Today we look back on the 2010 NFL Draft class review and breakdown the five-best picks from that year. I took part in a live-grading project on eDraft.com last season. Looking back at it, even as an armchair expert on the draft, some of my takes were downright ridiculous. We see this from every major draft site on the Internet. Basing grades solely on what they see on tape and how a specific player fits on a team, draftniks come to a knee-jerk reaction when assessing what teams did well and what teams dropped the proverbial ball.
The Dallas Cowboys might be a perfect example of this. When they traded out of the 18th pick in the 2013 NFL draft to 31 and selected former Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, many drew a conclusion that owner Jerry Jones had gone done lost his mind. While that still may very well be true, Dallas acquired a third-round pick from the San Francisco 49ers in that deal and picked up wide receiver Terrance Williams. Frederick was among the best rookies in the entire league and Williams took over for an injury-plagued Miles Austin as a primary pass catcher for Tony Romo.
The moral of this story is that we honestly can’t gauge a draft class until two, three, four or even five years down the road. That’s what we plan to do here today at Sportsnaut. In the first of a series of articles that will focus on some recent drafts, our focus is going to be on the five-best picks from the 2010 NFL Draft Class Review.
2010 NFL Draft Class Review: Five-Best Picks
1. NaVorro Bowman, Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers (Third Round, 91st Pick)
Bowman was the 14th linebacker taken in the 2010 draft. The likes of Jermaine Cunningham and Jerry Hughes went before him. In terms of inside linebackers, Rolando McClain was the first off the board at No. 8 overall to the Oakland Raiders. Five years later and Bowman is one of the top defensive players, regardless of position, in the entire National Football League. He’s earned three consecutive First-Team All-Pro honors and has arguably been the better linebacker between himself and teammate Patrick Willis during that span. That’s impressive considering that Willis has already cemented his status as a future Hall of Famer.
One other thing that makes Bowman the best overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft Class Review is that the San Francisco traded down with the San Diego Chargers a dozen spots in the third round of the draft. This enabled the 49ers to pick up a fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft and the ability to use their original fourth rounder to trade up in the second round that year to select Colin Kaepernick. San Francisco also acquired a sixth rounder from the Chargers, a pick it used for special teams ace Anthony Dixon.
2. Jimmy Graham, Tight End, New Orleans Saints (Third Round, 95th Pick)
This time last year, you would have expected two New England Patriots tight ends to sit atop this list. Now that Rob Gronkowski has to be considered injury plagued and Aaron Hernandez is awaiting trial for murder, that’s pretty much out of the cards. Graham has put up an historic three-year stretch that has seen him tally over 3,500 yards and 36 touchdowns. He is one of the best in our 2010 NFL Draft class review.
Now a free agent, Graham is going to be demanding a huge payday. New Orleans placed the non-exclusive franchise tender on the tight end, which means if any team were to sign him away it would have to yield multiple first-round picks. The simple fact that some teams may be considering this just goes to show you how impressive Graham has been under his rookie deal.
He was the fifth tight end taken in this draft, behind the likes of Ed Dickson and Tony Moeaki. In terms of epic fails, the likes of and Kevin Thomas went ahead of Graham in the third round. Who? Yeah, that’s precisely the point.
3. Kam Chancellor, Safety, Seattle Seahawks (Fifth Round, 133rd Pick)
At 6’3″ and 232, Chancellor is a monster of a safety. Physically built like a linebacker with a mean streak that few defensive backs in the NFL can rival, he’s been nothing short of extraordinary for the Legion of Boom. Fresh off a new contract and a Super Bowl championship, this Virginia Tech product is living the high life.
It took just one year for Chancellor to break Seattle’s starting lineup and he has responded by earning back-to-back trips to the Pro Bowl. Not a bad resume for someone that went behind the likes of fellow safeties Taylor Mays, Major Wright, Morgan Burnett and Chad Jones, who didn’t even sniff our best for the 2010 NFL Draft class review.
4. Greg Hardy, Defensive End, Carolina Panthers (Sixth Round, 175th Pick)
The newest member of the exclusive $13 million club, Hardy has been a downright monster against opposing quarterbacks over the last two seasons, going for 26 sacks and 80 quarterback hurries during that span.
He was the 14th overall defensive end and 175th player off the board in the 2010 draft. Larry Hart, Hall Davis and Austen Lane were the three defensive ends that went right before Hardy that April. Davis is out of the league after playing in two combined games from 2012-2013, while Hart saw action in 14 games as a rookie for the Jacksonville Jaguars and hasn’t been on a NFL team since.
Interestingly enough, Carolina acquired that pick after moving down with the Oakland Raiders in the sixth round the prior April. In that separate deal, Carolina picked up Captain Munnerlyn, who has been a long-time starter in the secondary.
5. Earl Thomas, Safety, Seattle Seahawks (First Round, 14th Pick)
The only reason that Thomas isn’t No. 1 on this list is because he was selected in the top half of the first round in our 2010 NFL Draft class review. Pretty much everyone outside of Taylor Mays had him as the top safety in the class. Despite going that high, Thomas has exceeded every previously set expectation in his time with the Seahawks. Arguably the best player on the defending Super Bowl champions, he’s a top-three overall player in the entire NFL, regardless of position.
One thing a lot of people seem to forget is that Seattle sent its second-round pick in the 2009 NFL draft to the Denver Broncos for their first rounder in 2010. While Seattle ended up getting one of the best defensive backs in the game, Denver settled on Alphonso Smith with the Seahawks original pick in 2009. This amounts to one of the largest highway robberies in the recent history of the league. A train robbery that would put this scene from Breaking Bad to shame.
Alterraun Verner, Cornerback, Tennessee Titans (Third Round, 104th Pick)
Rob Gronkowski, Tight End, New England Patriots (Second Round, 42nd Pick)
Antonio Brown, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers (Sixth Round, 195th Pick)
Eric Decker, Wide Receiver, Denver Broncos (Third Round, 87th Pick)
Dez Bryant, Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboys (First Round, 24th Pick)
Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA Today