight pressures on 235 rushes. We still like his prospects going forward, but moving him around the defensive line may help his pass rush production going forward.

13. Andrus Peat, OT, New Orleans Saints

Draft Grade: C+

It was a mixed bag for Peat on his 437 snaps as he graded at +2.2 at offensive tackle but -7.2 when playing out of place at guard. Ultimately, we saw him as an adequate offensive tackle and a reasonable selection at No. 13 overall after he finished with the No. 5 pass-blocking grade in the nation in 2014.

14. DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins

Draft Grade: B-

A late-season surge showed Parker’s potential as he became a downfield weapon for the Dolphins. He brings a little wiggle to his route running for a big receiver while showing the ability to make plays in contested situations. If Parker continues to progress, he’ll be a home-run pick for the Dolphins.

15. Melvin Gordon, HB, San Diego Chargers

Draft Grade: C-

It was a rough start for Gordon as he tied for the league lead with six fumbles as a runner. While his overall grade of -5.1 is poor, the silver lining to Gordon’s performance is that he did run the ball well when he held onto it (elusive rating of 47.1 a close third among rookies behind Gurley and T.J. Yeldon) — now it’s just a matter of shoring up the ball security issues.

16. Kevin Johnson, CB, Houston Texans

Draft Grade: B-

Like the other corners in the class, Johnson turned in an average season which is certainly respectable for a rookie. He performed better than we thought he would coming out of college as he played the third-most snaps of any rookie corner, finishing with a -0.3 coverage grade.

17. Arik Armstead, DI, San Francisco 49ers

Draft Grade: A

The first round was high for Armstead for our taste, but he had a great debut leading all interior defensive linemen with a pass rush grade of +8.3 in his part-time role. Our concerns coming out of college were less about his ability to make plays, but more about his down-to-down consistency and that’s the next step for Armstead as he tries to build on his impressive 384-snap debut.

18. Marcus Peters, CB, Kansas City Chiefs

Draft Grade: A-

One of our top corners in the draft coming out, Peters’ playmaking style was on display as he finished with nine interceptions and 19 passes defensed including the playoffs, both league-highs. There was some ugly in there as well as he was targeted more than any corner we’ve graded since 2007 and he gave up 1,057 yards into his coverage and eight touchdowns, but overall, it was a great start for Peters who won the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year.

19. Cameron Erving, C, Cleveland Browns

Draft Grade: D-

Erving looked like a good center prospect after a position switch in 2014, but his transition to guard as a rookie was ugly. His -28.7 overall grade on 420 snap was as bad as it got in the NFL last year. With Alex Mack moving on, Erving will start at center this year where the results should be better, but there are still a lot of question marks given his movement along the line the last two years.

20. Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Draft Grade: D

Agholor has playmaking ability but he didn’t show it as a rookie. He caught only 23 passes for 283 yards on 687 snaps, dropping four and finishing with the lowest grade among wide receivers. He needs to take a big step forward to live up to the high expectations we had for him coming out of college.

21. Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Cincinnati Bengals

Draft Grade: B

Injuries and a loaded depth chart limited Ogbuehi to only 73 snaps, but the Bengals are enamored with his potential and we’ll know a lot more about his future prospects if he can replace the departed Andre Smith at right tackles this season.

22. Bud Dupree, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Draft Grade: D-

We gave this pick a D- at the time and nothing from Dupree’s rookie year changed our minds. The athletic edge rusher performed more like a third-round pick his final year in college and despite his four sacks, he did little as a pass rusher last season with 22 total hurries on 345 rushes, and his -22.4 overall grade ranked 100th of the top 101 edge defenders.

23. Shane Ray, ED, Denver Broncos

Draft Grade: C

Playing only 352 snaps in a part-time role on a loaded defense, Ray was an adequate pass rusher notching four sacks, four QB hits, and 15 hurries on 228 rushes. He wasn’t great against the run and has to improve in both areas as his snap count increases.

24. D.J. Humphries, OT, Arizona Cardinals

Draft Grade: D+

Humphries was better-suited to stay in school one more year, so a “redshirt” year may not be the worst thing for his development. NFL coaches love his movement skills and frame, but he had a long way to go after rarely dominating in college and sitting on the bench as a rookie.

25. Shaq Thompson, LB, Carolina Panthers

Draft Grade: C+

We weren’t fond of this pick at the time given Thompson’s ineffectiveness against the run, but we liked him as a coverage linebackers and he showed well in a part-time coverage role as a rookie. He graded at +3.4 in coverage on 369 snaps and improving his work against the run from college to the NFL will make him a good start when given the opportunity.

26. Breshad Perriman, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Draft Grade: B

The grade remains the same after Perriman didn’t play a down last season. His downfield ball skills should be an asset for QB Joe Flacco, but he has to get on the field first to show it.

27. Byron Jones, CB, Dallas Cowboys

Draft Grade: B+

The versatility that Jones showed nets him the B+ grade as he played all over the Dallas defense. Whether playing traditional corner, covering tight ends or playing safety, Jones performed well and finished with a +6.9 that ranked second among all rookie defensive backs.

