We thought the first round of the 2014 NFL draft would be wild and unpredictable. We thought we would see trades. We were ready to be shocked, amazed and compelled.
And boy, we weren't disappointed.
If you thought you had this draft pegged and knew where all the dominoes would fall, well, you were probably quite wrong. That's why the draft is so much fun. Let's take a look back at the first round, giving every team that participated a grade for its picks.
|Houston Texans||Jadeveon Clowney (1)||A||Hard to fault a team for taking the best player on the board. Clowney could be a transcendent talent.|
|St. Louis Rams||Greg Robinson (2); Aaron Donald (13)||A+||Love this draft for the Rams. They bolster both lines with arguably the top offensive lineman and interior defensive lineman. Robinson's upside is huge. Donald has impressed every step of the way. Rams subscribing to theory that you win in the trenches.|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Blake Bortles (3)||C||I don't love this pick. Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins are better players, and Bortles needs a lot of polishing. He could be great, but this is a risk.|
|Buffalo Bills||Sammy Watkins (4)||B+||The Bills gave up a lot to go and get Sammy Watkins, but boy is he dynamic. EJ Manuel has some weapons now.|
|Oakland Raiders||Khalil Mack (5)||A||This kid feels like a can't-miss prospect. The Raiders have to be excited he dropped to them. He instantly upgrades this defense.|
|Atlanta Falcons||Jake Matthews (6)||A-||The Falcons would have loved it if Mack dropped to them, but Matthews is one heck of a consolation prize. He should be a dominant tackle for the next decade.|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Mike Evans (7)||A||Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson together is frightening. Evans has superstar potential, and this Bucs offense just got scarier.|
|Cleveland Browns||Justin Gilbert (8); Johnny Manziel (22)||A+||People may have been surprised with the first pick, when they traded up a spot to get Justin Gilbert after trading down to No. 9. Gilbert is the "prototypical corner," however, and pairs with Joe Haden to really improve the pass defense. And Manziel is a great fit with Kyle Shanahan at offensive coordinator, and could change this franchise for the better. Great first round for the Browns.|
|Minnesota Vikings||Anthony Barr (9); Teddy Bridgewater (32)||B||Huge potential in Barr, who is a bit of a project but could end up being one of the best players in this draft. Vikings fans probably hoping Johnny Football would be the pick, but they get Teddy B. at No. 32. Great value pick here, as Bridgewater's tape speaks for itself. A nice first round for Minny.|
|Detroit Lions||Eric Ebron (10)||B||Fascinating pick. The Lions indeed were interested in upgrading the passing game. With Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate out wide, Reggie Bush coming out of the backfield and Ebron working the seam, this passing game will be scary.|
|Tennessee Titans||Taylor Lewan (11)||B-||Doesn't seem like a huge need for the Titans, but he's certainly a nice value here. He'll bring some grit and nastiness to this line. Can't imagine Titans' fans loving this pick.|
|New York Giants||Odell Beckham (12)||B-||Interesting pick. Very good player, but a need for New York? Eli Manning will certainly appreciate having another receiver.|
|Chicago Bears||Kyle Fuller (14)||B||Probably would have been Donald if he dropped a spot. Bears needed to upgrade secondary as well, and Fuller is an intriguing talent.|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Ryan Shazier (15)||C+||Solid player, though this feels like a reach. Still, doubt a Steelers draft pick at your own peril.|
|Dallas Cowboys||Zack Martin (16)||B-||Martin can start anywhere on the line, and he's a safe, reliable choice. But boy, did the Cowboys need help on the defensive side of the ball.|
|Baltimore Ravens||C.J. Mosley (17)||B+||Health concerns, but this guy is a football player and fits a big need. Great fit, nice value.|
|New York Jets||Calvin Pryor (18)||A-||This is a Rex Ryan guy right here. Athletic enough to roam, physical enough to play near the line, not afraid to lower his shoulder and pop someone and fills a need for the Jets. Solid value as well.|
|Miami Dolphins||Ja'Wuan James (19)||C||James has some versatility, and Miami obviously needs a ton of help on the offensive line. This feels like a reach, however, hence the grade.|
|New Orleans Saints||Brandin Cooks (20)||A-||Solid pick for the Saints. With Darren Sproles gone, Cooks is going to be this team's underneath threat. Outside of Watkins, the best receiver after the catch in this draft.|
|Green Bay Packers||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21)||A-||Such a good pick for Green Bay. This team really needed to upgrade at safety, and Clinton-Dix topped many lists at the position. Great value here.|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Dee Ford (23)||C||With Tamba Hali and Justin Houston on the edge, this pick is a bit puzzling. Likely the Chiefs simply went with their top player rather than trying to fit a need.|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Darqueze Dennard (24)||A-||Great pick. Cincy desperately needed to upgrade corner, and likely didn't think Dennard would drop this far. Great schematic fit, too.|
|San Diego Chargers||Jason Verrett (25)||B+||Doesn't have great size, but played well against tough competition. He's a player, and the Chargers have to be happy he was here for them.|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Marcus Smith (26)||C||The Eagles wanted to upgrade off the edge this offseason, but did they reach to do so here? Sure seems like it.|
|Arizona Cardinals||Deone Bucannon (27)||B||Cardinals clearly feel they are contenders now and want to improve immediately rather than adding a quarterback for the future. Hard to blame them there. Bucannon has good size, speed, fits a need.|
|Carolina Panthers||Kelvin Benjamin (28)||B||Huge need pick, but pretty good value too. Goes up and gets the ball. Needs polish, but upside is big. Cam Newton needed a big target and he gets one.|
|New England Patriots||Dominique Easley (29)||B+||Very interesting pick here. Easley might have been a top-15 guy, but ACL tears in each knee since 2011 dropped him down the board. If he stays healthy, could be steal of the draft.|
|San Francisco 49ers||Jimmie Ward (30)||B-||Intriguing prospect, though was receiver or corner a bigger need? Many would say yes. But Eric Reid worked out beautifully last year for Niners, so they earn some leeway on this pick.|
|Denver Broncos||Bradley Roby (31)||B+||The Broncos continue to revamp the defense. Roby has some nice upside and will be asked to contribute immediately. Nice value here.|
The draft started off as expected, with the Texans taking Clowney and the Rams going with Robinson. And then things got interesting.
