As the CPGM 2015 NFL Re-draft continues find out whether or not Melvin Gordon landed with the San Diego Chargers again.
9. New York Giants – Preston Smith – BIG move by DE/OLB Preston Smith who was actually selected by division rival Washington in the second round. He, like most rookies that demonstrate promise, had a strong second half to the season. Considering the Giants inability to stop anyone and/or preserve a lead due to a historically bad defense I believe a talented pass rusher, with the functional strength to play with his hand in the ground makes sense at pick #9. The Giants were dead last against the pass and 30th against the run; and only two teams had fewer sacks than the G-Men (23). The days of Strahan, Tuck, Umenyiora and JPP with all his phalanges are long gone. The masses may recall the splash play Smith made during the Wild Card game against the Green Bay Packers, as he bulled rushed the left tackle and sacked Aaron Rodgers for a safety. What you may not know is that Smith led all rookies with 8.0 sacks despite starting only one game. An impressive performance and one the Giants certainly could have used. Smith still has a ways to go which makes his rookie campaign that much more encouraging.
10. St. Louis Rams – Todd Gurley – There probably aren’t enough superlatives to do Gurley justice. Let’s just suffice it to say that the Rams, despite all of their offensive deficiencies, made the right selection. The knee checked out and when the Rams organization finally unleashed their thoroughbred he left us all in awe. Three DNPs, a below average offensive line and shoddy quarterback play didn’t prevent the locomotive of a ball-carrier from finishing third in rushing yards (1,106) on only 229 carries. He amassed 11 carries of 20+ yards good for 2nd in the NFL and 10 rushing TDs one shy of the league lead. Keep in mind Gurley eclipsed double digit carries in only 10 contests. Speed, power, vision, burst; he’s a baaad man! A first round running back! The drought is over and he didn’t disappoint.
11. Minnesota Vikings – DeVante Parker – We were spoiled by the 2014 rookie WR class without question. The mixed bag of results from the 2015 crop is much more common and didn’t come as a surprise despite the fact that the NFL has done everything in its power to make it a “pitch and catch” league. Parker’s 26/494/3 line is modest on its surface but health, the rookie learning curve and an organization in flux contributed to his lack of playing time (started 4 games) and targets (50). However, his 19.0 yards per catch average and 1 TD reception per 8.67 receptions suggests BIG PLAY and red-zone target; exactly what the scouting report suggested. I really like what I saw from fellow rookie receiver Stefon Diggs in Minnesota but Teddy Bridgewater needs someone on the outside that can stretch the field and possess a large catch radius. Bridgewater is deadly accurate in the short-to-intermediate part of the field (most accurate between 10-19 yards according to Pro Football Focus) but he needs a receiver that gives him a larger margin of error downfield. His former Louisville teammate, Parker, brings that skill-set to the table at 6’3 210 lbs. The Vikings could have gone O-line here too.
12. Cleveland Browns – Vic Beasley – I think Vic Beasley would flourish standing up. He’s super athletic, with the speed-to-power and agility to wreak havoc off the edge. Beasley has work to do to consistently set a physical edge (6’2 235 lbs.) but moving him around at the second level on early downs, blitzing from different parts of the field and letting him put his hand on the ground in obvious passing situations would play to Beasley’s strengths. The Browns’ finished 28th in sacks (29) and only two teams allowed more passing TDs (34) in 2015. Could Beasley play well in a 4-3? Yes. Beasley was… a rookie in 16 starts; registering 4.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and an interception. But as a down lineman there is a greater emphasis to hold up at the point of attack and control your rush lane or gap. Lining up Beasley down-after-down on the right side of the defensive line against the opposition’s best pass blocker wasn’t a formula for (immediate) success. Is he more likely to be a stud in a 3-4? I think so. Let him use his physical gifts, turn him loose, and attack. Beasley’s 4.0 sacks would have ranked third on Cleveland’s roster in 2015.
