Cornerback Mackensie Alexander, the Vikings second-round selection, was listed as the fifth-best pick in this year's draft.
Minnesota got a first-round talent, and arguably the best man corner in the class, all the way at the bottom half of the second round — and it was all because of size concerns. It wasn't necessarily a need, and he'll be behind a couple other first-rounders, but you need three cornerbacks to succeed in the NFL today. Alexander shadowed opposing receivers at times, and even with that difficult assignment he only allowed 19 catches on 57 targets in 14 games last year.
Coming in at the top of Pro Football Focus' list was defensive end Jonathan Bullard, whom the Bears selected 72nd overall.
To find a defensive lineman with Bullard's upside in the third round is ridiculous value. However, Bullard isn't even a high-risk, high-reward type player. His run-stopping ability will most certainly translate to the NFL after he led all of college with a 51.5 run defense grade a year ago. It's a question of whether his athleticism will ever begin to translate as a pass rusher after he posted the 68th-best pass rushing grade in the FBS last year.
The Bears were also penciled in at second place with guard Cody Whitehair, followed by defensive tackle Chris Jones (Chiefs) and offensive lineman Joe Thuney (Patriots) at third and fourth place, respectively.
2016 NFL Draft also prepping Vikings 2017 roster
There's been a lot of buzz surrounding the Vikings selections and how they will bolster the 2016 roster, and rightly so. The decisions made over draft weekend, however, were also forward-thinking. John Holler of Viking Update delved into how Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was already considering next year's draft.
Spielman saw the writing on the wall. The composition of the 2016 Vikings roster was largely in place. When Miami came calling with a trade offer to attempt to get back into the third round of the draft, Spielman wasn't looking to move to down to accumulate picks for 2016. He wanted picks for 2017.
"A lot of time you see the maneuverability going up and down and the draft will have to do with how we are positioning ourselves to try to move up in rounds," Spielman said.
When Minnesota made a trade to give Miami its 2016 third-round pick, the Vikings received a 2016 sixth-round pick in addition to a third- and fourth-round pick for 2017. Spielman has said he aims for 10 draft picks per year, and he already has nine in the bank for next year, including two third-round and two fourth-round picks.
The headlines of the 2016 draft centered on the players the Vikings added to a team that won the NFC North last season. But the biggest move they made to assure longer-term success may not be confined to the talent they added, but rather laying of the foundation to improve the team next season by moving off a pick this year to add two more picks next year, when the odds of those players making the roster is likely to be greater.
Vikings focus on playing speed over straight-line speed
When the Vikings drafted wide receiver Laquon Treadwell 23rd overall last week, the one knock against Treadwell by analysts was his 40-yard dash speed (4.63 seconds) at the combine. Spielman, however, is more concerned with what he sees on tape than what a player's straight-line speed was. ESPN's Ben Goessling wrote:
It's reasonable to think Treadwell might not have been available to the Vikings had he run a faster 40 time, and the Vikings believe he'll get faster as he continues to recover from the broken leg and dislocated ankle he suffered in 2014. They ultimately were drawn to Treadwell for qualities beyond his straight-line speed: his understanding of route-running, his ability to box out defenders and his tenacity as a run-blocker among them.
"I know there were a lot of guys that ran fast and didn't play very well, too," Spielman told Twin Cities media. "That's why you always come back; you can have all the analytics and all the times, but it comes back to, what do you see on tape as a football player? I think we felt very strongly about him as a football player."
A number of receivers criticized for their 40-yard dash times have gone on to incredibly successful careers. Hall of famers Cris Carter and Jerry Rice clocked a 4.63 and 4.71, respectively. Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, drafted third overall and a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, also ran a 4.63.
"You do put an emphasis on speed, but if they play fast, then you are going to say that this guy plays a lot faster than that speed," Spielman said.