The 16 worst picks of the 2016 NFL draft
Now that the dust has settled following the 2016 NFL draft, it’s time to look back at which picks stood out — for the wrong reasons. A number of elements can lead to a selection being deemed the “worst” — the value of the player at the time of the selection, how he fits with his team’s scheme, and whether he fills a need. Here are the 16 worst from this past weekend:
1. Roberto Aguayo, K, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Over the past two seasons Aguayo was only 64 percent accurate on field-goal attempts from 40-plus yards (14-for-22). That’s not even close to the accuracy of the top kickers in the NFL. We get that the kicking game was a disaster last year for the Bucs, but they passed on a ton of good players to select a guy that we didn’t even have as the top kicker in the class — and even traded up to do it.
2. Christian Hackenberg, QB, New York Jets
Sam Monson already said all we have to say on Hackenberg. He’s not just inaccurate by NFL standards, he was the second-most inaccurate quarterback in college last year. How much is that going to change, no matter how good his coaching is with the Jets?
3. Germain Ifedi, OT, Seattle Seahawks
Philosophically we’ll probably never be fans of Seahawks draft picks on the offensive line. They tend to take physical projects and hope to teach them how to block. Pass-blocking, however, is one of the most technical skills in the NFL, and it helps to at least come from a solid base. Ifedi doesn’t have that at the moment. His hands and feet are terribly out of synch in pass protection, and unsurprisingly Ifedi had just the 76th-best pass blocking efficiency in the country last year. He may be the answer to their offensive line woes, but it will take a few years of coaching to get him to that level.
4. Willie Beavers, OT, Minnesota Vikings
It’s difficult to imagine a tackle who played as poorly as Beavers did in college ever becoming a viable player in the NFL. He was the second-lowest-graded tackle in all of college football last year, and the lowest-graded tackle at the Senior Bowl practices. Beavers has an insanely long way to go to ever be a viable contributor in the league.
5. Keanu Neal, S, Atlanta Falcons
After seeing Gus Bradley and the Jaguars get “their Richard Sherman” in No. 5 overall pick Jalen Ramsey, Dan Quinn obviously wanted “his Kam Chancellor”, as both former Seahawks defensive coordinators look to shape their new teams after their old ones. Unfortunately, there really weren’t any players resembling Chancellor in this draft, and so they reached big-time for the closest thing they could find. Neal is great at making the plays that allow him to move toward the line of scrimmage, but when asked to do anything other than that at Florida, the results were scary. Neal graded out below-average in run defense and pass coverage thanks to 16 missed tackles last season.
6. Artie Burns, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The fact that Pittsburgh had a desperate need for a cornerback doesn’t make this pick any less of a reach. Burns had six interceptions last season, but he’s far more of a project than he is a finished product at this point. The Miami cornerback has issues changing direction on tape and showed almost no feel for zone coverage. On a team that played zone at one of the highest rates in the NFL last year, that’s concerning.
7. Deion Jones, LB, Atlanta Falcons
Linebacker is probably the last position at which we’d want to be drafting a pure athletic project, and that’s what Jones is. It would be one thing if they were trying to teach a guy that could cover how to play run defense, but Jones didn’t even post a positive coverage grade last season with his elite athleticism. And at 222 pounds, you don’t want him taking on blocks any times soon. Jones’ 40 total stops were the 88th-most of any linebacker in college football last year — that’s not good.
8. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
After shoring up the right tackle position in the first round with Jack Conklin, the Titans continued to find personnel that fits the “exotic smashmouth” scheme they are trying to build by picking up the most physically imposing running back in the draft. Unfortunately, Henry doesn’t offer much of anything different than what DeMarco Murray already brings to the table, and they passed up a golden opportunity to shore up their offensive line even further. Henry is great at falling forward on downhill runs, but he’s chopped down easily in space and isn’t a natural receiver out of the backfield. Drafting a backup running back in the second round with a roster full of needs is not something we can get on board with.
9. Jihad Ward, DE, Oakland Raiders
Ward posted average grades in college and then went to the combine and posted below-average athletic testing numbers. At that point we have a hard time seeing the upside from the Raiders’ second-round pick. His 42 percent win rate in the one-on-one pass rushing drills at the Senior Bowl was the third-worst rate of any defensive end there.
10. Sean Davis, DB, Pittsburgh Steelers
He played cornerback at Maryland, but may move to safety for the Steelers. We’re not sure that’s magically going to make him into a better football player, however. He had a minus-6.7 coverage grade that was one of the worst in the class, and allowed 50 of 81 targets to be completed for 721 yards in only 12 games last year. That extrapolates to 961 yards over a 16-game season, which would have been the third-worst total in the NFL last year.
11. Taylor Decker, OT, Detroit Lions
The Lions clearly made offensive line a priority after their dreadful showing in the run game last year. The problem is that Decker flat-out wasn’t anything special in pass protection the previous two seasons. Besides playing in an offense that rarely asks him to take true pass sets and protected their offensive line, Decker still was 79th nationally in pass-blocking efficiency. If he has the frame and athleticism to be a great pass protector in the NFL, then why didn’t he do it in college with top-notch coaching at Ohio State?
12. T.J. Green, DB, Indianapolis Colts
Some evaluators see Green as a cornerback, but we’re not sure his coverage skills are even good enough for safety in the NFL. Green didn’t just grade negatively, he had the seventh-lowest coverage grade in the FBS last year. He gave up 25 catches and 479 yards on 39 targets and didn’t get his hand on a single pass all season. If there is a silver lining, it’s that Green had the 28th-highest grade nationally against the run.
13. Nick Vannett, TE, Seattle Seahawks
Vannett isn’t a bad receiver by any means, but he’s a completely un-dynamic receiving threat who wasn’t very productive in college taken in the third round. Over the past two seasons he’s broken a grand total of two tackles after the catch. He has great size for the position and some potential as a run blocker, but he has limited experience as an in-line blocker and athletically he’ll have a difficult time separating from linebackers.
14. Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans
I like Fuller a lot, and believe he went to one of the best situations for him in the league, but taking Fuller over Josh Doctson is mind-boggling. Fuller obviously has elite speed and it’s clear the Texans wanted a deep threat to take pressure off of DeAndre Hopkins. But instead of getting a deep threat only in Fuller, they could have gotten a deep threat who is also an intermediate threat and red-zone threat. Doctson is a far better all-around receiver and caught just as many deep passes (17) as Fuller did last season.
15. Eli Apple, CB, New York Giants
This is another pick where the team didn’t select a bad player — we had a first-round grade on Apple — but they passed up better options in order to get him. The Ohio State cornerback was fourth on our draft board, and from a grading standpoint, he wasn’t close to Vernon Hargreaves or William Jackson III over the past two seasons. It also leaves the Giants with the question of who plays slot cornerback. Apple, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Janoris Jenkins had fewer than 100 snaps among the three of them out of the slot last season.
16. Darron Lee, LB, New York Jets
Almost every year we see a fantastic athlete get drafted highly on the premise that teams can teach him how to play linebacker. Sometimes it works out and other times it doesn’t. This year that’s Darron Lee. We say that the Jets will have to teach him to play linebacker, because he didn’t even really play linebacker last year at Ohio State. 45 percent of his snaps came from the slot, and a good percentage more came in an outside linebacker role. His run reads in the box were not close to an NFL level yet, and at a shade over 230 pounds that may never be his forte. Lee was one of the best blitzers in the class, however, so while we can’t endorse the riskiness of this pick in the first round, we can see the upside potential.