Although instant draft analyses surface each year, they are largely meaningless, as it takes a few years to evaluate a team's decisions in a draft. With that in mind, it seems like a good time to take a look at how teams did in 2015.
The 2015 draft included several players who recently signed free-agent deals or extensions, many non-first-round picks given new contracts years ago and some significant Round 1 missteps. The selection event did not send superstar quarterbacks into the league, but four of the seven All-Pros to emerge from this talent pool were chosen after the first round.
Here is how each team did and how those choices five years ago affected franchises' respective trajectories.
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Arizona | Atl.| Balt. | Buff. | Caro. | Chi. | Cinc. | Cleve. | Dallas | Den.| Det. | G.B. | Houston | Indy | Jax | K.C. |Las Vegas | LAC | LAR | Miami | Minn. | N.E. | N.O. | NYG | NYJ | Phila. | Pitt. | S.F. | Seattle | Tampa | Tenn. | Wash.
2015 GM: Steve Keim | Head coach: Bruce Arians
Round 1: T, D.J. Humphries, No. 24 overall
Round 2: OLB, Markus Golden, No. 58
Round 3: RB, David Johnson, No. 86
Round 4: DL, Rodney Gunter, No. 116
Round 5: DL, Shaquille Riddick, No. 158
Round 5: WR, J.J. Nelson, No. 159
Round 7: TE, Gerald Christian, No. 256
Best pick: Johnson | Worst pick: Riddick
Humphries just signed a three-year, $44.25 million extension but has been neither durable (43 games played out of a possible 80) nor especially productive. Nevertheless, Kliff Kingsbury will entrust him with Kyler Murray's blind side. Johnson did not reward the Cards after his $13M-per-year deal in 2018, but his 2,118 scrimmage-yards 2016 season culminated with him becoming the Cardinals’ first All-Pro running back since Ottis Anderson in 1979. A wrist injury and having to be part of one of this era’s worst offenses — the 2018 Cards’ — rerouted his career. Golden saw an ACL tear stall him after his breakout 2016; he did not fully resurface until a rebound season with the 2019 Giants.
Five-year judgment: With Gunter being a five-year contributor as well, this class delivered in spurts for the Cardinals. Its two key principals’ injuries, however, keep it off the elite tier.
2015 GM: Thomas Dimitroff | Head coach: Dan Quinn
Round 1: DE Vic Beasley, No. 8 overall
Round 2: CB Jalen Collins, No. 42
Round 3: RB Tevin Coleman, No. 73
Round 4: WR Justin Hardy, No. 107
Round 5: DT Grady Jarrett, No. 137
Round 7: T Jake Rodgers, No. 225
Round 7: CB Akeem King, No. 249
Best pick: Jarrett | Worst pick: Collins
After finishing second-to-last in sacks in 2013 and ’14, the Falcons took Scouts Inc.’s 25th-rated prospect (Beasley) eighth overall. The Clemson product offered a fascinating red herring season — a 15.5-sack 2016 that earned him All-Pro acclaim — and started in each of Atlanta’s five playoff games from 2016-17. But he otherwise underwhelmed before defecting to the Titans in March. Atlanta, however, found four Super Bowl LI regulars in this draft.
Jarrett, for whom the Falcons traded up, broke out in Super Bowl LI by sacking Tom Brady thrice. He has since become one of the game’s best interior defenders. The Falcons let Coleman walk in free agency last year, but Devonta Freeman’s explosive sidekick gave Atlanta one of the better modern backfield duos for a few years.
Five-year judgment: Collins having not played since Super Bowl LI, repeatedly being suspended for performance-enhancing drugs, accompanies Beasley’s inconsistency in limiting what would have been a standout draft class.
2015 GM: Ozzie Newsome | Head coach: John Harbaugh
Round 1: WR Breshad Perriman, No. 26 overall
Round 2: TE Maxx Williams, No. 55
Round 3: DL Carl Davis, No. 90
Round 4: OLB Za’Darius Smith, No. 122
Round 4: RB Buck Allen, No. 125
Round 4: CB Tray Walker, No. 136
Round 5: TE Nick Boyle, No. 171
Round 5: G Robert Myers, No. 176
Round 6: WR-TE Darren Waller, No. 204
Best pick: Smith | Worst pick: Davis
The rare shaky Ravens draft produced a wide receiver who bloomed after busting in Baltimore. Neither of the team’s Day 2 picks contributed much either. Perriman and Waller were non-factors as Ravens, leading to Baltimore taking the veteran route at receiver for years. Smith became one of several Baltimore edge rushers to thrive in a contract year and then depart. Smith’s 2019 Green Bay season was far better than any of his Baltimore campaigns. Much like Mark Andrews usurped Hayden Hurst after the Ravens’ two-tight end 2018 draft, Boyle became a more valuable player than Williams despite going four rounds later. Andrews and Boyle are Lamar Jackson’s top tight ends.
Five-year judgment: Smith and Boyle are not enough to save a class that saw scant production from three of its first four picks, and the Ravens do not exactly deserve credit for Waller’s Raiders breakout four years later.
2015 GM: Doug Whaley | Head coach: Rex Ryan
Round 2: CB Ronald Darby, No. 50 overall
Round 3: G John Miller, No. 81
Round 5: RB Karlos Williams, No. 155
Round 6: LB Tony Steward, No. 188
Round 6: TE Nick O’Leary, No. 194
Round 7: WR Dezmin Lewis, No. 234
Best pick: Darby | Worst pick: Williams
One of the drafts that burned Whaley began without a first-round pick – which the GM traded in 2014’s Sammy Watkins deal – and the Bills’ 2015 haul started with an above-average cornerback. The Bills traded Darby in August 2017, and he started for the Eagles’ Super Bowl champion squad. That deal netted Buffalo wideout Jordan Matthews, who immediately regressed outside Philadelphia, and a 2018 third-round pick (defensive tackle Harrison Phillips). While Miller started 16 games for a 2016 Bills team that led the NFL in rushing, he has topped out as an average blocker. The Bills fired Ryan after the 2016 season and axed Whaley after the 2017 draft.