28. Laken Tomlinson, OG, Detroit Lions

Draft Grade: C+

Tomlinson was the best pure guard in the draft coming out and despite a rough start, he showed his potential in the second half of the season. The first four games were poor, but he looked adequate over the last 11 and that progression must continue for Tomlinson to live up to first-round expectations.

29. Phillip Dorsett, WR, Indianapolis Colts

Draft Grade: D

With better options on the board at the time, we did not like this pick and Dorsett’s 215-snap campaign did little to change that initial impression. He flashed his big-play ability but he still looks more like a complementary piece at wide receiver rather than a cornerstone.

30. Damarious Randall, CB, Green Bay Packers

Draft Grade: B-

One of the biggest draft surprises — from the selection, to Randall’s position switch from college safety to NFL cornerback — the Packers may have unlocked a gem. There were the usual rookie mishaps, but Randall made the transition well, grading at a respectable -0.9 in coverage and finishing third among rookie cornerbacks with 10 passes defensed.

31. Stephone Anthony, LB, New Orleans Saints

Draft Grade: C-

Anthony had a strong final season at Clemson, but a lot of his poor habits showed up in his first year in the NFL. He looked lost in coverage at times, finishing with a -7.9 grade while ranking second among linebackers with 15 missed tackles.

32. Malcolm Brown, DI, New England Patriots

Draft Grade: B+

Few rookies improved as much as Brown who kicked off his career with a -5.2 grade in his first three games but finished at +9.8 over his last 15 games including the playoffs. He carried over his playmaking style from college as he led the nation with a run stop percentage of 11.1 in 2014 and topped all rookies during the regular season with an 11.2 mark.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Tony


    Marcus Peters (Defensive rookie of the year): A-
    Dante Fowler (Didn’t play one snap) : A-

    • Ripp

      Same with Perriman and White getting Bs and Parker getting B-. Where is the logic in that?????

      • Adam Fogarty

        See my comment above for perriman and white, as for parker I think b- is the perfect grade since he didn’t really start doing good until the last half of the year

        • Ripp

          Not arguing with Parker’s grade. I just don’t see how you can give a player who has yet to play a single down a better grade than a player who has.

          • Adam Fogarty

            The guy is just saying because he never played a snap it’s not his fault so it would be kinda messed up to give him an F so he just kept the grade the same

          • Ripp

            Any scout or GM will tell you player availability is part of the value of the player. IMO, being injuries sound take away from a players grade.

    • Adam Fogarty

      The A- grade was what was given when he was initially drafted and since he was hurt he can’t get a grade so the writer stuck with the initial grade, he even said it in the text

    • Phil

      If you actually read the article instead of skimming through it you would have noticed the author wrote the reasoning right below the players name and grade…

  • Mike

    Still SMH over the Dorsett pick. So stupid…..

    • Adam Fogarty

      That’s Ryan grigson for you, most confusing pick of the draft

  • LostAlone

    It’s weird sometimes to see PFF grade exclusively on numbers and nothing else. No interest in developmental guys, no real interest in the challenges of transitioning to the pro level; if you didn’t perform great as a rookie then PFF are going to call you a bust. Look at Cam Erving who was playing out of position and promises to be a strong guy next year. They call that a D minus pick. What the actual hell?

    • Nik Hildebrand

      “if you didn’t perform great as a rookie then PFF are going to call you a bust”

      Really? Dante Fowler, Breshad Perriman and Kevin White didn’t play at all and their picks were graded A-, B and B, respectively.

      • Gabrosin

        There’s a difference between playing poorly and not playing at all. For players who were injured all year they simply kept the original grades.

    • Adam Fogarty

      Am I the only one that reads the text, they did he played horrible at guard but he’ll be moving to his natural position at center next year nobody called him a bust

    • Harel

      He sucked, the Browns suck, get over it

  • Kyle

    To sum up: rookie OLs and LBs struggle as starters, and Colts/Browns still don’t know how to draft

  • Muzzlewog

    Marcus Peters had 8 INTs no? Also 1,057 yards and 8 TDs seems like, I dunno, a lot? How about a B+?

    • cyberry

      He was targeted more, “way more” than any other receiver in the NFL., in the 2nd half of the season he gave up No TD’s, and had the 2nd lowest completion percent in the NFL, despite having over about 30 more targets total than the next CB. Led both leagues with 19 pass defended..Sean Smith is not as good as his numbers..

  • OverthecliffRepublicans

    Dante Fowler Jr, Kevin White and Breshad Perriman should receive incomplete s. .

  • CountMahdrof

    Kevin White hurt and didn’t play a down and gets a B? He’s compared to Devante Parker, also hurt, but who did play and showed a lot of promise, only gets a B-. For a site that prides itself on logic and reason, that’s not very logical.

  • Sean Burton

    I’d like to see this about draft classes five-10 years ago as a regular segment around draft time. That is a better time to grade. A D or O lineman will get a worse grade simply b/c they usually don’t see a lot of downs early in their careers.