Perriman_NFLThe AFC North is turning into one of the more competitive divisions in all of football with potentially three playoff teams in 2015 and a third franchise on the rise. The Ravens looked to add some final pieces in the draft while the Browns hoped to plug more holes. Here’s our final analysis on the efforts of all the team’s in the division. 

 

 

 

Baltimore Ravens

The team most affected by deflategate entered the draft with a need at receiver and filled it selecting Breshad Perriman with the 26th pick. Few receivers in the draft can match Perriman’s physical skills but his game is very inconsistent in all areas. Perriman flashes greatness but often times looks very ordinary. His awesome potential must now be developed by Joe Flacco and the coaching staff. Second round pick Maxx Williams could quickly break into the starting line-up and is another with great upside. He’s not a true deep threat rather a solid pass catcher who will create mismatches with his size and Williams comes with the body type necessary to effectively block on the line of scrimmage. Carl Davis was tremendous value late in round three and offers a back-up for nose tackle Brandon Williams or an eventual replacement for the departed Haloti Ngata. Why did Davis slip? Inconsistent production and game film. Though he tore it up during the Senior Bowl he also disappeared for stretches during his senior season which raised red flags. The team had three selections in round four and started off with another great value pick, Za’Darius Smith. The pass rushing defensive end had a solid two year career at Kentucky then performed reasonably well in pre-draft workouts. I feel he’s best served in a four man front so it will be interesting to see how Smith adapts as a 3-4 outside linebacker. I posted prior to the draft the Ravens were considering two running backs in the fourth round; David Cobb or Buck Allen and they were happy when Allen fell into their laps. The Ravens stated all along they felt Allen was a middle round running back that will produce as a rookie. Few people wrote or spoke about Tray Walker as much as I had in the weeks leading to the draft but I’m still surprised the small school corner went in the fourth frame. Walker has the size, speed and skill to play Sunday football and only needs to polish his technique. Nick Boyle is a great compliment to Maxx Williams and a tremendous blocker at the tight end position. Fifth round pick Robert Myers is a solid developmental prospect whom I expect to make the active roster. Selecting Darren Waller in round six was interesting. Many believe Waller’s future lay at tight end but the three deep at the position is very crowded for the Ravens. Alas he’ll likely stay at receiver and if he realizes his potential, Waller could be dominant at the next level. One UDFA of note is Darryl Baldwin, the offensive tackle from Ohio State. There’s room for competition and depth at both tackle spots and Baldwin could surprise this summer.

Grade B+: It seems every single year the Ravens do a terrific job during the draft, hence the reason they usually run deep into the playoffs. This April was no exception; Perriman will need some time to develop but has incredible upside, Maxx Williams could quickly break into the starting unit while Davis, Smith, Allen and Boyle should all contribute as rookies.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals had big needs at nose tackle and receiver entering the draft but instead stocked up on offensive tackles and tight ends. If he’s gets back to health and prior playing form Cedric Ogbuehi will be a major steal. The teams first round pick is a tremendous pass protector and gives the Bengals flexibility with Andrew Whitworth moving forward. Flexibility is the best way to describe second round pick Jake Fisher’s game as he can line up at left or right tackle. It’s a good move for a team who may be ready to cut ties with veteran Andre Smith. Tyler Kroft adds a speed element to the teams tight end position and should grow into a dependable number two on the depth chart. Paul Dawson was tremendous value in round three and will compete for playing time next season. I’m not a fan of Josh Shaw but understand why he was selected in the fourth round. He has the size and athleticism to develop into a starter and could see action in nickel packages next season. I’ll be interested to see how Marcus Hardison does in Cincinnati. I like the player and love the potential but struggle to see how he fits in the Bengals defense. In my opinion Hardison is best at tackle or as a two-gap end. C.J. Uzomah was a reach in round five and a player that’s never done anything other than tease and disappoint scouts. Derron Smith could be a find in round six. He lacks classic size, speed and is coming off a sports hernia but is an instinctive football player with a well rounded game. Mario Alford was a solid choice in round seven and his ability to stretch the field vertically or impact games returning kicks is enticing. Two UDFA’s of note include receiver Jake Kumerow who could latch on as a fifth receiver and corner Troy Hill, who’s a much more polished prospect than fourth round pick Josh Shaw.

