Grading the Minnesota Vikings Draft: Pick by Pick Analysis
And just like that, the 2015 NFL Draft has come and gone. As usual, Rick Spielman was his classic wheelin’ and dealin’ self, only this time he avoided early round trades instead electing to trade down in the 3rd round or later to pick up extra late round picks. While I typically don’t support giving a draft class grades a few days after the draft, I am going to grade this class based on what we know of each player at this point. Here we go.
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2015 Minnesota Vikings Draft Class:
1st Round, 11th Overall Pick: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Trae Waynes (Michigan State) greets NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the number eleven overall pick to the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The two words I was hoping Roger Goodell wouldn’t mutter when announcing the Vikings’ pick on Thursday were “Trae” and “Waynes”. When announcing the Vikings’ pick on Thursday, the two words that Roger Goodell muttered were “Trae” and “Waynes”. Damn. Anyways, let me clarify here. I don’t think this was necessarily a bad pick, there were just better players that were still on the board. For example, Alvin “Bud” Dupree, Marcus Peters and DeVante Parker were all players still on the board whom would have been better picks talent-wise.
Trae Waynes brings size and speed to the cornerback position, with the both playing a large part in Waynes being chosen 11th overall. With Josh Robinson being abused all year by larger receivers, adding size in the secondary was a must this offseason. Waynes boasts blazing speed (4.31 40 yard dash at the combine) and covers deep routes better than any corner coming out college over the last few years. He has great instincts in zone coverage and possesses plus ball skills. While Waynes is fine physically and athletically albeit on the lighter side at 186 lbs, his problems rest elsewhere. Where Waynes seems to struggle most is when covering in-breaking routes in man coverage. He lacks ideal hip fluidity and it shows on tape as he is beat often when asked to cover in-breaking routes in man-to-man coverage as he is often late to change directions. Something that gives me hope he can turn this around is that in his limited chances to cover quick slants in man coverage he showed patience and good reaction time to mirror the receiver, although he didn’t always show this ability and there simply weren’t enough plays of this nature on film to produce a proper analysis. If Zimmer can translate these skills to all other in-breaking routes and bring out a bit more consistency, then Waynes has the chance to be a true shut-down corner. One other area that Waynes struggles with is that he is a bit grabby down field. This is something I am not too worried about, as it is very coachable and is something that Zimmer has already shown he can coach out of a cornerback in his development of Xavier Rhodes.
2nd Round, 45th Overall Pick: Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
Aug 30, 2014; Charlottesville, VA, USA; UCLA Bruins linebacker Eric Kendricks (6) follows the play against the Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Ah, my dream pick made into a reality. Eric Kendricks was my 14th overall player in this draft and was actually rated higher than Trae Waynes was, who was ranked 18th. Kendricks was not only a tremendous value pick, but he was also a need pick. The funny thing is, I would have been more than happy had the Vikings taken Kendricks with the 11th overall pick, and would have been much more welcoming to Waynes if he had been added in the 2nd round rather than the 1st, although it is highly unlikely Waynes would have still been on the board by the time the 2nd round came around.
Kendricks brings a great blend of speed, athleticism, and instincts to the Vikings’ linebacking corps. Kendricks has the instincts to diagnose a play before it unfolds, and plays with a relentless motor and an aggressive attitude. He boasts great speed for a linebacker (4.61 40 yard dash) that he uses to fly around the field and wreck havoc. He is also a tremendous coverage linebacker who excels in both man and zone coverage. The only knock on Kendricks is his size, as he is only 6’0” and weighs just 232 lbs. He should start immediately at the MIKE linebacker position and be a 3 down linebacker alongside Anthony Barr with Chad Greenway (I really, really, really want to say Hodges) only playing in base packages.
3rd Round, 88th Overall Pick: Danielle Hunter, DE, LSU
I get that a lot of people are questioning this pick, I really do. Danielle Hunter is not a big name, nor does he have great production or highlights. However, I don’t question it at all. With his tremendous measurements including ridiculously long arms, great combine statistics, and good character, I believe that Hunter was an absolute steal in the 3rd round. Even if he ends up out of the league in 3 years, this pick can’t be held against Rick, as teams simply don’t get many opportunities to draft a player with the tremendous potential of Hunter in the 3rd round.
While he has great measurements, Hunter’s collegiate production was less than ideal. As a high snap player, he was only able to register 1.5 sacks during his final season at LSU, and simply didn’t do enough to establish himself as much of a pass rusher coming into the draft. However, good coaches get the most out of players, and if his work ethic is there, there’s a good chance that we could be talking about Hunter as a starter a couple years down the road.
4th Round, 110th Overall Pick: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
Sep 2, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers offensive linesman T.J. Clemmings (68) blocks at the line of scrimmage against the Florida State Seminoles during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Florida State Seminoles won 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
If you had traveled back in time and told me that T.J. Clemmings was going to be a Viking, I would probably be a bit upset, and then I’d ask you the result of the Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight (Cha-ching! $$). The reason why I would be upset is that Clemmings was viewed by many as a fringe-first rounder, yet I saw him as more of a mid-late 2nd rounder and would have probably assumed he was the Vikings’ first round pick thus making me wrong for thinking certain analysts were silly for mocking Clemmings to the Vikings. However, somehow Clemmings fell to the fourth round due to a foot injury and was scooped up by the Vikings, equating to a tremendous value pick– one of the best of the draft.
