The first round of the 2014 NFL Draft is over, and it was filled with excitement. Some reaches, some huge value picks, but who really won on Thursday night? I’ve got my first round grades for all 32 teams.
Houston Texans (1): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina – Can’t go wrong with the best player and prospect in the draft. Clowney is a beast and despite not being a perfect fit for the Texans’ scheme, they will make it work. He is an incredible athlete and an incredible football player, and starting off his career on the same D-Line as JJ Watt is going to make any opposing quarterback sweat. Easy and obvious choice. Need: A, Value: A+
St. Louis Rams (2, 13): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn; Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh – Robinson is a bit of a project right now. He’s got the size and potential, although Jake Matthews is a more refined tackle right now. He definitely can make a difference at some point though. Need: A, Value A-. Aaron Donald was a great pick, if for no other reason than he was the best player available at #13. Four first rounds picks now on the Rams’ defensive line, and Donald only is making them better. Need: B-, Value: A
Jacksonville Jaguars (3): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida – I’m not surprised but I’m not that high on the pick. I really hope Bortles has a good career, but I’ve said for months now that he is not the best quarterback in this draft class, and the love of size is really the biggest thing he had going for him. Jacksonville needs a quarterback, and they have a couple of pieces to work with (they’ll need a bit more in this draft though), I just don’t think Bortles is the best option. I had him as my fourth best prospect. I know it was a need and I know he was atop most big boards, but I’m just not sold on Bortles at this point. Need: A, Value: C+
Buffalo Bills (4 via trade): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – Buffalo traded the 9th overall pick this year as well as their first and fourth round picks next year to Cleveland in order to move up and get Watkins. They had to give up a lot, but they now have another weapon for young QB EJ Manuel. Watkins joins Robert Woods in the receiver corps, and it’s a big help for a young quarterback when he has guys to throw to. It was more of a luxury pick when they could have gotten an offensive tackle at 9, but Watkins is a fantastic prospect. Need: B-, Value: A
Oakland Raiders (5): Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo – Oakland is in need of playmakers, and they got one with Mack. The best linebacker in this class, he can make an impact right away on a team like the Raiders. They need some offensive help now in later rounds, but it was impossible to not take Mack here. They get a needed pass rusher and some youth, and they got both in a great pick. Need: B, Value: A+
Atlanta Falcons (6): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M – The most NFL-ready tackle right now, I think this was a very good pick for Atlanta. They need help keeping Matt Ryan upright, and if they weren’t going to sell the farm for Clowney, OT was really the best and only choice. Matthews will be able to play right away and will only help Atalnta. Need: A, Value: A
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M – Lovie Smith is sticking with his current starting quarterback (where have we heard that before?), and in his defense Mike Glennon was just a rookie who wasn’t bad last year, all things considered. Same situation here as the Bills, you need to give your young QB someone to throw the ball to. Now, with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans to go up and get the ball, as well a very good backfield, this is a big help for the Bucs. Need: A-, Value: A
Cleveland Browns (8, 22): Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State; Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M – Cleveland traded the #9 pick (from Buffalo) and a fifth round pick for the #8 overall choice. Justin Gilbert was a top two cornerback this year, and while I had him rated behind Darqueze Dennard overall, Gilbert is a better pure athlete, plus he can return kicks. Cleveland getting another CB to play opposite Joe Haden is a big deal, and Gilbert fits the bill. Shoring up the defensive really can’t hurt. Need: B+, Value: B+. Johnny Football was talk the talk of the draft before, during and certainly afterwards too. My second ranked QB in this class, he kept slipping and he kept becoming a bigger story. Would he go in the top 5? No, everyone passed. Top ten? No. Dallas or the Jets, so the media could rip in to those teams even more? No. But then Cleveland traded the #26 overall pick and a third round pick to Philadelphia to get Johnny Manziel. What do they really get? The most exciting quarterback available who can be a franchise quarterback (don’t forget, Bryan Hoyer is still on the roster and is still technically the starter). Johnny Football is a smaller guy, and his style is anything but typical for the NFL game. Can he make it? I think he can. They could use another receiver, but he already has Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon as his tight end and top receiver, two guys who can make plays down field. He has the arm strength, he has the smarts, and I think Cleveland did a great job making this trade. Good first round all around for Cleveland. Need: A, Value: A