Grade B: I like the fact the Bengals bypassed need and took best player available with their initial four selections. You can never have enough talent at the offensive tackle position and the team now has choices. Hardison, Smith and Alford could surprise while Shaw has an upside. Not a great collection rather a very efficient effort from the Bengals.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns had a bunch of needs entering the draft and a ton of picks at their disposal to fill those needs. Many of the needs were on the offensive side of the ball and the team tried to package picks prior to the start of the draft and move up for Marcus Mariota. When that never came to fruition they went back to the draft board. With the 12th pick they chose nose tackle Danny Shelton, who should be a playmaking version of the departed Ahtyba Rubin. I’m not as high on Shelton as many others and felt Cleveland would’ve been better off with receiver DeVante Parker but regardless, Shelton brings great intensity to the defensive line and offers an upside. At the bottom of round one the team selected Cameron Erving, who’s listed as a center. My belief is Erving will compete for the starting right tackle spot as Cleveland has been looking for an upgrade over Mitchell Schwartz the past two years. And if Erving continues to develop there’s no reason to believe he won’t win the job. Pass rusher Nate Orchard was an interesting choice in round two considering the teams depth chart. I expect Orchard to line up on passing downs as the team develops him to take over for Paul Kruger. Cleveland got great value with both third round picks. I firmly believe Duke Johnson was top 45 worthy as he’s a complete ball carrier that can develop into a feature runner. He’ll ease into what is a crowed running back unit in Cleveland but will produce as a rookie. Xavier Cooper was drafted later than his grade warranted and should develop into an outstanding 3-4 end. The Browns finally took a receiver with the first of two picks in the fourth round, selecting Vince Mayle. The Washington State senior is a terrific underneath pass catcher with excellent size. He’ll offer reliable hands for whomever plays quarterback for Cleveland this season. Ibraheim Campbell is a devastating run defender at safety with underrated cover skills. He should line up as a dime back/special teams player this season and potentially develop into the incumbent under Donte Whitner. Charles Gaines offers solid ball skills and should compete for the fourth cornerback spot while Malcolm Johnson offers a change of pace at the tight end/H-back spot. Johnson had an ordinary career at Mississippi State but wowed teams with his pro-day performance. Cleveland went back-to-back Trojans in the late rounds. At the top of his game Randall Telfer has the skills to make a roster as a third tight end. He’s an adequate pass catcher but a terrific blocker. Then again his commitment and intensity was questioned throughout the pre-draft process. Hayes Pullard is a terrific football player but comes up short in the areas of size/speed. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu could be a steal if he gets healthy and regains prior playing form. I could see the Browns stashing him on IR for the year then easing him back onto the field in 2016. I was glad to see the Browns sign De’ante Saunders after the draft. The Tennessee State product has terrific ball skills and can also lend a helping hand returning kicks.