Clemmings’ game is very well developed in the run game as he has great footwork and power to move his man and create gaping holes for his running back to stroll through. However, in the pass game Clemmings struggles with leverage and hand placement and is a big project. He was abused in pass protection all week long at the senior bowl. However, Clemmings possesses the athleticism you look for in a starting NFL left tackle and with the right mindset, like Hunter, we could be talking about Clemmings as an NFL starter in the near future, possibly even as soon as this season (At left guard, or if Kalil struggles early on Clemmings could replace him at left tackle). Teams rarely find potential starting left tackles with Clemmings’ upside in the fourth round of drafts too often, which makes this one of the best value picks in the draft.
Fifth Round, 143rd Overall Pick: MyCole Pruitt, TE, Southern Illinois
MyCole Pruitt was a guy who I thought was really underrated throughout the draft process. After he tore up the combine, I looked into him a bit and was pretty impressed. Despite the fact that he went to a small school, he showed the ability to adjust to the ball well and has good hands. Oh, and he’s insanely athletic for a tight end. With Kyle Rudolph’s inability to stay healthy and the solid but unspectacular Chase Ford behind him, a developmental tight end with upside was a need.
Fifth Round, 146th Overall Pick: Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
Oct 25, 2014; Madison, WI, USA; Maryland Terrapins wide receiver Stefon Diggs (1) during warmups prior to the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Coming into this draft, there were a couple mid-late round wide receivers I was hoping the Vikings would draft. These two receivers were Tre McBride and Stefon Diggs. I have absolutely no idea why the former fell, as he consistently impressed me on tape with his excellent ability to twist and adjust his body in mid-air to make the difficult catch. There is probably information that hasn’t been released to the public that led to McBride’s steep fall into the 7th round. Anyways, Stefon Diggs is a shifty receiver who gets open in crafty ways and is a threat to take it to the house anytime he touches the ball. He also has good hands and deceptive speed. I envision him as a guy who plays limited downs in year one but produces a few big plays. He has the potential to be a solid number 2 receiver a year or two down the road. He can also contribute in the return game, and with a crowded cornerback corps I can see Marcus Sherels being released and replaced as the punt returner by Diggs. You can say I digg this selection. Sorry, I had to.
Sixth Round, 185th Overall Pick: Tyrus Thompson, OT, Oklahoma
Spielman and co. were clearly making it a point in this draft that they want competition for the offensive line. Thompson is an athletic tackle with good length and feet. He is very experienced and is a pretty good pass protector. His problems come in the run game, where he plays with poor technique and leverage. He is also a bit lazy, and scouts have questioned his passion for the game of football. Spielman hinted that Thompson may spend some time at guard, so it’s certainly a possibility that he will be given the chance to compete for the starting left guard position. Not that this matters much, but he is married and has a kid.
Sixth Round, 193rd Overall Pick: B.J. Dubose, DT/DE, Louisville
Finally, a pick that I don’t support. B.J. Dubose is one of those “tweeners” who isn’t really good at anything. By “isn’t really good at anything” I’m not implying that he’s solid in all areas, no, I mean it word for word. Hes really not good at anything. He rarely puts pressure on the quarterback and gets pushed around in the run game. He has the lower body of a defensive end, yet not enough explosion to get around an NFL tackle nor the finesse to outsmart them. Due to his thinner lower body, he isn’t able to produce much power, thus making him an unreliable presence in the middle. Not a very good pick if you ask me. On a side note, I am fully prepared for my twitter followers to link me this article three years from now when he somehow becomes the best defensive tackle in the league under Zimmer’s tutelage.
Seventh Round, 228th Overall Pick: Austin Shepherd, OT, Alabama
Once again, Spielman makes it a point that competition is needed along the offensive line. Austin Shepherd stepped in at tackle for Alabama after D.J. Fluker moved on to the NFL. He is a high effort player who stuck as a starter because he is a hard worker. While he has athletic limitations and likely won’t ever be more than a backup, he will be a good guy for the locker room and may one day be a Joe Berger type player who can fill in for a game or two when needed and play well enough to not be considered a liability.
Seventh Round, 232nd Overall Pick: Edmond Robinson, OLB, Newberry
This pick reminds me a lot of the Brandon Watts pick in the 7th round last year. Like Watts, Robinson is an athletic specimen at linebacker who will most likely make his career as a special teams contributor. He was the first Division 2 player selected in this draft. I have no real problem with this pick, as special teams players are more valuable than people think.
Overall Draft Grade: B+
While not a perfect draft, Spielman came through with yet another solid draft class, and this time it wasn’t loaded with players drafted in the first round. Spielman made smart and solid picks throughout the draft and did a good job of both filling team needs and drafting for value. My favorite picks in this draft were the Eric Kendricks and T.J. Clemmings picks, as Kendricks was a mid-first round talent on my big board and Clemmings gives Kalil legitimate competition while also giving coaches the option to bench Kalil at some point this season if his play doesn’t improve. While this draft may not have been as exciting as the last few drafts, Spielman did a good job at improving the roster supplying Zimmer with two immediate starters, a few role players, and improved the team’s depth at multiple positions.
Thank you all for reading. Leave your comments below, and be sure to follow me on twitter @jackmack28.
Next: Is Trae Waynes Overrated Garbage?
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