Five-year judgment: Darby paired with Stephon Gilmore to form a quality corner tandem, but his early career departure limits his impact on this class — which did not produce a contributor for Buffalo’s 2019 playoff team.
2015 GM: Dave Gettleman | Head coach: Ron Rivera
Round 1: LB Shaq Thompson, No. 25 overall
Round 2: WR Devin Funchess, No. 41
Round 4: OL Daryl Williams, No. 102
Round 5: LB David Mayo, No. 169
Round 5: RB Cameron Artis-Payne, No. 174
Best pick: Thompson | Worst pick: Funchess
The Panthers made 2005, ‘12 and ‘15 first-round picks their foundation at linebacker. After Thomas Davis’ 2019 exit, Luke Kuechly’s retirement makes Thompson Carolina’s defensive centerpiece. Thompson is now one of the league’s highest-paid linebackers. Carolina traded up 16 spots for Funchess, but the slow Michigan product did not deliver. He topped 550 yards only once in a season, continuing a trend of Cam Newton working with substandard wideouts — a scenario he made do with in his 2015 MVP campaign. Williams became Carolina's right tackle starter in 2016, but a dislocated knee in 2018 stalled his progress. He joined the Bills’ home for ex-Panthers in March.
Five-year judgment: Thompson’s value will be proved — in Carolina's post-Kuechly world — and his status carries the day for a class that did produce three starters on the Panthers’ 2017 playoff team.
2015 GM: Ryan Pace | Head coach: John Fox
Round 1: WR Kevin White, No. 7 overall
Round 2: DT Eddie Goldman, No. 39
Round 3: C Hroniss Grasu, No. 71
Round 4: RB Jeremy Langford, No. 106
Round 5: S Adrian Amos, No. 142
Round 6: T Tayo Fabuluje, No. 183
Best pick: Amos | Worst pick: White
Although injuries derailed White, his production (25 catches, 285 yards, zero TDs) makes him one of the worst picks in wide receiver history. The Bears, who then sought a replacement for Brandon Marshall, fielded a skeleton crew of wideouts in Mitchell Trubisky’s 2017 rookie year before paying up for free agent Allen Robinson in 2018. Amos and 2017 fifth-rounder Eddie Jackson formed an elite safety duo, but the Bears opted to pay Jackson, letting Amos walk to Green Bay last year.
Injuries also doomed Grasu, who missed 24 games after beginning his career as Chicago’s center, but Goldman quietly became a key cog for multiple top-tier Bears defenses and is signed long-term.
Five-year judgment: Goldman and Amos turning into reliable starters made this a passable class, but White’s struggle to stay on the field lowered the ceiling of Pace’s first draft considerably.
2015 GM: Mike Brown | Head coach: Marvin Lewis
Round 1: T Cedric Ogbuehi, No. 21 overall
Round 2: T Jake Fisher, No. 53
Round 3: TE Tyler Kroft, No. 85
Round 3: LB Paul Dawson, No. 99
Round 4: CB Josh Shaw, No. 120
Round 4: DE Marcus Hardison, No. 135
Round 5: TE C.J. Uzomah, No. 157
Round 6: S Derron Smith, No. 197
Round 7: WR Mario Alford, No. 238
Best pick: Uzomah | Worst pick: Ogbuehi
The Bengals’ decline can partially be traced to this draft. Cincinnati misfiring on first- and second-round tackles helped set in motion Andy Dalton’s descent and led its offensive line into its current uncertain state. The Bengals groomed Ogbuehi to replace Andrew Whitworth, but after the Pro Bowl left tackle departed in 2017 — along with 2012 first-round guard Kevin Zeitler — Cincinnati’s O-line plan self-combusted.
After Ogbuehi (25 starts) and Fisher (12) failed, the Bengals added mediocre stopgap replacements. Since 2017, Pro Football Focus graded the Bengals’ O-line 28th, 27th and 30th. Dalton’s corresponding QBRs: 25th, 15th (in an injury-shortened season) and 27th. With Dawson not panning out either, Cincinnati’s only notable W’s in this draft were middling tight ends Kroft and Uzomah.
Five-year judgment: Only Uzomah remains with the team five years later; this draft represented a turning point for what at the time was an AFC playoff bastion.
2015 GM: Ray Farmer | Head coach: Mike Pettine
Round 1: DT Danny Shelton, No. 12 overall
Round 1: OL Cam Erving, No. 19
Round 2: DE Nate Orchard, No. 51
Round 3: RB Duke Johnson, No. 77
Round 3: DT Xavier Cooper, No. 96
Round 4: S Ibraheim Campbell, No. 115
Round 4: WR-TE Vince Mayle, No. 123
Round 6: DB Charles Gaines, No. 189
Round 6: TE Malcolm Johnson, No. 195
Round 6: TE Randall Telfer, No. 198
Round 7: LB Hayes Pullard, No. 219
Round 7: CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, No. 241
Best pick: Johnson | Worst pick: Erving
A year after one of the most dysfunctional drafts in NFL history — when Browns owner Jimmy Haslam overruled his GM to take Johnny Manziel — the Browns closed the Farmer-Pettine era with an unremarkable haul. Although Erving remains in the league as a backup, the ex-Florida State blocker could not stick at center or right tackle in Cleveland. The Browns traded him to the Chiefs for a fifth-round pick in 2017, adding another failed first-rounder to Cleveland’s 2010s story. The Browns did better with Shelton, who started three seasons in Cleveland, but traded him to the Patriots in a pick-swap deal. (That pick, however, did help the Browns land Odell Beckham Jr.)
