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Biggest Steals of the 2014 NFL Draft

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2014

Biggest Steals of the 2014 NFL Draft

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    Phil Sears/Associated Press

    The 2014 NFL draft is complete, 256 picks from Jadeveon Clowney out of South Carolina to Mr. Irrelevant, Lonnie Ballentine out of Memphis.

    Some of those picks fell from initial expectations, giving teams great value when they were finally snapped up.

    Character or medical concerns caused some to fall from lofty draft projections, sometimes several rounds. Others simply were good talents that fell due to circumstance—the entire position being devalued or a lack of playing time because of other players ahead on the depth chart.

    Which prospects were the biggest steals of the 2014 draft? Click through to find out.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Green Bay Packers

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    It is difficult to think of a first-round pick as a "steal," but the Green Bay Packers found themselves one right out of the gate at No. 21.

    That defense was in dire need of safety help, and it was practically fated the Packers would take one in the first round. Who knew the best prospect in the class would fall into their laps?

    Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is an excellent pickup for Green Bay. A versatile player, Clinton-Dix can line up at either safety position from Day 1. He will slot in as the starting safety alongside Morgan Burnett.

Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    RICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press

    A record 12 wide receivers were taken in the first two rounds of the draft, and 18 were taken altogether before Martavis Bryant's name was called.

    It's a wonder that so many teams let a 6'4" target with a 4.42-second 40 time fall so far. Sure, Bryant isn't a polished receiver, but you can't teach height and speed.

    The Clemson product wasn't without risk coming out of college, of course. He didn't have much production, amassing just 1,354 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns in his three-year career with the Tigers.

    Being stuck behind DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins for much of that time would adversely affect production, though.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers finally gave him a shot in the fourth round, something they will benefit from greatly if he lives up to his potential. Bryant could make an impact right away, especially since there aren't any quality big receivers in town.

Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans

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    Given the depressed value of the entire running back class, having the distinction of being the first one taken isn't what it used to be.

    For Bishop Sankey, it meant waiting until the second half of Round 2 to hear his name called. The Washington product was taken No. 54 overall, blowing away Giovani Bernard's draft slot from last year (No. 37).

    That was unfortunate for Sankey and the running back class, but it was an excellent development for the Tennessee Titans. Running back was a big position of need for Tennessee, one of the few teams that truly needed to take one. The Titans were able to take the top guy on their board at the position.

    It remains to be seen if Sankey was indeed the best running back in this draft class, but he is a well-rounded prospect who can step in and start right away.

Louis Nix, DT, Houston Texans

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    What happened to Louis Nix's draft stock?

    The big defensive tackle picked up some red flags with weight concerns and knee injuries, but were those enough to knock a first-round talent all the way to the middle of the third round?

    His loss was Houston's gain, however. CBS Sports' Pete Prisco loved the pick, tweeting, "Great pick by the Texans (Nix). Can you imagine him choking off the run with J.J. Watt? Great pick. GRADE: A."

    The Texans traded up from the fourth round to take Nix. He should step in and start right away, assuming he's healthy, anchoring a ridiculous front seven in Houston.

Brandon Thomas, OL, San Francisco 49ers

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    Once again, the San Francisco 49ers found themselves in a position to take an injured player to stash for the future.

    They took this approach last year when they selected South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, knowing the injured prospect would not contribute in 2013. In addition, they took Florida State defensive end Tank Carradine, who suffered a knee injury in his final collegiate season in 2012. Carridine experienced complications in his recovery while getting ready for his rookie season, and he too sat out the 2013 campaign.

    This year, injured offensive lineman Brandon Thomas fell right into San Francisco's lap at the end of the third round.

    The Clemson product was unfortunately injured (torn ACL) during a pre-draft workout, meaning he is likely gone for the entire 2014 season. No matter for the 49ers, though, who can afford to wait a year to reap what they sowed in the draft.

    Thomas was widely considered a fringe first-round pick. He played left tackle over the past couple of seasons and is capable of becoming an elite NFL guard.

