Only in the NFL could a night of the sport’s commissioner reading names from cue cards bring the type of excitement and drama that fans saw Thursday night.
The first round of the NFL draft is officially in the books, and Jadeveon Clowney went No. 1 as expected, but it was Johnny Manziel’s slide that captured most of the headlines. The Cleveland Browns, after making approximately 455 trades, got him at No. 22, and the rest was history.
Here is a look at the early Round 1 grades for every single pick, and then we will dig into some detail on a few select choices:
|1.||Texans||Jadeveon Clowney||DE/OLB||South Carolina||A: Draft's best player and will be beast with J.J. Watt|
|2.||Rams (from WSH)||Greg Robinson||OT||Auburn||A-: Upside a bit higher than other tackles because of athleticism|
|3.||Jaguars||Blake Bortles||QB||UCF||B-: Could have traded down and gotten QB later|
|4.||Bills*||Sammy Watkins||WR||Clemson||A: Arguably draft's top playmaker, needed explosive option in passing game|
|5.||Raiders||Khalil Mack||OLB||Buffalo||A+: Needed a pass-rusher and got the best one|
|6.||Falcons||Jake Matthews||OT||Texas A&M||A: Perhaps best-suited player to come in and start from first day|
|7.||Buccaneers||Mike Evans||WR||Texas A&M||A: Now have one-two punch at wide receiver. Look out|
|8.||Browns*||Justin Gilbert||CB||Oklahoma State||B-: Such a deep corner draft, could have gotten comparable one later|
|9.||Vikings*||Anthony Barr||OLB||UCLA||B: Not Mack or Clowney, but solid pick|
|10.||Lions||Eric Ebron||TE||North Carolina||C: Just too many other needs to pick a TE here, although very talented|
|11.||Titans||Taylor Lewan||OT||Michigan||C: Like Lions, had other needs that could have been addressed|
|12.||Giants||Odell Beckham Jr.||WR||LSU||B: Possibly fastest receiver in draft, solid pick|
|13.||Rams||Aaron Donald||DT||Pittsburgh||A: Good luck blocking this defensive line|
|14.||Bears||Kyle Fuller||CB||Virginia Tech||B+: Needed a corner, underrated versatility|
|15.||Steelers||Ryan Shazier||OLB||Ohio State||B: Fastest linebacker in draft, only question is whether he can handle middle linebacker in NFL for 10-plus years|
|16.||Cowboys||Zack Martin||OG/OT||Notre Dame||B-: Probably could have used help in the secondary here|
|17.||Ravens||C.J. Mosley||ILB||Alabama||B: Nothing flashy, all production|
|18.||Jets||Calvin Pryor||FS||Louisville||A-: Needed help at the back end of the defense and got maybe best safety in draft|
|19.||Dolphins||Ja'Wuan James||OT||Tennessee||B-: Were more talented tackles in this draft but fills a pressing need|
|20.||Saints*||Brandin Cooks||WR||Oregon State||B+: Will put up serious numbers in that offense|
|21.||Packers||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||FS||Alabama||A: Packers need serious help in secondary, and he can start right away|
|22.||Browns*||Johnny Manziel||QB||Texas A&M||A: How can you not love getting Johnny Manziel this late in the first round?|
|23.||Chiefs||Dee Ford||DE/OLB||Auburn||C: Had some other needs, doesn't make as much sense as others would have here|
|24.||Bengals||Darqueze Dennard||CB||Michigan State||A: Great value pick this late in the draft|
|25.||Chargers||Jason Verrett||CB||TCU||B+: Don't get caught up in the height discussions, a true playmaker|
|26.||Eagles* (from IND)||Marcus Smith||DE/OLB||Louisville||B-: Need a pass-rusher, but weren't there better ones available still?|
|27.||Cardinals*||Deone Bucannon||SS||Washington State||B: Not a lot of name recognition but solid football player|
|28.||Panthers||Kelvin Benjamin||WR||Florida State||B+: Needed a receiver in the worst possible way|
|29.||Patriots||Dominique Easley||DT||Florida||B-: Lots of upside but has to stay healthy|
|30.||49ers||Jimmie Ward||SS||Northern Illinois||B-: Probably had more pressing needs than safety, but solid pick|
|31.||Broncos||Bradley Roby||CB||Ohio State||B+: Immediate need and serious upside and speed|
|32.||Vikings||Teddy Bridgewater||QB||Louisville||A-: Needed a quarterback and got a top-15 talent at the end of the first round. Great value|
Grades are all personal opinion
WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Josh McCown enjoyed throwing to two elite targets in Chicago last year, and David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune pointed out that he may just get that privilege again in Tampa Bay after the Buccaneers selected Mike Evans to pair with Vincent Jackson:
In WRs Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson -- both 6-5 -- Josh McCown has his equivalent of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.— David Haugh (@DavidHaugh) May 9, 2014
Evans may not have the speed of a Sammy Watkins, but there is so much value in today’s NFL for someone who can go up and grab the ball at its highest point and outmuscle defenders.
Look for the Buccaneers passing attack to be much better next season.
They ranked an abysmal 32nd in the league in average passing yards per game, and with Evans now in the fold, they have two potential premier playmakers on the outside. All McCown will need to do is avoid costly turnovers, and the Tampa offense will be much more formidable immediately.
It will also open up the running game, as defenses will not be able to load the box with so much talent on the outside.
CB Kyle Fuller, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears have Charles Tillman in tow, but he is past his prime and missed most of last season because of injury.
They needed more depth at the corner position, and that is exactly what they got with Kyle Fuller. His versatility and athleticism allow him to guard virtually any type of receiver, from the speedy slot guys to the physical outside flankers. In addition, he is an elite special teams player, which is something the Bears put a lot of pride into every year.
General manager Phil Emery discussed Fuller, via the team’s official Twitter page:
LM: Emery on Fuller: "He is a corner. That's how we see him. He's a guy who we saw has a lot of versatility in coverage."— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) May 9, 2014
LM: Emery on Fuller: "We expect him to come in and contrbute this year."— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) May 9, 2014
As Emery said, Fuller could play right away, be it in on special teams or as an extra corner. There are so many elite wide receivers in the NFC North that the Bears will need him.
CB Darqueze Dennard, Cincinnati Bengals
As long as we are talking cornerbacks, the Cincinnati Bengals landed arguably the best press cornerback in the draft in Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State.
The AFC North features Josh Gordon, among other wide receivers, and the Bengals have serious concerns in the age and health departments when it comes to cornerbacks. Dennard could slide right in alongside Leon Hall and make it an All-Big Ten starting lineup at the position.
He isn’t the fastest corner in the draft, but he is probably the most physical one. That, along with his ball-hawking skills, will lead to a successful NFL career in the Queen City.
Updated Round 2 Selection Order
Now it is time to look ahead to Round 2. Notable prospects like Derek Carr and Carlos Hyde are still on the board and sure to hear their names picked on Friday. Here is a look at the updated selection order for the entire second round:
|6||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|11||New York Giants|
|12||St. Louis Rams|
|17||New York Jets|
|21||Green Bay Packers|
|24||San Francisco 49ers|
|25||San Diego Chargers|
|26||New Orleans Saints|
|29||San Francisco 49ers|
|30||New England Patriots|
Make sure to tune in Friday.
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