2015 NFL Draft: Best Picks Of The 4th Round
As soon as Day Two of the draft finished up, I detailed my top value picks of the 2nd and 3rd rounds I had to make sure I could get in my two cents about who I thought were the top remaining prospects before rounds 4-7 transpired. Now days later, I will be breaking down my top picks of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th round as well as undrafted free agents in the upcoming weeks.
To guide my evaluation of a pick, I use a metric I call Value Score. Value Score is essentially the difference between how I ranked a player on my 2015 Big Board and the slot at which that same player was picked in the 2015 NFL Draft. Value Score is calculated by dividing the pick number at which a player was drafted by my rank for that player.
Value Score = (Player's Draft Slot/My Rank for that Player)
A Value Score for a pick greater than one means that the player who was picked was drafted lower than where he was ranked on my board. The higher the score, the more value the drafting team got with the pick according to my board, and the more likely it is that I would have made the same pick at that slot.
If the score is below one, it means that I had the player ranked lower on my board than where he was picked. A negative score means that, unless I completely deviate from my board, I would have made a different selection with that pick.
Below I have listed the picks with the top ten Value Scores in the 4th round. Team fit is an extremely significant factor in the ultimate success of a pick, and Value Score does not take into account team fit. For this reason, I have also analyzed my favorite picks when factoring in how the player will fit with the team that drafted him. One of my favorite picks is actually a pick that got a Value Score lower than one.
Top 10 Value Scores of the 4th Round:
DE Trey Flowers (Patriots) - 2.24 (Value Score)
OT T.J. Clemmings (Vikings) - 2.08
RB Mike Davis (49ers) - 1.70
- S James Sample (Jaguars) - 1.51
WR Deandre Smelter (49ers) - 1.45
WR Justin Hardy (Falcons) - 1.41
DT Marcus Hardison (Bengals) - 1.15
LB Kwon Alexander (Buccaneers) - 1.09
OG/C Shaq Mason (Patriots) - 1.07
QB Bryce Petty (Jets) - 1.05
My Favorite Picks:
DE Trey Flowers, Arkansas - New England Patriots
Draft Slot: 101st overall
My Rank: 45
Value Score: 2.24
I was extremely surprised Flowers was still available in the 4th round. He was a disruptive force for the Razorbacks against some of the best offensive tackles in the nation. Flowers has some pass rushing ability, but his strength is setting the edge in the run game and winning at the line of scrimmage. The fact that pass rushing isn't his primary strength is the main reason he was still available after 100 picks.
The image above shows how Flowers' combine numbers compare to defensive ends at the combine dating back to 1999, courtesy of mockdraftable.com (the best site for analyzing combine performance in my opinion). The first thing that jumps out is his poor 40-yard dash time. The 40-yard dash means little for defensive lineman, yet it surely played a role in his drop to the 4th round.
Unlike the 40-yard dash, both the broad and vertical jumps do correlate strongly with success for defensive ends and pass rushers. The jumps give a good indication of how explosive a player is off the snap. Flowers performed above the 80th percentile in both.
Arm length is also crucial for pass rushers. Long arms allow a defensive lineman to make first contact with an offensive lineman and control the engagement. Flowers has arms that are longer than average and still benched very well, even though longer arms make bench pressing more difficult. He has the length and strength to compliment his athleticism. The Patriots nailed this pick.
WR Justin Hardy, East Carolina – Atlanta Falcons
Draft Slot: 107
My Rank: 76
Value Score: 1.41
Justin Hardy was not only a great value pick by Scott Pioli and Thomas Dimitroff, but is also a perfect fit for the Falcons. After letting Harry Douglas walk in free agency, there was a glaring need for a slot receiver to play alongside Roddy White and Julio Jones. The Falcons found their guy in the 4th round.
Hardy led the FBS in catches the last two seasons due to his ability to consistently get open and catch everything thrown his way. Hardy is a quick, underneath receiver who will move the chains on 3rd down and be an exceptional check-down option when Julio Jones isn't open deeper down the field.
Like Flowers, Hardy didn't run a good 40-yard dash time for his position (4.56 seconds). The 40-yard dash is incredibly overrated in my opinion, and is often times a lesser predictor of success than some of the other drills. Hardy was undoubtedly dropped down many draft boards because of his sub par 40 time. To be honest, his 40 time was actually a bit faster than I expected.
