Vikings

A Machine Mocks the Draft

What does it look like if a machine mocked the draft?

Not the Zone Coverage Football Machine, but a computer simulation using the Consensus Big Board and a team needs list compiled from the SB Nation websites.

James Keane at Bleeding Green Nation, an Eagles fan site, conducted the simulation in Excel before porting it to Tableau, which you can play around with here or below. You’ll have to change the dropdown menu, as the Eagles are the default team selected. Keane has updated the simulation below, so the mock that follows won’t be using the fully updated board.

Instead of just giving us one specific player, the simulation creates a range of outcomes that you can evaluate on your own. For example, Minnesota selects Taven Bryan over 18 percent of the time in the simulation in the first round.

The only issue with the simulation is that it doesn’t seem to knock a team need off the list once a player at that need has been selected. Still, we can use it to create a “probable” mock draft in the unlikely scenario that Minnesota doesn’t move around the board at all. Below, I selected decision-making criteria based on “Need” instead of “Best Available” or “All” because it seemed to be more realistic to my subjective eye.

Let’s take a look.

For an explanation of the Productivity, Athleticism and Age scores, take a look at our piece on the analytic gems of the 2018 draft class.


Braden Smith, OG Auburn

Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

CONSENSUS RANK: 27 | FORECASTER RANK: 25 EVALUATOR RANK: 24

PRODUCTIVITY SCORE: 115.1 ATHLETICISM SCORE: 112.9 AGE SCORE: 101

Check out our profile of Will Hernandez here

The machine initially picked Braden Smith, but it was working with an older, less-updated board. With a new board, the more likely offensive line pick is Hernandez, a celebrated guard who has only allowed four pressures over his last two years of play — and none were QB hits or sacks. It’s not a product of a quick-strike offense, either; UTEP has been an FBS-average offense in terms of sack rate.

Hernandez is just singularly good at what he does.

Hernandez is almost certainly a perfect scheme fit for a power-focused running offense, but he would still be more-than-capable in Minnesota’s zone-style rushing attack. He had a very good NFL combine, and meets Minnesota’s minimum requirements for all his workouts. He moves well enough to get to the second level and absolutely demolishes opponents in front of him in the run game. With a clean pass protection profile, Vikings fans should be happy if they land him.

Nathan Shepherd, DT Fort Hays State

Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

CONSENSUS RANK: 65 | FORECASTER RANK: 66EVALUATOR RANK: 65

PRODUCTIVITY SCORE: 106.5ATHLETICISM SCORE: 113.2AGE SCORE: 72.3

Check out our profile of Nathan Shepherd here

Recruited as a linebacker, Shepherd added weight to play a defensive tackle role for Fort Hays State and took to it like a duck to water. Shepherd has the frame and natural athleticism to move like a natural athlete at nearly any weight and could add more if the Vikings really wanted him to be a Linval Joseph successor.

Instead, it more likely seems as if he would shed some of the muscle mass he’s gained this offseason to fit the undersized pass-rushing role Minnesota needs filled long-term. He’s an incredibly raw player, but sitting for a year behind Sheldon Richardson under the tutelage of Andre Patterson should give him the latitude he needs to be a punishing defensive tackle in the future.

Duke Dawson, CB Florida

Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

CONSENSUS RANK: 91| FORECASTER RANK: 86 EVALUATOR RANK: 90

PRODUCTIVITY SCORE: 117.8ATHLETICISM SCORE: 104.5AGE SCORE: 121

Likely too short to be an outside corner for Minnesota except in emergency situations, Dawson would be excellent competition for the nickel slot with Mackensie Alexander.  Dawson is a young corner with some speed and agility to spare, and could intrigue the Vikings despite his size.

In college, he allowed a 37.1 passer rating when targeted and ranked fourth in yards allowed per snap in coverage among cornerbacks likely to be drafted in the first five rounds.

Dawson is technically sound, patient and instinctive as a corner whose natural feel for the game allows him to maintain positioning in man or zone schemes equally well. He’s also a fantastic run defender.

Unfortunately, with shorter arms and issues defending deep, he won’t ever be a highlight-reel corner — though he should fit into the Vikings offense well.