Johnson emerged as the Browns’ third-down back for four seasons, earning an extension. But after Kareem Hunt became available, the then-John Dorsey-led Browns shipped Johnson to Houston.
Five-year judgment: Johnson and Shelton’s early contributions came for a team that decided to tank, and Farmer identified no Day 3 bargains. Like in 2014, the Browns should have done more with a two-first-rounder draft.
2015 owner-GM: Jerry Jones | Head coach: Jason Garrett
Round 1: CB Byron Jones, No. 27 overall
Round 2: DE Randy Gregory, No. 60
Round 3: T Chaz Green, No. 91
Round 4: LB Damien Wilson, No. 127
Round 5: DE Ryan Russell, No. 163
Round 7: LB Mark Nzeocha, No. 236
Round 7: T Laurence Gibson, No. 243
Round 7: TE Geoff Swaim, No. 246
Best pick: Jones | Worst pick: Gregory
The Cowboys’ glut of extension candidates inducing them to let Jones walk — and make him one of the best free agents in recent years — clouds this draft. Jones moved from above-average safety to valuable boundary cornerback, giving the Cowboys yet another first-round hit last decade. Gregory, whose talent connected him to many teams in the first round, lasted until the end of Round 2 because of off-field issues. Despite just seven career sacks and the four suspensions that limited him to 28 games in five seasons, Gregory remains in the Cowboys’ plans.
Green is best remembered for enabling Adrian Clayborn’s six-sack day in Atlanta three seasons ago, when he replaced Tyron Smith. Although Wilson saw extensive time for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs, he was a background player in Dallas.
Five-year judgment: Only Gregory remains with the Cowboys from this draft, but Jones and Wilson playing key roles for a defense that helped Dallas to 2016 and ‘18 playoff berths elevates this class’ legacy.
2015 GM: John Elway | Head coach: Gary Kubiak
Round 1: OLB Shane Ray, No. 23 overall
Round 2: T Ty Sambrailo, No. 59
Round 3: TE Jeff Heuerman, No. 92
Round 4: G Max Garcia, No. 133
Round 5: CB Lorenzo Doss, No. 164
Round 6: NT Darius Kilgo, No. 203
Round 7: QB Trevor Siemian, No. 250
Round 7: CB Taurean Nixon, No. 251
Round 7: DB Josh Furman, No. 252
Best pick: Siemian | Worst pick: Ray
Amid a shaky draft run for Elway, this class did not produce an above-average starter. Elway traded up for Ray, a Missouri pass rusher he eyed as DeMarcus Ware’s successor. Had the Broncos known what they had in 2014 UDFA Shaq Barrett, they might have gone elsewhere in Round 1. Ray is out of the league after four mostly mediocre seasons. The Broncos gave up on Sambrailo, who became a Falcons starter, but have kept Heuerman around despite a poor statistical resume. Following Julius Thomas’ 2015 exit, it took the Broncos four years to replace him (via 2019 first-rounder Noah Fant).
Garcia worked in a three-guard rotation for Denver’s Super Bowl team and became a full-time starter from 2016-18, but Siemian was an unlikelier find. He went from carrying a 7-11 TD-INT ratio as a Northwestern senior to succeeding Peyton Manning — in a 9-7 2016 season — and holding off prized investment Paxton Lynch for two years.
Five-year judgment: Even though Manning’s retirement predictably catalyzed Denver’s descent, this draft played a part in the franchise slinking out of the playoff mix for the rest of the decade.
2015 GM: Martin Mayhew | Head coach: Jim Caldwell
Round 1: G Laken Tomlinson, No. 28 overall
Round 2: RB Ameer Abdullah, No. 54
Round 3: DB Alex Carter, No. 80
Round 4: DT Gabe Wright, No. 113
Round 5: FB Michael Burton, No. 168
Round 6: DB Quandre Diggs, No. 200
Round 7: T Corey Robinson, No. 240
Best pick: Diggs | Worst: Abdullah
The Lions have not ranked in the top half of the league in rushing since Barry Sanders’ 1999 retirement. They threw resources at their perpetual problem five years ago. Tomlinson and Abdullah, however, failed to solve this nagging issue. The former lost his starting job to 2016 third-round guard Graham Glasgow, and after the Lions signed T.J. Lang in 2017, they traded Tomlinson to the 49ers for a fifth-rounder. Tomlinson was the 49ers’ starting left guard in Super Bowl LIV. One of four second-round running backs the Lions have taken since 2011, Abdullah battled injuries and never topped 600 yards in a season. The Lions cut him in 2018.
Diggs became the saving grace for this draft, but after Mayhew’s replacement (Bob Quinn) extended him in 2018, he traded the three-year starter to the Seahawks for a fifth-round pick last year.
Five-year judgment: Detroit brass found two quality, now-NFC West-stationed starters in Tomlinson and Diggs but cut both players’ Motor City stays short. No member of this class remains on the team.
2015 GM: Ted Thompson | Head coach: Mike McCarthy
Round 1: DB Damarious Randall, No. 30 overall
Round 2: CB Quinten Rollins, No. 62
Round 3: RB-WR Ty Montgomery, No. 94
Round 4: LB Jake Ryan, No. 129
Round 5: QB Brett Hundley, No. 147
Round 6: FB Aaron Ripkowski, No. 206
Round 6: DL Christian Ringo, No. 210
Round 6: TE Kennard Backman, No. 213
Best pick: Ryan | Worst pick: Rollins
With Randall playing cornerback in Green Bay, the Packers devoted five of their eight first- or second-round picks from 2015-18 to the corner position. The first of those, Randall struggled in 2016 and clashed with coaches in 2017 before being traded to the Browns for DeShone Kizer in March 2018. In his first months as GM, Brian Gutekunst acquired Kizer to replace Hundley, whose nine-start run after Aaron Rodgers’ 2017 injury went poorly. A former Gonzaga basketball player, Rollins was out of the league by 2018.
