Drafting backwards

By Jared Stanger

I’m a big fan of what I call drafting backwards. It’s in part an evaluation of the players that will be available in later rounds that you see as undervalued, and also part evaluation of position groups that dry up earlier than others. The farther back you start, the harder it is to predict which players will still be there. So for this story we’re going to focus on the 3rd round.

Seattle has historically had pretty good luck in the 3rd round. Russell Wilson is obviously their biggest success story in the 3rd, but Tyler Lockett and Shaquill Griffin have also been good finds in the 3rd.

If you can find a player that you really, really like that is pretty unanimously entrenched in the 3rd round, you can take his position group off of your board in the earlier rounds, and focus on other spots that may have more significant talent cliffs. Here are my 3rd round picks at most positions:

Cornerback – Isaac Yiadom

Isaac Yiadom is classic Seahawk CB size: 6’1″/190lbs, 32 1/4″ arms. He has adequate athleticism at 4.52s forty, 34.5″ vert, 10’00” broad, and a solid 6.85 cone. Yiadom is an excellent tackler who excels in Boston College’s press-man scheme with incredible patience and press technique. He maintains consistent over-the-top position with fluid hips to adjust for comebacks. And he plays extremely hard all the way through the whistle.

Yiadom has the most pro-ready technique of all corners in this class:

This is an example of Isaac’s motor:

Draftscout ranks Yiadom as the #100 overall player.

Defensive End – Duke Ejiofor

Duke Ejiofor is a guy I’ve been very high on all year who was forced to have shoulder labrum surgery after the end of the season. That injury/surgery has prevented Ejiofor from testing athletically, and has dropped his value into the 3rd round. His combine weigh-in was: 6’3″/264lbs, with massive 34 7/8″ arms. Wake Forest had Duke listed at 6’4″/275lbs during the season, and that would be a weight that I would target playing him as it helps allow him to continue playing with inside/outside versatility. This is the guy I target to play Michael Bennett’s vacated role.

It’s honestly a little baffling to me that Ejiofor isn’t valued higher. He has one of the best pass-rush repertoires in this class. He’s a smart player that makes many plays just based on great reads. And the unconfirmed reports of his athleticism suggest he’s a very good athlete.

To showcase Ejiofor I’m going to show some of his specific pass rush moves. Starting with the best spin in the class.

Inside to outside spin:

Outside to inside spin:

When Duke gets snaps inside; he moves to using a swim which is really solid:

This two hand swipe is really effective for him:

Then, when he has the outside rush setup, he has a nice inside counter:

There are more moves with lesser refinement (like his long-arm), but that still show promise. He also is a well-rounded DE playing the run and short passing game very nicely.

Draftscout has Ejiofor as the #120 overall.

Defensive tackle – Derrick Nnadi

As a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of drafting DT early. Unless you have a pretty good idea you’re getting Aaron Donald; I’d rather wait until the 3rd round.

Derrick Nnadi is a 6’1″/317lb, penetrating 1-tech in the mold of Jordan Hill.

Power is Nnadi’s best trait:

Draftscout has Nnadi as the #101 overall player.

Linebacker – Shaquem Griffin

Shaquem Griffin is such an interesting story with an interesting projection. At 6’0″/227lbs he is the size (and speed) of a big safety. He’s primarily played DE in the last two years. And most project him to be a LB as a pro.

I’ve primarily been thinking about him as a Safety because I want to use that speed, but recently I’m reminded of what a great passrusher Quem is. Whether you call him a S or a LB; he needs to be up in the box with chances at rushing the QB.

True sideline to sideline speed:

Draftscout has Griffin as the #89 overall player.

Quarterback – Kyle Lauletta

I don’t love a QB this early for Seattle with all of the other postions that need help, and the QB expected to be a backup. But clearly Seattle has been digging in to the QB market.

My observation is that Seattle seems to be looking for a QB at least 6’2″/210lbs, and they prefer a good athlete with a 4.7s forty. Lauletta is 6’3″/222lbs with only a 4.81s forty, but generally good athleticism. I’m generally okay with a QB with lesser armstrength and better FBIQ, but it’s tough to guess what Seattle looks for when the only QB they’ve drafted under PCJS is Russell Wilson.

Personally, I think Lauletta’s armstrength is fine. More importantly, he’s very accurate deep.

Again, during the Sr Bowl:

Draftscout has Lauletta as the #93 overall.

Running Back – Royce Freeman

There have often been running backs drafted in the 3rd round that have become really successful pro’s. It’s one of the best positions to wait on (especially in good RB classes).

I like Royce Freeman more than most. I think he’s a smart player, super reliable, super tough, without any major holes to his game. At 6’0″/229lbs he’s big enough to be your workhorse. With nice hands he’s versatile enough to be a 3rd down specialist. At 4.54s forty and 6.90 cone, he’s a better athlete than given credit for.

Draftscout has Freeman as the #105 overall.

Safety – Deshon Elliott

I can only assume Elliott’s projection is because he only ran a 4.58s forty. Which isn’t even that bad. On tape, he has some of the best tackling, best reads, best ball skills of all safeties this class.

Deshon is 6’1″/210lbs…not an overwhelming size, but big and physical enough to hold down a Strong Safety slot. Fourth in the country in 2017 for Interceptions.

Nice physicality:

What I like best about him is the way he reads the offense:

Draftscout has Elliott as the #178 overall. Ridiculous.

Now, the other thing this list suggests to me is the positions that don’t fit. Offensive line has a pretty steep cliff after the 2nd round, to me. Tight End is super shallow to begin with, but if you target a run-blocking TE like Durham Smythe/Will Dissly you can get that in like the 5th round. Wide receiver is a position that I think you can find throughout this draft, but 3rd round isn’t the best fit.

 

Winning drafts is about two things: nailing your early round picks, and hitting on a couple midround picks. And if you go into the draft knowing how you can draft backwards; then you’re already ahead of the game.

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