NFP's 2015 DRAFT BOARD


Tony Villiotti
Draftmetrics


The 2015 draft is now behind us and the 2016 mock drafts have already begun to trickle out. Before we begin hibernatation until the football season starts, let’s take a final look at the draft from a few different perspectives.

Who Won the Draft?

We stay away from handing out draft grades because it is at least a couple of years too soon to do so. That doesn’t mean I do not read those articles, though, because I am always interested to learn what others have to say and it is interesting reading.

I have stayed away from doing a mock draft myself because I simply do not watch anywhere near enough video on the players, especially in comparison to many in the field.

What we do instead is to put together data regarding which teams should be helped most from the draft. This considered the draft position of each team and the playing positions they drafted. The following table ranks the NFL teams by the number of five-year starters that history says should come from their draft crop.

This table also shows other relevant measures such as number of two-year starters, etc. All numbers indicate the number of players that should achieve the relevant milestone. In all cases, the measures represent historical averages. The Saints, for example, should receive 2.86 starters from this draft class.

The three most relevant factors in the calculation used to construct the table are 1) number of draft choices, 2) location of draft choices and 3) the playing position selected. The playing position selected matters because some positions are more risky to draft than others. This was discussed in an earlier article entitled “Draft Probabilities by Playing Position”. What is not considered in this table is the depth of the team doing the drafting. This is somewhat offset because all expectations are for a player’s entire playing career, which includes both the team that drafted them and any subsequent team. The theory is that eventually a player drafted by a deep team should get an opportunity with somebody.

Balance or Load Up?

Most NFL teams split their selections in the first three rounds between offense and defense. Nine teams, though, went all in on one side of the ball or the other.

Teams opting to go for offense were the Bears, Bengals, Bucs, Rams, Ravens and Titans. Meanwhile, the 49ers, Eagles and Patriots went for defense.

Data by Conference

The 2015 draft had a higher percentage of players drafted by the Power 5 conferences than has been the norm. Almost 80% of draftees were from the five conferences compared to about 70% in the four preceding years. There is no apparent reason for this increase. The following table shows data by conference for the past five years.

The Pac 12 got off to a great start in this year’s draft with 25 selections in the first three rounds to lead all conferences. They trailed off on day three of the draft, though, and finished third overall among the Power 5 conferences. They added only 14 selections in the final four rounds, last among the five power conferences.

Data By Playing Position

As usual, the distribution between offense and defense was pretty equal in the draft. This was the first draft, though, in the last five where more offensive players were selected. The following shows the distribution by playing positions over the past five years.

While this was generally considered to be a down year for quarter backs I do not think anyone predicted that only seven would be taken in the draft. Many in the media are saying that is is the fewest drafted since 1955 but there have been several years with seven draftees, with the most recent being 1998.

While most positions were in the range of normalcy, a few positions were outside of normal bounds:

  • 18 was the fewest number of running backs drafted in the past five years
  • More tight ends (20) were drafted than any time in the past five years
  • Fewer defensive backs (total of 46 corners and safeties) were drafted than any other time in the last five years
  • A couple more offensive linemen were taken than normal

Follow Tony on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Greg Gabriel
The Director's Report


Starting now and over the next few days you see may draft analysts puts grades on each clubs draft. Personally, I feel that is an exercise in futility, because it can take up to three years to get a gauge on the quality of a draft.

Having spent most of my adult life in the player evaluation business with different NFL clubs, I know how hard each team works in preparation for the draft. When it is all said and done, they make the selections based on their draft board and how the player chosen fits within their current schemes. While an analyst may think another player is better, no one knows for sure until we see how they play within the scheme. That said, over the next two weeks, I will review the drafts of each of the 32 NFL teams on a division by division basis. First up will be the NFC North.

Chicago Bears

Kevin White – WR – West Virginia

For weeks going into the draft, Kevin looked like the obvious choice of the Bears. He will start off as the obvious replacement of Brandon Marshall. While he may be a bit smaller than Marshall, he is much faster and more athletic. Coming from the West Virginia spread, White will need to learn the nuances of an NFL route tree, but he has the natural traits to be a dynamic player right form the get go.

Eddie Goldman – DT – Florida St.

With the Bears switching to a 3-4 base defense, there was a need for a run stuffing nose tackle. Goldman is one of the best in the draft at that position. Getting him in the second is a bit of a steal for the Bears, as many had him rated as a sure-fire first rounder.

Hroniss Grasu – C – Oregon

Grasu started 52 games for the Ducks and is as athletic as they come for a center. While he may not start right away, he should take over the center position before midseason. He has the smarts and awareness to make all the line calls and is a natural leader.