The Packers also traded Montgomery, whom they turned from wide receiver into a starting running back at one point, in 2018. Ryan at least offered multiyear stability, starting 22 games from 2016-17, but has yet to rebound from a 2018 offseason ACL tear.
Five-year judgment: Thompson’s annual refusal to spend in free agency made a draft that did not yield a quality starter worse, keeping the burden on Rodgers to turn the Packers’ homegrown roster into a contender.
2015 GM: Rick Smith | Head coach: Bill O’Brien
Round 1: CB Kevin Johnson, No. 16 overall
Round 2: LB Benardrick McKinney, No. 43
Round 3: WR Jaelen Strong, No. 70
Round 5: WR Keith Mumphery, No. 175
Round 6: LB Reshard Cliett, No. 211
Round 6: DT Christian Covington, No. 216
Round 7: RB Kenny Hilliard, No. 235
Best pick: McKinney | Worst pick: Strong
In the years between Matt Schaub’s decline and Deshaun Watson’s arrival, the Texans used the free-agency and trade routes to fill their quarterback job. Their 2015 Brian Hoyer-Ryan Mallett setup did not influence a QB pick, with Smith instead taking Johnson and trading up for McKinney in Round 2. The latter move paid off. A Pro Bowler and five-year starter, McKinney remains the Texans’ linebacker anchor. Johnson flamed out in Houston due to injuries, eventually leading to a cornerback overhaul from 2019-20. Neither Strong nor Mumphery panned out, which led to the Texans using first- and third-round picks on wideouts (Will Fuller and Braxton Miller) in 2016.
Five-year judgment: McKinney saved this otherwise forgettable draft, which did at least feature four-year role player Covington.
2015 GM: Ryan Grigson | Head coach: Chuck Pagano
Round 1: WR Phillip Dorsett, No. 29 overall
Round 3: CB D’Joun Smith, No. 65
Round 3: DL Henry Anderson, No. 93
Round 4: S Clayton Geathers, No. 109
Round 5: DT David Parry, No. 151
Round 6: RB Josh Robinson, No. 205
Round 6: LB Amarlo Herrera, No. 207
Round 7: T Denzelle Good, No. 255
Best pick: Geathers | Worst pick: Smith
Grigson did not follow up his 2012 draft — which featured Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton — with much else of note, helping lead to his 2017 firing and the Colts’ descent from the 2014 AFC Championship Game into rebuild mode. The late-first-/early-second-round receiver sector of this draft let down many teams, but the Colts gave up on Dorsett after two seasons, trading him to the Patriots for Jacoby Brissett. Smith was out of the league by 2017, and Anderson was a part-time starter who was eventually flipped for a seventh-round pick. Although injury-prone, Geathers remained in Indianapolis’ lineup until 2019.
Five-year judgment: A disastrous draft for the Colts, who did not sufficiently address an offensive line that caused major problems for their franchise — which saw Luck’s injury troubles begin in 2015 — in the coming years.
2015 GM: Dave Caldwell | Head coach: Gus Bradley
Round 1: DE Dante Fowler Jr., No. 3 overall
Round 2: RB T.J. Yeldon, No. 36
Round 3: G A.J. Cann, No. 67
Round 4: S James Sample, No. 104
Round 5: WR Rashad Greene, No. 139
Round 6: DT Michael Bennett, No. 180
Round 7: WR Neal Sterling, No. 220
Round 7: TE Ben Koyack, No. 229
Best pick: Cann | Worst pick: Yeldon
The Jaguars held top-five picks in an astounding six straight drafts. How they fared with those selections — wideout Justin Blackmon (2012), tackle Luke Joeckel ('13), quarterback Blake Bortles ('14), Fowler, cornerback Jalen Ramsey ('16) and running back Leonard Fournette ('17) — provides a microcosm of why they are again rebuilding.
Fowler recovered from his rookie-season-nullifying ACL tear to be a supporting-caster on the Jags’ 2017 “Sacksonville” defensive line but did not live up to his draft slot. Neither did Yeldon, who topped 700 yards once and did not dissuade the Jags from passing on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson for Fournette in 2017. Cann has not been an upper-echelon guard but has started 75 games, a good value for a third-round pick.
Five-year judgment: Fowler blossomed after being traded to the Rams, and Yeldon underwhelming caused the Jags to make a trajectory-altering mistake with Fournette, whom they have tried to trade this year.
2015 GM: John Dorsey | Head coach: Andy Reid
Round 1: CB Marcus Peters, No. 18 overall
Round 2: C Mitch Morse, No. 49
Round 3: WR Chris Conley, No. 76
Round 3: CB Steven Nelson, No. 98
Round 4: LB Ramik Wilson, No. 118
Round 5: LB D.J. Alexander, No. 172
Round 5: TE James O’Shaughnessey, No. 173
Round 6: DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches, No. 217
Round 7: WR Da’Ron Brown, No. 233
Best pick: Peters | Worst pick: Brown
Analysis: This is a strange class to evaluate. The Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV without any of these players, but the top four became starters and all but one draftee was in the NFL in 2019. The Chiefs’ subsequent draft success induced them to let Morse, Conley and Nelson depart in free agency last year; each started for his new team. Morse started four years with the Chiefs, while Conley was a rotational player. Nelson saw his role change and has elevated his game as a Steeler, but he saw extensive action with the Chiefs. Even Alexander made a Pro Bowl as a special-teamer in 2016.