    It will be nice for San Francisco to have some insurance for guard Mike Iupati, who is heading into the final season of his first contract.

Pierre Desir, CB, Cleveland Browns

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Small-school prospects have a lot to overcome to get drafted in the NFL. Cornerback Pierre Desir had more than a few obstacles in his way.

    The Lindenwood product chose family over football at one point. Still, he was able to enjoy a successful college career and climb his way into the conversation as a top cornerback prospect in the NFL draft.

    Desir fell off a bit on draft day, however, going at the end of the fourth round to the Cleveland Browns.

    The talented cornerback fell despite the strong draft season he kicked off with a great showing at the Senior Bowl. He has a terrific combination of size and athleticism and a natural ability at the position.

    Playing at a small school may have put a drag on his draft stock, but Cleveland got a quality cornerback with big upside at the end of the fourth round. Not bad value for a guy who could wind up starting across from fellow rookie Justin Gilbert in a couple of years.

Telvin Smith, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Linebacker Telvin Smith was highly regarded out of Florida State. Unfortunately, a poor decision may have cost him a few rounds in the draft.

    An instinctual player, Smith's biggest knock was his size. Some thought he was a candidate to move to safety at the next level at 6'3" and just 218 pounds.

    He should stick at linebacker in Jacksonville.

    The Jaguars fell into a quality player in the fifth round, and a failed drug test at the combine was the likely culprit. Reports surfaced shortly before the draft that a handful of prospects did not pass their drug tests, and Smith was among those named.

    Smith is a versatile prospect, able to move around on defense. He is an athletic player capable of playing inside or outside linebacker.

Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson needed a little juice to his draft after missing out on the first round (thanks to the trade that brought running back Trent Richardson) and drafting an offensive lineman in the second round.

    Wide receiver Donte Moncrief out of Mississippi provided that jolt.

    The Colts didn't have a huge need at wide receiver, but Moncrief was too good to pass up when their turn came up in the third round. 

    Moncrief turned heads at the combine. His 4.4-second 40-yard dash, 39.5-inch vertical leap and 132-inch broad jump were among the best at the wide receiver position at the event. 

    He needs some polish as a route-runner, but the former Rebel should be great at the next level. With Reggie Wayne turning 36 this season and coming off a torn ACL, Indianapolis may have found his eventual replacement.

    Given how many wide receivers were taken in the first two rounds, it was surprising to see Moncrief available late in the third.

Zach Mettenberger, QB, Tennessee Titans

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    There were five quarterbacks taken in the first two rounds, and then there was a lull.

    When things picked back up, though, Zach Mettenberger was made to wait even longer. The LSU product fell all the way to the sixth round, eventually becoming the 10th quarterback taken in the draft.

    Mettenberger fell for a myriad reasons. Injury concerns surrounding his recovery from a torn ACL and recently discovered back issues were a big drag to his draft stock.

    Off-field concerns may have been a bigger problem for him, as a failed drug test and an arrest for alleged sexual battery threw up big red flags that contributed to his draft-day fall.

    On the field, though, Mettenberger might be one of the the most naturally talented passers in the draft.

    His best asset is a rocket arm, but he is also an accurate passer. He is cut from the cloth of a past generation at his position, but Mettenberger could thrive today with the proper coaching and scheme.

    The Titans bought a lottery ticket in the sixth round. If it doesn't pan out, it won't have cost much.

Storm Johnson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Reinhold Matay/Associated Press

    The running back class might have been devalued, but does that mean Storm Johnson should have nearly fallen out of the draft entirely?

    The big running back (6'0", 209 lbs) out of UCF was quite elusive in college. His career got off to a rocky start as he transferred out of Miami and waited a year before again getting on the field, this time with the Knights.

    Johnson broke out last year with 1,399 yards from scrimmage and 17 total touchdowns.

    He wasn't going to be drafted in the first few rounds, but the Jaguars stole one in the seventh, part of a fantastic all-around draft from general manager Dave Caldwell.

     

    All combine and draft results courtesy of NFL.com.

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