2014 Draft: Consensus Rankings v0.5

Al Bello

We've scoured the web's best draft ranking sources here at the Daily Norseman to give you a consensus ranking of draft prospects at the Viking's five biggest needs. We take a look at over 90 of the top prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft.

For those of you that have followed some of my fanposts over the years, you know that putting together consensus draft rankings is something that I've been very interested in over the past several years.  For those of you that are new to this, let me explain why it's so cool!  First off, most of the major online draft resources compile various "Big Boards" and positional rankings, but almost none of them are anywhere close to the same.  So it can be very difficult to gauge player value because of these vast differences.  What the consensus ranking attempts to do is to average together as many sources as possible in order to come to a...consensus.  In my opinion, most of the folks responsible for ranking all the college players have their own biases built in and they're all looking for slightly different things when they rank draft prospects.  But by averaging their rankings together, consensus can be drawn as the averaging process attempts to take all the variables into account (or at least, as many as is reasonably possible).  This year, I'll be averaging together 10 of the most popular online draft sources: NFL.com, ESPN, CBS, Drafttek, National Football Post, SB Nation, Draft Countdown, Walterfootball, Optimum Scouting and Scout on MSN.

Tomorrow is a big day as far as the draft is concerned, because it is the deadline for college players to officially declare for the draft.  The East-West Shrine Game, coming up this weekend, marks the first major pre-draft scouting event.  So this first iteration of the Consensus Draft Ranking is very much a preliminary ranking.  In some sense it only takes into account the information gleaned from the actual college season (and therefore, some of you may put the most stock into this ranking as it avoids all the pre-draft hype).  But players will rise and fall in the rankings from now until the draft in May as more information comes to light in various all-star games, the scouting combine, pro days and interviews.  So, I will release updated versions periodically from now until draft day.  This first version doesn't even get a full 1.0, because two of the major sources I like to use have not released a full "Big Board" ranking yet: NFL.com and National Football Post.  On top of that, several of the sources only list seniors, and some haven't been updated in months (I'm looking at you Dan Kadar of SB Nation).  So this is an incomplete version, and it's still very early in the draft scouting process.  But I felt it was important enough to release now as it will give us something to look back on in a few months once more of the online sources update their rankings.  And it gives us something to talk about now!

I have decided to break this up into positional groups that I feel are the biggest "needs" of the Minnesota Vikings.  Those position groups are (in no particular order): quarterback, defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback.  A lot of the draft needs will depend on what kind of system the new defensive coordinator will install, as well as what the team does in free agency this March.  If we switch to a 3-4 scheme, then that will impact what kind of defensive tackles and linebackers we need, and the same is true if we stay with a 4-3 scheme.  So, these rankings will group all defensive tackles together, regardless of scheme fit.  However, I decided to break-up the linebackers into "inside" linebackers and "outside" linebackers, which will give us 5 total positional groups to look at.  I have included any player that appeared in the top 10 positional ranking of any particular source.  In other words, if a player was a top 10 guy at their position on at least one source, then they were included in the ranking.  So, let's get to it!

Quarterbacks

Player Name

School

Avg. Positional Rank

Avg. Overall Rank

1. Teddy Bridgewater

Louisville

1

4.5

2. Derek Carr

Fresno State

3.125

23.71429

3. Johnny Manziel

Texas A&M

3.2857143

17.66667

4. Blake Bortles

UCF

3.3333333

28

5. Zach Mettenberger

LSU

5.4285714

65

6. AJ McCarron

Alabama

6.375

64

7. Tajh Boyd

Clemson

6.875

54.66667

8. Jimmy Garoppolo

Eastern Illinois

7.5

94.75

9. Brett Smith

Wyoming

8.8

119.6667

10. David Fales

San Jose State

9.25

103.75

11. Stephen Morris

Miami (FL)

9.625

120.3333

12. Logan Thomas

Virginia Tech

9.75

123.2

13. Aaron Murray

Georgia

10.125

117.8333

14. Bryn Renner

North Carolina

15.428571

263.3333

According to the overall average ranking, there are only four QBs that garner a first round grade: Bridgewater, Carr, Manziel and Bortles.  And only Bridgewater would hold enough value to be drafted with the 8th overall pick.  I fully expect the average overall rankings to change as QBs tend to get hyped up and slightly over-valued by the time the draft rolls around.  But right now, picking anyone but Bridgewater with the 8th pick could be viewed as a slight reach.  Interestingly, while Tajh Boyd falls all the way to 7th on the positional ranking, he is the only QB that garners a mid-second round grade (AJ McCarron technically gets the last 2nd round spot).  This is not a very deep draft class as only 7 QBs have a grade in the first three rounds of the draft, and only 14 total quarterbacks were ranked 10th or better among all sources' positional rankings.  Because of this lack of depth, it's possible that teams will reach a bit in the first round, especially those teams that are in desperate need of a quarterback.