It can be argued the 2018 Chiefs win Super Bowl LIII had they not traded Peters, who became a distraction but was the most talented corner on a loaded team lacking at that spot. Peters fetched second- and fourth-round picks, with the former used to add safety starter Juan Thornhill in 2019. Peters is now a three-time Pro Bowler signed long-term with the Ravens, the Chiefs’ top AFC challenger.
Five-year judgment: Although the Chiefs did not give extensions to any of these players, that says more about the talent on their roster. Dorsey and Reid did good work in 2015.
Las Vegas Raiders (formerly Oakland)
2015 GM: Reggie McKenzie | Head coach: Jack Del Rio
Round 1: WR Amari Cooper, No. 4 overall
Round 2: DL Mario Edwards, No. 35
Round 3: TE Clive Walford, No. 68
Round 4: OL Jon Feliciano, No. 128
Round 5: LB Ben Heeney, No. 140
Round 5: LB Neiron Ball, No. 161
Round 6: LB Max Valles, No. 179
Round 7: OL Anthony Morris, No. 218
Round 7: WR Andre Debose, No. 221
Round 7: CB Dexter McDonald, No. 242
Best pick: Cooper | Worst pick: Walford
Following a superb 2014 draft that included Khalil Mack, Derek Carr and guard Gabe Jackson — a class that led the way in Oakland’s 12-4, 2016 season — McKenzie could not replicate it. Cooper has delivered an enigmatic career. He has four Pro Bowls but no 1,200-yard seasons. He was Carr’s top weapon in 2015 and ’16 but lumbered through a down 2017, leading to Jon Gruden trading him. Edwards delivered sporadic production as an interior pass rusher, but injuries limited him in three Raider years. After being stuck behind Jackson and Kelechi Osemele, Feliciano emerged as a Bills starter last year.
Five-year judgment: With Walford flaming out after two seasons, the Raiders did not do enough with their early picks in the second and third rounds. This marked a step toward Gruden’s eventual teardown of McKenzie’s roster.
Los Angeles Chargers (San Diego in 2015)
2015 GM: Tom Telesco | Head coach: Mike McCoy
Round 1: RB Melvin Gordon, No. 15 overall
Round 2: LB Denzel Perryman, No. 48
Round 3: CB Craig Mager, No. 83
Round 5: LB Kyle Emanuel, No. 153
Round 6: DL Darius Philon, No. 192
Best pick: Gordon | Worst pick: Mager
Since LaDainian Tomlinson’s 2010 exit, the Chargers completed two eerily similar succession plans. They used their 2010 first-round pick on Ryan Mathews, who played out his five-year contract in San Diego. In 2015, they traded fourth- and fifth-round picks for Gordon. Like Mathews, Gordon moved on after five seasons — two of them Pro Bowl campaigns. The Gordon trade limited the Bolts’ time on the clock in 2015. Perryman showed initial promise and remains a Charger but has been unable to fully break out. Philon and Emanuel became nice role players, but neither has played since 2018.
Five-year judgment: All five picks contributed as Bolts through at least 2018, with Mager even starting 10 games from 2015-16. Telesco’s third draft ended up aiding the Chargers’ playoff return in 2018.
Los Angeles Rams (St. Louis in 2015)
2015 GM: Les Snead | Head coach: Jeff Fisher
Round 1: RB Todd Gurley, No. 10 overall
Round 2: T Rob Havenstein, No. 57
Round 3: G Jamon Brown, No. 72
Round 3: QB Sean Mannion, No. 89
Round 4: T Andrew Donnal, No. 119
Round 6: WR Bud Sasser, No. 201
Round 6: G Cody Wichmann, No. 215
Round 7: LB Bryce Hager, No. 224
Round 7: DE Martin Ifedi, No. 227
Best pick: Gurley | Worst pick: Mannion
Sean McVay’s turnaround does not occur without Gurley, who was one of the NFL’s best players at his peak. Gurley's knee trouble at Georgia, however, proved telling. The three-time Pro Bowler has not been the same since a December 2018 knee injury, and the Rams are now eating a sizable dead-money chunk after cutting him two years into a record-breaking extension. Some other St. Louis picks, however, paid off in Los Angeles.
Brown and Havenstein became starters, the latter serving as the Rams’ right tackle on both O-lines that paved the way for Gurley dominance. Mannion remains an NFL backup but has no career TD passes and never threatened to become a starter. The Rams traded plenty to move up for Jared Goff in 2016.
Five-year judgment: Gurley’s 2017-18 apex was worth this investment. Havenstein’s impact during the Rams’ Super Bowl season also helps salvage a top-heavy class.
2015 GM: Dennis Hickey | Head coach: Joe Philbin
Round 1: WR DeVante Parker, No. 14 overall
Round 2: DT Jordan Phillips, No. 52
Round 4: G Jamil Douglas, No. 114
Round 5: DB Bobby McCain, No. 145
Round 5: RB Jay Ajayi, No. 149
Round 5: S Cedric Thompson, No. 150
Round 5: WR-CB Tony Lippett, No. 156
Best pick: Parker | Worst pick: Douglas
This Dolphins regime proved short-lived, with Hickey’s two-year run ending after the 2015 season and Philbin being fired early in that campaign. Their draft yielded interesting results, as the top two assets — Parker and Phillips — broke out in 2019 and secured big contracts. Parker made a poor impression during Adam Gase’s three-year run but was not the only player to do so. Yet after years of trade rumors, he will enter 2020 as the Dolphins’ No. 1 receiver.
Miami waived Phillips in 2018, but he led Buffalo with 9.5 sacks last year. McCain remains a key part of Miami’s secondary, starting 40 games at cornerback and safety. Ajayi’s role on the Eagles’ Super Bowl team aside, he enjoyed his best season — a Pro Bowl campaign — with the 2016 Dolphins.