Grade B+:
Of the Browns dozen selections I count two immediate starters, five additional selections who will contribute as rookies and good “down the road” prospects.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Moving towards the draft the belief was Pittsburgh would spend most of their picks on the defensive side of the ball and that proved to be true. The untimely retirement of Jason Worilds coupled with Jarvis Jones’ inability to establish himself meant the team needed to add a pass rusher and they hope Bud Dupree fills the role. I’m big on Dupree and love his athleticism as well as the suddenness he plays with but there is a lot of cynicism about him in front offices. On several occasions NFL people compared Dupree to Aaron Curry to me, claiming Dupree is a good athlete but not a great football player. I’m predicting they’re wrong as are the Steelers. Though I like Senquez Golson and understand he fills a need for Pittsburgh, round two was a bit early for his services. He’s feisty and fast but short (5-feet/8.5-inches) which will create mismatch problems. Though I never bought into the first round hype for receiver Sammie Coates, he was good value in round three. He’ll partner well with Martavis Bryant to give Ben Roethlisberger another big bodied target. Doran Grant was a solid fourth round choice. At the very least he should line-up in dime packages next season and has starters potential down the road. Down the road is the best way to describe Jesse James as he’s a massive tight end with rare athleticism but someone who must consistently translate those skills into football production. It would also be nice to see James develop a nasty attitude. Though I like the player I scratch my head to see how sixth round pick Laterrius Walton fits the Steelers scheme. He’s an intense lineman who plays with great quickness but shows little in the way of strength at the point. I felt Walton was much better situated as a three technique tackle rather than a 3-4 end. I have similar feelings on Anthony Chickillo, the teams other pick in round 6; better fit as a 4-3 end rather than outside linebacker in a 3-4. Chickillo’s intensity is infectious and he’ll bring potential on coverage units. Gerod Holliman was a good choice in the last round. I’m not a fan of his game but taking a player who recorded 14 interceptions in the final frame is worth a roll of the dice. The signings of Kevin Whimpey and Cameron Clear after the draft could help the Steelers in short yardage situations as both are nasty, powerful maulers.

Grade C+: I’m a fan of Dupree and expect him to succeed but there are no guarantees. If he plays to his potential the Steelers hit a home run in the draft. And while Coates and Grant were solid choices there’s a lot of risk in this collection of players from the standpoint of poor fits for the system or prospects that may need a bit of time before they are NFL ready.

Williams_proThe New York Jets and Miami Dolphins did their best to close the gap between them and the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, while the Buffalo Bills’ lack of a first-round pick cost them on draft day. Chris Tripodi has our AFC East draft grades. 

 

 

 

 

Buffalo Bills

Without a first-round pick after trading it to move up from No. 9 to No. 4 for Sammy Watkins last season, the Bills took Ronald Darby with their 50th overall pick. Darby’s 4.38 40-yard dash opened eyes at the NFL combine, but he lacks top size (5-11, 193) and great instincts at the corner position. He just turned 21 and will have time to develop under Rex Ryan (who did not do a good job developing young defensive backs at the New York Jets), but this was an underwhelming start to the Bills’ draft. Buffalo bounced back in the third round by taking Louisville guard John Miller, who could start as a rookie. Miller comes out of his stance too high and has some fundamental flaws, but is a powerful blocker with enough movement skills to be effective in space and open holes for LeSean McCoy. Without a fourth-round pick, the Bills continued to raid the ACC by taking running back Karlos Williams in the fifth. A former defensive back at Florida State, Williams has an enticing combination of size (6-1, 230) and speed (4.48) but comes with an upright running style. Despite his size, Williams is most effective in space and lacks great instincts as an interior runner. Buffalo added linebacker Tony Steward with their first sixth-round pick and he should contribute early on special teams, a role he excelled in at Clemson. Steward’s injury history – two knee surgeries and a hamstring problem – threatened to knock him out of the draft, but the Bills deemed him worthy of a flier. The team added their third Seminole six picks later, drafting tight end Nick O’Leary. Jameis Winston’s security blanket won the John Mackey Award last season, catching everything thrown his way despite being small (6-3, 252) and slow (4.93). He’s no threat to free-agent acquisition Charles Clay. Central Arkansas receiver Dezmin Lewis broke the string of picks from the ACC and rounded out Buffalo’s draft at No. 234. His length at 6-4, 214 pounds could prove valuable in the red zone, but Lewis isn’t much of a downfield target despite a nice combination of timing, balance and body control in the air. Texas defensive end Cedric Reed was a nice addition from the UDFA pool, with the length and athleticism to create disruption in the backfield.

