2014 NFL Draft Picks: Round 1 Reaches, Best Selections and More Analysis

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVMay 9, 2014

The unpredictable was expected in Thursday's 2014 NFL draft, and the action did not disappoint.

Many of the 32 picks weren't anticipated, some were out of left field and trades occurred left and right. Needless to say, the chances of a mock first-round draft being perfect seemed less likely than getting a perfect NCAA tournament bracket.

There was no shortage of reach picks that left fans in Radio City Music Hall scratching their heads in disbelief, while other teams were ecstatic to see potential franchise-changing moves. The twists and turns came at every level, with exciting storylines developing even late and into the end of Thursday's opening round.

Let's break down the best and worst picks from the first round. 

2014 NFL Draft: First Round
1Houston TexansJadeveon Clowney
2St. Louis RamsGreg Robinson
3Jacksonville JaguarsBlake Bortles
4Buffalo BillsSammy Watkins
5Oakland RaidersKhalil Mack
6Atlanta FalconsJake Matthews
7Tampa Bay BuccaneersMike Evans
8Cleveland BrownsJustin Gilbert
9Minnesota VikingsAnthony Barr
10Detroit LionsEric Ebron
11Tennessee TitansTaylor Lewan
12New York GiantsOdell Beckham Jr.
13St. Louis RamsAaron Donald
14Chicago BearsKyle Fuller
15Pittsburgh SteelersRyan Shazier
16Dallas CowboysZack Martin
17Baltimore RavensC.J. Mosley
18New York JetsCalvin Pryor
19Miami DolphinsJa'Wuan James
20New Orleans SaintsBrandin Cooks
21Green Bay PackersHa Ha Clinton-Dix
22Cleveland BrownsJohnny Manziel
23Kansas City ChiefsDee Ford
24Cincinnati BengalsDarqueze Dennard
25San Diego ChargersJason Verrett
26Philadelphia EaglesMarcus Smith
27Arizona CardinalsDeone Bucannon
28Carolina PanthersKelvin Benjamin
29New England PatriotsDominique Easley
30San Francisco 49ersJimmie Ward
31Denver BroncosBradley Roby
32Minnesota VikingsTeddy Bridgewater


Best Selections

Cincinnati Bengals, No. 24: Darqueze Dennard, CB

Darqueze Dennard could have very well been the first cornerback off the board, and even if he wasn't, a top-10 to top-15 range was all but assured for the Michigan State stud.

Justin Gilbert going at No. 8 wasn't too shocking—he was another potential top corner. But Kyle Fuller—a player in the late first-round, early second-round range—going at No. 14 to the Bears made Dennard poised for a tumble. 

The Bengals saw him available at No. 24 and weren't passing him up.

As Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson revealed, the team was awfully high on Dennard all along, and that made No. 24 an easy decision:

Dennard won the Thorpe Award and was an All-American in 2013, and it's not hard to see why. The former Spartan is physical in defending route-runners, instinctive in pass breakups and covers the run as well as anybody at his position.

The Bengals finished in the top five of the NFL in pass and rush defense in 2013, but they entered the draft needing young talent and a future starter at corner. They found it, and at a great value. 


Cleveland Browns, No. 22: Johnny Manziel, QB

The Johnny Manziel and Cleveland marriage that seemed to be made in heaven proved to be true—even after some questionable early-round hijinks from Browns brass.

And in the end, the organization sorely needing a franchise quarterback got one after passing up on him all of two times throughout Thursday's opening round. 

Moving down from No. 4 to No. 9, Cleveland opted to give most of the top-10 teams a shot at drafting Manziel and not buy into drafting a quarterback high. When the Browns moved from No. 9 to No. 8, it was to get cornerback Justin Gilbert, not Manziel. 

But as improbable as it seemed that Manziel would still be available for the Browns' second first-round pick—initially at No. 26, before they traded up to get to No. 22—it happened. 

Manziel will have a great shot of winning the job in training camp. The Cleveland job is wide open, with Brian Hoyer coming off a torn ACL after a promising early 2013 regular season and the team recently signing Vince Young. 

The Browns wouldn't have rolled the dice on a first-round pick with Manziel if they didn't have plans to give him the keys to the offense. The Heisman Trophy winner should get a chance to prove that he has a NFL-caliber arm and that his improvisation skills are on point enough to work at the next level. 

The Manziel era has officially begun, and its location is Cleveland—a city desperately in need of sports-related excitement. 


Biggest Reaches

Philadelphia Eagles, No. 26: Marcus Smith, LB

With a number of positions to address in this draft, the Eagles went in a questionable direction with a player they could have gotten Friday.

Marcus Smith out of Louisville was ranked as the sixth-best defensive end in the draft class by CBS Sports, but came off the board as the third one behind Jadeveon Clowney and Dee Ford. None of CBS Sports' five mock drafters selected Smith in the first round. 

Even more surprising is how Smith was selected before former Louisville teammate Teddy Bridgewater, who was taken with the 32nd pick by Minnesota, per Lexington Herald-Leader's John Clay:

The Eagles do need talent at linebacker, but it could have come in the second and third rounds, where players of Smith's caliber would be available.

Instead, Philadelphia and Chip Kelly could have gone with one of the many talented wide receivers still available. Top wideouts Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandin Cooks were all off the board, but they could have been in play for Marqise Lee or Kelvin Benjamin.

Philly could save face with a big Friday and Saturday, but moving down from No. 22 to No. 26 didn't do much for the Eagles in the end.


New England Patriots, No. 29: Dominique Easley, DT

NFL draft analysts have learned the hard way not to doubt Bill Belichick and New England in the NFL draft, but they were left with yet another head-scratcher from the hoodie wearer Thursday.

The Patriots selected Dominique Easley out of Florida with the No. 29 overall pick, which has the makings of a potentially genius move, but could also blow up in New England's face.

Easley proved to be one of the nation's top defensive tackles at Florida, and his potential is undeniable. He has massive explosion off the ball and when healthy, he could develop into the Vince Wilfork replacement that New England is certainly expecting him to be.

The big problem with Easley, though, is injuries.

He has had his fair share of injury troubles, including a torn ACL back in September. ESPN's Trey Wingo pondered his availability for the Pats early on:

As good as Easley could end up being, his high-risk, high-reward status makes him a Friday selection at the very least. New England could have looked in a different direction, or better yet fielded trade offers in the hopes of picking up Easley or a similarly talented defensive tackle in the second and third rounds. 

Instead, Belichick and company will once again roll the dice on a draft selection.


    Report: Players Considering Sitting Out Season Until Kap, Reid Sign

    NFL logo

    Report: Players Considering Sitting Out Season Until Kap, Reid Sign

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report

    AB Makes His Voice Heard with Kneeling IG Post

    NFL logo

    AB Makes His Voice Heard with Kneeling IG Post

    Rob Goldberg
    via Bleacher Report

    Minicamp Roundup: Giant Changes Coming to NY

    NFL logo

    Minicamp Roundup: Giant Changes Coming to NY

    Brent Sobleski
    via Bleacher Report

    Bell Raps on Being 'Target' for Critics

    NFL logo

    Bell Raps on Being 'Target' for Critics

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report