In any case, the discrepancy between the positional ranks and the overall ranks can be explained by the fact that the sources are very inconsistent in how they handle their overall rankings.  Some sources only rank the "Top 100"; some only do 150 while others rank all the way into the 600 or 900 range.  And also, if one source is really high on a particular prospect (much more than the other sources) that will naturally raise the overall ranking average more dramatically than the positional ranking average.  For example, while Derek Carr just edges out Johnny Manziel in the positional rankings due to the fact that more sources have him ranked ahead of Manziel, Manziel beats Carr in the overall rankings mainly because those few sources that had Manziel ahead of Carr have him ahead by a larger margin.  Their average positional ranking is nearly identical anyway, and even Blake Bortles is not far behind.  If you're interested in the nitty-gritty of how each source ranked the prospects, just click the image below to embiggen the QB spreadsheet.

Consensus_rankings_qb_v0

Defensive Tackles

Player Name and Position

School

Avg. Positional Rank

Avg. Overall Rank

1. Louis Nix III

Notre Dame

2

14

2. Ra'Shede Hageman

Minnesota

2.75

23.5

3. Stephen Tuitt DT/DE

Notre Dame

3.1428571

20.57143

4. Timmy Jernigan

Florida State

4.7142857

36.14286

5. Aaron Donald

Pittsburgh

6.1428571

44.85714

6. Ego Ferguson

LSU

6.5

49.83333

7. Will Sutton

Arizona State

6.5

49

8. Dominique Easley DT/DE

Florida

7.375

57.875

9. Anthony Johnson

LSU

7.4285714

58.71429

10. Daquan Jones

Penn State

8.875

67.5

11. Kelcy Quarles

South Carolina

9.4

73.4

12. Daniel McCullers

Tennessee

10.428571

87.28571

13. Taylor Hart DT/DE

Oregon

13

116.2

14. Calvin Barnett

Oklahoma St.

13.666667

107.75

15. DeAndre Coleman

California

13.8

115.75

16. Caraun Reid

Princeton

14

129.5

17. George Uko

USC

14.2

137.4

18. Demonte McAllister

Florida State

16

213.5

The defensive tackle position is much deeper than quarterback.  It's worth pointing out that it is also a bit more complicated as the ranking sources are very inconsistent in how the prospects are listed.  Some ranked these players as defensive tackles, while others listed them as defensive ends.  So players made the ranking as long as they were listed as a defensive tackle on at least one source, and I noted which players were listed as both and therefore could have positional flexibility.

While there isn't a ton of elite talent at the top of the list, there is a LOT of 2nd round value to be had (6 players grade out as 2nd round picks).  If we were to take the top prospect with the 8th pick, it could be viewed as a little bit of a reach.  But taking Louis Nix III would not be too bad of a selection.  Assuming we don't trade our 2nd round pick though, there is a lot of good value to be had in this draft in the 2nd round and I would advocate taking a defensive tackle there if possible.  Click the image below to embiggen the defensive tackle spreadsheet.

Consensus_rankings_dt_v0

Inside Linebackers

Player Name and Position

School

Avg. Positional Rank

Avg. Overall Rank

1. CJ Mosley ILB/OLB

Alabama

1

8.571429

2. Christian Jones ILB/OLB

Florida State

3

64.25

3. Shayne Skov ILB/OLB

Stanford

3.25

63.375

4. Yawin Smallwood ILB/OLB

Connecticut

4.2857143

79.28571

5. Telvin Smith ILB/OLB

Florida State

4.3333333

73.5

6. Chris Borland

Wisconsin

6

77

7. Max Bullough

Michigan St.

6.8571429

105.1667

8. Trey DePriest

Alabama

7.25

125

9. Lamin Barrow ILB/OLB

LSU

8.5714286

109.5

10. Andrew Jackson

Western Kentucky

9.7142857

131.4

11. Preston Brown

Louisville

11.333333

204

12. Greg Blair

Cincinatti

12.5

286

13. Glenn Carson

Penn State

13.333333

251

15. Avery Williamson

Kentucky

14

238.3333

16. DeDe Lattimore

South Florida

14.166667

217

Like defensive tackle, there was almost no consistency what-so-ever in the listing of inside vs outside linebacker among the many sources I consulted.  So those prospects with position flexibility are clearly labeled.  But right away something should jump out at you: there is CJ Mosely, and then not much else.  The depth for inside linebackers in this draft is terrible and there are only three players that garner a 1st or 2nd round grade: Mosely, Jones and Skov, and none of them are pure middle linebacker prospects.  All that said, CJ Mosely grades out perfect for us with the 8th overall pick and could fill an important need for us as well at potentially both linebacker positions.  This would be a very interesting selection.  Click the image below to embiggen the inside linebacker spreadsheet.