Grade: D While not having a first or fourth-round pick hurt the Bills in this draft, they didn’t help themselves much by reaching for Darby. Miller should fit in nicely with their offensive gameplan, but it’s hard to see more than two starters coming from this class. Their late picks will add depth, but likely won’t contribute much outside of special teams.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins were rumored to have heavy interest in a first-round wide receiver and the speculation proved accurate, as Miami drafted Louisville’s DeVante Parker with the 14th pick. Parker was dominant after his return from a broken foot last season and his combination of size, body control and speed gives him No. 1 receiver upside while providing Ryan Tannehill with another weapon after a busy offseason. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was a boom-or-bust pick after trading down in the second round, but 330-pounders with good athleticism don’t come around often. A true nose tackle with the ability to penetrate the backfield, Phillips can be as good as he wants to be if he improves his leverage and hand moves. Without a third-round pick from the Kenny Stills trade, Miami had to wait until the fourth to draft Arizona State guard Jamil Douglas. A nasty blocker with violent hands, Douglas has issues in pass protection but will provide depth on the inside. The Dolphins had four picks in the fifth round, two thanks to their earlier trade back with the Eagles, drafting cornerback Bobby McCain, running back Jay Ajayi, safety Cedric Thompson and receiver Tony Lippett. Ajayi is the biggest name of the bunch and was initially projected as a Day 2 pick before concerns over the long-term health of his knee caused his freefall. A downhill runner with pass-catching chops, Ajayi could take over next season if Lamar Miller bolts in free agency and his body holds up. McCain was a solid player at Memphis, showing good instincts and ball skills, but lacks the measurables teams look for in a starting corner and should settle into a sub-package and special teams role. Thompson has good size (5-11, 212) and tackles well, but must improve his efficiency to be anything more than a special teamer. Lippett played receiver at Michigan State, but will likely move to corner in Miami. His hands go from below average to above average with the position change, and he has experience on defense from his time with the Spartans. At 6-2, Lippett brings intriguing potential to that side of the ball. The Dolphins signed Penn State linebacker Mike Hull after the draft. An aggressive player with good athleticism and instincts, Hull has a place in the NFL on special teams and as a sub-package player despite a lack of size (6-0, 237).

Grade: B+ The Dolphins did well in this year’s draft, adding an impact playmaker in Parker and stealing Ajayi as a potential 2016 starter and year-one rotational back. Phillips could prove to be a great pick as well, as he has first-round talent, and the rest of their picks all have a good chance to make the roster as depth players and special teams contributors.

New England Patriots

After losing Vince Wilfork to the Texans in free agency, the Patriots selected his replacement, Malcom Brown, with the final pick of the first round. An explosive interior lineman with great athletic ability for his size (6-2, 319), Brown has motor questions which are the only reason he fell out of the top 20 picks. If New England gets him motivated, he’ll be a steal. Second-round safety Jordan Richards was rated as a late-rounder by most, and we had him as a seventh-round pick. He is well built at 5-11, 211 pounds but has limited range and athleticism as the Patriots continue their recent trend of curious second-round picks. Third-rounder Geneo Grissom was another reach on our board but is a hard-working, instinctive defender who plays best in the box. Lacking range in pursuit and pass-rush skills, Grissom is small (6-3, 262) for a run-defending defensive end. New England had a trio of fourth-round picks, taking Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers, Florida State guard Tre Jackson and Georgia Tech center Shaq Mason. Flowers has good instincts and burst off the snap, but his lack of size (6-2, 266) and speed (4.87) may limit him to backup duties. Jackson is a 6-4, 330-pound mauler on the inside who we had just outside our top 75. He overextends in pass protection and gets beat by speed rushers, but will be an impact run blocker. Mason is an explosive run defender who lacks experience as a pass protector coming out of Georgia Tech’s triple-option scheme. The Patriots plan on moving him to center, but he has the potential to back up multiple spots on the line and could have some untapped upside. New England spent a fifth-round pick on Navy long snapper Joe Cardona, who may need to serve active duty before playing an NFL down. Linebacker Matthew Wells and A.J. Derby were drafted in the sixth round. Explosive at 6-2, 222 pounds, Wells ran in the 4.4s at his Pro Day and should have special teams value. Derby is a former JUCO quarterback with solid athleticism and upside as a developmental tight end once he gains experience at the position. The Patriots continued to add to their defense in the seventh round, taking Marshall cornerback Darryl Roberts and Alabama outside linebacker Xzavier Dickson. Fast and athletic, Roberts can be a solid special teamer and contribute in nickel or dime packages as a zone corner. Dickson was a fourth-rounder on our board who shows good instincts and movement skills and an ability to bend the edge. He can play on every down. Wide receivers Chris Harper and Devin Gardner, a former quarterback at Michigan, were name additions as UDFAs. They come with some potential, but lots of work to do to refine their games.