Hardy’s large hands (ten inches) and incredible three cone drill time (6.63 seconds) are promising signs that his impressive productivity will translate to the next level. Matt Ryan and Justin Hardy will connect many times over the next four-plus seasons.
S James Sample, Louisville – Jacksonville Jaguars
Draft Slot: 104
My Rank: 69
Value Score: 1.51
The Jaguars had a very nice 2015 draft, even with the injury to Dante Fowler Jr. They did well in the mid-late rounds, exactly what a team as thin as Jacksonville must do to jump-start the rebuilding process.
Sample was a quality value pick for the Jags. His teammate at Louisville, S Gerod Holliman, got much of the spotlight due to his ridiculous 14 interceptions in 2014. However, Sample is the more talented player and will be the better pro.
At 6'2 - 210 lbs, Sample has ideal size for a safety. He is a consistent tackler, but also has some coverage ability as well. Sample doesn’t fall into the traditional category of a “box” or “centerfield/deep" safety. He is a little bit of both, and that versatility should allow him to see the field in 2015 for the Jaguars.
OT T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh – Minnesota Vikings
Draft Slot: 110
My Rank: 53
Value Score: 2.08
I initially had Clemmings on a list of players I predicted would be ov erdrafted in my big board article. I ended up being wrong, and I think the Vikings got good value with this pick. When I put Clemmings on my overdraft list, I put him there because I thought he would go in the early 2nd round. Getting an offensive tackle with as much potential as Clemmings in the 4th round is outstanding value, especially when considering how thin the tackle position was at this point in the draft.
Clemmings is a fantastic athlete and has as high of a ceiling as any offensive tackle in this draft. Why did he fall to the 4th round? He only played offensive line for two seasons at Pitt after converting from defensive line, and his inexperience was exposed when he was completely overwhelmed at the Senior Bowl. On top of that, a stress fracture was discovered in his foot during a pre-draft medical exam.
Because he was taken so late, the Vikings won’t feel pressure to play Clemmings too soon if he isn't ready immediately. Minnesota can allow him time to refine his technique and learn the nuances of playing offensive tackle if necessary. He has a long way to go in pass protection, but has already displayed proficiency as a run blocker. Clemmings could be a valuable asset as an extra tackle in jumbo packages with Adrian Peterson back in town. There is some risk associated with this pick, but the potential reward makes this selection a great value.
WR Deandre Smelter, Georgia Tech – 49ers
Draft Slot: 132
My Rank: 91
Value Score: 1.45
Deandre Smelter is one of my top sleepers of the 2015 draft. He has prototypical size (6'2 - 225 lbs) for the wide receiver position and has absolutely massive hands (11 inches). Smelter is also an exceptional athlete, and doubled as a baseball player for Georgia Tech. It has been rumored that he's been clocked at as high as 98 mph as a pitcher.
Unfortunately, Smelter tore his ACL in 2014. The combination of his injury and playing in Georgia Tech’s triple option offense led to him being severely underrated. He was not given as much national exposure as he deserved due to the offensive scheme he played in and his injury. Had Smelter been healthy and able to participate at the combine, there is no chance he would have made it out of the 2nd round. He is an outstanding deep threat, and is very physical with the ball in his hands and as a blocker. Great value for Trent Baalke and the 49ers, even though he may redshirt in 2015.
The One That Got Away
LB Jake Ryan, Michigan - Green Bay Packers
Draft Slot: 129
My Rank: 147
Value Score: 0.88
After looking more into Jake Ryan after the draft, I can admit I was too low on him. I had him ranked 147 on my board, but I should have had him much higher. Due to the fact that I had Ryan ranked lower than where he was picked, his Value Score ended up being lower than one.
Despite the low Value Score, I really like this pick for Green Bay. The Packers need help at linebacker, and Jake Ryan is a perfect fit. Green Bay got an early-impact player with the 129th overall pick.
Ryan didn't stand out in any one combine drill in particular, but he performed well in almost every event. This is evidence that he is a natural all-around athlete who should transition well to the next level, even if he didn't put up any eye-popping numbers. The Packers did very well with this 4th round pick, getting a player who should start for them next season.
DE Za'Darius Smith (Ravens) - Really like this fit for the Ravens, even though this pick also got a Value Score slightly below one (0.94). He will help replace Pernell McPhee, who left in Free Agency this offseason. In letting McPhee leave for Chicago, the Ravens continue their trend of compiling compensatory picks in bunches. GM Ozzie Newsome is the best in the business for a reason.