How should one design a mock draft? They’re mostly empty intellectual exercises, so I’ve always found it fun to create themes to see what certain extremes in philosophies can encourage. Sometimes that means drafting a full slate of players with red flags in order to find value or exclusively players with tons of athleticism.
Over at Cold Omaha, I’ve been creating production profiles for every position (the most recent one—safeties—is right here) and I thought it would be fun to create a mock draft full of players with high production ratings. That doesn’t mean players with the most rushing yards or pancake blocks, but players that scored highest in a system specifically designed to turn box scores into predictive metrics for NFL players.
We’ll use the CBS rankings to determine where players will generally fall and then pick the most productive players at positions of relative need for the Vikings to see if we can grab a group of rookies that could help the Vikings out, both immediately and in the long term.
Pick 46 (or 47): Roderick Johnson, OT Florida State
This isn’t a necessarily popular pick as Johnson suffered his fair share of struggles at FSU—out of all of the college tackles ranked in CBS’ top 300, Johnson gave up the second-most sacks (4), and the most out of players actually projected to play tackle.
But without adjusting for age and the offense one performed in, relatively simple analysis like that will miss out on quality players. Taylor Decker gave up more pressure than any other tackle in the Top 100, but still ended up as perhaps the best offensive lineman in that draft.
After adjusting his production for the offense he was in, he was projected to be the top tackle in the draft.
Roderick Johnson benefits in the same way after accounting for how much was asked of the offensive lineman at Florida State that year and how sack-prone quarterback Deondre Francois was.
Accounting for his age and his offense reveals a player whose youth and physical talents may project to a much more competent and sound offensive tackle than the Vikings have had for quite some time.
Check out the offensive linemen production scores here.
Pick 78 (or 80): Marcus Williams, S Utah
Perhaps the single-most productive player in the draft (at least with regards to how these metrics are calculated), Marcus Williams was somehow only targeted 15 times last year. He was targeted even less the year before.
At first, I thought this was because he might have played too far away from the ball, but that isn’t really the case—he generates a good percentage of his team’s stops, though doesn’t quite measure up to the other safeties in his class in this respect.
Instead, his incredible ability to find the ball is what recommends him here. He was only targeted 15 times, yet he grabbed five interceptions and got his hands on the ball another three times besides. That’s nuts—if Harrison Smith had generated the same interception-target rate as Williams did for Utah, he would have led the league last year with 10 interceptions.
That Williams basically did the same thing the year prior (five interceptions on fewer than 15 targets) implies that this might not be fluky after all. He could be an elite coverage defender in the NFL.
Pick 86: Nico Siragusa, OT San Diego State
My first exposure to watching Nico Siragusa was actually to watch Donnel Pumphrey, his teammate and running back at San Diego State. Siragusa showcased excellent run-blocking and movement capability, but I was unsure of his capability in the passing game—especially as his scouting reports indicated someone who was potentially inconsistent at protecting the quarterback.
But when looking solely at his pass protection production, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was a statistically pristine blocker, only having given up one sack and three hurries in his time at SDSU. That has nothing to do with a quick-strike offense or an elusive quarterback, either; Siragusa had the most difficult offense to block for out of all the offensive linemen in the draft.
While he’s a little older than the average OL prospect, his production is well worth the investment. He has the potential to be the best guard in the draft.
Pick 121: D’Onta Foreman, RB Texas
The Vikings either need an outright replacement for Adrian Peterson or a player who can complement what Jerick McKinnon does with the added benefit of taking over long-term if McKinnon suffers another injury.
D’Onta Foreman might be able to fill all of those roles capably, particularly if he ends up testing as a particularly fast back for his size. While on film he doesn’t seem to relish contact as well as Leonard Fournette, one can’t help but be reminded that David Johnson from Northern Iowa faced similar criticism—a large running back who sought to avoid contact more than create it.
Like with Johnson, I’m not sure the criticism holds up, and his production in college speaks well to that fact. While it is the case that Foreman benefited from a fairly easy schedule, he still outproduced relative to his schedule. The fact that Texas leaned on him so heavily despite that schedule and offensive line also implies that Foreman had something that the other Texas running backs didn’t.
All told, his production is a reason to be optimistic about his NFL potential.
Pick 129: Trey Hendrickson, DE Florida Atlantic
Minnesota likes to consistently replenish their offensive line, and with Brian Robison potentially stepping down in his role and eventually leaving the team soon, the Vikings have another spot open for a potentially devastating defensive end.
Hendrickson’s 13.5 sacks and 15.0 tackles-for-loss speaks to a player that seems at home in the backfield. After adjusting for his best-in-class youth, Hendrickson ends up as the single-most productive defensive end in the set.
It would be a missed opportunity for the Vikings not to take advantage of falling talent in a deep defensive end class and a player like Hendrickson fulfills that kind of opportunity perfectly.
Check out how Hendrickson stacks up against other edge rushers here.
Pick 159: Jon Toth, C Kentucky
The third offensive lineman (one who may end up more important as Joe Berger evidently considers retirement) in this mock, Toth missed out in the initial look at offensive linemen because CBS didn’t consider him a top 150 talent.
But his production at Kentucky as a pass protector is better than every center above him except for Ethan Pocic. That isn’t to say that he’s better than Pat Elflein or Tyler Orlosky, but that he could present better value.
Toth played in the most difficult offense among the eligible centers (and second among all offensive linemen, after Siragusa’s SDSU squad) and still only allowed one sack in 389 pass protection snaps. In fact, without Pocic’s age boost, Toth outscores all centers in offense-adjusted pressure rate.
He didn’t have a fantastic time in Mobile, but neither was it too bad. He might present the kind of long-term developmental talent that allowed the Vikings to benefit from players like John Sullivan.
Pick 198: Joshua Dobbs, QB Tennessee
This is an insurance pick. It’s generally wise for teams to select a quarterback almost every year just so they have developmental value they can either flip for a pick or play in a pinch, and the Vikings need it more than most—Teddy Bridgewater’s recovery from injury remains up in the air and Sam Bradford will need a new contract.
Even if Bradford doesn’t, last year’s performance was an outlier in his overall career and might represent just that kind of spike going forward.
Those concerns aren’t so enormous that the Vikings need to spend big at quarterback, but it’s worth thinking ahead. Dobbs earned some praise at the Senior Bowl and was a player to watch before the season started, but slipped out of favor over the course of the season.
That might be fair, but it’s worth noting that Dobbs is a leader among his draft-eligible peers in producing touchdowns in the air and on the ground. Not only that, he was a fantastic runner and generally helped keep Tennessee’s offense on schedule despite his proclivity for taking chances.
Pick 232: Jimmie Gilbert, LB Colorado
Gilbert is the most productive player outside of the top 150 in these metrics, though that comes with a big caveat. He was an edge defender for Colorado but is listed at 223 pounds—he will likely have to convert to off-ball linebacker, where production metrics ask something a bit different.
Still, his ability to produce solo tackles and tackles for loss are encouraging—they are what distinguished other converts like Anthony Barr, Von Miller and Jamie Collins. An athletic, smaller linebacker fits what the Vikings have done nearly every year in the draft, which is to find a depth linebacker who might be able to contribute right away on special teams and may work up to a starting position.
With Chad Greenway’s (very likely) departure, it might have made sense to grab a linebacker earlier, but a competition between Emmanuel Lamur and Edmond Robinson might resolve what is now a part-time role, so a more patient approach at linebacker could continue to make sense.