6 biggest snubs from Round 1 of the NFL draft
Gordon McGuinness takes a look at which top talent slipped past Day 1 of the draft.
6 biggest snubs from Round 1 of the NFL draft
Day 1 of the draft has come and gone, and despite several great picks throughout the first round, we still saw a handful of worthy players fall to Day 1 when we had them rated on our Draft Board as much higher.
With that in mind, here’s a look at our biggest snubs from Round 1, along with where they would have been good fits:
1. Chris Jones, Defensive Interior, Mississippi State
The 12th-ranked player on our board, Jones’ play on the field was worthy of a Round-1 landing spot. He used his hands well and was one of the strongest players on the defensive interior, often pushing offensive linemen into the backfield. With the second-highest grade among all players on the defensive interior in 2015, he was more impressive than some of the other players off the board already.
He could have come off the board as early as No. 8 to the Chicago Bears after their trade up, but the Bears were clearly moving up to grab an edge rusher. That being said, with the run of Kenny Clark, Robert Nkemdiche and Vernon Butler going to the Packers, Cardinals and Panthers late in the round, we’re of the opinion that Jones should have been in the mix there. He’ll be a steal for whoever lands him on Day 2.
2. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
The reason for Jack sliding all the way out of the first round, after initially being projected as a potential top-5 pick, is reportedly due to concern over his surgically repaired knee and whether it will allow him to have a long NFL career. But even if those concerns are legitimate, it’s pretty remarkable that Jack wouldn’t be taken anywhere in the first round. We are talking about the No. 6 overall player on the PFF board, who in 2014 (prior to his injury-shortened 2015 campaign) earned the top coverage grade of any linebacker in college football.
You could make an argument for any number of teams that should have taken him in Round 1 after he started to slide, but a few in particular stand out. The Falcons have a massive need for a coverage linebacker and instead made a major reach at No. 17 for strong safety Keanu Neal out of Florida, who ranked as just the No. 176 overall player on the board. The Jets then reached three picks later for Ohio State’s Darron Lee, who is considered to be a similar type of player to Jack as a fast sideline-to-sideline LB who excels in coverage – except that he graded negatively in coverage over the course of two seasons and missed so many tackles after the catch that his tackling efficiency in coverage ranked fourth-worst among LBs in this class. Lastly, the Packers have a huge need at linebacker, yet chose to draft DT Kenny Clark, a late second-round prospect on the PFF board, at No. 27.
3. Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State
Whitehair was the highest-graded tackle in the FBS last year, but projects as a better guard in the NFL. We had him as the 17th-best player available heading into the draft and were impressed by his performance at guard during Senior Bowl week. With two seasons with a top-five grade at tackle — and an impressive showing at guard in Mobile — he was one of the best offensive line prospects available in our eyes.
We saw seven offensive linemen come off the board and Whitehair should have been one of them by the middle of the first round. Detroit would have been a good fit, but the most surprising move was seeing the San Francisco 49ers move back up into Round 1 to select a guard, only to select Joshua Garnett instead.
4. Jarran Reed, Defensive Interior, Alabama
Though he was our 20th-ranked player on the board, there was always a chance than Reed could fall a bit due to positional value. His best fit is as a true nose tackle in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, but he is a far better run defender than he is a pass rusher, with the best run stop percentage in the nation on the defensive interior at 13.4 percent.
A great landing spot for Reed would have been Cincinnati, but it’s hard to hate their selection of William Jackson, who was our 15th-ranked player overall. We were less impressed with Pittsburgh’s selection of Miami cornerback Artie Burns, and Reed would have been a very nice addition to their defensive line instead.
5. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
The 26th-ranked player on our board, Ragland was not only one of the best players available, but also a versatile linebacker. He had the fourth-highest grade in the nation at linebacker, 18th against the run, 13th in coverage and ninth as a pass rusher. His skill set saw him as a great fit at any spot in a 4-3 and on the inside of a 3-4. With multiple teams looking for a three-down linebacker, it’s surprising to see him still available heading into Day 2.
The New York Jets wanted a linebacker, and they went for the measurables of Ohio State’s Darron Lee. There’s no denying his ability as an athlete, but Lee was a better athlete than football prospect. He missed 12 missed tackles on 72 attempts, and at times was exposed in coverage. For a team searching for a linebacker like the Jets, Ragland should have been the pick.
6. Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Shepard had the highest overall grade of any wide receiver in this draft class, and the second-highest receiving grade next to TCU’s Josh Doctson, He was also the 23rd-ranked player on our draft board, and perhaps was hurt because people viewed him as a “slot only” type of receiver — a lesson we learned last year with Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett. With a 41-inch vertical Shepard plays bigger than his 5-foot-10 frame suggests and will be a great pick for a Day 2 team, whether he plays mainly in the slot or not.
We’re always told that you can’t teach speed, but Shepard would have been a great fit in Houston with the Texans. Will Fuller is an incredibly fast receiver, there is no denying that, but his hands were an issue, with a 13.9 percent drop rate in 2015 that ranked 88th out of the 96 receivers with enough qualifying snaps. Fuller’s speed is special, but Shepard is a much better player.
Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.