Last year, I wrote about my efforts to grade past drafts. And given that it’s almost been a year to the day since I posted that initial breakdown, it’s time to give you an update.
The conventional wisdom says you have to wait at least three years to judge a draft. I tend to think that five years gives you a much more accurate picture. Take for instance a player like Jonathan Babineaux, who did not do much in his first three seasons as an Atlanta Falcon.
Babineaux was predominantly a rotation player. But in 2008, his fourth season, when the Falcons cut Grady Jackson midway through the year, Babineaux filled in ably and started to show flashes of why he was a second-round pick in 2005. But it was really in 2009 that Babs really came into his own and become one of the premier defensive tackles in the league. And in the years since, Babineaux hasn’t be quite as good a player as he was in 2009 but he’s been much better than the mediocre player he seemed to look through his first three and a half years.
In the end, the pick of Babineaux is one of the better ones the Falcons have made over the past decade. That would not have seemed the case had we made the cut-off three years.
The way in which I grade drafts is a simple grading system that assigns every player picked an A, B, C, D or F grade based off their entire five-year body of work. I’ve given examples with current Falcon players.
A – An elite or near-elite player. Mike Lombardi would call these players “blue chips.” They are players that are among the very best at their respective positions. Example: Matt Ryan.
B – Lombardi would call these “red chip” players. They are universally considered to be among the better players at their position and definite impact players. Typically these are guys are perennial Pro Bowlers. Example: Roddy White.
C – Solid starters or a premier role player (e.g. Darren Sproles). They are fairly entrenched as starters in the league and should be able to start on a significant percentage of NFL teams besides their own. Examples: Sam Baker.
D – Backups or low-level starters. These are typically role players, but may also be starters that are considered underwhelming or expendable. Examples: Harry Douglas.
F – They are out of the league.
Last year, I posted the numbers for 2007 and 2008 draft classes, as well as a preliminary look at the 2009 draft class.
The eery thing was that the 2007 and 2008 draft classes were remarkably similar in terms of the amount of talent that entered the league. And while initially the 2009 class looked different, that doesn’t necessarily appear to be the case now that we’ve finished the fifth year of that class. Here’s how the three draft classes break down: