As insane as the build up was for the 2014 NFL draft, the first round lived up to the hype on Thursday night. With everything from personalized walk-up music to predraft engagements, this year's draft day had everything.
From Blake Bortles being selected near the top of the draft to Johnny Manziel falling to 22nd overall, the opening round was as enticing as ever.
As for one of the most heralded players at the beginning of the process, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater barely made it into the first round. The Minnesota Vikings traded with Seattle to move back into the first round and take the potential franchise quarterback.
Before the second round officially kicks off on Friday, here's a look at the entire first round with grades for each team.
|1.||Texans||Jadeveon Clowney||DE/OLB||South Carolina||A: Clowney is the best player in the class, so picking him at No. 1 makes sense.|
|2.||Rams (from WSH)||Greg Robinson||OT||Auburn||A: Once again, best offensive tackle makes sense here. Looking to move down, but Robinson is great addition.|
|3.||Jaguars||Blake Bortles||QB||UCF||C-: Bortles might end up being the franchise QB. But with no offensive weapons, this is a tough pick to like.|
|4.||Bills*||Sammy Watkins||WR||Clemson||B+: Love the move to get the dynamic WR, but dealing 2015 first-round pick is a stiff price.|
|5.||Raiders||Khalil Mack||OLB||Buffalo||A+: Potentially best defensive player aside from Clowney now paired with great defensive cast.|
|6.||Falcons||Jake Matthews||OT||Texas A&M||A: Huge need for Falcons, and Matthews is most NFL-ready tackle in the class.|
|7.||Buccaneers||Mike Evans||WR||Texas A&M||A: Mike Evans/Vincent Jackson. Take your pick, both are terrifying.|
|8.||Browns*||Justin Gilbert||CB||Oklahoma State||B: No need to move up for him, but Gilbert is a great pick alongside Joe Haden.|
|9.||Vikings*||Anthony Barr||OLB||UCLA||B+: Fills a need and earned an extra draft pick in the process.|
|10.||Lions||Eric Ebron||TE||North Carolina||C+: Easily the most explosive TE in the class, but needs at other positions make this a tough sell.|
|11.||Titans||Taylor Lewan||OT||Michigan||B-: Great player, but other needs to fill at key positions.|
|12.||Giants||Odell Beckham Jr.||WR||LSU||A-: Not Watkins or Evans, but Beckham has a chance to be just as explosive.|
|13.||Rams||Aaron Donald||DT||Pittsburgh||A: The best defensive line now resides in St. Louis. End of story.|
|14.||Bears||Kyle Fuller||CB||Virginia Tech||B: A bit of a reach here for Fuller, but fills a need for the future for Bears.|
|15.||Steelers||Ryan Shazier||OLB||Ohio State||C: Don't understand this pick at all, but Shazier has a chance to be great in the future.|
|16.||Cowboys||Zack Martin||OG/OT||Notre Dame||B+: Not quite Johnny Football, but this helps the team tremendously.|
|17.||Ravens||C.J. Mosley||ILB||Alabama||A-: After a down year for the Ravens defense, this might fill a need left behind after Ray Lewis' retirement.|
|18.||Jets||Calvin Pryor||FS||Louisville||B+: Solid pick for Jets as possibly the best safety falls in their lap.|
|19.||Dolphins||Ja'Wuan James||OT||Tennessee||C: Fills a need for the team, but certainly not the next OT in line.|
|20.||Saints*||Brandin Cooks||WR||Oregon State||A-: After losing Darren Sproles, Drew Brees now has another explosive weapon in Cooks.|
|21.||Packers||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||FS||Alabama||A+: In a perfect world, the Packers would have selected Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Oh, they did?|
|22.||Browns*||Johnny Manziel||QB||Texas A&M||A-: Plenty of question marks coming in, but Manziel has a chance to thrive in Cleveland.|
|23.||Chiefs||Dee Ford||DE/OLB||Auburn||C-: Chiefs needed to go offense here, but picked a player they could have traded up for in the second round.|
|24.||Bengals||Darqueze Dennard||CB||Michigan State||A: Amazing value for a team in need at the position.|
|25.||Chargers||Jason Verrett||CB||TCU||A: See above. Simply a great fit to fill a pressing need for a playoff team.|
|26.||Eagles* (from IND)||Marcus Smith||DE/OLB||Louisville||C: Several pass-rushers still available, and the Eagles go with a second-rounder? No dice.|
