There’s really no debate that the Minnesota Vikings draft class of 2015 was a very, very good one. When cornerback Trae Waynes, who has developed into a very solid player over the past three seasons, is probably the fourth best player your team drafted that season. . .well, that’s pretty damn good.
Over behind the great E$PN paywall, their experts have put together a re-do of the 2015 NFL Draft, and a couple of those players that the Vikings selected were selected much, much higher than the Vikings got them in the actual selection process.
The first one is wide receiver Stefon Diggs. It’s not surprising to see his name in a redraft of the 2015 first round, given the way he’s developed over. However, not only does Diggs jump into the first round, he leaps all the way to the Oakland Raiders’ spot at #4 overall. The Raiders actually took a wide receiver at that spot in 2015 when they drafted Amari Cooper, but Diggs is the pick for them here.
Cooper has certainly had his moments with the Raiders, but he has been terribly inconsistent, especially with his 33 drops over the past three years. Diggs is an outstanding route runner, and he’s excellent at the catch point, all adding up to a passer rating of 120.4 when targeted last season, second best in the NFL. He has graded at 88.4 over the past three years, best in the draft class and 10th best among receivers during that time.
Joining Diggs in the first round of this draft is defensive end Danielle Hunter. Hunter winds up being selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the 17th overall pick in this re-draft.
The 49ers were playing an old-school 3-4 defense at the time, but Hunter would fit in nicely as a rushing outside linebacker. He has been strong in the run game for the Vikings while producing as a pass-rusher, with 27 sacks, 19 QB hits and 114 hurries on only 1,260 career attempts.
Honestly, I hadn’t thought of the idea of Hunter being a stand-up linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Maybe I’m biased, but I think he’s much better with his hand in the dirt. Given the contract extension that the Vikings just gave him, they apparently think so, too.
In a mild surprise, Waynes doesn’t find himself in the first 32 selections of this 2015 re-draft. Much more surprising is that linebacker Eric Kendricks isn’t there, either. There are three other linebackers in the re-draft. . .Jordan Hicks to the Los Angeles Chargers, Shaq Thompson to the Cleveland Browns, and Benardrick McKinney to the New Orleans Saints. . .but not Kendricks. Kendicks is one hell of a linebacker, and to not see him in here is a bit curious.
As far as the Vikings’ pick, ESPN has the Vikings still addressing the cornerback position, but rather than Waynes (and with Marcus Peters already off the board), they opt instead for Byron Jones, who is currently with the Dallas Cowboys.
Waynes has been solid, but his value has been more in line with a second-round player. Jones has played mostly safety, though he has brought great value to Dallas’ back seven, due to his ability to match up with difficult tight ends and in the slot, where his 0.60 yards per cover snap ranked third in the NFL last season. Jones is moving back to cornerback this season to further increase that value and hopefully avoid some of the blown coverages that have marred his otherwise excellent work when playing man coverage.
When the Vikings drafted Waynes, he was almost unanimously thought of as the #1 cornerback in the draft, and that position was the Vikings’ biggest weakness the prior season. At the time it was hard to find fault with the selection, but with the gift of hindsight things will change, I suppose.