Maneuvering prior to the draft and in the first round left the Vikings with seven picks, three which happened to be first round choices. The team needed help at the receiver position and both linebacker spots. They left the draft filling most of their needs with value picks.
Sharrif Floyd/DT/Florida (Round 1, pick #23): On draft day we reported teams around the league thought Floyd was overrated and not the top five selection many pegged him to be. When he fell to the Vikings late in round one, he was just to good to pass up. Floyd is a developing lineman that plays a complete game on all three downs. He offers the versatility to line-up as a conventional tackle or as a two-gap end. Leslie Frazier could not have selected a better player as Floyd should produce as a rookie and offers a future alternative for 11-year veteran Kevin Williams.
Xavier Rhodes/CB/Florida State (Round 1, pick 25): Rhodes was another value pick and fell later in the draft than expected. He offers sensational size, speed, athleticism and to his credit, showed consistent progress on the field. Rhodes is no sure thing but the ability to line up in man coverage or slide inside to safety makes this selection all the more attractive.
Cordarrelle Patterson/WR/Tennessee (Round 1, pick #29): We never bought into the conversation that Patterson was top ten material but at the 29th pick he was another bargain pick for Minnesota. He’s a big play receiver with exceptional athleticism and explosion on the field. Patterson is also a prospect who must mature as a player and person. Free agent pick-up Greg Jennings should have a positive effect on Patterson but there’s sure to be bumps in the road.
Gerald Hodges/OLB/Penn State (Round 4, pick #120): Minnesota had needs at both middle and outside linebacker. Hodges in round four fills the void on the outside. He’s slightly undersized yet an athletic three down defender able to handle duties on the weakside. Hodges is terrific in pursuit and could develop into a day one starter.
Jeff Locke/P/UCLA (Round 5, pick #155): There was a lot of conversation after the release of punter Chris Kluwe, which some considered controversial Even if Kluwe was still on the roster, the selection of Jeff Locke immediately upgrades the punter position in Minnesota. Locke offers a big leg and was consistent at UCLA. More than a guy who just punts for distance, he was also a terrific directional kicker in college. The bottom line is Minnesota is a better team with Locke as their punter.
Jeff Baca/G/UCLA (Round 6, pick #196): Baca was graded as a 6th round pick on our board, so there’s no complaining about this selection. He’s an underrated blocker and an underrated athlete. Baca is a proficient run blocker and pass protector, and should compete for a spot on the two-deep.
Mike Mauti/LB/Penn State (Round 7, pick #213): From a football perspective Mauti is a first round pick. Smart and tough, he’s a gutsy defender with potential at several linebacker spots. Then again from a medical point of view he was barely signable considering his multiple knee issues. All in all this was worth a roll of the dice in round seven. If Mauti some how gets back to form and stays healthy then Minnesota hit big on this pick.
Travis Bond/G/North Carolina (Round 7, pick #214): Bond is primarily a size prospect and a massive blocker who takes up an enormous amount of space. He needs a lot of work on his overall game but Bond is a solid developmental prospect who should find a home on the practice squad.
Everett Dawkins/DT/Florida State (Round 7, pick #229): Dawkins in the final round was another value pick for Minnesota. He’s a quick, one-gap tackle who penetrates into the backfield or makes plays down the line of scrimmage. His scouting report entering the draft reads like that of Letroy Guion, the former Florida State defender selected by the Vikings in the fifth round of the 2008 draft.
Grade: B+. There’s a lot to like about the Vikings draft. They replaced Percy Harvin with Cordarrelle Patterson, filled needs at conerback as well as linebacker and got terrific value throughout most of the draft. Late rounders Locke, Baca and Dawkins all have terrific next level potential while its wait and see with Mauti and Bond. The only reason we didn’t give this draft a grade of A, is the bust factor associated with Rhodes and Patterson. There’s no denying Minnesota added several more pieces to finish the puzzle.
The Lions had high hopes last season after going 9-7 in 2011 and started the season 4-4 before losing their final eight games and ending up with another top-five pick. Only six teams allowed more points than the Lions and as a result, three of their first four picks were used on defensive players. Detroit was set up well to succeed in this draft with three picks in the top 65 and according to Chris Tripodi, they didn’t disappoint.
