My take on several draft selections that were particularly astute as well as those that were head scratchers.
Justin Hardy East Carolina – WR – Selected 107th overall by the Atlanta Falcons as Dan Quinn and Scott Pioli continued an impressive effort during the 2015 NFL Draft. Hardy, the all time receptions leader in FBS history isn’t an overwhelming athlete but he is an excellent football player. The departure of Harry Douglas via free agency was no small matter but in drafting Hardy the Falcons may have very well upgraded at the wide receiver position. Expect Hardy to make an immediate impact in three-wide sets, particularly on third down as his hands are stellar. The former walk-on’s senior season 121/1494/10 caps off an impressive collegiate career 387/4541/35 and now he finds himself in an ideal situation considering Julio Jones and Roddy White will draw the majority of the attention from opposing defenses.
T.J. Clemmings Pittsburgh – OL – Selected 110th overall by the Minnesota Vikings Clemmings is raw but his talent is immense. Lack of experience at offensive tackle could have potentially pushed him out of Round 1 into Round 2 but medical/injury concerns are what pushed the talented lineman into Day 3 of the draft. Considering the need and upside, the Vikings did well to draft Clemmings in the fourth round. Low risk, high reward. Yes!
Josh Shaw USC – DB – Selected 120th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals Shaw would have been a reach on Day 1 but I was surprised to see the safety/cornerback still on the board at the beginning of Day 3. Shaw’s coverage ability, length, size and range make him a logical fit at free safety. Players with this type of versatility and athletic ability (4.44 40-yard dash; 37.5 vertical jump) are typically in high demand and he should be considered an excellent “get” in Round 4 of the draft. Shaw will make an immediate impact on special teams and may be in line to start at free safety in 2016 in place of incumbent Reggie Nelson.
Jalston Fowler Alabama – FB – Selected 108th overall by the Tennessee Titans Fowler is a good not great run blocker. To his credit he has good hands so he can be used in sub/goal-line packages as a fullback/H-Back hybrid but it depends heavily on what the Titans plan to do with Marcus Mariota. If they decide to incorporate the zone-read heavily this is a wasted pick. Even if they rely heavily on a pro-style offensive approach most teams use a fullback sparingly. That isn’t to say the position is useless, but this is too early to select Fowler, particularly on a team that needs copious amounts of talent as opposed to specialty players. I question the systemic fit as well.