Five-year judgment: Parker’s late-blooming effort (two regimes later) turned out to make Hickey’s call pay off, and McCain still being a Dolphin five years later has helped make this a sneaky-decent draft.
2015 GM: Rick Spielman | Head coach: Mike Zimmer
Round 1: CB Trae Waynes, No. 11 overall
Round 2: LB Eric Kendricks, No. 45
Round 3: DE Danielle Hunter, No. 88
Round 4: OL T.J. Clemmings, No. 110
Round 5: TE MyCole Pruitt, No. 143
Round 5: WR Stefon Diggs, No. 146
Round 6: T Tyrus Thompson, No. 185
Round 6: DE B.J. Dubose, No. 193
Round 7: T Austin Shepherd, No. 228
Round 7: LB Edmond Robinson, No. 232
Best pick: Diggs | Worst pick: Clemmings
This draft did a lot to open the Vikings’ Super Bowl window, and the cogs from 2015’s haul helped Minnesota make the playoffs with three different quarterbacks from 2015-19. One of three first-round cornerbacks the Spielman-run franchise chose from 2013-18, Waynes topped out as an above-average starter but was a five-year contributor. However, Minnesota’s Kendricks-Hunter-Diggs troika was as good as any team netted in 2015. The Vikings signed each to extensions, and Kendricks and Hunter have combined for three Pro Bowls. They will anchor Minnesota’s front seven in 2020.
While the Vikings traded Diggs to the Bills in a deal similar to 2013’s Percy Harvin swap, he provided tremendous value from Round 5. Diggs and Adam Thielen became one of the most unlikely high-end receiver duos in NFL history. This year’s first-rounder, Justin Jefferson, has big shoes to fill.
Five-year judgment: Even if Clemmings proved the early round talk surrounding his status was off base, the Vikings landed four starters in this draft. No team did better in 2015.
2015 GM-head coach: Bill Belichick
Round 1: DT Malcom Brown, No. 32 overall
Round 2: S Jordan Richards, No. 64
Round 3: DE Geneo Grissom, No. 97
Round 4: DE Trey Flowers, No. 101
Round 4: G Tre’ Jackson, No. 111
Round 4: G Shaq Mason, No. 131
Round 5: LS Joe Cardona, No. 166
Round 6: LB Matthew Wells, No. 178
Round 6: TE A.J. Derby, No. 202
Round 7: CB Darryl Roberts, No. 247
Round 7: LB Xzavier Dickson, No. 253
Best pick: Flowers | Worst pick: Grissom
The then-defending Super Bowl champs set up future Super Bowl starting lineups in the fourth round. Both Flowers and Mason started in three Super Bowls from 2016-18. With the Patriots trading Chandler Jones in 2016, Flowers became essential to the late-2010s Pats collecting two more rings. Flowers’ 2.5-sack night in Super Bowl LI played a major part in the NFL’s defining comeback. Still New England’s right guard, Mason started as a rookie and has been a standout blocker for years. While neither Richards nor Grissom contributed much, Brown became a dependable role player and joined Flowers and Mason as a three-time Super Bowl first-stringer.
Five-year judgment: After the Patriots lost to the Broncos in the 2015 AFC title game, the core of this draft helped them reconquer the NFL in the subsequent years.
2015 GM: Mickey Loomis | Head coach: Sean Payton
Round 1: OL Andrus Peat, No. 13 overall
Round 1: LB Stephone Anthony, No. 31
Round 2: LB Hau’oli Kikaha, No. 44
Round 3: QB Garrett Grayson, No. 75
Round 3: CB P.J. Williams, No. 78
Round 5: LB Davis Tull, No. 148
Round 5: DT Tyeler Davison, No. 154
Round 5: CB Damian Swann, No. 167
Round 7: RB Marcus Murphy, No. 230
Best pick: Peat | Worst pick: Anthony
Peat began the Saints’ interior offensive line fortification effort. They just re-signed the two-time Pro Bowler to a big free-agency deal, and their top picks of the past two years, Erik McCoy and Cesar Ruiz, pushed out three-time Pro Bowler Larry Warford. Payton and Co. have done well to fortify Drew Brees’ pocket. They fared worse in zagging for Anthony, a player most viewed as a later-round talent. After Anthony could not stick in their lineup, the Saints traded him to the Dolphins for a fifth-rounder in 2017. Williams remains in New Orleans, surmounting injuries to hold down the Saints’ slot corner job, while current Falcon Davison started for two Saints playoff teams.
Five-year judgment: Peat, Williams and Davison’s contributions cannot quite make up for Anthony, Kikaha and Grayson making little impact. Better Saints drafts were on the horizon.
2015 GM: Jerry Reese | Head coach: Tom Coughlin
Round 1: T Ereck Flowers, No. 9 overall
Round 2: S Landon Collins, No. 33
Round 3: DE Owa Odighizuwa, No. 74
Round 5: DB Mykkele Thompson, No. 144
Round 6: WR Geremy Davis, No. 186
Round 7: T Bobby Hart, No. 226
Best pick: Collins | Worst pick: Flowers
Part of Eli Manning’s late-career swoon can be traced to failed offensive line investments. Flowers is exhibit A. The ex-Miami Hurricane scuffled throughout his time as the Giants’ left tackle, his issues prompting new GM Dave Gettleman to hand Nate Solder a then-position-record contract to take over. Reese’s seven-spot trade-up for Collins proved pivotal. The Alabama alum became an instant starter and anchored Big Blue’s secondary for years — until Gettleman deemed him expendable, leading Collins to Washington in free agency. The Giants started Hart in 21 games, and while that is notable for a seventh-rounder, he played a role in collapsing Manning pockets as well.