Consensus_rankings_ilb_v0

Outside Linebackers

Player Name and Position

School

Avg. Positional Rank

Avg. Overall Rank

1. Anthony Barr

UCLA

1.25

4

2. Khalil Mack

Buffalo

2.375

11

3. CJ Mosley OLB/ILB

Alabama

2.8571429

8.428571

4. Trent Murphy OLB/DE

Stanford

4.7142857

24.85714

5. Ryan Shazier

Ohio State

5

28.28571

6. Vic Beasley OLB/DE

Clemson

6.4285714

35.28571

7. Kyle Van Noy

Brigham Young

6.75

36.875

8. Trevor Reilly OLB/DE

Utah

8

43.5

9. Christian Jones OLB/ILB

Florida State

9.25

64.25

10. Shayne Skov ILB/OLB

Stanford

10.125

63.375

11. Jeremiah Attaochu

Georgia Tech

10.571429

67.85714

12. Adrian Hubbard

Alabama

11.166667

80.5

13. Yawin Smallwood OLB/ILB

Connecticut

11.428571

79.28571

14. Telvin Smith OLB/ILB

Florida State

11.5

73.83333

15. Dee Ford OLB/DE

Auburn

12

77

16. DeMarcus Lawerence OLB/DE

Boise State

13.5

94

If the inside linebackers were confusing, the outside linebackers were even worse.  Not only do some players fit into an inside vs outside role, some fit into an outside vs defensive end role too, especially in a 3-4 scheme.  Again, I've noted when a player has position flexibility and those linebackers listed as a DE, would definitely be better picks if we were to make the switch to a 3-4 scheme.  But regardless, anyone here could potentially be drafted to fulfill some kind of outside linebacker role.  And it's possible the Vikings will need to fill two OLB positions this year if they part ways with Chad Greenway and his enormous cap hit, as well as Erin Henderson due to his legal issues.

But the good news is there are a lot more elite players at this position than any others so far with a whopping 10 players receiving a 1st or 2nd round grade, half of which are 1st round grades.  We probably won't have a shot at Anthony Barr, but Khalil Mack would represent some decent value with the 8th overall selection too.  CJ Mosely appears on the list again, but falls to #3 on the positional ranking as he's a slightly better fit at inside linebacker than outside linebacker and has more competition in the rankings.  We could also look for a player like Kyle Van Noy near the top of the 2nd round too.  Outside linebacker is deep in this year's draft and the top 15 players at the position all grade out in the 3rd round or better. Click the image below to embiggen the Outside Linebacker spreadsheet.

Consensus_rankings_olb_v0

Cornerback

Player Name

School

Avg. Positional Rank

Avg. Overall Rank

1. Darqueze Dennard

Michigan St.

2.375

20.625

2. Justin Gilbert

Oklahoma St.

3.25

32.125

3. Jason Verrett

TCU

3.5

29.25

4. Bradley Roby

Ohio St.

4.2857143

39.57143

5. Marcus Roberson

Florida

5.3333333

38

6. Kyle Fuller

Virginia Tech

6

59.85714

7. Loucheiz Purifoy

Florida

6.6666667

58.2

8. Lamarcus Joyner

Florida St.

7

61.16667

9. Aaron Colvin

Oklahoma

8.375

77.625

10. Terrance Mitchell

Oregon

9

85

11. Deshazor Everett

Texas A&M

9.6666667

72

12. Keith McGill

Utah

11

92.75

13. E.J. Gaines

Missouri

12.571429

71

14. Vic Hampton

South Carolina

12.75

81.66667

15. Rashaad Reynolds

Oregon St.

16.25

139.25

16. Pierre Desir

Lindenwood

16.4

118.6667

17. Carrington Byndom

Texas

16.571429

154.4

18. Stanley Jean-Baptiste

Nebraska

17.4

155.5

19. Deion Belue

Alabama

19.5

125.3333

20. Andre Hal

Vanderbilt

20.666667

148.2

If you notice, there isn't much elite talent at the top of the rankings, but this is by far the longest and deepest of the positions.  A full 20 players appeared in the top 10 of at least 1 ranking source and the vast majority grade out in the 4th round or better.  Based on the overall value of this position in the draft, we would be wise to avoid drafting a cornerback with the 8th overall selection as there wouldn't be much value in doing so.  But waiting and grabbing a corner at the top of the 2nd or even 3rd round would get us a solid prospect.  Based on what I see here, I think we're better off trying to get a starting caliber cornerback in free agency, because there just isn't a sure-fire Top 10 overall talent in this draft class.  Click the image below to embiggen the Cornerback spreadsheet.