Marquis Haynes, EDGE Ole Miss

Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

CONSENSUS RANK: 157 | FORECASTER RANK: 153 EVALUATOR RANK: 161

PRODUCTIVITY SCORE: 100.3ATHLETICISM SCORE: 83.8AGE SCORE: 62.5

The Vikings continue to get mid-round pass-rushers with bend and agility with the Haynes selection. Haynes doesn’t really fit what the Vikings look for in an edge rusher, but I already tipped the scales by moving down the list given to me by the machine in the first place until landing on a position the Vikings need but hadn’t yet drafted.

Haynes is more of a designated pass-rusher in subpackages, as NFL.com points out, than an every-down defender. His speed and flexibility will allow him to get pressure on the quarterback but his frame limits his available pass-rush moves and ability to play early on — it likely will prevent him from adding that much more weight, too.

Kendrick Norton, DT Florida

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

CONSENSUS RANK: 186 | FORECASTER RANK: 200 EVALUATOR RANK: 193

PRODUCTIVITY SCORE: 85.7ATHLETICISM SCORE: 98.9AGE SCORE: 131.8

The Vikings already drafted a defensive tackle, but teams can always use defensive line help. With Shamar Stephen gone, Minnesota might look to the draft a nose tackle to replace him and find another body to relieve Linval Joseph as games wear on.

Though not quite a fit, athletically, with what the Vikings do with nose tackles, his ability to generate power from his lower body is evident on film.

He will need to make sure most of his weight comes from muscle, and may need to work on his balance, but he does an excellent job anchoring double teams.

Matthew Thomas, LB Florida State

Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

CONSENSUS RANK: 213 | FORECASTER RANK: 201 EVALUATOR RANK: 218

PRODUCTIVITY SCORE: 108.6 ATHLETICISM SCORE: 127.6AGE SCORE: 96.7

Check out our profile of Matthew Thomas

The most athletic linebacker at the NFL combine, Matthew Thomas is an intriguing prospect who will have to answer for some red flags before being drafted.

His athleticism is easy to see on the field, with fantastic change of direction ability and explosion. His speed to the sideline allows him to shut down the outside running game and he tackles with good form, to boot.

He does need to bring more hitting power and for all of his athleticism, he sometimes seems like a liability in coverage. His instincts aren’t at the level of top linebackers and he’ll have to turn it around for him to be an impact player on scrimmage plays. As a late-round special teamer, however, he could thrive.

Justin Jackson, RB Northwestern

Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

CONSENSUS RANK: 213 | FORECASTER RANK: 201 EVALUATOR RANK: 218

PRODUCTIVITY SCORE: 108.6 ATHLETICISM SCORE: 127.6AGE SCORE: 96.7

A potential replacement for Jerick McKinnon in the passing game, Jackson’s incredible athletic profile doesn’t get much attention because of an average 40-yard dash. However, phenomenal scores in the vertical (38.5″) and three-cone (6.81 seconds), as well as great scores in the broad jump (10’2″) and short shuttle (4.07 seconds), make for an NFL-level athlete.

His agility is obvious on the field, and he uses it to string cuts and moves together to make defenders miss. Unlike many maneuverable running backs, he does seek contact and can burst through arm tackles — though he doesn’t always win when he hits a linebacker head-on.

He’s never going to be confused for a bell-cow back with his size and his hands need to be better for him to be a consistent pass-catching option, but he can learn the finer elements of the passing game.

KC McDermott, OT Miami (Fla.)

Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

CONSENSUS RANK: 278 | FORECASTER RANK: 312 EVALUATOR RANK: 273

PRODUCTIVITY SCORE: 119.6 ATHLETICISM SCORE: 92.2 AGE SCORE: 105.8

The machine initially selected a group of players that the Vikings had either already selected with their other picks or players at positions they’ve already taken care of. The next pick, K.J. Malone, didn’t really fit what the Vikings have looked for athletically in offensive linemen, so we went with McDermott, a tackle from Miami who could also play guard.

Though not wonderfully athletic, he still fits the thresholds the Vikings look for at the position and has shown the ability to move well on the field on zone running plays, though he needs to show more initial get-off.

There’s a lot of technical coaching that he needs, both upper and lower body, but the tools are there and the grip strength that the Vikings very often look for in offensive linemen is there with McDermott.

Despite shaky technique, McDermott got things done at the college level, with the fourth-best run blocking success rate in the class and a high pass-blocking efficiency rate, per Pro Football Focus. He’s gotten better every year and could do so again at the next level.

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