Five-year judgment: Not only did the Giants squander their highest draft pick in 11 years, but they also received no sacks and six career tackles from their third-round choice.
2015 GM: Mike Maccagnan | Head coach: Todd Bowles
Round 1: DL Leonard Williams, No. 6 overall
Round 2: WR Devin Smith, No. 37
Round 3: OLB Lorenzo Mauldin, No. 82
Round 4: QB Bryce Petty, No. 103
Round 5: G Jarvis Harrison, No. 152
Round 7: NT Deon Simon, No. 223
Best pick: Williams | Worst pick: Smith
Making his name as a scouting director, Maccagnan delivered a spotty record in five Jets drafts. In Maccagnan’s debut draft as GM, Williams was viewed by most as a steal at No. 6. The USC product compiled a fine Jets career but failed to make the kind of impact Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson did in New York. But after Williams, the wheels fell off for this class. Smith caught 10 passes as a Jet, and injuries ended Mauldin’s career after 2016. Five years after this draft, the Jets have yet to fully fill their edge-rusher need. Petty saw action before 2016 second-round quarterback Christian Hackenberg but finished with a 4-10 TD-INT ratio and a 53 percent completion rate in four starts.
Five-year judgment: Williams proved durable and consistently pressured quarterbacks, but the rest of this draft offered next to nothing and helped lead to some failed free agency investments in another bad era of Jet football.
2015 GM: Chip Kelly | Head coach: Chip Kelly
Round 1: WR Nelson Agholor, No. 20 overall
Round 2: CB Eric Rowe, No. 47
Round 3: LB Jordan Hicks, No. 84
Round 6: CB JaCorey Shepherd, No. 191
Round 6: CB Randall Evans, No. 196
Round 7: DE Brian Mihalik, No. 237
Best: Hicks | Worst: Agholor
Remembered as the year the Eagles gave Kelly personnel control and temporarily demoted Howie Roseman, 2015 featured a slew of splashy moves that led to Kelly’s firing in December. The Eagles czar traded for Sam Bradford in March but attempted to trade up for his former Oregon quarterback (Marcus Mariota), offering a package to the Titans that may or may not have included a second-round pick, a future first-rounder, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and more. Fortunately for Roseman, who was given back power post-Kelly, that trade did not happen. The Eagles’ actual draft was less flashy.
Agholor submitted an inconsistent Eagle run (three sub-400-yard seasons) but was essential during Philadelphia’s Super Bowl season. Rowe’s Super Bowl work came with the Patriots, who sent the Eagles a fourth-rounder for him in 2016. Hicks’ injury trouble prevented him not only from playing in Super Bowl LII but also 21 regular-season games during his four-year Philly tenure.
Five-year judgment: When healthy, as he was for the Cardinals last year, Hicks is a quality linebacker. And Agholor at least had a role on a championship team. But Kelly’s draftees are all out of the picture.
2015 GM: Kevin Colbert | Head coach: Mike Tomlin
Round 1: OLB Bud Dupree, No. 22 overall
Round 2: CB Senquez Golson, No. 56
Round 3: WR Sammie Coates, No. 87
Round 4: CB Doran Grant, No. 121
Round 5: TE Jesse James, No. 160
Round 6: DT Leterrius Walton, No. 199
Round 6: DE Anthony Chickillo, No. 212
Round 7: S Gerod Holliman, No. 239
Best pick: Dupree | Worst pick: Golson
From 2013-19, the Steelers used five first-round picks on linebackers. Dupree was not the best of those. Either he is a late bloomer, or he delivered an anomaly of a contract year with 11.5 sacks last season. The Steelers badly needed an edge rusher in 2015; 2014 sack leader Jason Worilds surprisingly retired at age 27 that March. But they still do not fully know what they have in Dupree. Pittsburgh saw poor returns on its second- and third-round picks quickly. Injuries prevented Golson from playing, and Coates became the rare Steeler wideout bust. Chickillo, currently a free agent, continues to serve as depth, however, and James was a 36-game Steeler starter whose defining moment resulted in a rule change.
Five-year judgment: Dupree’s unreliability before 2019 led to the franchise tag, and his career has limited the value of a draft class stung by the Steelers receiving little or no production from their second-, third- and fourth-round picks.
2015 GM: Trent Baalke | Head coach: Jim Tomsula
Round 1: DL Arik Armstead, No. 17 overall
Round 2: S Jaquiski Tartt, No. 46
Round 3: OLB Eli Harold, No. 79
Round 4: TE Blake Bell, No. 117
Round 4: RB Mike Davis, No. 126
Round 4: WR DeAndre Smelter, No. 132
Round 5: P Bradley Pinion, No. 165
Round 6: G Ian Silberman, No. 190
Round 7: T Trent Brown, No. 244
Round 7: TE Rory Anderson, No. 254
Best pick: Brown | Worst pick: Smelter
This marked the beginning of a rough period, post-Jim Harbaugh, for the 49ers. But this draft also brought two Super Bowl LIV starters to San Francisco, with the current regime showing patience. Injuries and inconsistency had Armstead teetering on bust status for four years, but the 6-foot-7 defensive end led last season’s dominant team in sacks and secured a $17 million-per-year extension. Tartt has also been frequently unavailable but joined Armstead as a starter against the Chiefs.
The Baalke regime adding Brown near the end of the draft, however, doubles as one of the best seventh-round choices in modern NFL history. The Patriots traded for the 6-foot-8, 380-pound blocker during the 2018 draft — when the 49ers replaced their two-year starter with Mike McGlinchey — and Brown’s postseason Pats dominance secured him a then-record tackle contract from the Raiders.
Five-year judgment: Little of consequence occurred in between the Tartt pick and Brown — although Pinion was the 49ers’ punter for four years — but Armstead’s 2019 changed the narrative of Baalke’s penultimate draft.