Jeremy Langford – RB – Michigan State

Langford will prove to be the perfect complement to Matt Forte. Jeremy is a tough inside runner, a reliable pass blocker and receiver. He ran for nearly 3000 yards over the last two seasons.

Adrian Amos – DS – Penn State

Amos is one of the fastest and most athletic safeties in this class. He ran 4.37 at the Penn State pro day. Amos is a good cover guy but needs to improve in run support and tackling.

Tayo Fabuluje – OT – TCU

Fabuluje is a big, powerful wide body who will need to lose some weight in order to be effective at the NFL level. While he was about 350 at the Combine, he was down to 332 at the TCU pro day. Don’t be surprised if Tayo spends his rookie year on the practice squad.

 

Green Bay Packers

Damarious Randall – DS – Arizona State

Six weeks ago, there weren’t too many who felt Randall would go in the first round. With more and more clubs going to safeties that have man coverage skills, Randall’s stock began to rise. Randall has corner size and speed to go along with good hips and range. He should come in and start right away at free safety.

Quinten Rollins – DC – Miami (Ohio)

The transition Rollins made from being a college point guard to a starting corner in football is nothing short of amazing. When you watch him play, the things that sticks out are his incredible instincts and ball skills. His timed speed and short arms are what kept him out of the first round.

Ty Montgomery – WR – Stanford

Going in to the 2014 season, Montgomery was looked at as a possible second round pick. His overall play fell off a bit during the season, but he can be a very reliable third receiver for the Pack. He also has excellent kickoff return ability.

Jake Ryan – LB – Michigan

Ryan has the versatility to play either inside or out. I would think that in the Green Bay scheme, his best fit would be inside. Ryan has top instincts to go along with outstanding toughness.

Brett Hundley – QB – UCLA

You couldn’t ask for Hundley to land in a better spot. He gets to sit and learn from Aaron Rodgers, one of the best in the game. Hundley needs to improve his decision making and accuracy, and he will have plenty of time to do that in Green Bay.

Aaron Ripkowski – FB – Oklahoma

Green Bay is one of the few teams that use a conventional fullback. Ripkowski landed in the perfect place.

 

Minnesota Vikings

Trae Waynes – DC – Michigan State

With all the tall receivers in the NFC North, Waynes will help the Vikings with matchups. He is an excellent press cover corner who just needs to improve his tackling skills. Waynes was clearly the best corner in this draft.

Eric Kendricks – LB – UCLA

Kendricks is a bit undersized, but he is one of the more instinctive linebackers in this draft. He makes plays all over the field. He also is excellent in coverage. An added bonus is Kendricks and last year’s number one Anthony Barr are former roommates, and that will help Kendricks with the transition to the NFL.

Danielle Hunter – DE – LSU

Hunter has outstanding natural physical traits as far as speed, change of directions and body control. He just hasn’t put it all together yet. Had he stayed in school another year, he may have been a first round pick next year. Hunter’s upside is as good as any player in this draft.

T.J. Clemmings – OT – Pittsburgh

Getting Clemmings in the fourth round is the steal of the draft. Clemmings is a first round talent who fell because of a reported foot injury. People I have talked to say the foot is fine and is an old injury. He will be a rookie starter.

MyCole Pruitt – TE – Southern Illinois

Pruitt is an ideal “move” tight end who will help the offense.

Stefon Diggs – WR – Maryland

Diggs is another steal. He was an early entry into the draft and had outstanding production at Maryland. I felt he was, at worst, a third round value, but with a strong wide receiver group, he fell.

Tyrus Thompson – OT – Oklahoma

Thompson has size and power. He needs to lose a little weight to help his movement skills, but he has the traits to be an eventual starter.

Austin Shepherd – OT – Alabama

Shepherd played tackle at Alabama but is more likely to move inside to guard at Minnesota. He has a solid chance to make the team and be a quality backup.

 

Detroit Lions

Laken Tomlinson – OG – Duke

There were some who felt that Tomlinson was more of a second round talent. Still, he has the traits to come in and start at guard, and that is the important thing. With Larry Warford, the Lions can have one of the league’s best guard tandems in another year. Tomlinson is a powerful run blocker and shows excellent hand use in the pass game.

Ameer Abdullah – RB – Nebraska

Abdullah may not have ideal size, but he has proven to be a very durable back while at Nebraska. He is as quick to the hole as any back and has outstanding instincts. Though he lacks size, he is an every down back who will also help in the passing game.

Alex Carter – DC – Stanford

Carter has the traits to play corner or safety in the NFL. He was a very reliable player while at Stanford and was productive versus both the run and pass.