Minnesota Vikings (9, 32): Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA; Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville – The #9 pick came from Cleveland (via Buffalo) when the Browns took Justin Gilbert. Barr has potential, he’s a solid tackler and he’s got speed, but his pass rushing arsenal is limited. Speed is his biggest asset, but it’s also his only real tool when rushing the quarterback. A good player, but not the best available OLB. Need: B+, Value: C+. The Vikings traded their second and fourth round picks to Seattle for the 32nd overall pick. As a Packers fan, I hate the Teddy Bridgewater pick, because I don’t want to see the best QB from this class twice a season. I’ve said it a thousand times, Teddy Bridgewater is the best quarterback this year, and he goes to a team now with a great young receiver in Cordarelle Patterson, an underrated tight end in Kyle Rudolph, a veteran receiver like Greg Jennings, and of course the best running back in the league, Adrian Peterson. Fantastic pick for Minnesota. Need: A, Value: A+
Detroit Lions (10): Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina – The top tight end prospect in this draft, I don’t know if he was really worth a top ten pick. The Lions really need help in the secondary, and with Darqueze Dennard, Haha Clinton-Dix and many others available, this pick was suspect. Ebron has the size and has good potential, but does not have very good hands right now and will take some work. Can’t say I like this pick by Detroit. The holes in the secondary are too gaping for the Lions to pass on so many good players at the #10 spot. Need: D, Value: C+
Tennessee Titants (11): Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan – The character is the biggest concern for Lewan. He’s got talent, there’s not question about it (the near-consensus third ranked OT in this class), but I worry about his attitude. Not a huge need right now for the Titans, but if Lewan gives them the best chance to keep Jake Locker protected this coming season, then so be it. Tennessee is another team that could have used a corner, yet passed on Dennard. Lewan is a big, strong player, but he’s got to keep his head in the game at the next level. Need: B-, Value: B+
New York Giants (12): Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU – A little higher than I would have taken him, but Beckham is certainly a good player. He can return kicks, he’s got good hands and is a good route runner. The Giants lost Hakeem Nicks this off-season, but if anything Beckham just adds production since Nicks didn’t do much of anything last season anyway. Once Lewan went off the board at 11, there wasn’t an OT worth the #12 overall pick, and thus they decided to go elsewhere. As long as Eli Manning can stay healthy, Beckham will be involved on offense. The Giants got a good player, even if it was a bit early. Need: B, Value: B+
Chicago Bears (14): Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech – With Peanut Tillman back for probably only one more season, the Bears need help at the cornerback position, and Kyle Fuller is a good player. In terms of value, he wouldn’t be above Darqueze Dennard, but he’s still a worthy first round pick. Having said that, the Bears really needed safety help in this first round, and with Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor still on the board, I can’t say that this is the best pick the Bears could have made. The Bears projected starting safeties as of right now are two of the following: Chris Conte, Ryan Mundy and MD Jennings, two of whom were possibly the worst safeties in the league from the 2013 season. They needed help there right away and they didn’t get it while it was available. Phil Emery has been known for his interesting picks already, and while Kyle Fuller is a good player who can help the team, I don’t think it was the right pick. Need: B, Value: B-
Pittsburgh Steelers (15): Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State – An alright pick for Pittsburgh. Shazier is a very good prospect at the outside linebacker position and the Steelers could potentially use some depth at linebacker (they did draft Jarvis Jones last year, however the corps is still thinning out). But again, another team who passed on very good players who they very much could have used. Dennard, Clinton-Dix, Pryor, any one of them would have been a better selection here. Shazier is a good player who I am high on, but he was not the best choice at #15. Need: C+, Value: B-
