All "Day 3" Team, 2008-2012
Concluding our series of assembling the best rosters from each day of the past five NFL drafts, we come to our All “Day Three” Team, built from players selected in rounds four through seven.
While you will certainly find plenty of picks that simply didn’t work out on this day, this is also where the sleepers and hidden gems are found. But how does it stack up with our All First Round and All “Day Two” teams?
We’ll let you be the judge of that.
Quarterback: Kirk Cousins (No. 102 overall, 2012)
Best Season: +5.2 (2012)
Once upon a time the New England Patriots drafted quarterback Tom Brady in the sixth round. Sadly, in all the time we’ve been grading here at Pro Football Focus, no other team has been able to find a top signal-caller after the third round. So much was the struggle to find a quarterback to start for the All “Day Three” Team that it came down to Matt Flynn and Kirk Cousins, who have combined to start just three games in their NFL careers. Ultimately we went with Cousins because, unlike Flynn, we’ve yet to see a bad game from him to counteract the good play. After a solid rookie season in limited duty, Cousins may be called on to start as the Washington Redskins begin their 2013 season, depending on the health of Robert Griffin III, but we won’t rush to anoint him as a franchise quarterback just yet.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Flynn (No. 209 overall, 2008)
Running Back: Alfred Morris (No. 173 overall, 2012)
Best Season: +18.3 (2012)
Is it perhaps just a myth that it’s easy to find quality running backs late in the draft? Bar a big season from Peyton Hillis in 2010, it’s another position that lacked an outstanding performance until Alfred Morris came along in 2012. Stepping in as the Redskins’ starter from Week 1, he had a phenomenal first season in the league, topping 1,600 yards on the ground and rushing for 13 touchdowns. Those numbers are impressive on their own, but when you consider that 1,001 of those yards came after contact it’s clear just how good Morris was beyond the help of his blockers. Finishing the year fifth among starting running backs with an Elusive Rating of 51.0, only Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch forced more missed tackles as runners. Obviously it’s just one season, but the Redskins look to have found themselves a very special player in the sixth round of last years’ draft.
Honorable Mentions: Mike Goodson (No. 111 overall, 2009), LaRod Stephens-Howling (No. 240 overall, 2009), Peyton Hillis (No. 227 overall, 2008)
Fullback: Bruce Miller (No. 211 overall, 2011)
Best Season: +13.3 (2012)
Unlike our first two positions, you’ll find plenty of quality fullbacks drafted in the fourth round and beyond, with them ranging from newer, pass-catching players to the rare throwbacks who keep the dying art of lead blocking alive. With a back like Morris behind him, we wanted to go with a lead blocker like San Francisco’s Bruce Miller to lead the way. Coming into the league as a linebacker, where he won Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year honors in his Junior and Senior seasons, Miller made the switch to fullback look pretty effortless. His second season was better than his first and, though it’s not something that sees much praise these days, he’s up there with the best lead blockers in the game right now.
Honorable Mention: Jerome Felton (No. 146 overall, 2008)
Wide Receivers: Antonio Brown (No. 195 overall, 2010), Pierre Garcon (No. 205 overall, 2008) and Brian Hartline (No. 108 overall, 2009)
Best Seasons: Brown (+16.3, 2011); Garcon (+8.7, 2012); Hartline (+7.1, 2012)
Another position that isn’t exactly littered with stars drafted late, Antonio Brown headlines our receiving trio. Drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, it took him until late in his rookie year to get the chance to make more impact as a receiver, but by the time the 2011 season rolled around he had become a key part of the Steelers’ offensive plans. Sure handed, with just 10 drops in his first three seasons in the league, Brown has the speed to get behind defenses but is just as good on shorter routes too.
Pierre Garcon was lucky enough to go from catching passes from arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time in Peyton Manning, to a quarterback who had one of the best rookie seasons we’ve ever seen in Robert Griffin III. Still, he has been impressive in his own right, and should have his share of big performances in Washington with RG3.
While he may not have been as consistent as the other two, Brian Hartline showed enough in a breakout 2012 campaign to earn his spot on this team. Finishing tied 14th among all receivers with a Yards Per Route Run average of 2.08, he’s set up to partner well with new Miami Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace in 2013 and beyond.