Gabe Wright – DT – Auburn

Everyone thought that the Lions would be taking a defensive tackle early on in the draft. With the Wright pick, they waited until the fourth round. He will give the Lions quality depth.

Michael Burton – FB – Rutgers

I felt Burton was more of a free agent type, but he can block and is a reliable receiver out of the backfield

Quandre Diggs – DC – Texas

Diggs has the suddenness and overall cover skills required. He just lacks height. He will struggle versus taller receivers.

Corey Robinson – OT – South Carolina

Robinson may be a late pick, but don’t be surprised when he becomes a starter in year two or three.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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Dr. David Chao
The Training Room


 

The NFL Draft this past weekend led me to think that much has changed medically since I first attended the Combine in 1994. Of course there are technological advances; however, the largest change is not related to new surgical procedures. The biggest difference is in how teams look at medical information.

The medical evaluation process has remained similar but the way the data is interpreted is different. My marching orders from the team morphed over my almost two decades as a NFL team doctor. In the late 1990s, general managers and head coaches would want to know if a potential first-round pick would last a decade or more and be a source of long-term stability. Years later, the question asked of me became if the player would make it through a first contract. Early in my time in the NFL, I recall specifically being asked by management if a certain offensive lineman’s knees would hold up for a 10 or 12 year career. Towards the end of my team physician tenure, that question often became “can he help us now?”.

This axis shift matches the “Not For Long” nature of the NFL. Statistically, a first-round pick is more likely to outlast his head coach. General manager turnover can be equally fast; a survey last year showed over half had two seasons or less with their current team. With this quick turnover, no wonder the philosophies have looked to shorter windows in this win-now league.

This may also explain the current rarity of a first-round quarterback sitting for several years to learn from a veteran. The decision makers that draft the player may not be around long enough to see the fruits of their selections.

Perhaps the long-term thinking accounts for the stability and success of the Patriots. Certainly no one believes the Seahawks are built for the short term.

The reality is that the pressure to produce trickles all the way down to how medical evaluations are viewed. The NFL urgency has even changed how draft picks are viewed.

MMMD 1: How did red light issues fair?

I detailed what I thought to be the top NFL Draft medical issues and one of the four “RED light” issues remained a first-round selection. The Broncos traded up to select Shane Ray despite rumors of foot surgery and a recent marijuana citation.

While it is indeed possible that Ray doesn’t need surgery, don’t be surprised if that announcement comes. Often it is safer to do surgery now to ensure a healthy season. Based on public reports, I suspect Ray has a medial sesamoid issue. Excision procedure to relieve pain takes a minimum of three months recovery. Denver medical staff will make the decision now to bite the bullet or ride out this season as is.

As an observation (and not social commentary), it was interesting to see how the 2014 and 2015 top Missouri edge rushers (both named SEC Defensive Player of the Year) faired in the draft. Last year, Michael Sam was tabbed in the seventh round and is out of the league. The year, Ray overcame health and legal issues to be selected in in the first round.

Other “RED light” issues with first-round potential did not fair as well. Running back Jay Ajayi had prolific college production but slipped into the fifth round over long-term concerns related to his knee articular cartilage. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu fell all the way to the seventh round with a late season ACL tear which is difficult for a cornerback to recover from. The final “RED light” player will be discussed next.

MMMD 2: Steep price paid for skipping Combine medical recheck

Jaelen Strong was a projected first-round pick until he was perceived to snub teams and fell to the third round. He skipped the chance to have all 32 teams recheck his wrist and I pointed out then how voluntarily missing the return trip to Indianapolis was unprecedented.

Skipping the medical recheck has the appearance of hiding an injury. He was cleared by a Texans hand specialist the week before the draft. A Steelers pre-draft physical also had him passing a physical. It seems he had nothing to hide but his no show at the Combine medical recheck likely hurt his draft stock. Missing recheck is the medical equivalent of skipping your Pro Day when scouts have travelled to see you.

I am not sure who okayed Strong’s absence from medical recheck, but it would be interesting to find out what advice came from the Jay-Z owned Roc Nation Sports agency that represents him.

MMMD 3: Talent evaluation, like medical evaluation, is imperfect

Despite the best efforts to invite the top 320+ college prospects to cover the 256 draft slots, 42 players drafted did not attend Combines. That means about one in six players drafted was not invited to the pre-draft mega-event.

Despite best medical efforts to uncover health issues, anticipate surprises to come. Not every draftee or free agent signee will pass the upcoming rookie physical. Expect medical clarification soon and don’t be shocked when surgeries are announced.