Grade: C The Patriots hit with Brown at the end of the first round, especially if they get him to play hard all the time. Their Day 2 picks were questionable but having nine picks on Day 3 allowed them to add depth and a few players with starting potential. New England went heavy on smart, instinctive defensive players who lack NFL measurables and while those players can fill a role on the team, none project as impact defenders.

New York Jets

After the Redskins threw the draft’s first curveball by taking Brandon Scherff at No. 5, the Jets countered by taking the top player on many draft boards, including ours, in USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Williams may not start right away on a stacked defensive line, which says a lot, but Todd Bowles should be able to get creative and play him significant snaps alongside Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. After dominating against double teams as the focus of opponents’ gameplans in college, Williams can use his athleticism and versatility to wreak havoc in the trenches against single blockers. New York added much needed speed to their offense by taking wide receiver Devin Smith in the second round. The Ohio State product has 4.42 wheels along with great ball-tracking skills and an ability to win in contested situations. A go-route specialist, his route running needs refinement as his route tree is limited right now, but Smith will have an immediate role as a field stretcher and has some long-term upside. Third-round pick Lorenzo Mauldin is a tough outside linebacker with solid quickness, burst and good hand moves. He doesn’t have a high ceiling but his non-stop motor should make him productive as a pass rusher with all the talent around him in the front seven. The Jets moved up one spot in the fourth round to keep the Browns away from quarterback Bryce Petty, who excelled in Baylor’s spread system. Petty is a smart player with all the physical tools and an ability to throw on the move, but will need time to learn how to run a pro-style offense. If Chan Gailey sticks around it could speed up Petty’s development, as Gailey incorporates parts of the spread offense in his game plan. Guard Jarvis Harrison was the Jets’ fifth-round pick and is a nasty blocker with Day 2 upside. Harrison comes with work ethic questions which dropped him into the third day, but has the potential to be a very good run blocker. Seventh-round nose tackle Deon Simon dominated FCS competition at Northwestern State, but his motor runs hot and cold. He could do well to learn from fellow small-school stalwart Damon Harrison. With a few extra roster spots after the draft, the Jets did well to add playmaking linebacker Taiwan Jones out of Michigan State, rangy and aggressive safety Durell Eskridge from Syracuse and athletic South Alabama tight end Wes Saxton. All came with top-165 grades from us, with Jones especially providing nice insurance if Demario Davis leaves in free agency.

Grade: B+ The Jets surprised everybody with the Williams pick, but it gives them insurance for Wilkerson’s impending free agency at least, and another front-seven disruptor at best. Smith and Mauldin were good value picks who fill immediate holes, while Day 3 brought the Jets some developmental players with upside. Mike Maccagnan did a nice job moving around and the manipulating the draft board in his debut as general manager despite having half as many picks as the Patriots, the effect of which was mitigated by a few nice UDFA pickups.

