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NFL Draft 2015: First Round Grades

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#5: Washington Redskins select Brandon Scherff, OT, University of Iowa

Grade: C-

Brandon Scherff played left tackle at Iowa but projects as a right tackle or guard at the next level. For that reason and that reason alone, I can’t endorse this pick. Last year, the Cowboys picked Zack Martin and moved him inside with great success. But Martin was picked in the middle of the first round, not the top 5. If Washington thinks Scherff can start on the right side and eventually take over as LT (which would also mean that Washington was unable to retain Trent Williams for some reason), this pick becomes a full letter grade better.

My Pick: Leonard Williams, DT, University of Southern California

Again, Williams is the BPA here, and Washington ranked 29th last season in points allowed per game. That defense needs help and Leonard Williams could have absolutely provided it.

#6: New York Jets select Leonard Williams, DT, University of Southern California

Grade: B+

And finally Williams comes off the board. For a time, analysts thought he was in play for Tennessee at #2, and most had him as the best player in the draft, so the Jets got tremendous value here. The problem, of course, is that the Jets already have Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson on the roster. Spending a top pick on a backup is the type of luxury good teams can afford, but the Jets have needs elsewhere. The best option would have been to trade the pick, since there has to be some team out there that would be interested in the former Trojan’s services. That said, there were rumblings that some teams had flagged Williams with a shoulder issue, which would both explain his slide and why no other team was aggressive in trying to get him.

Everything changes, however, if Muhammad Wilkerson gets traded. He is in the final year of his contract and has been skipping workouts to try and force management to offer him a new deal. Adding Williams takes the leverage away from Wilkerson, and may even allow the Jets to try and get some return on him while he remains under contract. If that happens, bump this up to at least a solid A.

My Pick: Leonard Williams, DT, University of Southern California

I know, I know, I just spent the above segment being critical of this very selection for the Jets, but at the same time a B+ is still a very good grade. I’m not allowing myself to trade picks, and it’s not like need and value were really meshing here. Scherff was off the board, no remaining QB even merits a first round pick, and it’s too early to be thinking about a running back here. Vic Beasley could’ve been an option, but my vote still goes to Williams.

#7: Chicago Bears select Kevin White, WR, West Virginia University

Grade: C+

Lots of people like this pick for the Bears, seeing Kevin White as a natural replacement for the now-departed Brandon Marshall, but I think calling WR a need for the Bears just because they lost a receiver is lazy. Chicago still has Alshon Jeffrey, who looks perfectly capable of taking over the #1 WR role for that offense, and Matt Forte is better than most when it comes to catching passes out of the backfield. Furthermore, the problem with that offense isn’t the pass catching, it’s the quarterback. The Bears were rumored to be one of the teams trying to move up to #2 to select Marcus Mariota. If their offer centered around Cutler and the #7 pick, Tennessee was right to turn them down. White is a good player, but much like the Jets above them, the Bears are investing in an area that’s a relative strength when there are needs elsewhere.

My Pick: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State University

Chicago ranked 30th in the league in passing yardage allowed last season. In a division featuring potent passing attacks in Green Bay and Detroit, Chicago needs to have a shutdown corner to compete. Many thought Trae Waynes was better than Darqueze Dennard (a first rounder last year) two years ago for Michigan State, and the guy has blistering 4.3 speed to go with size (6’0″) and leaping ability (38″ vertical).

#8: Atlanta Falcons select Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson University

Grade: A

Atlanta’s pass rush last season was abysmal, ranking 30th in the league in sacks (and closer to the total of the 32nd ranked Bengals than the 29th ranked Chargers), and dead last in total passing yards allowed. As I’ve said before, this is a passing league—in order to win you have to be able to throw the ball and defend the pass. An edge rusher was Atlanta’s biggest need, and they were able to fill it with Vic Beasley, an exceptionally athletic OLB who has the raw talent (speed, fluidity) and just needs to be coached on technique. Stronger than (but not as quick as) Von Miller, expect Beasley to make the most noise when he’s able to jet the quarterback on passing downs. While reaching double-digit sacks in his rookie season (a la Miller) may be a lot to ask, a number closer to eight isn’t out of the question, and offenses will soon make it a point to know where he is on the field.

My Pick: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson University

It was a surprise to see a number of mock drafts slotting Bud Dupree in this spot. Of the two athletic rushers, Beasley has the higher floor given his better college production and better instincts to play the position. In Beasley, the Falcons are getting the type of player they sorely need without having to move up at all to go get him. Beasley also fits the range from a value standpoint, so there’s really nothing to quibble with this pick.

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