|27.||Cardinals*||Deone Bucannon||SS||Washington State||B: Solid player, solid pick. Maybe could have gotten him later, but Bucannon will be a great pro.|
|28.||Panthers||Kelvin Benjamin||WR||Florida State||B: This is a great pick because the team needs a WR, but Benjamin has bust written all over him.|
|29.||Patriots||Dominique Easley||DT||Florida||B+: Great player and first-round talent, but must stay healthy.|
|30.||49ers||Jimmie Ward||SS||Northern Illinois||B-: More pressing needs for the team, but a solid player nonetheless.|
|31.||Broncos||Bradley Roby||CB||Ohio State||B: After the defensive moves made in offseason, bringing in Roby continues the trend.|
|32.||Vikings||Teddy Bridgewater||QB||Louisville||A+: Most NFL-ready QB in the draft, and the Vikes trade up to get the fifth-year option.|
2014 NFL Draft Grades
Cleveland Browns: A
This was a draft the Cleveland Browns needed to win, and they put it all out there on Thursday night.
Johnny Manziel, the player that many draft analysts believed the Browns would take at No. 4, fell outside of the top 20. Rather than waiting to see if he would drop to 26th, Cleveland made a bold move by climbing to No. 22 to select the quarterback.
Manziel comes in with plenty of confidence, as USA Today points out:
"I've been a winner everywhere I've been. I'm going to put myself in the position to continue that trend" - Manziel http://t.co/rqfZ68t8GE— USA TODAY Sports (@USATODAYsports) May 9, 2014
Before picking up Johnny Football, the Browns made a pivotal trade early in the first round.
Sitting at No. 4, Cleveland dealt that pick to the Buffalo Bills, who chose Sammy Watkins. After making the switch, the Browns moved up slightly to the eighth pick to select Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert.
Alongside Joe Haden, Gilbert has a chance to emerge as a fantastic corner in the AFC North. Chris Mortensen of ESPN notes the entire haul for Cleveland after the first round:
Yes, Browns had heckuva night with Manziel, Gilbert (good ball skills opposite Haden) and a 1st rounder in 2015 via Bills trade.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) May 9, 2014
Needless to say, this was a day to remember for Browns fans. Hopefully Manziel works out better than those first-round signal-callers of the past.
Jacksonville Jaguars: C-
The Jacksonville Jaguars had only one selection in the first round, but it was a significant whiff for the franchise.
Blake Bortles has a chance to be a great player at the NFL level, but a No. 3 overall pick he's not. The former UCF signal-caller also comes to a team without any offensive weapons, as Michael Irvin of NFL Network notes:
Michael Irvin on Blake Bortles to Jaguars: "You better get some help around that kid." http://t.co/AeU5VAm82F— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) May 9, 2014
Maurice Jones-Drew is gone. Justin Blackmon likely won't be back for the 2014 season.
On the other side of the ball, the defense ranked 28th in the league in points per game. This is simply not a situation where a rookie quarterback can thrive—especially not one with question marks heading into the draft.
This year can get exponentially better for the Jags with a high pick in the second round, but the first round doesn't look like a success.
Minnesota Vikings: A+
Which team had the best first round?
OK, so let's talk about the other top-tier quarterback on the board.
Teddy Bridgewater left Louisville with hopes of becoming a No. 1 overall pick. And when he made the announcement, that looked a distinct possibility.
While he took a tumble in the first round, Bridgewater ended up on a team set up for success on offense. Thanks to players like Adrian Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson around him, and a highly regard coordinator in Norv Turner to mentor him, Bridgewater is set up to thrive with the Vikings.
Throw in the fact that the Vikes also secured a great pass-rushing linebacker in Anthony Barr at No. 9, and they might have won the first round. Along with the Browns, look for the Vikings to grow over the next several seasons.
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