Dallas Cowboys (16): Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame – I was truly dumbfounded by the number of teams who needed help in the secondary who kept passing in the middle of the first round. That being said, I’m just glad the Cowboys didn’t take Maziel because ESPN really doesn’t need a bunch of talking heads yammering on about how they called it or whatever. Nonetheless, this pick wasn’t awful but the Cowboys really could have gotten something more here. Martin is a solid tackle, but doesn’t fit the bill for Dallas of either biggest (or even big at all) need or best player available. Need: C-, Value: B-
Baltimore Ravens (17): CJ Mosely, ILB, Alabama – I’m a big fan of this pick for Baltimore. Mosely is a very good player, and while I’m not going to compare him to Ray Lewis or something, he is a definite game changer over the middle. He’s got great coverage skills that are Brian Urlacher-like, he’s got enough speed and he’s a good tackler. Not a huge need for the Ravens, but Mosely was too good for them to pass up. Need: B-, Value: A-
New York Jets (18): Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville – I was really surprised that Pryor went off the board before Clinton-Dix. Pryor is a fine player, but his biggest tool out on the field is his big-hit ability, which can really end up costing teams (and players). I was surprised also that the Jets didn’t look for more options to help out Geno Smith, with good receivers like Brandin Cooks or Jordan Matthews still available at this point. The Jets do need help in the defensive backfield, and they addressed that with the #18 pick, but it could have been used in a wiser way. Need: B, Value: B
Miami Dolphins (19): Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee – An unexpected, but not bad, pick by Miami. There was very little reaction in Radio City Music Hall when the pick was announced, but the Dolphins’ need on the offensive line is unavoidable. James will be a main part in the Dolphins trying to rebuild their line after its tumultuous 2013 season. A player like Cyrus Kouandijo may have been a better value, but you can’t fault Miami for this pick. Need: A, Value: B
New Orleans Saints (20): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State – New Orleans traded the #27 overall pick and a third round selection to Arizona in order to move up and grab Brandin Cooks, which just adds to Drew Brees’ arsenal. The team could have used a cornerback in the first round, but clearly they did not expect their best player available to make it all the way to 27 for them to get him. Cooks won the Biletnikoff Award this past year for a reason, and is definitely a good player who can play at the NFL level. I’m not sure if the Saints really needed to get a receiver in the first round though, since they likely would have been able to get a good one later on. Need: B-, Value: B+
Green Bay Packers (21): Hasean “Haha” Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama – It was a miracle that Haha slipped all the way to the 21st spot, and Green Bay jumped at the chance to get the best safety, and arguably the best overall defensive back, in the draft. In fact, the Packers still had the best safety and best corner in Darqueze Dennard on the board, but safety is a much bigger need for the Packers. Clinton-Dix is a great player, with good ball skills, good cover skills and better than average hands who can and will step in and start day one. For Green Bay this could not have gone any better in the first round. Need: A, Value: A+
Kansas City Chiefs (23): Dee Ford, DE, Auburn – Not a fan at all of this pick. The Chiefs could have gone many different ways with this pick, and this was not the best way they could have gone. Ford is very fast, that’s for sure, but after his best asset there aren’t a whole lot of assets at all. He can be easily swallowed up if he can’t run by you and he lacks a good array of moves. The Chiefs need receiver help badly, and they are also in dire need of secondary help, and with Dennard and Jimmie Ward available, they could have held off on this pick. Heck, they could have even traded back, picked up and extra pick and gotten Kyle Van Noy potentially instead. The pass rush did need help at the end of this past season for Kansas City, but it was not the biggest need and Ford was a reach. Need: B-, Value: D
Cincinnati Bengals (24): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State – It’s crazy that Dennard fell this far. It all worked out for the Bengals though, as they need help with their cornerbacks, and the best player for that job in this draft is Darqueze Dennard. The tape speaks for itself, and Dennard can be an imact player in this league. Need: A-, Value: A+