2015 GM: John Schneider | Head coach: Pete Carroll
Round 2: DE Frank Clark, No. 63 overall
Round 3: WR Tyler Lockett, No. 69
Round 4: G Terry Poole, No. 130
Round 4: G Mark Glowinski, No. 134
Round 5: CB Tye Smith, No. 170
Round 6: DE Obum Gwacham, No. 209
Round 6: DT Kristjan Sokoli, No. 214
Round 7: DB Ryan Murphy, No. 248
Best pick: Lockett | Worst pick: Poole
The Seahawks used their first-round pick (No. 31) to acquire Jimmy Graham from the Saints. Schneider made Day 2 count. Clark and Lockett grew from high-ceiling role players into cornerstone talents. Clark led the 2018 Seahawks with 13 sacks, and Lockett — for whom Seattle traded up — succeeded Doug Baldwin as Russell Wilson’s top target. The Seahawks’ refusal to pay Clark, shipping him to the Chiefs, fetched them a first-round pick but also left a void Seattle has yet to fill. The Seahawks needed a mulligan on Poole, who never played in an NFL game, and on the decision to waive Glowinski in 2017. A 2016 Seahawks starter, Glowinski is now part of an elite Colts offensive front.
Five-year judgment: Coming away with Clark and Lockett without a first-round pick represents strong work by the then-defending NFC champions.
2015 GM: Jason Licht | Head coach: Lovie Smith
Round 1: QB Jameis Winston, No. 1 overall
Round 2: T Donovan Smith, No. 34
Round 2: OL Ali Marpet, No. 61
Round 4: LB Kwon Alexander, No. 124
Round 5: WR Kenny Bell, No. 162
Round 6: WR Kaelin Clay, No. 184
Round 7: FB Joey Iosefa, No. 231
Best pick: Marpet | Worst pick: Winston
This draft helped set up Tom Brady’s Tampa trek in more ways than one, with two of Brady’s offensive linemen arriving and the quarterback who had the Bucs in no-man’s land coming as well. Winston was not a bust; he just failed to improve to the point where he became a letdown. But in a normal quarterback offseason, the former Heisman winner is likely still the Bucs’ QB. Licht traded up for Marpet, a Division III lineman, and both he and Smith, a tackle the Bucs like more than the analytics community does, are signed long-term. Alexander teamed with Lavonte David to form a dynamic linebacking duo for a bit, which obviously represents great value for Round 4.
Five-year judgment: Tampa Bay ended up not having a good option atop the draft, with Marcus Mariota disappointing, too, and Tampa Bay's second-round linemen going into Year 6 as starters is certainly optimal. A seminal draft.
2015 GM: Ruston Webster | Head coach: Ken Whisenhunt
Round 1: QB Marcus Mariota, No. 2 overall
Round 2: WR Dorial Green-Beckham, No. 40
Round 3: OL Jeremiah Poutasi, No. 66
Round 4: DT Angelo Blackson, No. 100
Round 4: FB Jalston Fowler, No. 108
Round 5: RB David Cobb, No. 138
Round 6: LB Deiontrez Mount, No. 177
Round 6: C Andy Gallik, No. 208
Round 7: WR Tre McBride, No. 245
Best pick: Mariota | Worst pick: Green-Beckham
After the Titans’ 2011 Jake Locker pick did not turn out well, Tennessee dived back in at quarterback with Mariota. Webster took several calls for his pick — from the Browns, Rams and Eagles, among others — but selected the dual-threat passer. If then-Eagles honcho Chip Kelly was truly offering Fletcher Cox, a 2016 first-round pick and change, then the Titans taking Mariota anyway did not age well. Injuries limited the former Heisman winner. A broken leg in December 2016 rerouted Mariota’s career, which has included more maladies and now a second act in Las Vegas.
The rest of the Titans draft went awry quickly. Green-Beckham, a former high school super-prospect with off-field baggage, bombed. Tennessee had no luck the rest of the way, either. Beyond Mariota, only Blackson, who played just two Titans seasons, saw NFL action after the 2017 season.
Five-year judgment: Webster received his walking papers in 2016, and his final Titans draft left successor Jon Robinson with work to do.
2015 GM: Scot McCloughan | Head coach: Jay Gruden
Round 1: G Brandon Scherff, No. 5 overall
Round 2: LB Preston Smith, No. 38
Round 3: RB Matt Jones, No. 95
Round 4: WR Jamison Crowder, No. 105
Round 4: OL Arie Kouandjio, No. 112
Round 5: LB Martrell Spaight, No. 141
Round 6: S Kyshoen Jarrett, No. 181
Round 6: CB Tevin Mitchel, No. 182
Round 6: WR Evan Spencer, No. 187
Round 7: C Austin Reiter, No. 222
Best pick: Scherff | Worst pick: Jones
In a dysfunctional era, Washington did well in this draft. A messy dispute with management limited McCloughan to two drafts in D.C., but those gave Washington four solid starters (Smith, Crowder and 2016 picks Kendall Fuller and Matt Ioannidis) and a three-time Pro Bowler (Scherff). The latter has become one of the NFL’s top guards, and the Ron Rivera-led regime franchise-tagged him. Smith and Crowder both defected in 2019 free agency, but Crowder became a valuable slot weapon, especially during Kirk Cousins’ tenure, and Smith started 50 games with Washington.
Jones’ fumbling problem left the Redskins in a bind at running back, with that and 2018 second-rounder Derrius Guice’s injury troubles leading Washington to acquire Adrian Peterson. Fun fact: Reiter never played for Washington but was the Chiefs’ starting center in Super Bowl LIV.
Five-year judgment: Scherff, Smith and Crowder each functioned in important capacities for Washington’s 2015 NFC East champion and remain starters going into their sixth seasons.
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