Over the years that this site has been online, I’ve said on numerous occasions that the idea of grading an NFL Draft class less than 24 hours after the draft has been completed, and before any of the players selected, have even gotten fitted for a helmet, is pretty absurd. We have no idea how any of these young men are going to perform or how they’re going to help the Minnesota Vikings going forward.
However, I do understand that draft grades are a big topic of discussion in the wake of the NFL Draft, and so I’m going to take as many of the grades as I can find and put them in one place for everyone to discuss. We’ll keep adding grades as they come in, but we should have quite a few here for your reading and discussing pleasure for now.
So, with that, here are some of the grades from the draft experts around the internet.
Mike Zimmer wants to run the ball. Just ask former offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who was fired in the middle of last season, as Minnesota finished 27th in rushes per game (22.3) and 30th in rushing yards per game (93.3) in 2018. That’s why Zimmer brought in assistant head coach Gary Kubiak and run game coordinator Rick Dennison, who plan to implement a zone-blocking scheme. Will it help Kirk Cousins? That’s the hope. But the Vikings need better offensive linemen, first and foremost.
So it was pretty clear to see how excited the entire draft room was on Thursday when Garrett Bradbury was still on the board at No. 18. The team thinks he’s the perfect fit to play center in this new scheme, with Pat Elflein moving over to guard. Bradbury has outstanding footwork, and he played well at Senior Bowl practices. And if you can believe it, he’s the first interior lineman the Vikings have drafted in Round 1 since Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel in 1988.
The Vikes had nice days on Friday and Saturday. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. (No. 50) could put Kyle Rudolph’s future in Minnesota in jeopardy. Dru Samia (No. 114) will join the battle for one of the open guard spots. Todd McShay tried to get me to move up Alexander Mattison (No. 102) this past week, and with Dalvin Cook’s injury history, the team needed a backup plan. Armon Watts (No. 190) has a massive 6-foot-5 frame and will join the defensive line rotation. I also liked cornerback Kris Boyd (No. 217) in Round 7, as he joins a talented secondary that includes former Longhorn teammate Holton Hill.
With Cousins in Year 2 of a three-year deal, the Vikings need to win now. This is a solid class with a few pieces to help do that.
The Vikings had to fix their offensive line. That started with Garrett Bradbury at No. 18. He can play center or guard. Veteran Pat Elflein will man the other. Minnesota doubled up on interior blockers at No. 114 with Dru Samia of Oklahoma.
Minnesota wants to be a more run-oriented offense, so the choices on the second and third day make sense. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. can line up all over the field and is a reliable pass catcher and blocker. The team’s third-round pick, Alexander Mattison of Boise State, is a nice backup for Dalvin Cook.
It was a little puzzling, though, to wait until the back of the sixth round to take a defensive lineman in a draft loaded with them.
Day 1 grade: A
Day 2 grade: A
Day 3 grade: B+
Overall grade: A
Draft analysis: Bradbury is athletic and tough, considered one of the best center prospects to be picked in some time. Minnesota’s offensive line was in dire need of improvement so this selection will make quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Dalvin Cook extremely happy.
Smith is a move tight end who was a nice value. He could replace Kyle Rudolph as a receiver and throw his body around as a blocker. Minnesota needs to have a solid backup at running back due to durability concerns with Dalvin Cook, and Mattison is a durable power back who can handle those duties.
Epps is an athletic safety who likes to hit, something the Vikings needed to add in this draft. Watts is a disruptive guy inside who is just scratching the surface of his potential. They hit the OL again with Udoh, a good value in the sixth round. The Spielman residence should be harmonious with a cornerback not being picked until Round 6 (Boyd was also a good value). Johnson was overshadowed by Preston Williams at Colorado State, but he has a chance to make the Vikings’ roster.