Chris Tripodi has been writing draft reviews and rookie reports for Draft Insider since 2008. He is also an ACC and C-USA scout for Optimum Scouting and writes about the New York Jets for Pro Football Spot. Follow him on Twitter @christripodi to talk NFL Draft and Jets football.

White_proThe Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings hoped to fill holes with top prospects in this year’s draft while the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions looked to add the final pieces. Here are our draft grades of the NFC North.

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago Bears

In many ways the Chicago Bears hosted the 2015 NFL Draft so the excitement was understandable when they were called to the clock. Most of the teams needs could be found on the defensive side of the ball but receiver Kevin White was to good to pass up with the seventh pick. White and veteran Alshon Jeffery will be a formidable tandem, though I could see a few bumps in the road for the Bears rookie wide out as he acclimates to an NFL offense. Nose tackle was a need entering the draft and the Bears got value in round two with Eddie Goldman. The Florida State junior is a big bodied lineman who occupies the gaps and moves well. He has the ability to develop into a play maker but needs to improve his entire game. Chicago had needs all over the offensive line and filled one at center with Hroniss Grasu in round three. The senior offers potential in a variety of blocking schemes and should quickly break into a starting line-up. Jeremy Langford was great value in the fourth round as he’s a versatile three down back who grinds it out on the inside, can turn the corner or catch the ball out of the backfield. He’ll be able to spell Matt Forte as a rotational back and offers insurance for the future. Adrian Amos was an interesting selection in the fifth round and offers potential as a dime back/special teams player. Final pick Tayo Fabuluje was worth a roll of the dice. He’s a big bodied tackle who flashed greatness in 2012 manning the left side of TCU’s high powered offense but was not inconsistent last season after sitting out all of 2013. At the very least Fabuluje is practice squad material with potential as a back-up swing tackle. One UDFA of note is Rice cornerback Bryce Callahan, who plays smart, athletic football. I could see Callahan making the roster should he play well on special teams.

Grade B+: On paper there’s a lot to like about this draft. The first three picks should all see starting action during their rookie campaign and Lanford was a fine addition. Its possible all of Chicago’s picks make the final roster.

Detroit Lions

The Lions entered the draft with needs on both sides of the line of scrimmage and answered the offensive side of things in round one with Laken Tomlinson. Though I was slightly surprised the Duke senior was selected in the first round he’s a big bodied blocker efficient in both pass protection and as a run blocker. I would expect him to be a starter from day one. Second round choice Ameer Abdullah is another draft pick that should get every opportunity to play as a rookie. What’s most exciting about Abdullah is he’s unlike any back on the Lions roster. Third round pick Alex Carter is another who could end up as a starter in 2015. The junior cornerback offers size, toughness and solid ball skills. He needs polish on his game but has an upside. Needs on the defensive line were finally answered in the fourth round when the team tabbed Auburn senior Gabe Wright, whose style parallels former first round pick Nick Fairley. Wright had a solid career and was very impressive during the Senior Bowl. Fullback Michael Burton was a surprise fifth round pick but could win the starting position this season by default. He’s a terrific blocker and also effective catching the ball out of the backfield but a very average athlete. Quandre Diggs was worth a roll of the dice in round six and could play in dime packages and on special teams this season. If he gets his game back on track Corey Robinson will be a steal in the seventh round. The former defensive lineman looked spectacular at left tackle as a junior in 2013 but watched his game fall off last season. He has the necessary tools to line-up as a right tackle on Sunday. Offensive lineman Al Bond, tight end Casey Pierce and safety Isaiah Johnson led an impressive class of undrafted free agents the team signed.

Grade: B+ I thought Tomlinson was a slight reach but an understandable choice. I count four potential starters from this class with a fifth waiting in the wings. Factor in two rotational players and several UDFA’s who could make the roster and this was an impressive effort by the Lions.

