NFL Draft 2015

NFC NORTH ROUNDUP: 2015 NFL Draft Grades

Wow, what a crazy weekend. Things got rolling on Thursday night and didn’t slow down until Saturday evening, but here we are, sore fingers and all. If you missed any of our draft coverage, head over to the landing page and check it out — Adam, Brett, Arif, Lindsey, Andy, Carl, Brent, and myself put out some work we know Vikings fans will love

Now that the draft has come and gone, it’s time to assess Rick Spielman’s new “toys”. In a three-day span that saw the Vikings draft 10 new players and sign nine undrafted free agents, a few of Spielman’s organizational goals became clear:

  • Protect Teddy Bridgewater
  • Give Mike Zimmer flexibility and creative freedom on defense
  • Add versatile weapons to Norv Turner’s offense

Nothing is more important than ensuring the long-term health and development of Teddy Bridgewater, who staked his claim as the face of the franchise last season. After watching his quarterback suffer behind an offensive line that gave up 30 sacks in 2014, Spielman entered the draft with a concrete plan: add depth to a depleted group of tackles.

He did just that, finding tremendous value in the fourth round by drafting Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings, a first round talent who fell because of a lingering foot injury. Spielman proceeded to solidify the group later in the draft, selecting two more offensive tackles — Tyrus Thompson (sixth round) and Austin Shepherd (seventh round).

All three played tackle in college, but Clemmings has a chance to contribute at guard or even left tackle for the Vikings. He’s an extremly raw prospect with little playing experience (a converted defensive end/basketball player), meaning there’s time to mold him into the player Norv Turner needs. If Matt Kalil doesn’t “right the ship” in 2015, Clemmings will most likely have the opportunity to compete for the job in 2016.

Early in the draft, Spielman handed the proverbial keys to Mike Zimmer, giving him the power to select players built to succeed in his defense. In the first round, they took cornerback Trae Waynes out of Michigan State, whose length and man press technique fall in line with Zimmer’s secondary philosophies. In the second round, Eric Kendricks fell to the Vikings, and Spielman added the draft’s fastest and smartest linebacker. And finally, in the third round, Zimmer took a chance on Danielle Hunter, LSU’s athletically gifted, if unrefined, defensive end.

The Vikings also held two picks in the fifth round, where they opted to draft two intriguing offenseive prospects — Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs and Southern Illinoist tight end MyCole Pruitt. Diggs is an electric kick returner and has the ability to turn intermediate catches into long gains, but fought through injuries and team violations at Maryland. Pruitt is of a dying breed, the H-back who can play both tight end and fullback — the NFL relies more on pure receiving tight ends, but Pruitt’s versatility may be added value to Norv Turner’s “tight end friendly” offense.

According to Sports Illustrated, the Vikings finished the 2015 NFL Draft as winners, receiving a solid A for their efforts. Rick Spielman and Co. accomplished their goals of addressing holes at cornerback and offensive tackle, and added offensive weapons who may find niche roles this season and beyond. How did the rest of the NFC North do this weekend? The results, below:

Green Bay Packers

The Packers were relatively successful, finishing the draft with a B+ from Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar. They entered the weekend with a crtical need in the secondary, and walked away from the first round with a potential starter at free safety  — Arizona State’s Damarious Randall. Then, in the second round, they selected Quinten Rollins out of Miami (Ohio), who projects to be a slot corner in the NFL. General manager Ted Thompson shifted his focus to the offensive side of the ball in the later rounds, drafting two Pac-12 players — Stanford receiver/running back Ty Montgomery and UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. Hundley is an odd choice, as he’s far from being a starter, but will have time to develop under Aaron Rodgers, arguably the NFL’s best quarterback.

Detroit Lions

Like the Packers, the Detroit Lions used the draft as it were intended — to fill holes on the roster and build the foundation of a Super Bowl-winning team. For their efforts, the Lions earned an A- from Sports Illustrated, which praised Detroit for it’s balanced approach. They began by taking Duke guard Laken Tomlinson in the first round, who shot up draft boards for his smart, aggressive style of play. Then, head coach Jim Caldwell opted to bring some “juice” to the offense, drafting Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, an undersized and explosive player on the ground and through the air. In the second half of the draft, the Lions shifted their strategy to the defensive side of the ball, drafting three rotational players — safety Alex Carter, defensive tackle Gabe Wright, and cornerback Quandre Diggs.

Chicago Bears

The Bears were the least “successful” of the four NFC North teams, earning a B from the analysts at Sports Illustrated. Why? While solid, Chicago’s draft was nothing spectacular. They replaced the departed Brandon Marshall (now a member of the New York Jets) with West Virginia’s Kevin White, who should complement Alshon Jeffery perfectly in Chicago’s offense. On defense, they solidifed the middle of their line with Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman Jr., then plugged a hole in their secondary by drafting Penn State safety Adrian Amos. Of their rookie class, White appears to be the only player ready to make a significant impact early on in his career.

Be sure to check back throughout the week for our detailed profiles of each Vikings draft pick. We’ll be diving deep into their game film, combine statistics, and scouting reports to give you the most informative look at each player yet!

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Austin Belisle

Austin Belisle is the West Coast's biggest Vikings fan, a football diehard cheering on the purple and yellow from sunny California. After graduating from San Jose State University in 2014, he began working full-time in corporate marketing and blogging on various sports websites. Austin's passion for the Vikings led him to Vikings Territory, where he hopes to share his lifelong enthusiasm for the team with readers on a daily basis. You can follow him on Twitter @austincbelisle

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  1. no way that’s a B+ draft by the pukers, i wish the nation media would get off the TT’s D, he isnt that good.

    1. Agreed. They start out by reaching for a safety who’s supposed to convert to CB, then they do decent by selecting a good CB, but that’s followed up by drafting a #4 WR – in the third round! I’m happy that they made such questionable decisions though. They’re still without a LB who can help Clay move back to the outside, so Peterson and Bridgewater are going to have some fun against them this year!