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The five tiers of first-round picks: Who's a stud? Dud?


Congratulations on your team's first-round draft pick! This is such an exciting time, isn't it?

By now, you've seen your guy speak with great confidence -- almost a suspicious level of confidence -- in multiple local and national interviews. You're reading all about the fantastic exploits of his first rookie camp: How the coaching staff was blown away by his athleticism, explosiveness, leadership and -- this is important -- instincts for the game. How disgraceful for all the other teams who failed to see what only your general manager and scouting department could!

Surely, this is the beginning of a beautiful, 14-year run together that ends with a sun-drenched celebration in Canton.

If only life were that fair.

Not every first-round pick works out. In fact, the chances your team's first draft selection makes a tangible impact as a pro is about on par with a coin flip. Here's what Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff had to say about the process before last year's draft.

"According to our most recent statistics that we drew on the first round, it's less than 60 percent of those players that are starting," Dimitroff told PFT's Mike Florio. "I think it may have come in at 56 percent. So, point being, it's not an exact science -- we know that.

"There are so many other things that are involved in it. The first step is finding out whether that player has the adept skills on the field, of course. Many other areas that we're looking into to make sure they're fits in the organization. [Do] they have the mental capacity, they have the character capacity, and the team element that a team is looking for? Again, you'd better have a plan for the guys who are a little bit wayward in their approach. That's always been a big discussion point, as well."

That's a lot of boxes to check! Miss even one and you're in trouble. Miss a couple and you're done. And we haven't even talked about injuries, a massive part of the equation that is completely out of your control.

In an effort to keep expectations in line as these players begin their maiden NFL voyage, let's take a macro viewpoint here. The 2017 draft class will have studs ... and busts ... and a whole bunch of dudes in between. Every player will (probably) fall in one of these five tiers:


This is that good stuff. You hit on one of these guys and you've instantly improved your team, both in the short and long term. The general managers who make these picks typically buy themselves years of job security. Look at Ryan Grigson, who managed to stick around in Indianapolis for half a decade simply because the Colts' 2-14 finish in 2011 allowed them to draft a new franchise savior in Luck.

If this tier were to be represented by a '90s NBC sitcom, it would be "Seinfeld."


You've done well if you have a player in this group. Younger cats like Ramsey and Conklin might even jump to the top tier as they continue to develop. The players in this tier might not lead you to a Super Bowl title individually, but they are legitimate difference makers who should be impact players for an extended period. If there were five tiers to being a human being, this would be a perfectly acceptable place to slot in and feel very good about yourself.

If this tier were to be represented by a '90s NBC sitcom, it would be "Frasier."


This is where it starts to get a bit messy. These are the guys in the news during the spring as teams waffle on whether to pick up their fifth-year options. Basic rule of thumb: If a team doesn't pick up that extra year designated for first-rounders, it's safe to say the team regrets taking said player in the first place. Eric Fisher actually got a huge second contract from the Chiefs last year, but he still feels like a fit here. Tells you a lot about the current state of O-line depth in the league.

If this tier were to be represented by a '90s NBC sitcom, it would be "3rd Rock from the Sun."


As you can see, the Browns specialize in this department. These picks don't leave the aftertaste of the tier we'll discuss last, but they can be nearly as damaging to your franchise. They are the picks that cause owners to lose faith in their front office. RGIII is the most fascinating name on this list, seeing as he was a stone-cold Tier I after his rookie year and dropped all the way to Tier IV status by the time the Redskins finally moved forward with Kirk Cousins and cut bait. Remember when the Jets thought Dee Milliner would provide a neat fix after they traded Darrelle Revis to the Bucs? The Jets are funny.

If this tier were to be represented by a '90s NBC sitcom, it would be "The John Larroquette Show."


Recent examples: Johnny Manziel, Dion Jordan, Justin Blackmon, EJ Manuel

This is the worst of the worst. These are the draft picks that get everybody fired -- from the coach, to the GM, to the entire scouting department, to the ball boys. In Manziel and Manuel, there are lessons to be learned: Don't force taking a quarterback just because you think you should. It's part of the reason we liked the Browns holding off until Round 2 to take DeShone Kizer last month. Another lesson: Never draft a man who is prone to drinking champagne on inflatable swans. Some of these things seem straightforward, but reminders can't hurt.

If this tier were to be represented by a '90s NBC sitcom, it would be "Saved by the Bell: The College Years."

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus and check out his stuff on the End Around.

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