In producing our draft evaluations and prospect rankings for the 2016 NFL draft, Pro Football Focus leaned heavily on the production grades we generated on every college football player during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. These grades are not necessarily direct predictors of NFL success, as there are plenty of super-productive college football players who do not go on to stardom in the NFL, for any number of reasons — including size and athletic limitations often cited by evaluators during the draft process.
But our emphasis on these college production grades comes from a simple theory: If a player wasn’t able to produce at a high level in college, then how is he going to be able to do so against bigger, stronger and faster competition in the NFL? That’s not to say there aren’t outliers in this category as well, but if you limit your player selections only to those who are proven to have excelled at the college level, you could potentially reduce your risk level by a significant degree.
All of this is particularly interesting when evaluating the 2016 draft class of the Cleveland Browns — a team that recently hired former MLB “moneyballer” Paul DePodesta to their front office. Looking at the players they selected, their approach seems to have been focused around two principles:
1.) Acquire as many draft picks as possible.
2.) Use them almost exclusively on players who were incredibly productive in college.
Of their league-high 14 draft picks, eight ranked in the top 10 of their position groups in PFF’s grades during either the 2014 or 2015 season, as represented by the chart below (position ranks are for 2015 unless indicated by an asterisk):
1 (15) Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor | College position rank: 17
2 (32) Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State | Pos. rank: 6
3 (65) Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State | Pos. rank: 13
3 (76) Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn | Pos. rank: 8
3 (93) Cody Kessler, QB, USC | Pos. rank: 2*
4 (99) Joe Schobert, OLB, Wisconsin | Pos. rank: 3
4 (114) Ricardo Louis, WR, Auburn | Pos. rank: 85
4 (129) Derrick Kindred, S, TCU | Pos. rank: 34
4 (138) Seth Devalve, WR/TE, Princeton | Pos. rank: N/A
5 (154) Jordan Payton, WR, UCLA | Pos. rank: 2
5 (168) Spencer Drango, OT, Baylor | Pos. rank: 2
5 (172) Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State | Pos. rank: 2*
5 (173) Trey Caldwell, CB, Louisiana-Monroe | Pos. rank: 15
7 (250) Scooby Wright III, ILB, Arizona | Pos. rank: 2*
They landed a receiver in Round 1 in Corey Coleman whose yards per route run average – PFF’s measure of a receiver’s overall efficiency – was far and away the best in the nation prior to both of his team’s quarterbacks going down to injury. They added three edge rushers in Rounds 2-4 in Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib and Joe Schobert who ranked among the top 10 players in the country in pass-rush productivity. Third-round QB Cody Kessler led the nation in 2014 with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
There are examples of this up and down the Browns’ draft class, which is why it should come as no surprise they Browns added more value through the draft than any team in the class. That said, they actually narrowly missed the cut for the top five teams adding the most value per-pick (as calculated by PFF analytics director Nathan Jahnke, using Chase Stuart’s Draft Value Chart and the PFF prospect rankings to determine expected and actual draft value acquired by each team), as there were a number of teams that came away with a lot of value from fewer selections.
Here are the five teams that came away with the most value, per pick, in the 2016 NFL draft, followed by the five that added the least, and a list of each team’s picks:
Five teams that added the most value per pick
1 (5) Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State
2 (36) (from Baltimore) Myles Jack, ILB, UCLA
3 (69) Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Maryland
4 (103) Sheldon Day, DT, Notre Dame
6 (181) Tyrone Holmes, DE, Montana
6 (201) (from Pittsburgh) Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas
7 (226) Jonathan Woodard, DE, Central Arkansas
There was debate in the lead-up to the draft over whether Ramsey, the No. 3 player on the PFF board, or Jack, the No. 6 player, would be a better fit for the Jags at No. 5 overall. They wound up with both, after teams were reportedly scared off by the long-term prognosis of Jack’s surgically repaired knee. Injury risk aside, Jack is a fantastic value for the Jags. Then they managed to come away with Day, our No. 34 overall prospect, in the fourth round. Only No. 7-overall pick DeForest Buckner had a higher grade among interior defensive lineman than Day last season.
2. Chicago Bears
1 (9) (from Tampa Bay) Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
2 (56) (from Seattle) Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State
3 (72) Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida
4 (113) (from Philadelphia via Tennessee) Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB, West Virginia
4 (124) (from Seattle) Deon Bush, S, Miami
4 (127) (from New England) Deiondre’ Hall, CB, Northern Iowa
5 (150) Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana
6 (185) DeAndre Houston-Carson, S, William & Mary
7 (230) Daniel Braverman, WR, Western Michigan
First-rounder Floyd actually only ranked No. 19 on our board, but he’s a tremendous fit for the Bears. They then landed excellent values with each of their next three picks in Whitehair (No. 17 on the PFF board), Bullard (No. 27) and Kwiatkoski (No. 76), before picking up a pair of steals at the skill positions in Howard (PFF’s No. 4 RB) and Braverman (nation’s leader in yards per route run from the slot in 2015).
