ESPN's Mel Kiper wasn't a big fan of the New England Patriots 2015 draft class, initially handing down a B- grade.
Isn't it crazy how a single season can change the outlook of an entire draft class?
The harsh initial grade shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise. Second round pick safety Jordan Richards was viewed as a massive overreach, while third round pick defensive lineman Geneo Grissom was viewed as "positionless" in the NFL. Both were viewed as sixth round prospects.
"My big question was a lack of a wide receiver or cornerback," Kiper justified in his re-grade of the draft, with a sentiment that probably was copy-and-pasted from a prior season.
Wide receiver was a position that the Patriots definitely passed over, as the likes of the Seahawks Tyler Lockett (3rd round, 69th overall, Washington's Jamison Crowder (4th, 105th), and the Vikings Stefon Diggs (5th, 146th) were available throughout the draft. That said, those three and the Titans Dorial Green-Beckham (2nd, 40th) were the only receivers drafted outside of the first round to pick up more than 300 yards on the season. It wasn't a strong position in the draft.
The same sentiment applies to the cornerback position where the only cornerback outside of the first round to be a regular starter as a rookie was the Bills Ronald Darby (2nd, 50th). If the Patriots were to select Darby, they would have either had to trade up from 64th overall, or trade down from 32nd and bypass defensive Malcom Brown, who is one of the biggest steals of the draft.
"[Brown] alone gives New England's draft a decent grade when you consider Brown helped a winner keep winning," Kiper explained. Brown wasn't expected to fall into the 20s, never mind to 32nd overall, and he quickly became the Patriots top defensive tackle.
"[The Patriots] have to get even more credit because used a lot of rookies and are again contending for a Super Bowl," Kiper said about regrading the Patriots. "Beyond Brown, Shaq Mason, David Andrews, and Tre' Jackson were all useful this year on the O-line, Joe Cardona stepped in as the long-snapper, and I liked the pickup of Chris Harper as an undrafted addition."
Ignoring the fact that Kiper's regrade of the New England draft class includes two undrafted players, the new grade for the Patriots is a solid A.