Ezekial Ansah/DE/BYU (Round 1/Pick #5): An incredible athletic specimen, the former track and field star from Ghana enjoyed a breakout season as a senior with the Cougars. Ansah improved on a week-to-week basis last season, just his third playing football, but still has a lot of work to do to become a polished NFL defensive end. His development will be aided playing next to defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley and as he adds strength to his 6-5, 271-pound frame, Ansah should become more comfortable holding his ground against NFL offensive lineman. As a potentially elite pass rusher who can stand up against the run and pursue from the back side, Ansah has the Pro Bowl potential to offset his raw skill set in the top-5 and make the Detroit defensive line a force to be reckoned with in the future. Jason Pierre-Paul comparison are not out of line here when it comes to how good Ansah truly can be.
Darius Slay/CB/Mississippi State (Round 2/Round #36): Slay stepped into the starting lineup as a senior opposite fellow second-round pick Jonathan Banks and became an All-Conference player, recording 5 interceptions and catching the attention of scouts nationally. Slay then ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the combine (4.36), only adding to his appeal as a prospect. That speed combined with strength in bump-and-run coverage and a physical mentality against the run give Slay as much upside as any cornerback prospect in this draft class. While his backpedal and ball location skills still leave something to be desired, Slay has the potential to return first-round value from an early second-round pick.
Larry Warford/G/Kentucky (Round 3/Pick #65): A tough and nasty interior blocker, Warford is big (6-3, 332) and powerful in small areas. He lacks the speed to be effective in motion but is quick to the second level and uses his wide body to wall off linebackers from the hole and make pass rushers go around him. While Warford was good value early in round three, he’s a somewhat curious fit in a passing offense that doesn’t quite play to his strengths as a power run blocker. A high-character prospect, Warford should be able to adjust and at the least will help open up more holes for Mikel LeShoure and even Reggie Bush.
Devin Taylor/DE/South Carolina (Round 4/Pick #132): Taylor was dominant at times with the Gamecocks but was plagued by inconsistency as an upperclassman after a 7.5-sack, All-Conference sophomore season. Taylor isn’t quick or fast off the edge yet can rush the passer and also shows good ability to keep contain on the outside and force ballcarriers back into the middle of the field. Taylor has the height (6-7) to bat down passes and good ability in pursuit but will never be a starting-caliber NFL player unless he can elevate his game after it leveled off in college. He should find a place in Detroit’s defensive line rotation this season.
Sam Martin/P/Appalachian State (Round 5/Pick #165): The Lions haven’t drafted a specialist since Jason Hanson in 1992 and they’re hoping Martin shows the same ability and longevity as the veteran kicker. With a big leg that ranked him third in the nation in average yards per punt last season, Martin looks poised to take over for Nick Harris and Detroit hopes he can solidify a position that has seen many different starters over the last few seasons.
Corey Fuller/WR/Virginia Tech (Round 6/Pick #171): Like Ansah, Fuller initially went to college for track and field and has limited football experience. At this point, he’s more of an athlete than a receiver but took a big step forward as a senior and has more upside than any other receiver taken this late in the draft. If Fuller can develop a more complete route tree and refine his game, his ability to go up and catch the ball in the air and create yardage after the catch make him an intriguing prospect. With Nate Burleson aging and entering the final two years of his contract and Ryan Broyles a better fit in the slot if he can come back fully healthy, Fuller could find himself starting opposite Calvin Johnson in 2015 if he can continue to take steps forward in his development.
Theo Riddick/RB/Notre Dame (Round 6/Pick #199): Riddick is a solid if not limited running back who has some potential as a multipurpose asset on offense. He took over the starting role last season and runs with a North/South mentality, good burst and quick feet. Riddick shows ability in the passing game and despite lacking great next-level size or speed, has the versatility to line up in the slot and be effective on third downs. He could provide an extra weapon for Matthew Stafford if he can make the roster behind Mikel LeShoure, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.
Michael Williams/TE/Alabama (Round 7/Pick #211): A blocking tight end who lacks the speed to be anything more than a short-range target in the passing game, Williams could settle in as Detroit’s third-string tight end behind Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler and contribute as a blocker in jumbo and goal-line packages. Both of the players ahead of him on the depth chart are free agents after the season, but Williams isn’t dangerous enough as a receiver to be a starter in this offense. He was drafted to open up holes in short-yardage situations and not much more.
Brandon Hepburn/LB/Florida A&M (Round 7/Pick #245): Hepburn’s lack of size (6-2, 240) and small-school pedigree gave him a free-agent grade but he was productive at Florida A&M and is a good tackler who can cover a lot of space. His strengths make him an ideal special teams player and a situational linebacker who can bring energy and chase down ballcarriers when the starters need a break.
Grade: B. We like what the Lions did with their first three picks, drafting three players who could play important roles right away for a team that still believes in their playoff aspirations. Besides Fuller, their later picks were nothing special but they all can find a way to make an impact on the Lions’ roster. This was a solid draft for Detroit and while they still probably aren’t a playoff team, their roster is headed in the right direction.