Honorable Mentions: Mike Williams (No. 101 overall, 2010), Cecil Shorts (No. 114 overall, 2011)
Tight End: Aaron Hernandez (No. 113 overall, 2010)
Best Season: +20.9 (2011)
Though he isn’t the same blocker as teammate Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez has been a key player for the New England Patriots since they drafted him in 2010. His versatility has seen him line up all over the field, even seeing a few rushing attempts in his time, and he does some damage as a slot receiver too. Back in 2011, which was the best season of his three-year career, Hernandez racked up 422 yards and a Yards Per Route Run average of 1.99 from the slot. Season 2012 wasn’t quite as impressive but, if he can stay on the field, don’t be surprised to see him with more than 1,000 yards receiving again in 2013.
Honorable Mention: Dennis Pitta (No. 114 overall, 2010)
Tackle: King Dunlap (No. 230 overall, 2008) and Bobbie Massie (No. 112 overall, 2012)
Best Seasons: Dunlap (+6.6, 2012); Massie (-13.1, 2012)
With a name that matches his size, King Dunlap has seen time at both left and right tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles. His play has generally been good, but he stepped up in a big way to fill in at left tackle last season in the most action he has seen in his career. That season convinced the San Diego Chargers Dunlap was worth a chunk of their free agency cash in the hope he can help settle Philip Rivers’ nerves.
On the other side you’re probably wondering how on earth Bobbie Massie can make this team with a grade as poor as his was in his rookie season. Well, while that’s true, and while you can’t disregard the awful start to his career, Massie really turned it around in the second half of 2012, allowing just 14 total pressures in the final nine games of the season. To put that in context, that’s one more pressure than he allowed against Miami in Week 4 alone.
Honorable Mention: None
Guard: Carl Nicks (No. 164 overall, 2008) and Josh Sitton (No. 135 overall, 2008)
Best Seasons: Nicks (+35.6, 2010); Sitton (+37.2, 2010)
Drafted just 29 picks apart in the 2008 draft, our offensive guards are up there with the best in the league. Though he missed most of his first season in Tampa Bay through injury, Carl Nicks has been among the best players at his position since entering the league. This is highlighted by the fact that his Pass Blocking Efficiency Rating has never been below 97.4 to end a season.
His partner on this team, Josh Sitton, became a starter in his second season and hasn’t looked back since. His lowest graded season since then has been a whopping +20.8, with him never ranking lower than sixth among all right guards in that time.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Slauson (No. 193 overall, 2009); Geoff Schwartz (No. 241 overall, 2008)
Center: John Sullivan (No. 187 overall, 2008)
Best Season: +26.4 (2012)
Completing the interior of the All “Day Three” Team is another player from that 2008 draft in Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan. Overcoming a slow start to his career, marred with more poor performances than good ones, Sullivan has really turned it around these past two seasons, developing into the best at his position in the league.
Honorable Mention: None
For the All “Day 3” Defense, read on to Page 2…
Edge Defender: Greg Hardy (No. 175 overall, 2010) and Kroy Biermann (No. 154 overall, 2008)
Best Seasons: Hardy (+19.2, 2012); Biermann (+7.9, 2009)
It’s a little surprising that so little talent has been found in edge rushers drafted in the fourth round or later, considering how many are drafted as pass rush specialists later in the draft. That being the case, you have to go back to 2010 to find the last positively graded season by Kroy Biermann, but his work from 2008 to 2010 was good enough to earn him his spot above role players like Willie Young and William Hayes.
Opposite him, however, we have Greg Hardy who has proved to be a big-time draft steal for the Carolina Panthers. Starting out behind Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers in 2010, he impressed for the most part of his first season as a starter in 2011 before struggling over the last four games of the year. He followed that up with his best season as a pro last year, finishing seventh among defensive ends in terms of Pass Rushing Productivity (10.8) and Run Stop Percentage (8.6%).
Honorable Mentions: Willie Young (No. 213 overall, 2010); Williams Hayes (No. 103 overall, 2008)
Interior Defender: Geno Atkins (No. 120 overall, 2010) and Henry Melton (No. 105 overall, 2009)
Best Seasons: Atkins (+85.4, 2012); Melton (+15.8, 2012)
Just in case you haven’t got the memo yet, Geno Atkins in pretty good. Fresh off the most dominating performance from a defensive tackle we’ve seen since we began grading, he is one of the Top 3 defensive players in the entire league and a disruptive force against the run and the pass. Be it as a run defender, where he finished fifth among players at his position with a Run Stop Percentage of 10.6%, or as a pass rusher, where his Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 12.7 was head and shoulders above his peers, Atkins was a nightmare for opposing offensive linemen all year.
