Our top 20 day-three draft values

I wanted to wait to write this column until the 53-man roster deadline had passed, until teams had used the waiver wire to stock the bottom of their rosters from other team’s castoffs. Now that the dust has settled, we’ll look at some day-three picks we really like. These players represent a combination of value at their selection, contribution right away, and potential down the line. I’ve ranked them by order in which we had them ranked.

20. Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami-FL
Buffalo Bills, Round 7, Pick 237
#123 overall, #14 OT

Henderson was an unusual prospect to grade, with worlds of physical talent dragged down by off-field problems and laziness in developing his technique. It was never clear at Miami whether he just needed good coaching or didn’t have the mental attitude, but all indicators are that he’ll start at right tackle for the Bills over second-round pick Cyrus Kouandijo.

19. E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
St. Louis Rams, Round 6, Pick 188
#112 overall, #13 CB

Gaines is currently penciled in as one of the Rams’ starting cornerbacks opposite Janoris Jenkins. He had some strong games in the preseason, and while we believed in his abilities as a solid cover corner in various coverages, even we didn’t project a week-one starter.

18. Ronald Powell, LB, Florida
New Orleans Saints, Round 5, Pick 169
#105 overall, #7 LB

It should be no surprise that Powell ended up on Rob Ryan’s Saints defense, as his versatility was a highlight on film. Let vix tell you more.

17. Jonathan Newsome, OLB, Ball State
Indianapolis Colts, Round 5, Pick 166
#104 overall, #15 ER

He popped on film, showing occasional flashes of high-level athleticism, but he also played at Ball State. Developmental, but loads of potential here.

16. David Fales, QB, San Jose State
Chicago Bears, Round 6, Pick 183
#103 overall, #7 QB

Fales has a subpar arm, but showed some good skills in read progressions and decision-making. He didn’t post another 70%+ completion percentage in his senior year, but he was accurate enough. If he can develop his arm strength and refine his skills, he could have a solid career in the league.

15. Corey Linsley, C, Ohio State
Green Bay Packers, Round 5, Pick 161
#101 overall, #2 C

Linsley was a late riser on our board, someone whose film turned out to be significantly better than expected. Conveniently enough for us, we’re going to see just how well that translates to the field very soon, thanks to J.C. Tretter’s injury.

14. Avery Williamson, LB, Kentucky
Tennessee Titans, Round 5, Pick 151
#92 overall, #6 LB

Williamson was a star on the field for the Wildcats, a legitimate three-down linebacker who is strong at shedding blocks and making tackles while also being strong in pass coverage. He held his own for an overmatched Kentucky team, and don’t be surprised if he’s starting in the middle for the Titans soon.

13. Tre Boston, S, North Carolina
Carolina Panthers, Round 4, Pick 128
#87 overall,  #6 S

Safety may be one of the more difficult positions for us to evaluate, as reliable all-22 film that includes full footage of the back end is tough to find. That said, Boston graded out well for us as a versatile safety who can tackle and hit. Given Carolina’s losses at safety in free agency (and the past-their-prime veterans they signed to fill the gaps), Boston could be starting sooner rather than later. At least he’ll have a front seven capable of making his job easy. Let vix take you into more detail.

12. Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State
Green Bay Packers, Round 4, Pick 121
#85 overall, #13 ER

Bradford needs some development to reach his potential but he showed high levels of athleticism, mostly as an edge rusher but occasionally in coverage too. He won’t be rushed into action in Green Bay; if he works on his craft and develops his technique and strength, he could be a solid all-around player.

11. Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama
Seattle Seahawks, Round 4, Pick 123
#81 overall, #14 WR

Norwood was mostly regarded as a deep threat at Alabama, which is a little unfair, as he possesses quite a wide range of receiver skills, as well as good size and speed for the position. He had a camp injury that’s kept him buried on Seattle’s depth chart, but long-term he should be part of their rotation, perhaps even one day starting opposite Paul Richardson on the outside.

10. Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
San Francisco 49ers, Round 4, Pick 106
#77 overall,#13 WR

Ellington is a unique player, a speedy little slot receiver with moves, maneuvers, and vision like a running back. He’ll never be a traditional #1, but he’s the kind of guy who can have a role right away, and I hope the 49ers make the most of his skills. Vix can’t say enough good things about him.

9. Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
Cleveland Browns, Round 4, Pick 127
#75 overall, #10 CB

I had to look up where Lindenwood is, too. Small-school prospects with little to no film against comparable competition are always a gamble, but Desir’s size-speed combo makes him worth it. (Supposedly there’s a tape out there where Desir goes up against John Brown of Pittsburgh St. (KS), Arizona’s third-round selection, but I haven’t been able to locate a copy.)

8. DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
Tennessee Titans, Round 4, Pick 112
#67 overall,#8 DL

We may have been overrating the very large men who tend to leave the field during passing downs, as we put a number of defensive tackles higher on our board than where they actually were drafted. That said: Jones stands out a consistent, explosive force up the middle who if nothing else will force teams to keep blockers on him if they don’t want him in their backfields.

7. Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
Detroit Lions, Round 5, Pick 158
#59 overall, #6 DL

Another guy whose level of college competition surely caused NFL teams to be more bearish on him than we were. We saw a guy who, when he wasn’t getting double-teamed, showed great quickness and pad level for his size and ability to rush the passer from a 3-technique. Perhaps Akiem Hicks is a good comparison for possible upside.

6. Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
Buffalo Bills, Round 4, Pick 109
#56 overall, #8 CB

Not a prospect with outstanding measurables, but man, can he play. Watch his tape from the Chick-Fil-A bowl against Texas A&M: In a game the Blue Devils eventually lost 52-48 (!), Cockrell was largely left in man coverage against Mike Evans and held him to four catches and no scores.

5. Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
Pittsburgh Steelers, Round 4, Pick 118
#53 overall,#9 WR

Bryant is a very raw prospect, but he’s a physical specimen. Considering guys with his kind of measurables who are even less developed as prospects go in the second round (Why hello there, latest member of the Carolina Panthers practice squad). It’s always a risk whether or not a guy like this develops, but he has admitted that he didn’t take his game as seriously in the past as he does now, which is a great sign of maturity especially for a young prospect. Even though he was inconsistent in college, he wasn’t so much so that you couldn’t reliably throw to him.

4. David Yankey, G, Stanford
Minnesota Vikings, Round 5, Pick 145
#47 overall,#5 OG

Yankey was a prospect much more highly rated in the public eye until he started sliding close to the draft, winding up in the fifth round. We still liked what we saw: a guard with terrific athleticism and great ability to pull, whose blocking needed some refinement but who should still be a solidly capable starter sooner rather than later. Maybe teams didn’t like that he slid inside in 2013 to make room for top offensive tackle prospect Andrus Peat.

More on David Yankey.

3. Dakota Dozier, G/T, Furman
New York Jets, Round 4, Pick 137
#42 overall,#3 OG / #7 OT

What we liked about Dozier that elevated him over your typical small-school lineman prospect was what we saw in his footwork. He’s still developmental to a degree, naturally, but he has the feet to make us think he could play tackle someday (and has a non-zero chance to become a positive left tackle).

2. Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
Jacksonville Jaguars, Round 5, Pick 144
#34 overall, #1 LB

Smith fell in part because of a positive marijuana test at the Combine. He may have fallen in part because of his size. But for a linebacker prospect, his game speed is incredible, his coverage skills are excellent, and he’s still pretty solid at tackling and run support. C.J. Mosley is the better prospect as a classic every-down middle linebacker, but in a game that’s becoming less about big hits and more about speed and the aerial attack, Smith could be the kind of valuable coverage linebacker that doesn’t come along too often.

Our mystery mountain man of tape, vixticator, breaks him down further.

1. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Tennessee Titans, Round 6, Pick 178
#30 overall, #4 QB

vix’s breakdown

For perspective, we had Mettenberger ranked higher than Derek Carr. That was an outlier stance- Carr has much more physical talent overall, and comparing their athleticism would be unfair and mean– but Mettenberger combined a cannon arm with good decision-making and the willingness to stand in the pocket and take a hit. He played QB at a high level for LSU last year, and in the preseason showed some flashes he could develop into a throwback QB, a cannon-armed statue. Sadly for Jake Locker fans, I think that development may need to show as soon as next year.

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Hindsight: NFC West Offseason Grades

Finishing up the NFC West grades, I’ll address the offseason performance of the top teams in the NFL’s most competitive division. Before I start, I’ll take a minute to comment on the year-long suspension of Cardinals ILB Daryl Washington. When on the field, he is one of the best players in the league at his position, so it goes without saying that this is a massive loss for the Cardinals. It irks me quite a bit that this suspension is due to multiple failed drug tests for marijuana, while other players face no suspensions for behaviors such as assault and street racing. However, the NFLPA negotiated the terms of the current CBA, so they really have no one to blame for this but themselves. This is not the fault of the Cardinals, so it will not factor into their grade.

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Seahawks Building on Strength: Justin Britt and Garrett Scott

The Seahawks won a Super Bowl last season by fielding an elite defense and plowing through defenses with a devastating ground attack. The Seahawks drafted with this philosophy in mind, selecting six players with their nine picks who play at or around the line of scrimmage. I want to take a look at their two picks on the offensive line: Justin Britt and Garrett Scott.

ROUND 2, PICK 64

JUSTIN BRITT, OT, MISSOURI

Justin Britt is a comically large human being; at a hulking 6’6″ and 325 lbs, he is almost always the largest person on the field. I’m going to skip the easy games and take a look at how he matched up against #1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, which you can see in entirety here at Draft Breakdown. (Big thanks to Draft Breakdown for their work with video cutups during this entire process. Without them, none of this could be possible, and I won’t have won the first Super Bowl for the Detroit Lions as general manager in 2028. Don’t worry, fans, it’ll be worth the wait.) Britt is of course playing left tackle.

One thing you’ll notice if you watch the entire game is that Justin Britt does not even attempt to engage Clowney on many plays. Believe it or not, this is a common theme to how offenses altered their game plan around him. (But that’s another issue entirely.) I intend to keep this brief, so we’re only going to look at a handful of plays. The first such play occurs late in the first quarter; this is the first time Britt is asked to block Clowney on a pass that is not an immediate throw. From what I can tell from the broadcast camera, Clowney fakes a move inside and goes for an outside rush. Britt stays low with a nice base, calmly slides outside, and with a little help from the running back is able to neutralize the pass rush.

The first ‘issue’ arises two plays later. This time Clowney goes straight for the outside rush and uses a quick arm over move across Britt’s chest to explode past Britt, and if not for the running back’s double team, Clowney could’ve ended Maty Mauk. Britt can be shaky in pass protection at times, and this play is an example of what I mean. It isn’t only against the Clowneys of the world; Britt needs to improve on this in general. It shouldn’t keep him off the field, though, and Russell Wilson has a Ph.D in improvisation.

Let’s be real now: Britt was not selected for how he will come in and immediately improve Seattle’s pass protection. If that happens, well, brilliant. Seattle wants to open lanes for Marshawn Lynch in the ground game as long as his tires still have tread. On this play I’ll give you a glimpse of Justin Britt’s ability as a run blocker. He doesn’t block any of the defensive linemen by design; instead he charges to the second level looking for defenders to toss aside. The runner does an incredible job to elude some players in the backfield and Britt clears away TWO players in one block at the second level. And this, I believe, is what Seattle is looking for from him.

You might be thinking, “Oh, so from what we’ve seen so far, he can’t block defensive linemen?” Au contraire, my friend. If you kept playing the tape, on the very next play Justin Britt drive blocks the #1 overall pick completely out of the play, just bulldozing him a good 7 yards upfield and allowing plenty of room to run for a first down. Marshawn Lynch can cut these plays inside and take them to the house.

I’m stopping here because it is not my intention to break down every snap. I merely want to give you a picture of why Seattle made this selection. If you want to see more, watch the entire game, and if you still need more after that, then go right here.

