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NFL Draft 2015: First Round Grades

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#13: New Orleans Saints select Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford University

Grade: C+

Perhaps the best true LT prospect in this class, Peat is a mammoth of a man at 6’7″ 313 lbs. Ironically, the Saints already have a young blindside protector in Terron Armstead. The right side of New Orleans’s line is starting to age, so he’ll be able to step in as a replacement for Zach Strief eventually, but I fail to see why drafting a successor to a 31-year-old RT is such a priority. Andrus Peat could have been drafted a few spots earlier, so it’s not so much that the Saint overspent here, but the fit seems odd at best.

My Pick: DeVante Parker, WR, University of Louisville

The Saints just traded away Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills this offseason. Unless the plan is also to offload Drew Brees and really blow the whole thing up, they need to find guys that can catch passes from the future Hall of Famer. Marques Colston’s best years are behind him, and at 31 years old, he’s not getting any quicker. Brandin Cooks was a first round pick last year, but at 5’10” 189 lbs., he seems more suited to play in the slot or as a #2 receiver. At 6’3″ 209 lbs. and with exceptional body control, Parker can be the big bodied receiver the Saints will need going forward. Jimmy Graham was a constant mismatch in the red zone thanks to his height and leaping ability. Drafting Parker would have allowed New Orleans to regain some of that element.

#14: Miami Dolphins select DeVante Parker, WR, University of Louisville

Grade: A-

The Miami Dolphins were known to covet DeVante Parker, who was also in play for the Vikings at #11. After essentially swapping Kenny Stills in for Mike Wallace this offseason and losing Charles Clay to the Buffalo Bills, the Dolphins needed more than just an outside burner to catch passes from Ryan Tannehill (who, with a total QBR that ranks 14th in the league and a Pass EPA that is better than Andrew Luck, isn’t as bad as people think). The addition of Parker gives Tannehill a receiver he can rely on anywhere on the field.

My Pick: DeVante Parker, WR, University of Louisville

There were rumors that the Dolphins might be interested in drafting a running back, but it was a better choice to go for one of the upper tier wideouts available in this draft. Having made a big free agency splash on the defensive side of the ball (Ndamukong Suh), Miami needed to make sure its offense could hold up its end of the bargain. After last year’s class was able to buck the trend of receivers needing a couple years to acclimate to the league, expectations will be high for Parker, and his ability to perform from Day 1 will also impact whether Tannehill cements himself as the long-term answer or whether the front office decides to start looking elsewhere. With passing more valuable than rushing in the current NFL, going receiver here was the right call.

#15: San Diego Chargers (from San Francisco) select Melvin Gordon, RB, University of Wisconsin

Grade: B

San Diego moved up to select Melvin Gordon, fearing that the Texans might take him if they stood pat at #17. The move cost the Chargers a 4th rounder and a future 5th, which sounds pretty steep considering there wasn’t much reason to believe that Houston would take Gordon at #16. When healthy, Arian Foster is among the better backs in the league, and while they might’ve been interested if Todd Gurley was available, Melvin Gordon isn’t quite on the same level. That said, Gordon makes a ton of sense for the Chargers, who said goodbye to Ryan Matthews in free agency and lack a feature back on their roster. Gordon is an asset both as a runner and receiver, which is something the Chargers arguably haven’t had since the days of LaDanian Tomlinson. If Melvin Gordon can live up to the Jamaal Charles comparisons he’s received since the start of the draft process, the Chargers’ offense will be formidable. The grade gets dinged because of the unnecessary cost of moving up, but other than that it’s an excellent pick.

My Pick: Melvin Gordon, RB, University of Wisconsin

Given how much the running back position has been devalued, to see a guy taken in the first round (and be deserving of that selection) should tell you everything you need to know about his skills. The Chargers needed someone like Gordon in their running game, and if he meets expectations, the cost of extra picks will be well worth it for them.

#16: Houston Texans select Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest University

Grade: B

Kevin Johnson wasn’t getting a lot of buzz even though many expected him to be the second cornerback off the board. That probably stems from the fact that he didn’t go to a powerhouse school and is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, with an ability to line up anywhere on the field and fit into either a press-man or zone coverage scheme. He lacks elite speed (4.52 40 yard dash), which forces him to give burners a little more cushion underneath, where he can be beat. He’s also unlikely to ever be a tackling machine, as his thin frame will get him pushed around by run blockers. Still, Johnson’s versatility will be useful for the Texans, who could plug him in as a slot cornerback from Day 1.

My Pick: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State University

Choosing a player who might not project as more than a sub-package player on defense seems like a luxury pick. Meanwhile, the Texans have a clear need for a #2 receiver with the departure of Andre Johnson. Big-bodied and able to compete for the ball, Strong has possession receiver written all over him. Technique-wise, there’s plenty of work to be done, but he has the physical tools you want.

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