Consensus_rankings_cb_v0

Overall there were other positions I considered including in this article, like guard, defensive end, and even safety.  We need a lot of help on the defensive side of the ball.  But I decided to focus in on DT, LB and CB for now.  I assume we'll resign either Everson Griffen or Jared Allen and be just fine at defensive end, and I can live with our current roster of safeties for another season.  I do think we need an upgrade at guard, and if one of the positions above is addressed in free agency, then I'll swap in the guard position later on but generally speaking the offensive line was a strength of the team last year and upgrading the guard position is more of a luxury pick in my opinion.

Tackling the Draft

So armed with this new consensus information, how should the Vikings attack the draft?  Well, there are multiple angles to take, but in trying to line up our draft picks with the best value (and assuming any prospect with an overall ranking higher than our draft pick is taken), I would probably approach it this way:

Value Half-Mock

Round 1, pick #8: ILB C.J. Mosley, Alabama (8.5 overall grade)
Round 2, pick #40: QB Tahj Boyd, Clemson (54.6 overall grade)
Round 3, pick #72: DT Daniel McCullers, Tennessee (87.3 overall grade)
Round 3, pick #92 (ish): CB Keith McGill, Utah (92.75 overall grade)
Rounds 4-7: Best Player Available

I know the Manziel Zealots will hate this approach, and it's possible I waited too long to address cornerback and defensive tackle.  But, assuming we can keep Matt Cassel in the fold and have him start most of the 2014 season (if not all of it) that will let Tahj Boyd (a poor man's Teddy Bridgewater who also compares to Russell Wilson) develop and not be rushed into action.  I really love getting a potential "quarterback of the defense" in C.J. Mosley with the #8 pick.  While some may think Audie Cole and/or Michael Mauti are ready to take up the middle linebacker torch, I'm not so sure.

So, for those who are in the "draft a QB in the 1st round or bust" mentality, here is another mock...following largely the same principle as above, but sacrificing a bit of value in the 1st round to address a glaring need.

Needs Half-Mock

Round 1, pick #8: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (17.7 overall grade)
Round 2, pick #40: CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State (39.6 overall grade)
Round 3, pick #72: ILB Telvin Smith, Florida State (73.5 overall grade)
Round 3, pick #96 (ish): DT Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State (107.8 overall grade)
Rounds 4-7: Best Player Available

Again, taking Manziel #8 would be a bit of a reach based on his average overall ranking, and we're missing out on a bit of value with our late 3rd round pick as well.  But getting Bradley Roby in the 2nd and Telvin Smith in the 3rd would be great consolation prizes.  And just because this exercise is fun, here's another half-mock with yet another possibility:

Random Half-Mock

Round 1, pick #8: DT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame (14 overall grade)
Round 2, pick #40: CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State (39.6 overall grade)
Round 3, pick #72: LB Telvin Smith, Florida State (73.5 overall grade)
Round 3, pick #96 (ish): QB David Fales, San Jose State (103.8 overall grade)
Rounds 4-7: Best Player Available

There are so many different position orders to explore and they would all net us good value, but the hardest draft slot to get right is the first one, at #8.  The interesting thing is that based on the average overall rankings of these "need positions" there are really only 4-5 players that would represent good value AND address a severe team need with the #8 pick: Teddy Bridgewater, CJ Mosely, Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack, and maybe Louis Nix III.  Everyone else is arguably a "reach" based on these preliminary cumulative rankings, and of those five names there's a very good chance that all of them are gone by the time we pick.  In short, at this very early stage, I really don't like our draft position relative to our team needs.  I think it would be wise to either trade up for a talent like Teddy Bridgewater, or trade down to acquire more picks and get better value at a lower position.

In any case there will be many potential mock drafts between now and May 8th and the rankings will change dramatically between now and then.  But the point of this kind of exercise is to encourage draftniks to seek out alternative scouting reports.  Take a look at other rankings and see what lots of different folks are saying about these prospects.  Just because one source is down on a particular player doesn't mean much.  If multiple sources are down on a player, then that carries a bit more weight, and if all of the sources are down on a player then that is very likely the truth.  So be sure to check back often for updated versions of the Consensus Ranking, and with each update I'll include how far each player has risen or fallen compared to the last version.  I'll be providing an update after the Senior Bowl as most of the major sources will have a lot more information after the next couple weeks' worth of college All Star games.  There will also be an update following the Scouting Combine in February, and then another update a few weeks prior to the draft.  So stay tuned!

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