Wednesday, May 25, 2016

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Offensive linemen, in my experience, are some of the hardest position to predict when it comes to which round or day they will be drafted. Look no further than Vikings lineman Antonio Richardson for an example of how different projections can be from reality.

Wisconsin offensive tackle Rob Havenstein could potentially go as high as the third round, especially if Arif Hasan’s consensus Big Board is any indication (he’s #100), but I also see him as a guy that potentially falls well into Day Three.

Most people are plenty familiar with Wisconsin’s dominant run game last season, with Melvin Gordon stealing all of the hype and accolades as the benefiting running back. Gordon is certainly deserving of his status among the best backs in this year’s class, but the offensive line that paved his way every Saturday should not be ignored, including Havenstein.

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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.

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Here at Vikings Territory, we know better than most that it’s possible to find writing opportunities in all sorts of ways. Meet Tom Speicher. He got his start in 2003 when he entered a contest to be a Star Tribune web columnist for a year … and won.

Speicher was awarded the column for a season, after which he looked for new venues to write for and came across Vikings Update, which had been transformed into a monthly magazine.

“Eventually they hired me to write the ‘Where Are They Now?’ features on former [Vikings players],” Speicher explained. “It’s been a lot of fun! I have also had the opportunity to do assignments for the magazine at NFL Films and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

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NFL Mock Draft 2015 Brent
Photo courtesy of Vikings.com


What does Big Draft know?

It knows a lot of things about a lot of people that don’t find their way into scouting reports or media coverage until after the draft, and it’s always a surprise. Jesse Williams fall out of the first round into the fifth round, or Antonio Richardson’s fall from the second round into UDFA were not well modeled by larger media coverage of the draft, but Teddy Bridgewater’s fall out of the top ten was, as was Shayne Skov’s fight for a contract after the draft.

For the most part, missing these pieces of information make it difficult to predict the draft, and big boards from third parties without a strong access journalism background can miss on these players. But that doesn’t mean the evaluations are wrong, or even that they’re worse at evaluating.

Right now, for example, people (including me) are freaking out because Vic Beasley isn’t in Mel Kiper and Todd McShay’s most recent first-round mock draft. Freaking out not necessarily because they are doing anything ill-advised or dumb, but because this is the kind of thing driven by their access to teams. It is, for example, a more extreme inverse version of Breshad Perriman’s constant appearance in the first round of Kiper’s mock drafts.

There are two general approaches to draft coverage: 1) Who is going to pick who and 2) Who is good. Last year, we separated the draft boards into two categories: Forecasters (who do a job more closely resembling question #1) and Evaluators (who are closer to answering question #2 than question #1).

Generally speaking, the forecasters have been or are currently employed by media organizations that thrive on access, and that gives them access as well. Beyond that, people like Nolan Nawrocki (formerly of Pro Football Weekly and NFL.com) publish draft guides that are driven in big ways by the access they have.

Sometimes that access influences the actual talent evaluation, but often it will influence the final grade by speaking to the gravity of character concerns, injury concerns or some other errata.

Last year, unusual clusters of similar rankings at odd points in the charts confirmed (to me) the clear separation between those two groups of draft boards. This year, there are far fewer clusters in that data (it’s a more polarizing draft), but they do show up.

The media haven’t finalized their rankings, however, and we’re missing a lot of big names, like Daniel Jeremiah, Mike Mayock and Mel Kiper, who all have fewer than 100 players ranked. Expect those boards to solidify in the coming week and create starker divisions between the forecasters and evaluators.

Their boards, plus the biggest disagreements and most polarizing players below. If you want to jump straight to the 300-player version of the final consensus board, click here.

If you want to look at what the forecasters are saying right away, click here. For the evaluators, click here.

For alternate boards, click here.

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