Green Bay Packers

Defensive back seven players were a priority for the Packers and there were several directions I thought the team could go. They flirted with taking an inside linebacker in round one and the name of Eric Rowe was often spoken about. They ultimately settled on Damarious Randall, the college safety Green Bay will move to cornerback. Back on April 6th I noted that Randall was not only being considered as a late first round choice but was listed as a corner on a number of boards. The team stayed with cornerbacks in round two selecting Quinten Rollins, the former basketball player who made the smooth transition to the gridiron last season. While Rollins still needs to polish he’s more NFL ready than most believe. Ty Montgomery was a surprise third round pick and while he was drafted primarily as a return specialist, he’s a bit of an enigma and not nearly as productive as he should be. While I like Jake Ryan I feel the fourth round was a bit early for his services. Ryan is a terrific football player and an underrated athlete but never truly developed at one position and is coming off a disappointing senior season. Conversely Brett Hundley could be a steal in the fifth round. I’m not a big believer in Hundley rather confident in the talents of head coach Mike McCarthy to develop quarterbacks and transition Hundley’s physical ability into signal caller skills. Just prior to the draft I broke the news the Packers brought Aaron Ripkowski in for a visit, a player who is a perfect fit for their offense. I’m sure the Packers will find a way to maximize Ripowki’s talents as he was often under utilized at Oklahoma. Christian Ringo was a head scratcher. The senior was very productive (11.5 sacks in 2014) but has poor size, limited upside and no true position in the NFL. If Ringo was a head scratcher Kennard Backman could be a steal. A dynamic pass catcher, it was Backman and not the highly touted JJ Nelson who led UAB in receptions last year. He’s a big, fluid athlete who gets down the seam and creates mismatches. The Packers signed three terrific receivers after the draft including Larry Pinkard, Jimmie Hunt and Ricky Collins (who I believe will be playing for the team on Sunday’s).

Grade B-: Ty Montgomery and to a lesser extent Jake Ryan pulls this grade down a bit. Randall will see significant playing time next season and Backman could be a steal.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings had a bunch of holes to fill entering the draft and ten selections to find players to plug those holes. Speculation ran high as to which direction they would go with their first pick, the eleventh overall. In the end they went with cornerback Trae Waynes. Moving towards the draft I felt Waynes was slightly overrated but there’s no denying he was one of the best press cornerbacks available and is a perfect hit for Mike Zimmer. Late in March I reported the feeling was Minnesota would select a linebacker in the early rounds and they did exactly that choosing Eric Kendricks in the second frame. The senior should quickly slide into the starting role at middle linebacker and should complete what is a terrific unit with Anthony Barr and veteran Chad Greenway. I firmly believe Danielle Hunter was a major bargain with the 88th pick and his skills and upside were more top 40 worthy. Hunter is a physical beast with the ability to disrupt the action and will only get better as he physically matures and receives more playing experience. Fourth round pick T.J. Clemmings was another steal. The athletic lineman offers starting potential at a number of positions on the line. Why did he fall so far? Immediately after the draft sources told me the stress fracture in Clemmings foot is one that could be catastrophic to his career if it breaks again. Still, he was worth a roll of the dice in round four. The team went with a pair of pass catchers in round five. Tight end/H-back MyCole Pruitt offers variety when the team lines-up two tight ends while receiver Stefon Diggs is a vertical threat with potential as a return specialist. Sixth round selection Tyrus Thompson was another value pick. I stamped the Oklahoma senior as fourth round value and he could offer the team flexibility at left tackle in the future. Their final three choices, B.J. Dubose, Austin Shepard and Edmond Robinson, may struggle to make it off the practice roster. Keep an eye on receiver Jordan Leslie, who the team signed as a UDFA. He has the size and speed to play at the next level and really developed his game in 2014.

Grade A-: I’m not a big Trae Waynes guy but understand the importance of the position he plays and also realize his upside. They selected three more potential starters through the fourth round and a pair of players who should make the two deep in the fifth frame. I was not overly impressed with their late round picks but I see a lot of production coming from this draft.

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