13. New Orleans Saints – Byron Jones – As a Cowboys fan, 2015 was awful… dreadful. One of the few bright spots was the play of Byron Jones. The uber-athletic defensive back demonstrated a competitiveness that I just didn’t see often enough when I watched Dallas play and if we can add a Jalen Ramsey in 2016… I digress. Jones’ positional flexibility (outside corner, slot corner, safety) coupled with his prototypical size makes him a poster boy for the modern defensive back. The Saints allowed the most TD passes (45) in NFL history and trotted out free agent bust Brandon Browner game after game only to be torched by unproven players on a weekly basis. If Browner wasn’t giving up touchdowns he was being flagged for pass interference or defensive holding. Jarius Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro struggled in coverage as well and outside of Cameron Jordan there wasn’t a consistent pass rush to fall back on. Delvin Breaux was the lone positive in the Saints secondary and he gave up his fair share of big plays as well. Jones won me over when he was tasked with covering Rob Gronkowski man-to-man, challenging him at the line of scrimmage and limiting the best tight end in the game to a 4/67/0 line. Jones may have saved the Saints from that dubious “45” number.
14. Miami Dolphins – Trae Waynes – Waynes played sparingly for the Minnesota Vikings and head coach Mike Zimmer in 2015 (1 start) but that was by design. Zimmer, has a long history of fielding excellent defenses and developing secondary talent; not rushing his young players on the field before they demonstrate that the stage isn’t too big for them. However, that is a luxury that the Miami Dolphins did not have. Injuries and team dysfunction thwarted what was supposed to be a dominant performance by a talented defensive line that added Ndamakung Suh and rookie Jordan Phillips during the offseason to Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, etc. The anemic pass rush exposed the Dolphins secondary like a nerve. Perhaps most surprising was the lackluster play of veteran cornerback Brent Grimes. Diminutive, but athletic and competitive, Grimes simply didn’t make the plays we had grown accustomed to him making. Waynes wasn’t exactly a standout in his rookie season but as his playing time increased you could tell the he was adjusting to the NFL game, slowly but surely. The tools are there (length, speed) but experience was severely lacking in zone concepts. As Waynes’ confidence grows with experience and he becomes stronger physically I expect the young defensive back to be a quality starter for years to come. Waynes to Miami would not have resulted in a playoff run but the Dolphins would be far better off in the back end if he was on their roster.
15. San Diego Chargers – Ereck Flowers – Phillip Rivers was battered and bruised (sacked 40 times; 8th most in NFL) in 2015 due to his supporting cast being battered and bruised throughout the season. There was practically a new starting five along the offensive line every week and Rivers’ weapons couldn’t stay out of the trainer’s room. Ereck Flowers struggled at left tackle for the New York Giants after being thrust into protecting Eli Manning’s blindside when incumbent Will Beatty was lost for the year to injury. But, Flowers would have been an improvement to San Diego’s porous offensive line at either left or right tackle. Flowers still needs a lot of coaching to improve his pass blocking technique but his potential is immense and he has the talent to be the most dominant offensive tackle out of the 2015 class. Not to mention the Chargers anemic rushing attack: 31st in rushing yards, last in yards per carry (3.5) and last in rushing TDs (4); would have received a huge boost if Flowers started 15 games for San Diego.
16. Houston Texans – Kevin Johnson – I was torn between Danny Shelton and the Texans “actual” pick Kevin Johnson but at the end of the day Jonathan Joseph can’t play forever. Neither can Vince Wilfork, but Johnson garnered 10 starts in a solid rookie season which resulted in the Texans finishing third in passing defense and you can never have too many defensive backs. Johnson was the most polished corner entering the 2015 NFL draft in my opinion. He competes not unlike Byron Jones but he doesn’t possess other-worldly athleticism; instead finding success by outworking his opponent, finding the football in the air, and utilizing his natural fluidity as he shadows and plasters to the receiver. If Jones adds a little bulk to his 175 lbs. frame and functional strength to good height at 6 feet he too could be an NFL starter for a long time.