3. Miami Dolphins
1 (13) (from Philadelphia) Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
2 (38) Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor
3 (73) Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama
3 (86) Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers
6 (186) (from Miami via Minnesota) Jakeem Grant, WR, Texas Tech
6 (204) Jordan Lucas, S, Penn State
7 (223) Brandon Doughty, QB, Western Kentucky
7 (231) Thomas Duarte, WR, UCLA
Tunsil, the No. 5 player on our board who slid on draft night after an incriminating video surfaced on his own Twitter account, represents an excellent value at No. 13 if you focus only on his on-field ability. Third-rounder Carroo ranked No. 35 overall, and was the sixth-best receiver in the class who led the nation in yards per route run in 2015. He and Doughty (No. 109 overall) represented excellent values for Miami.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
1 (24) William Jackson III, CB, Houston
2 (55) Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
3 (87) Nick Vigil, ILB, Utah State
4 (122) Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
5 (161) Christian Westerman, G, Arizona State
6 (199) Cody Core, WR, Ole Miss
7 (245) Clayton Fejedelem, S, Illinois
PFF had Jackson ranked as the draft’s best cornerback after Ramsey, and No. 15 overall, making him a great addition at No. 24. Billings ranked No. 22 overall for us but inexplicably fell all the way to the fourth round – our grades indicate he can not only serve as a run-stuffing nose tackle, but that his pass-rush production could potentially make him a three-down defender. Westerman ranked No. 85 on our board as one of the top pass-protecting guards in the draft.
5. Buffalo Bills
1 (19) Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
2 (41) (from Chicago) Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama
3 (80) Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State
4 (139) Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State
5 (156) Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas
6 (192) Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU
6 (218) Kevon Seymour, CB, USC
The Bills clearly wanted to address their front seven, in particular their worst-in-the-NFL pass-rush grade, and landed three players who can help in Lawson, Ragland and Washington. Each graded out well overall and as pass-rushers, and each represented a major value based on the PFF board, ranking No. 11, 26 and 43, respectively. Williams (No. 137 on the PFF board) is a potential steal, having ranked fifth in the nation in elusive rating (PFF’s measure of a back’s ability to generate yards independent of his blocking) two seasons ago before missing all of 2015 due to injury.
Five teams that added the least value per pick
28. Arizona Cardinals
1 (29) Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
3 (92) Brandon Williams, CB, Texas A&M
4 (128) Evan Boehm, C, Missouri
5 (167) Marqui Christian, S, Midwest State
5 (170) Cole Toner, OT, Harvard
6 (205) Harlan Miller, CB, Southeastern Louisiana
Of Arizona’s six picks, five didn’t even make PFF’s final draft board of the top 250 prospects. Only Nkemdiche did, at No. 44. Our concerns with him were related to his on-field play rather than his off-field behavior, as he didn’t produce great numbers against the run, often getting swallowed up by double teams or taking himself out of the play by selling out to get after the QB. He has the potential to be a very disruptive pass-rusher, but if not, this could prove to be a very disappointing class for Arizona.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers
1 (25) Artie Burns, CB, Miami
2 (58) Sean Davis, S, Maryland
3 (89) Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State
4 (123) Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU
6 (220) Travis Feeney, OLB, Washington
7 (229) (from New York Giants) Demarcus Ayers, WR, Houston
7 (246) Tyler Matakevich, ILB, Temple
Pittsburgh’s presence here is largely due to its first two picks. Burns ranked as just the 144th player on our board. He has an ideal size-speed combination for the corner position but didn’t produce at a high level in college, ranking just 42nd in coverage grade among this year’s class. Davis is similar in that he’s a gifted athlete, only he didn’t even crack our top 250 after earning a negative coverage grade in 2015 and missed 25 tackles over the course of the last two seasons.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1 (11) (from Chicago) Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
2 (39) Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
2 (59) (from Kansas City) Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State
4 (108) Ryan Smith, CB, North Carolina Central
5 (148) Caleb Benenoch, OT, UCLA
6 (183) Devante Bond, OLB, Oklahoma
6 (197) (from Washington) Dan Vitale, FB, Northwestern
The draft started out well enough for the Bucs with Hargreaves and Spence (No. 18 and 36 on our board, respectively), but any time you draft a kicker in the second round, and in particular if you trade up to do so, your draft-value-added number is going to take a hit. Even worse: Aguayo made just five of his 10 field-goal attempts from 40-plus yards last season.
31. New York Jets
1 (20) Darron Lee, ILB, Ohio State
2 (51) Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
3 (83) Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia
4 (118) Juston Burris, CB, NC State
5 (158) (from Washington) Brandon Shell, OT, South Carolina
7 (235) (from Los Angeles via Houston and Denver) Lachlan Edwards, P, Sam Houston State
7 (241) Charone Peake, WR, Clemson
Lee is a reach based on our PFF rankings, at No. 81 overall. He has excellent speed and made a lot of highlight-reel plays for the Buckeyes, but his play-by-play production was lacking. He earned a negative coverage grade and had the fourth-worst tackling percentage in coverage among linebackers, in addition to the fourth-worst run-stop percentage. Hackenberg didn’t make our top 250 prospects list, after ranking near the bottom of PFF’s college QB grades the last two seasons. He was drafted based on his physical tools, but there is no evidence based on his college performance he will become a productive QB in the NFL.
32. Atlanta Falcons
1 (17) Keanu Neal, S, Florida
2 (52) (from Houston) Deion Jones, ILB, LSU
3 (81) Austin Hooper, TE, Stanford
4 (115) De’Vondre Campbell, OLB, Minnesota
6 (195) (from New York Giants via Houston) Wes Schweitzer, G, San Jose State
7 (238) Devin Fuller, WR, UCLA
PFF didn’t have Neal anywhere near the first round, ranking him at No. 176 overall after he posted one of the lowest grades among safeties in this year’s draft class. The Falcons then doubled down on physically talented players who graded poorly by selecting Jones, who ranked No. 250 on our board. His speed did not translate to his being an effective player in pass defense, ranking 97th in coverage grade out of 108 linebackers in the class.
Here’s how the league stacked up in terms of value-added at the 2016 draft.
|Team||Expected Value||Value Added||ValueAboveExpected|
Jeff Dooley is the Editor in Chief of Pro Football Focus and a contributor to The Washington Post’s NFL coverage.