San Diego Chargers (25): Jason Verrett, CB, TCU – The Chargers needed help in the secondary badly, and they got help with this pick. Verrett may not be a great starter right away, but San Diego had to address this need as soon as they could, and Verrett was the best they could do here. Not a bad pick at all. Need: A, Value: B+
Philadelphia Eagles (26): Marcus Smith, DE/OLB, Louisville – The Eagles received this pick in their trade with the Browns. This one was a surprise, both in terms of position and player. The Eagles really could have used some help in the secondary, and Jimmie Ward was available still at this point. Also, while another outside linebacker is a need for Philly, with Kony Ealy and others still on the board, Marcus Smith was not a likely choice to outsiders. But it isn’t that bad of a pick. Smith is a very good player and can make an impact in whatever (probably limited) role he steps into this year. Need: B, Value: B
Arizona Cardinals (27): Deone Buchannon, S, Washington State – The Cardinals received the #27 pick when the Saints traded up. I’m not as high on Buchannon as some others are, but he’s a solid player who can help out a lacking group of safeties for the Cardinals. If Buchannon can flourish with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu already in the secondary for Arizona, they will wreak havoc one day on opposing aerial attacks. Need: A-, Value: B
Carolina Panthers (28): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State – I really do not like this pick at all for Carolina. Yes, they need receivers and they need them badly, but this seems like another case of just falling in love with size. Benjamin doesn’t have very good hands and is not a very good route runner either. There are several better options on the board, including Jordan Matthews, Marqise Lee, maybe even Cody Latimer. Benjamin fills the need but on a team that’s looking to win now, they did not need to draft a project receiver. Need: A, Value: D+
New England Patriots (29): Dominique Easley, DE, Florida – The Patriots definitely needed to look for help on the D-Line and they got it here. Granted, the need was more on the interior and Easley is also coming off an injury, so it could take a while for him to get fully up to speed. But the Patriots took a good player and addressed a need, can’t complain. Easley could be very good one day. Need: A-, Value: B
San Francisco (30): Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois – San Francisco makes another solid draft pick for their secondary. Last year it was Eric Reid, this year the former NIU Husky, Jimmie Ward. While I wouldn’t say that Ward is better than Reid, he is definitely a good addition. Especially when you consider the turmoil in the 49ers secondary this off-season, it’s a good choice. Also, considering that today San Francisco traded one of their 10 other picks to acquire Stevie Johnson from the Bills, they really made out well by filling another need. After one pick and one trade, San Francisco is in great shape. Need: B+, Value: B+
Denver Broncos (31): Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State – Bradley Roby is quite the interesting case. When he’s on his game, he is a great player who can definitely help out the Denver secondary and become the replacement for the position vacated by future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey and to play alongside the newly-acquired Aqib Talib. The issue is two-fold: he is inconsistent and he also has off-field concerns. If Denver can keep Roby in line, this was a great pick, as he definitely has first round talent. Keeping him in line may be a huge undertaking though. Need: A-, Value: B
Washington Redskins (No pick) – Washington is still feeling the effects of trading up to get RGIII in 2012, and did not have a first round pick this year.
Indianapolis Colts (No pick) – The Colts traded away their first round pick (#26) in the Trent Richardson deal this past season. They’re still hoping for that to pay dividends.
Seattle Seahawks (No pick) – Seattle traded back to pick up a couple more picks, allowing Minnesota to grab Teddy Bridgewater with the last pick of the first round.
Of course, I truly have no idea what these players will end up being like. Maybe Kelvin Benjamin will prove me dead wrong and become a top tier receiving within a few short years. Maybe Haha Clinton-Dix won’t be the missing piece in the secondary the Packers have looking for since losing Nick Collins. Only time will tell. But until then, as far as I see, a very deep draft was taken full advantage of by some teams, and not at all by others. Stay tuned for Part 2 on Sunday, as we take a look at the draft as a whole.