With most folks thinking the Jaguars would go after Mack, Manziel or Watkins, they instead went for Bortles. While that shocked a lot of people, the Jaguars seemed thrilled with the selection, as Jeff Darlington of NFL.com passes along:
.@Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell on drafting Blake Bortles: "We're all on the same page -- from ownership all the way down."— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) May 9, 2014
Caldwell's decision to draft Bortles at 3 reminds me of Ireland's decision to draft Tannehill at 8. Both had conviction; ignored perception.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) May 9, 2014
Bortles told Gus Bradley on his visit: "If this was a college recruiting trip, I'd sign right now." ...says the chemistry/vibe was evident.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) May 9, 2014
Things stayed interesting after that, as the Bills gave up a small fortune to move up to No. 4 and select Watkins. Bob Glauber of Newsday passes along those details:
Cleveland gets Bills' No. 9 this year, Buffalo's 1st & 4th rounder in 2015. All for moving up five spots.— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) May 9, 2014
There weren't a ton of surprises after that in the first 10 picks until No. 8, when the Browns traded up one spot with the Vikings. Would they take Johnny Football here?
Well, no. They went Gilbert instead, another surprise but opening up the potential for a formidable corner pairing with Haden. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com shares the details of that trade:
#Browns pick Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert at No. 8, traded up a spot with the Vikings. Gave up a 5th (195 overall). Passed on Johnny— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) May 9, 2014
And so the 16th pick eventually rolled around, with Manziel still on the board. Would Jerry Jones do it? Would he bring Johnny Football to the Big D? Would the circus get even more interesting?
No, the Cowboys played it safe, though they also ignored their defense, a curious move in and of itself. And give Manziel this—he certainly had a sense of humor about not being picked by the Cowboys, as passed along by Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press:
Manziel on Cowboys passing on him: "I don't know if the world could have handled that honestly."— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) May 9, 2014
So Manziel kept dropping, all the way until the 20th pick. Would Arizona end his slide and draft their quarterback of the future?
Nope. They traded the pick to the Saints, who selected the exciting Cooks. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports passes along those deets:
The Saints gave up a 3rd round pick to move up to Arizona's spot at 20. Plenty of QBs still there for the Cards— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) May 9, 2014
So there he was at No. 22. Would Chip Kelly add the dynamic Manziel to his spread-option offense, giving defensive coordinators everywhere a nervous breakdown?
Nope, the Birds traded the pick to Cleveland, who finally—finally—ended Manziel's slide. Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com has the details:
Here's the trade: Browns get Philly's #22, Philly gets Browns #26 and #83 in the third round.— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 9, 2014
Philly fans may have wanted Manziel, but nabbing a third-round pick to move back four slots was quietly one of the savviest pieces of business in the first round, even if they eventually drafted Smith, thought to be a reach by many.
So that left just one major question in the first round—would Bridgewater be scooped up, or would he be sitting there at No. 33 for the Texans on Friday?
When the Cardinals passed on him, it appeared to be the latter. But the Vikings decided to trade back into the first round, at pick No. 32, and nab the sliding quarterback. Sports Illustrated on Twitter has more on the trade:
The Vikings traded No. 40 (second-rounder), and No. 108 (fourth-rounder) for the Seahawks' No. 32 pick.— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) May 9, 2014
So Bortles went at No. 3, Manziel at No. 22 and Bridgewater at No. 32. Three months ago, would anyone have predicted that?
No, probably not. And Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated thinks we'll probably be talking about it a few years from now:
29-pick gap between Bortles and Bridgewater. I'm sure we'll never discuss that again.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) May 9, 2014
What a first round. And what a second day of the draft it sets up. Will the Texans take Derek Carr at No. 33? What will Washington do with its first pick in this draft? Will we see more trades? Who will end Marqise Lee's surprising slide down the board?
Another first round, another incredibly entertaining spectacle. And folks, we've still got six more rounds of this.