1. Plenty of talent in the pool.
We can get wrapped up in the first round of the draft and diminish the importance of days two and three, but as I looked at the players available coming into Friday night, I was thoroughly impressed by the number of quality prospects still available. There was more than a handful of guys still around that seemed like viable options for the Vikings in round one: A’Shawn Robinson, Reggie Ragland, Su’a Cravens, Cody Whitehair, Vonn Bell, and more. That’s not even mentioning Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith, two of the most talented players in the draft that fell due to injury concerns.
The takeaway: this stuff matters. The first round is flashy, but rounds two through five are where you can get quality starters and build a team. As the picks came in, it became apparent (much like on Thursday) that the Vikings were going to be able to get a very good player in the second round. So…
2. Mackensie Alexander: Best Player Available?
I’ll admit I’ve occasionally railed against the best player available cliche, but getting Alexander—a player ranked 16th on the VT big board—at the 54th overall pick sure seems like maximum value. SI’s Doug Farrar had this to say about the pick:
How Alexander dropped to the end of the second round is a mystery, except to say that a lot of teams have biases against 5′ 10″ cornerbacks when they shouldn’t. Alexander is the best man coverage cornerback in this class, and he’ll be a perfect fit in Mike Zimmer’s aggressive defense. In the slot or outside, Alexander is at least a round better than this pick would indicate.
Well okay then! It’s also worth noting Alexander was on Adam Patrick’s Best of the Rest list compiled for Friday. So what’s the deal? Why was he still there in the second half of the second round? Farrar cites a bias against shorter cornerbacks, and some have mentioned character concerns. Then there’s the fact that he had zero interceptions in his college career.
3. Yep, zero interceptions.
How big a deal is this? Tough to say. Shaking off the foul Chris Cook memories it conjures, it’s probably an indication opposing teams stayed away from him more than anything else. Pro Football Focus notes press man covers don’t usually rack up the picks, and Alexander only allowed 33 percent (or 24 percent, depending on the metric you use) of passes thrown his way to be caught in 2015, best in the class. To me, it’s not nothing—top corners should stumble into at least a few interceptions in their careers, no matter the scheme—but not a huge red flag, because Zimmer wants talent he can mold, anyway. Xavier Rhodes doesn’t intercept many passes, and we’re cool with him. Check out Carl’s analysis of Alexander for more.
4. In the third round, the Vikings select…um…hello?
Rick Spielman finally got to the wheeling and dealing late on day two, trading away the Vikings’ third round pick to the Dolphins in exchange for a sixth round pick this year, and a third and a fourth round pick in 2017. Deft, and a nice return, but still always a little bit of an emotional letdown after an hour and change of waiting. This left the Vikings with only one selection of Friday night, but fans didn’t seem to mind too much; 57% of VT respondents gave the trade an “A.”
Sometimes I wonder if we love Spielman a little too much, and just blindly trust whatever he does, but what’s the alternative? Obviously there wasn’t a player the team wanted enough to stay at that spot (or, in the third round at all), and they were content to wait it out and amass future picks. There were certainly players that would’ve seemed to make sense at that point in the third (more on that next), but this rabbit hole always ends with admitting the NFL personnel guys know a tad more than us. Sigh. Alright, Rick, do your thing.
5. What’s up with Andrew Billings?
Billings, who is the 20th player on the VT big board and was projected by many to be a first rounder, has gone undrafted through three rounds. The Vikings were supposedly interested, and rumor has it they told him they’d select him in the first round if he was available.
— Luke Rodgers (@thelukerodgers) February 27, 2016
They’ve now passed on him three times, and clearly NFL teams aren’t as excited about him as we thought. This slide is perplexing, because there are no clear (public) red flags with Billings. He’s been roundly praised leading up to the draft, and seems to have the talent worthy of at least a second round pick. He’s a great athlete with a good head on his shoulders. Twitter is similarly confused.
Andrew Billings wins my "Wait… he's still available!?!?" Award for Day 3.
— Doug Farrar (@BR_DougFarrar) April 30, 2016
Just your daily reminder: Andrew Billings just turned 20 years old, two months ago.
— J.R. (@JReidDraftScout) April 30, 2016
According to https://t.co/FZ4vIIiJ7k, 10 DTs/NTs have been taken so far. And no Andrew Billings. Did I hallucinate the 2015 college season?
— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) April 30, 2016
Never thought in a million years Andrew Billings could make a mistake by coming out early. The draft remains impossible to predict.
— David Ubben (@davidubben) April 30, 2016
Perhaps it’s the skill set; Billings is known as a dominant player against the run but a bit raw in the pass rush, skills that aren’t valued as highly in today’s pass-happy NFL. At 6’1″, he’s considered short for an interior lineman, as teams like bigger players who are able to get their hands in passing lanes. Still, it seems odd. Most fanbases will be clamoring for their teams to grab Billings in the fourth round, and the Vikings will be no different. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out, but it’s sure seems like some team is going to get a steal.