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NFL Draft 2015: First Round Grades

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#9 New York Giants select Ereck Flowers, OT, University of Miami

Grade: B

The Giants were believed to be enamored with Brandon Scherff at this spot, but he was long gone by the time this pick rolled around. Ereck Flowers can fit in at tackle or guard, so New York is free to plug him in as they see fit. He’s already a strong run blocker, and he has quick feet for pass protection, but gets sloppy in his technique, particularly when he tries to jump outside on a pass rusher only to open up an inside lane or get off balance. Even if he can’t ever get his pass protection to match his run blocking, he’ll still be a good RT or OG should the Giants choose to kick him inside.

My Pick: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford University

Like it or not, the Giants go as Eli Manning goes. So if they want to give themselves a fighting chance, Manning needs to be upright and throwing the ball (preferably to his receivers and not the other team). In short, I agree with emphasizing the offensive line, I just prefer Peat as a pass blocker over Flowers. Per reports, some teams liked Flowers better and some like Peat better. Clearly the Giants fell into the former category. Andrus Peat is a giant at 6’7″ and 34 3/8″ arms, and he can sink into a good pass blocking set, which is critical for a man of his height. I think Peat would make for a better LT prospect, making him the higher value pick here, but I don’t disagree with picking Flowers here, either.

#10: St. Louis Rams select Todd Gurley, RB, University of Georgia

Grade: B+

This pick is darn near impossible to grade because there are so many variables in play. Coming off an ACL tear, can Gurley regain all of his explosiveness? Can the St. Louis offensive line open any running lanes for him? Is Tre Mason the real deal? There’s no doubt that Todd Gurley is the best RB prospect to come along in a while, and he has the talent to be a top 3 pick if healthy. In that context, getting a top 3 guy at #10 overall is a steal for St. Louis. But with Tre Mason putting together a pair of 100-yard rushing games last season and looking poised to build on that success this year, the Rams are making a bit of a luxury pick by adding to a position of strength. One thing is clear, however, that St. Louis plans on emulating the Seattle/San Francisco approach in the NFC West, using a strong rushing attack and physical defense to control time of possession and grind out games. The Rams are a team that are a couple pieces away from playoff contention, so I think they can pull it off.

My Pick: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State University

St. Louis was stout against the run (which is what happens when you have a dominant defensive line) but weak against the pass last year (ranked 20th by Football Outsiders). Selecting the top cornerback in the draft would address an area defensively where St. Louis needs help, rather than doubling up with another running back. Offensive line would be an option here as well, but seeing as the Rams already have Greg Robinson at LT, there isn’t great value in drafting someone like Andrus Peat to play RT here. Receiver is another option, with DeVante Parker on the board, but maybe St. Louis’s front office realized they’re just not that great at scouting WR prospects.

#11: Minnesota Vikings select Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State University

Grade: B+

This pick was going to be either Trae Waynes or DeVante Parker, two players who fit the range and the needs for the Vikings. Parker had the upside of being Bridgewater’s old teammate, meaning the two would already have a developed chemistry. Personally, I’m not a big fan of using “chemistry” as a reason to move a player around on your draft board, because developing chemistry is what practice is for. With Mike Zimmer as coach, Minnesota has predictably put an emphasis on defense, and it paid dividends in his first season. In an NFC North division that features receivers like Calvin Johnson, Alshon Jeffrey, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb, it was imperative that the Vikings have cover guys that could match up. Waynes has good size and plenty of foot speed to match up with outside receivers and slow down the potent passing attacks around the division.

My Pick: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State University

Especially under the coaching of Mike Zimmer, Trae Waynes has all the talent to be an upper tier corner. Together with Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings can field a pair of cornerbacks over 6′ with sub-4.4 speed in their base defense.

#12: Cleveland Browns select Danny Shelton, DT, University of Washington

Grade: B+

Cleveland ranked last against the run last season, and they had a desperate need for a space-eater up front. At 339 lbs, Danny Shelton can do just that. Size-wise, he’s almost an identical copy of Terrance Knighton, who was a major factor in Denver’s run defense the past couple years. Shelton ran a slow 40 at the combine (5.64 seconds), but when’s the last time you saw a nose tackle run 40 yards in a game? Strength-wise, he put up 34 reps at 225 lbs, good for 6th at the scouting combine. The real question with Shelton will be his motor. He has a tendency to quit against blockers that can match his physicality, and there will be a lot more of those at the NFL level. Furthermore, will Cleveland’s organizational culture perhaps fail to get the necessary buy-in for players to compete on every play? That remains to be seen.

My Pick: Danny Shelton, DT, University of Washington

Shelton fits the range and fills a need. If he can keep his weight at a level that allows him to maintain a burst off the line, he can be a strong run defender for sure. His short-area quickness allows him to play two gaps and pursue stretch plays. Additionally, he has above average pass-rushing ability, so he could be an asset on third downs as well.

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