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Emery’s Failures: 2012 Final Grades

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NFL: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
All that remains of the 2012 draft class
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, I ran an article on Pace’s midterm grades. Readers suggested that looking at Emery’s drafts with the same process might be illuminating, so that’s what this article does. It follows the same methodology as the previous piece (go check it out), so I’ll only review the approach briefly here:

I am evaluating judgment shown by the GM in selecting these players instead of the players themselves, and each pick will be judged in three categories: the value of the position picked where it was made for the team in question, how well the GM did at finding what should have been a good player at that position, and how the player actually performed.

This is a weighted draft, with Round 1 worth 40% of the grade, Round 2 worth 25%, Round 3 worth 15%, and each of the next two rounds worth only 10% apiece. Meaningful value added after Round 5 is considered extra credit.

Shea McClellin (40 points possible): Drafting a hybrid DE/OLB in the first round is good value for a team that uses them, but the Bears of 2012 had no place for such a player; additionally, this move put McClellin in competition with Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije for playing time. There was some room for improvement in pass-rushing, but he was undersized for the scheme he was asked to play in and the team had other needs. This was a poor move: D.

Worse, McClellin was not even the best DE/OLB available at the time of the draft. He was rated around the 40th to 50th best prospect in the draft, and listing the players better than Shea still on the board at the time of the pick would be an exercise in sorrow. Emery commented that McClellin carried a high grade for special teams potential, which is probably not the strongest endorsement of the #19 pick in the draft and the first pick made by a GM. This is an F, and only McClellein’s high motor and character—he did everything the team asked of him to the limits of his ability—save it from being a low F.

Judging McClellin’s on-field production is frustrating. He had flashes, but he was disappointing in the extreme. To be fair to him, he actually played well enough once he was allowed to take a role as a linebacker, but Leonard Floyd’s 2016 campaign was only a half-sack behind what Shea managed in his entire Bears career. I’m going to call this a D- (if 4.5 of his sacks didn’t come against Green Bay, I’d be tempted to call it an F).

The total grade for drafting Shea McClellin is a D- at 24/40 points.

Alshon Jeffery (25 points possible): The Bears needed receiver help, and Emery took a chance on a guy in the second round who had clear talent and was the sort of big-bodied, 50/50 target that his quarterback liked. To get Jeffery here, Emery needed to trade away his fifth, but I’ll consider that later in the round. For now, this was a good move: A-. The player in question had clear ability, and he was considered a first-round talent with late-round motor and focus concerns. His training ethic was questioned, and there was fear that he might not be able to stay focused once drafted; on the other hand, a lot of people believed that he should be a second-rounder, and he was. I’m calling this a B in order to reflect what turned out to be some valid concerns about his ability to train up to an NFL level (how many little injuries does he get?), but because of this I’m not also reflecting it in his performance grade. As far as on-field production, Jeffery has been a Pro-Bowl wide receiver and while he is not the Top Ten threat he wants to be paid like, he is still a solid, solid weapon: A.

The total grade for drafting Alshon Jeffery is an A- at 22.5/25 points. Also, don’t forget that Round 5 is going to play a role here.

Brandin Hardin (15 points possible): The Bears seem to always need safety help, so taking a defensive back in the third round is a perfectly reasonable move. One nice note is that Emery established balance to his draft, here, alternating defensive and offensive players. The move itself is reasonable, maybe even intelligent: B. However, depending on which board is used, Hardin was probably the fifth to eighth-best safety on the board at the time he was drafted, and he then became the third safety actually selected. He had a history of injuries that scared teams away (he missed a year of play due to a shoulder injury), and he needed to move positions to meet what the Bears needed. That history of injuries became telling, but it will be applied later on. For now, this was a player who was over-drafted for his talent without a strong history to go on, being asked to change position and scheme. This is an F.

The injury history turned out to be an injury present, as well. Hardin was unable to play for the Bears due to injury, which is exactly why many were worried about drafting him in the first place. This makes his production not just an F. This is the kind of F reserved for circumstances that really should be a G or an H.

The total grade for drafting Brandon Hardin is a solid F or 6.75/15 points.

Evan Rodriguez (10 points possible): Rodriguez was a fullback drafted to play tight end for a team that had given up its best tight end in a trade. As much as some might love the position, the fourth round is high to take a fullback (but it is also a great place to find a tight end). This was another one of those “tweener” players that Emery seemed to love, and while there was need and possible value, there was also a real question of fit. Call this part a C+, however.

Now, look at which player was taken. He was given a grade at the low end of the draft scale (NFL.com scored him in the low 50s on a system where 49 reflected a player best left to free agency); Rodriguez was considered “almost nonexistent in the pass game” and was drafted to play tight end. For an added bonus, he compared himself to Aaron Hernandez coming out. That Aaron Hernandez. This is a D. Finally, he played in 12 games, started 5, and caught only half of the balls thrown his way. This is the kind of high F that could have turned out differently, under the right circumstances, while remaining an F.

The total grade for drafting Evan Rodriguez is a D at 6.42/10 points.

The trade (10 points possible): In order to make sure he was able to take Alshon Jeffery at 45, Phil Emery parted with the 50th and 150th pick in the draft. He thus saved himself from having to settle for Bobby Wagner (47th) should someone else (the Eagles?) target Jeffery. All hindsight aside, Emery targeted a player he thought would be valuable to the team and he spent a fifth-round pick in order to maximize the value of his second. He actually got the trade at a good value (conventional accounting states he should have given up the sixth-rounder, as well, to make the points work out). This is a good move efficiently done that can only really be criticized with a lot of hindsight.

The total grade for trading up in the draft for Jeffery is a solid B+ at 8.75/10 points.

Extra Credit: Isaiah Frey was considered a marginal prospect best left for undrafted free agency, but Emery went ahead and spent a 6th-round pick on him, netting an unremarkable player who flashed sometimes but who ultimately was unable even to make the roster throughout his full rookie deal. Greg McCoy was waived by the end of August.

All told, Emery’s first draft gets a 68.42. That’s a D+ of the type that could probably have become a passing grade with slightly different circumstances. It’s the kind of grade that provokes most teachers to intervene somewhere around the midterm and to try to get through to the student before things get worse.

Phil Emery’s first draft doesn’t get a passing mark. Using this model, the Alshon Jeffery draft is responsible for nearly half of all the earned credit in the draft and the only passing grade. That certainly feels right, as he’s the only player from that draft left on the roster, and one of only two left in the NFL.

I’ll begin working on 2013 once I’ve had a chance to recover.

All stats come from Pro Football Reference, draft profiles come from NFL.com, CBS Sports, and ESPN.