ROUND 6, PICK 199

GARRETT SCOTT, OT, MARSHALL

Garrett Scott’s game against Maryland was the first I saw of him, and I thought he could be a 3rd or 4th round pick based on athleticism alone. He ‘flashes’ hard at tackle, and I’ll show you what I mean by that. I’ve selected a few plays to watch; you can watch the entire game if you want to see more.

  1. I like how he doesn’t get concerned about the outside rusher stunting in and engages the defensive tackle,
  2. This is where he showed off elite quickness with his feet, which speaks for itself, and
  3. Here he sprints off to the left and just drives his man backwards.

I focused on early plays because he gets injured not long into the game. He stays in, but plays noticeably worse than before.

Here are the concerns I have with Scott, and trust me, I could list a lot of these:

  1. His quickness only flashes itself; it doesn’t doesn’t always show up. If you pay close attention to this play (Scott is at right tackle), Scott has only taken one step outside by the time James Gayle is on his third step (!!!) rushing the passer; Scott rallies a bit and doesn’t entirely blow the play, but this is something you’ll see in his tape from time to time.
  2. We see what is his biggest problem, in my view, here, and that’s how often he gets blown back by even meager bull rushes. (He’s back at left tackle; I apologize for the confusion. Wait a minute, it’s not my fault, it’s Marshall’s.)

I took a capture at :51 in the link above to illustrate the problem. His arms are not doing anything. He’s not ready to take on a player who is milliseconds away from thrusting his arms into his chest. Imagine yourself in this situation; try it at home if you can find someone willing to bull-rush you. A person is trying to run you over: What do you do? Physics and millennia of human evolution suggest you get lower, put up your hands, prepare to absorb the force, and push it into the ground. It’s pretty basic. If, instead, you stand straight up with your arms down, all the force will be transferred to your chest and it’ll knock you to the ground. That is (almost) exactly what happens here. Immediately after the engagement Scott correctly squats down to absorb the blow and extends his arms… except that it’s too late for him to get his arms up, and he’s thrown off balance. At this point the defensive player rips him away and has a free path to the passer. With Scott, this is not an isolated incident; this happens again and again and again in this game against Rice.

I would not expect Scott to start immediately. As you can see, he’s a bit rough around the edges. The Seahawks drafted him to develop him, as they’ve done before with these late offensive line picks. I wouldn’t discount it from happening again. There’s a lot to like in Garrett Scott and he was just a 6th round pick; getting anything at all from him would be a smashing success.

As for the rest of the Seahawks draft, I love the Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood picks as well. Wilson does need someone to throw to while Percy Harvin is standing on the sideline, and those two players were both excellent college receivers. I suggest checking them out yourself; you’re going to like what you see. (I guarantee it.)

Offseason GM: NFC West

Time to wrap up this mini-series. The initial thrill of free agency seems to have died down, with close to half the market being signed at this point, at least when considering the major free agents. Once the majority of the starting level players have been signed, I’ll do a piece on this years free agency, evaluating decisions league-wide.

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Seattle’s ‘Cover 3Hawk’

The NFL at time can be a very complex game that has many moving parts that seem to be constantly changing. We used to have John Madden giving us a very profound “BOOM” when evaluating offensive linemen and Jaws would take over a Monday Night Football broadcast by breaking down the intricacies of quarterback play. We got a taste of the zone read last year and it lead to a lot of conversation on how to stop it. The NFL is always changing and evolving.

Pete Carroll’s defensive philosophy does not have this same evolving belief. The Seahawks playoff run last year opened many eyes to cornerback Richard Sherman. Sherman has found a home with fellow CB Brandon Browner and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. They play in what I’m referring to(with props to our EIC Nath) as the ‘Cover 3Hawk.’

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Evaluating the first week of free agency, Part 1

(Ed. note: Ditka in a Box will be picking up some of my posts going forward; this is the first one that will be cross-posted there. You can view it on their site here.)

Even though every NFL fan wants to talk about and evaluate free agent signings, and wants opinions on how well their team handled the process, it can be unproductive to call teams “winners” and “losers” at this point in the offseason. (Remember two years ago, when we all thought Philadelphia were huge winners for the “Dream Team” signings? Now everyone involved is out of a job.) That said, I’m going to try anyway. Continue reading