Next to him Henry Melton’s highest graded season of +15.8 doesn’t look too impressive, but he has played well in his own right, earning his spot on this team with some nice play over the past two seasons. In fact, while Atkins was in the Top 5 in terms of Run Stop Percentage, it was Melton who lead the way among defensive tackles last season in that regard, making a tackle that resulted in a defensive stop on 11.6% of his plays against the run.
Honorable Mention: Pernell McPhee (No. 165 overall, 2011); Karl Klug (No. 142 overall, 2011)
Linebackers: K.J. Wright (No. 99 overall, 2011), Brad Jones (No. 218 overall, 2009) and Kaluka Maiava (No. 104 overall, 2009)
Best Seasons: Wright (+5.7, 2011); Jones (+6.8, 2012); Maiva (+7.9, 2012)
Another group that lacks a true standout player, the best and most consistent of the three has been K.J. Wright, who made a tackle resulting in a defensive stop on 7.1% of his plays against the run, missing just three tackles in the process. Brad Jones and Kaluka Maiva both had breakout seasons in 2012, but up until that year both had done little of merit. It was in coverage where Maiava was most impressive in 2012, giving up a reception once every 12.0 snaps in coverage, a mark bettered by just three 4-3 outside linebackers. Jones was better against the run, making a tackle resulting in a stop on 9.2% of his plays against the run, but you could make the argument that Kavell Conner deserves a spot here given how good he was against the run, just on a much smaller size.
Honorable Mentions: Kavell Conner (No. 240 overall, 2010)
Cornerbacks: Richard Sherman (No. 154 0verall, 2011) and Alterraun Verner (No. 104 0verall, 2010)
Best Seasons: Sherman (+26.3, 2012); Verner (+10.1, 2011)
When one of the best cornerbacks in the league is drafted in the fifth round it makes this relatively easy. Richard Sherman put on an absolute clinic on how to cover opposing wide receivers in 2012, giving up a reception once every 14.8 snaps in coverage while picking off eight passes and breaking up 18 more.
Opposite him, Alterraun Verner didn’t have his best year in 2012, fading down the stretch in his first full season as a starter, but was still solid enough. He has impressed since his rookie year and was tied for ninth among all cornerbacks in allowing just 0.96 yards per coverage snap last season.
Honorable Mentions: Greg Toler (No. 131 overall, 2009); Cortez Allen (No. 129 overall, 2011); Robert McClain (No. 249 overall, 2010); Brandon Carr (No. 140 overall, 2008); Alfonzo Dennard (No. 224 overall, 2012)
Safeties: Reshad Jones (No. 163 overall, 2010) and Kam Chancellor (No. 133 overall, 2010)
Best Seasons: Jones (+22.1, 2012), Chancellor (+14.1, 2011)
In just his second full year as a starter, Reshad Jones was our third-highest graded safety, excelling both against the run and in coverage. Allowing a reception once every 31.4 coverage snaps, he allowed just 247 yards and one touchdown, while picking off four passes and breaking up four more.
At strong safety, Kam Chancellor was solid enough, while not impressing as much as he did in 2011 when he finished the season 10th among safeties with a Run Stop Percentage of 9.7% on plays where he lined up within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Honorable Mentions: Glover Quin (No. 112 overall, 2009); Tyvon Branch (No. 100 overall, 2008)
Kicker: Blair Walsh (No. 175 overall, 2012)
Best Season: +38.6 (2012)
In a battle between the two kickers selected within four spots of each other in the 2012 draft, it was Blair Walsh who pipped Greg Zuerlein to the post, making 92.1% of his field goals, including all 10 from 50 yards or more in his rookie season.
Honorable Mention: Greg Zuerlein (No. 171 overall, 2012)
Punter: Pat McAfee (No. 222 overall, 2009)
Best Season: +44.7 (2011)
Like the battle to be the All “Day 3” kicker, this came down to two players from the same draft. In the end, Pat McAfee earned his spot with his 30 punts landing inside the 20 yards line compared to the 21 of Thomas Morstead. The fact that he had 12 tackles (that all important punter stat) in the past two seasons doesn’t hurt either.
Honorable Mention: Thomas Morstead (No. 164 overall, 2009)
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