The 2015 NFL Draft class offers an array of pass rushing talent. Top pass rushers, particularly edge rushers, are gaining value in the early rounds of recent drafts and that trend will continue to grow this year as well. While there is no Jadeveon Clowney in this group, a deep well of talent at the position awaits NFL teams none-the-less.

The Vikings biggest need is certainly not in the pass rush department, yet with the talent and depth offered in this class, it might be hard to pass on a dynamic edge rusher right off the bat. However, if the Vikings fill other needs in the early rounds of the draft, one edge rusher to keep an eye on in day three is Shaquille Riddick from West Virginia. He’s an edge rusher that hasn’t gotten the attention that the others at the top of the class have garnered, but his measurables and athleticism are equally as impressive.

Riddick spent one season in West Virginia after three years at Gardner Webb. At 6’6’’ 244 pounds, Riddick is a long and lean athlete with agility off the edge. He plays hard through the whistle and is quick off the snap. Riddick is a long strider with speed to chase down ball carriers even when the play goes away from him.

He finished the year with 27 tackles, including 11 for loss and 7 sacks, But it took six games into the season before he really earned significant playing time for the Mountaineers. His breakout game was on October 18 against Baylor where he registered four tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks.

PRO DAY RESULTS
40-yard dash: 4.65 and 4.67 seconds
Vertical jump: 36 inches
Broad jump: 10 feet, 4 inches
Short shuttle: 4.28 seconds
3-cone drill: 6.8
Bench: 19 reps of 225 pounds

Riddick has upside but he’s still very raw with a limited resume and limited functional strength. However, his combination of size and athleticism could push him up draft boards. Evaluators say he has NFL first step quickness, closing burst and finishing toughness.

In the Medal of Honor Bowl, Riddick finished his career off with a nice showing collecting four tackles, two TFL and a quarterback hurry. A strong end to his senior season earned him the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Year Award.

Riddick has the tall frame, length and athleticism that Mike Zimmer covets. He is currently ranked on Arif’s Updated Consensus Board at #229. With two seventh round picks available, the Vikings could use one to invest and develop this raw athlete who’s best playing day are probably still ahead of him. Even a year on the practice squad could yield big future rewards for the Vikings.

Earning my honorable mention this week is late-round edge rusher Lynden Trail. After transferring from Florida following his freshman year, Trail had a productive college career at lower level Norfolk State. Trail was an All-American three straight years racking up 255 total tackles, 19.5 sacks and 41 tackles for loss. At 6’7” 269 pounds, Trail looks the part of a NFL 4-3 defensive end despite playing OLB in a 3-4 system standing up and also with his hand in the dirt.

Zimmer will certainly like his 34 7/8 inch arms. Trail is still very raw with his hand technique and is often slowed by contact and struggles to get back to speed. He needs to work on converting speed to power. For his size, he can appear to be too passive at times on the field. Teams may draft him on projection rather than what they see on tape. Some teams might like him as a TE, as Trail had 3 receiving touchdowns as a red zone target on offense.

Trail uses his length well collecting 18 pass deflections and 4 blocked kicks over the last three seasons. He has the size, athleticism and versatility to become an imposing player with more experience, coaching and toughness. The Vikings invited Trail for a pre-draft visit, so maybe Zimmer has a plan to bring out the “dominant force” from this passive giant.

Trail is ranked as a higher prospect over Riddick, but I like Riddick’s speed and quickness a little more.