The Packers entered the draft with few holes on their roster and left the event with eleven new players to fill the void. Green Bay flooded several positions with their picks hoping to come away with early production, depth and future starters.
Datone Jones/DL/UCLA (Round 1, pick #26): Defensive line was one of the Packers needs entering the draft and when Jones fell to the 26th spot he was a no brainer. Jones played well as a senior then performed well in the pre-draft process. He’s a high character prospect and sources tell me he’s a willing worker who wants to be great. It may take a while for the 283-pund Jones to transition to the two-gap end slot for the Packers, but we’re confident Jones will have a positive impact at the next level.
Eddie Lacy/RB/Alabama (Round 2, pick #61): Like their pick it round one, it was an easy decision for Green Bay when Lacy fell to them in the second frame. Many, including myself, felt Lacy could end up as the Packers pick in round one early in the process. Teams were concerned, to the point of being fed up, when Lacy set a late workout date and were not impressed when he finally tested. The bottom line on Lacy; he’s the powerful, downhill grinder the Packers offense desperately requires.
David Bakhtiari/OL/Colorado (Round 4, pick #109): With the Packers offensive line in a bit of flux, Bakhtiari made sense in round four. He’s an athletic prospect who can line up at guard or the all important left tackle spot. In the early years Bakhtiari should serve as a versatile back-up and could eventually develop into a starter.
J.C. Tretter/OL/Cornell (Round 4, pick #122): Tretter is another versatile swing blocker who can line up at guard and offers possibilities at center. I think round four was a bit early for his talents but Tretter is smart, tough and a lineman with a future in the NFL.
Jonathan Franklin/RB/UCLA (Round 4, pick #125): Prior to the draft we reported several teams ranked Franklin as a top forty choice and graded him ahead of Eddie Lacy. Sources told me the Packers were set to take Franklin in the second round. That was until Lacy fell in their laps. If Lacy is the number one back in Green Bay than Franklin is 1A. He’ll be a complimentary back for Lacy and Franklin will also add competition to the position.
Micah Hyde/CB/Iowa (Round 5, pick #159): Not many had Hyde rated as highly as we did and we’re probably in the minority who agree with this choice. Hyde is an underrated cover corner who’ll be able to line-up in dime packages, play over the slot receiver and be used in several capacities on special teams.
Josh Boyd/DL/Mississippi State (Round 5, pick #167): While we like the pick of Josh Boyd in round five it was a strange choice when looking at the Packers roster. We pegged Boyd as a three technique lineman but also feel he has the athleticism and skill to line-up as a two-gap end. Looking at Green Bay’s depth chart, the defensive end position seems loaded right now and unless Boyd can play on the nose he may struggle to make the final roster.
Nate Palmer/LB/Illinois State (Round 6, pick #193): Palmer, the small school defensive end who started his career at Illinois, was a surprise choice in round six. He definitely has the athleticism to transition to outside linebacker and Palmer could end up as the pass rush specialist Green Bay wanted from this draft. Still, we would’ve never expected Palmer to be drafted prior to the seventh round.
Charles Johnson/WR/Grand Valley State (Round 7, pick #216): Johnson was a late riser and a player we did not provide a report on. The joke could be on us. He’s a tremendous athlete with sensational size and big time, small school production. He’s a lethal red zone threat and has the tendency to pick up big chunks of yardage when the ball’s in his hands. There’s room on the depth chart at receiver in Green Bay and we expect Johnson to occupy one of the available spots.
Kevin Dorsey/WR/Maryland (Round 7, pick #224): Were this the 2012 draft the selection of Dorsey was justified but based off his senior film we are surprised he was drafted. He offers solid size and dependable hands but comes with minimal speed and Dorsey’s game is on the decline. The physical skills are there if he gets back on track.
Sam Barrington/LB/South Florida (Round 7, pick #232): Barrington was worth the expenditure of a late seventh round pick. He’s solid in all areas of the game and comes with a special teams mentality. Barrington plays bigger and faster than his computer numbers and could be a nice addition as an inexpensive eighth/ninth linebacker.
Grade: B+. The Packers did not come away with any franchise players from the draft but they did fill needs and acquire depth. Jones and Lacy should be first year starters, Bakhtiari brings depth and competition to the offensive line as does Franklin at running back. The rest of the Packers choices will compete for final spots on the depth chart. I could see all these players, except Dorsey, wearing a Green Bay jersey next year, either on the active roster or the practice squad.