I try to analyze all the publically available information but I do not have access to medical records nor do I feel it ethical to contact team medical staffs to leak insider information. Medical status is always evolving and the only ones that know the truth are the ones performing the physicals. Worries about Leonard Williams’ shoulders may fully dissipate. Concerns about Landon Collins’ shoulder may accelerate with possible arthroscopy. Surgery might be announced on Bud Dupree’s groin/hip. No doubt the team medical staffs will aggressively sort out the details after their players enter the fold.

MMMD 4: No one ever truly removed from draft board

Reports that some teams removed Randy Gregory from their draft board may be metaphorically true but not factually the case. A players draft magnet is never removed from the war room draft board even if a team removes him from consideration. All teams track players regardless of their personal interest in selection.

I have been fortunate enough to be in my team’s war room. Recently Mike Silver has provided glimpses into the draft room of the Rams and Jaguars. Draft magnets and color-coded dots/letters are the common thread of all war rooms.

The Colts’ draft board

For example, there were rumors Gregory was flagged for psychological issues. He might have a “red M” (for medical) or “red C” (for character) on his draft magnet but he would not be truly removed from the board, just pulled from a team’s consideration.

MMMD 5: When draft done, the work just gets started

A team needs to sign up to three times as many undrafted free agents as draft picks to get to the allotted 90 man roster. The scramble begins as the official draft is concluding.

Each team will acquire approximately 20 players in this post-draft feeding frenzy. This is where stars like Tony Romo, Arian Foster and Antonio Gates have been found.

Many of these players have little to no medical information but they will have to pass a rookie physical performed by the team before official signing.

MMMD 6: ACL revolution continues

ACL tears used to be considered career threatening. This year, two first-round selections are coming off ACL surgery. Teams did not hesitate to select Todd Gurley at number ten and Cedric Ogbuehi at 21. Both of them had “YELLOW light” injury ratings in my analysis.

Not all ACL tears are the same. The relatively isolated injuries are the ones that do best. I always have said you need three things to happen to get a full recovery: 1) an injury amenable to recovery, 2) good surgery, and 3) good rehab. All three have to happen for success. Much like a snap, hold and kick all have to work in concert for a successful field goal.

MMMD 7: Darnell Dockett always refreshingly honest

The now 49ers defensive end is well know for his frankness and lack of filter on social media. That also extends to his injury self-assessments.

No standard “ahead of schedule” statements here. Dockett missed 2014 with ACL surgery and admits to targeting the regular season. He says he has been to enough OTAs and mini-camps.

Follow David on Twitter: @profootballdoc

Dr. David Chao is a former NFL head team physician with 17 years of sideline, locker and training room experience. He currently has a successful orthopedic/sports medicine practice in San Diego.

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Jeff Fedotin
Guest Stars


CHICAGO—Shane Ray and Randy Gregory endured a similar fate.

The talented pass rushers plummeted in the 2015 NFL Draft because of marijuana issues.

“Shane is kind of like me. He made a bad choice.” Gregory told NFP. “I wish nothing but the best for him, hope he makes some smarter decisions in the future and I’m hoping he wishes the same upon me.”

But while the humbled Gregory said he deserved what happened to him, the overly confident Ray was defiant.

“I want to show those other teams that they made a huge mistake. … This does nothing but add fuel to the fire,” Ray said. “I will use this as motivation and I hope that I do see every one of those teams twice a year.”

Ray, who had 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss last year, vowed to demonstrate his ability that had many pegging him as a Top 10 pick last month before his issues, including an April 27 citation for weed possession, caused him to slide to No. 23 overall.

“I will go over and beyond to show (the Broncos) that I am more than capable at dominating at whatever they ask me to do,” he said. “And when I say ‘dominating,’ I mean nothing less than that.”

While the Denver-bound Ray seemed vengeful, Gregory took a more apologetic tone, saying he needed to mature.

“I made a real dumb decision,” Gregory said, “that’s been the most embarrassing part of my life up to this point and I’m just ready to fix it.”

After testing positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine, Gregory fell out of the first round and was the last player remaining in the green room when the Cowboys selected him 60th overall.

Gregory’s Missed Appointments

Magnifying concerns over his character, the Nebraska product was truant from meetings with several NFL clubs.

“I know for a fact it hurt me with a few teams,” Gregory said. “I understood why I wasn’t picked high.”

One meeting Gregory did attend was with the Cowboys a couple of weeks ago. He spent 40 minutes with head coach Jason Garrett, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and owner Jerry Jones.

Gregory compared his heart-to-heart with Jones to a stern father-son conversation. Dallas has taken chances on several players with a litany of off-the-field problems, including wide receiver Dez Bryant and defensive end Greg Hardy.

