2015 NFL Draft: Best Picks Of The 6th Round
The Pro Bowl talent is usually dried up, but there are still starter-level players to be had in the 6th round. Players picked this late in the draft come on very cheap contracts and are valuable assets if they can contribute. There were some quality players available in the 6th round this year, and a few could make an impact in 2015.
When determining what were the best/my favorite picks of a round, I use a metric I call Value Score. Value Score is calculated by dividing where a player was picked by where I had that player ranked on my 2015 Big Board.
Value Score = Draft slot where Player X was taken/Rank of Player X on my board
Along with my breakdown of my favorite picks of the round, I have listed the 12 6th round picks (out of 41 total in the round) that earned a Value Score greater than one. When a pick earns a Value Score greater than one it means that the player who was picked was drafted later than where they were ranked on my big board. This means that the player who was selected would have been one of the top players left on my board at that point in the draft and I may have made the same pick were I the one making the decision. A Value Score less than one means that I would not have made that same selection with that draft pick. The higher the score, the more likely it is I would have made the same pick.
Failing to factor in where a team picks in a round is a common flaw in the analysis of draft picks. The Buccaneers 2nd round pick was only one slot later than the Patriots 1st round pick, so comparing their classes as a whole isn't an accurate portrayal of how well each team drafted. Value Score takes care of this problem.
Value Score factors in at what point in the round a player was taken, so teams picking later in a round are evaluated fairly compared to teams picking in the early part of the round. Each team has an equal chance to earn a good Value Score, regardless of where they pick. My favorite picks of the 6th round happen to be the three picks that earned the top three Value Scores (this was not the case for my favorite picks of the 2nd/3rd, 4th, or 5th rounds).
DT Michael Bennett, Ohio State - Jacksonville Jaguars
Draft Slot: 180
My Rank: 68
Value Score: 2.65
Michael Bennett had issues with his hamstring during the 2014 season and throughout the pre-draft process. The hamstring injury is the main reason for his precipitous drop. Even with the injury taken into consideration, this was a steal for the Jaguars. Bennett is an undersized DT and will likely not be a three down player right away. However, he has an impressive first step and can be used as a pass rushing DT on 3rd down if he can stay healthy.
In the later rounds I always advocate high upside picks even if they come with a low floor. Bennett fits the mold. He has shown he has the talent to be a contributor at the pro level if he can stay on the field. If he cannot stay healthy, then the Jags lose only a 6th round pick. Jacksonville added to an already superb draft class with this selection (their 3rd-6th round picks all earned Value Scores greater than one).
S Derron Smith, Fresno State - Cincinnati Bengals
Draft Slot: 197
My Rank: 79
Value Score: 2.49
Like Bennett, Derron Smith fell primarily due to injury concerns. He played through a sports hernia in 2014 and had surgery after the season. Smith was unable to participate in the combine due to the surgery. He was able to take part in Fresno State's pro day, and put up some decent numbers:
40 Yard Dash - 4.61 seconds
Broad Jump - 123 inches
Vertical Jump - 34 inches
20 Yard Shuttle - 4.44 seconds
Three Cone Drill - 6.95 seconds
(There are conflicting reports regarding Smith's 20 yard shuttle and three cone time, but these were the numbers that I saw most frequently.)
These numbers aren't elite for a safety, but they do indicate that Smith has NFL-caliber athletic ability. Smith is a bit undersized at 5'10 - 200 lbs, but was exceptionally productive in college. He intercepted 15 passes during his Fresno State career, and was named 1st-Team All-Mountain West as a sophomore, junior, and senior. Smith's lack of size and injury concerns landed him in the 6th round, but his impressive production and athleticism make him a solid value pick for the Bengals.
CB Quandre Diggs, Texas - Detroit Lions
Draft Slot: 200
My Rank: 96
Value Score: 2.08
Quandre Diggs reminds me of a player who was one of my favorite picks of the 6th round of the 2014 NFL Draft: St. Louis Rams CB E.J. Gaines. Both are undersized corners who aren't elite athletes but are aggressive, willing tacklers. Gaines was a pleasant surprise for the Rams last season, and Diggs could follow in his footsteps for the Lions in 2015.
Unlike my first two favorites, Diggs' does not have injury concerns. He made 49 starts for Texas and never missed a game. Diggs' measurables are what landed him in the 6th round. He stands only 5'9 - 195 lbs with below-average athleticism for the cornerback position. His combine results are shown in the graphic below.
What Diggs does have is exceptional instincts and a fearless attitude. He was named All-Big-12 three times and finished with 151 solo tackles in his career. Diggs comes from NFL bloodlines, as he is the younger brother of former NFL CB Quentin Jammer.
Diggs should adjust quickly to the pro game and make it tough for his coaches to keep him off the field. Detroit needs help in the secondary, and Diggs could earn early playing time as a slot corner.
Top Value Scores of the 6th Round:
DT Michael Bennett (Jaguars) - 2.65
S Derron Smith (Bengals) - 2.49
CB Quandre Diggs (Lions) - 2.08
CB JaCorey Shepherd (Eagles) - 1.84
DE Anthony Chickillo (Steelers) - 1.83
DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches (Chiefs) - 1.54
RB Josh Robinson (Colts) - 1.30
OT Tyrus Thompson (Vikings) - 1.29
DT Christian Covington (Texans) - 1.29
DT Christian Ringo (Packers) - 1.16
TE Nick O'Leary (Bills) - 1.10
CB Charles Gaines (Browns) - 1.04
All of these players have flaws that resulted in
them being available in the 6th round. The key is to find players with flaws that aren't fatal and won't prevent them from being quality NFL players. A 6th round pick who can play at a league average level is extremely valuable given how cheap their contracts are. Finding a starter in the 6th round is fantastic value, anything more is a bonus.