No team entering this draft had a more obvious need than the Vikings did at interior offensive line. Last year’s offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, did not run the ball nearly as much as head coach Mike Zimmer wanted in part because DeFilippo knew that Minnesota’s guards and center could not move the line of scrimmage. With new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski running a pure outside zone scheme (hence the hiring of veteran assistant Gary Kubiak), Vikings linemen will be asked to move the line of scrimmage with their initial quickness and unified blocking techniques—and Garrett Bradbury is considered tailor-made for that role. He played center at North Carolina State, but some believe he can move to guard. That decision could come down to where the Vikings want to play Pat Elflein, who last year struggled at center but will be better with improved players around him. One of those players could be fourth-round pick Dru Samia, given that he need only beat out so-so ex-Titan right guard Josh Kline for a starting job.
In the second round, Minnesota addressed its lack of athleticism at tight end by drafting Irv Smith Jr. He’ll replace the steady but athletically limited Kyle Rudolph, it’s just a matter of when. Smith should expand the multi-receiver route designs, which Stefanski is great on constructing. In Alexander Mattison the Vikings found a complement to tailback Dalvin Cook, a one-dimensional zone runner with durability concerns.
Pro Football Focus: Below Average
Minnesota put at least a few of their nine picks on Day 3 to good use. Oregon wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, PFF’s No. 154 overall player, and Arkansas defensive interior Armon Watts, PFF’s No. 124 overall player, were two of the Vikes’ value picks.
Watts turned in an impressive 86.1 pass-rush grade with Arkansas in 2018, ranking seventh among draft-eligible interior defensive linemen. He’s an underrated pass-rushing interior defensive lineman in this class.
Mitchell turned in a career year with the Ducks in 2018, earning an 80.8 overall grade and an 82.5 receiving grade in the process. He also ranked 11th in yards per route run (2.90) among draft-eligible FBS wide receivers with 300 or more routes run in 2018. He’s a bit raw, but his natural tools are intriguing.
Dru Samia, a nasty Oklahoma guard with upside, is another solid pick for Minnesota. He’ll need to improve his technique a bit and dial back his aggression to start long term, but his ceiling is exciting.
There’s more to the PFF analysis, but it’s really long, so I won’t put all of it here.
The O-line (and run game in general) got needed assistance with first-round C Garrett Bradbury, fourth-round G Dru Samia and a back (third rounder Alexander Mattison) who could take the load off injury-riddled Dalvin Cook. Second-round TE Irv Smith should do quite a bit of damage against defenses understandably eyeing this club’s wideouts.
Rick Spielman knew he had to upgrade the offensive line for Dalvin Cook and Kirk Cousins, but he didn’t ignore getting insurance for Cook and expanding the group of receivers for Cousins. Smith, Udoh and Boyd all had the potential to go much earlier in the draft. Bradbury will be their O-line anchor for a decade.
Everybody knew the Vikings had to augment their offensive line, and they started that process quickly by taking North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury with the 18th overall pick. Bradbury allows the team to move Pat Elflein to guard, solving yet another issue. Fourth-round Oklahoma guard Dru Samia is a perfectly athletic guard with a very nasty attitude. Sixth-round tackle Oli Udoh from Elon is a massive project blocker. The Vikings also added Alabama tight end Irv Smith, Jr. in the second round as a movable chess piece in the passing game, and sixth-round defensive tackle Armon Watts is a name you might want to remember as a guy who can disrupt all over the line.
Bradbury was a slam-dunk pick (I would have taken Dillard, but Bradbury is a perfect fit and was a fine value at 1.18). I also thought the Vikings absolutely pillaged on Day 3, consistently getting tremendous value all the way into Round 7. But I can’t go higher than a B+ because I thought the Purple had a disastrous Friday.
Irv Smith is a tweener at a position that wasn’t of pressing need. I liked Mattison more than most, but you can’t take him with the last pick of R3 over superior talents Hakeem Butler, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Anthony Nelson and Julian Love, all of whom were snapped up immediately when the draft re-opened on Saturday.
No actual analysis or anything, but the grade is there.
We’ll give everyone an opportunity to grade this class themselves later on.