Gregory, who said he smoked weed to help cope with anxiety, told reporters he would be open to having a mentor/sponsor, which the Cowboys have used on players in the past.

Unintentionally wearing Cowboys colors — a silver suit and blue tie — on Friday night, he may prove to be a great fit in Dallas. Having recorded just 28 sacks in 2014, the Cowboys ranked 26th in pass defense and are in desperate need of a pass rusher.

“I feel like I could be a piece right there to get us to that next level, get us another championship,” Gregory said. “That’s what makes it exciting.”

Denver, on the other hand, does not have a hole at pass rusher. With DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, after whom Ray has modeled his game, the Broncos ranked in the top 10 in the NFL last year with 41 sacks.

Rumors, though, circulated that the Ravens were targeting Ray, and the Broncos traded their first-round pick, fifth-round pick, 2016 fifth-round pick, and offensive lineman Manny Ramirez to the Lions to move up five spots to select the explosive 6-3, 245-pound Missouri star.

Injury and Weight Issues

Trading up was somewhat of a surprising move by Denver, considering Ray not only had the marijuana incident but also a toe injury that prevented him from working out at the Combine and had some speculating he would miss much of his rookie NFL season.

Ray, though, said that his doctor told him he did not need surgery. The injury was only keeping him out because he did not have time to properly rehab it due to the hectic schedule of pro days, the Combine and flying to meet teams.

He promised to be healthy enough to play Week 1 against the Ravens.

“My toe’s fine,” Ray said. “I will be ready.”

Like Ray, Gregory had a physical concern that caused him to fall in the draft.

Though a gifted 6-5 pass rusher who had 17.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss the last two years, he was the lightest defensive lineman at the Combine at 235 pounds. Gregory said he currently weighed 239 to 240 pounds and that he needs to get up to 255.

“One of the big things is obviously putting a little bit more mass on me,” he said. “I’m definitely going to get there.”

Ray is going to get to play in Colorado, a state that legalized pot, something that made him the butt of social media jokes.

“Just because I was cited for marijuana possession doesn’t mean I’m this huge smoker or some huge drug addict,” Ray said. “That’s not a worry for me.”

Instead Ray is more concerned with proving himself to the other teams who passed on him before the Broncos selected him at No. 23.

“They’re all circled, you best believe,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with my situation that the Broncos decided to trade up to get me and give me a second opportunity. And I’m going to show them that this was the best decision they could’ve made.”

Follow Jeff on Twitter @JFedotin

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Tony Villiotti
Draftmetrics


As was said in our “Let the Draft Holidays Begin” articles, about 75% of five-year starters and 80% of rookie starters, future Pro Bowl selections and All Pro selections come from the first three rounds of the draft so that is where our attention should be focused. We will summarize the complete draft next week, but for right now we will take a quick look at the first three rounds.

Draftees by Playing Position

First, how do the positions drafted in the first three rounds this year compare to history? The 2015 draft is pretty consistent with what would have been projected based on the 2005-2014 drafts. Here is how the numbers stack up.

The largest variance is in the offensive line where three more players were drafted than would have been expected. Offsetting this variance, fewer quarterbacks and safeties were selected than would have been projected based on history.

Draftees by Conference

Next we looked at the number of draftees by conference. Again, the 10-year historical average was compared to the 2015 Draft. The PAC 12 led the power conferences in the number of draftees over the first three rounds and had a significantly higher number of draftees than in the recent past. Conversely, other conferences (MAC, MWC, etc.) had about half the number of selections than in past years. Information by conference is as follows:

Draftees by NFL Team

A combination of trades and compensatory picks resulted in five teams having more than three selections in the first three rounds. The Browns and Saints each had five selections with the Chiefs, Raiders and Rams having four selections.

Trades resulted in four teams having two selections in the first three rounds. These teams were the Bills, Dolphins, Panthers and Seahawks.

Trades

By our count there were 13 trades during the first two days of the draft, with only two of those involving first round selections. The trades are listed below. We have also included the most recent comparable trade to help assess the reasonableness of the cost to move up in the 2015 trades. There are no perfect matches but it does provide a “ball park” look. The year in parentheses under Comparable Trades indicates the year of that trade. A number in parentheses indicates that the team trading up also received a draft selection back to “balance” the trade.

The Lions trade is somewhat difficult to compare with past trades because a serviceable player (Ramirez) was included as part of the consideration. The trades generally are consistent with their comparable trades. It does appear, though, that the Panthers and Seahawks may have paid a somewhat stiff price compared to similar trades. All in all, though, nothing jumps out as unfair compensation.

Follow Tony on Twitter @draftmetrics

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