2014 NFL Draft: 3 Takeaways from the 1st Round
Every football fan looks forward to a few days each year, and Thursday was one of them: Day 1 of the draft. After all the months of watching pro days and hearing experts break down every aspect of dozens of prospects, it all lead up to Round 1, and it didn't disappoint.
The first round was filled with expected picks, some surprise picks and a few trades. Many of the burning questions were finally answered. We got to finally see Houston pick Jadeveon Clowney and put a rest to all of the discussion. We were also able to move on from the endless talk of where Johnny Manziel would land.
Speaking of Manziel, his slide down the draft was one of the highlights of the evening, but at least he wasn't alone. He was accompanied by fellow quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who slid all the way to No. 32 to the Vikings, who traded back into the first round to snag him. Michigan State corner Darqueze Dennard also experienced a slide despite generally being considered the second-best corner behind Justin Gilbert.
With all the excitement, it is easy to miss some of the more interesting aspects of the first round. Fortunately, this article highlights three storylines from Thursday night, breaking them down a bit more in preparation for the rest of the draft on Friday and Saturday.
Marqise Lee Falls out of the First Round
If someone told me a year ago that Marqise Lee would fall out of the first round, I would have called them crazy, but that is exactly what happened. Once considered the best receiver in the draft and an expected top-10 pick, he not only fell out of the first round but had to sit and watch as five receivers were taken ahead of him.
Lee had a great start to his collegiate career, posting 73 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. He followed it up with a monster sophomore campaign that saw him snap Pac-12 records in receptions (118) and yards (1,721). Following that season, he was expected to break the trend of USC receivers flopping in the NFL.
Despite his less-than-stellar junior campaign, he was still considered at least the third-best receiver in the draft behind Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. Lee is an explosive receiver who is a dual threat in the passing and return game. He has great hands and run-after-the-catch ability and is an excellent route-runner.
I don't expect him to last long into the second round. Assuming no one trades up to grab him, the Browns would be a great landing spot after they passed over Sammy Watkins. Lee would be a great complement to Josh Gordon and give the newly acquired Manziel a reliable target underneath.
This is especially a good landing spot if the rumors of Gordon facing a yearlong suspension are true, per ESPN's Outside the Lines. Even if the Browns pass on Lee, I don't see any way he makes it out of the top 10 of the second round. Wherever he lands, it will be a great value pick.
Second Half of First Round Was Filled with Surprises
The top half of the draft played out pretty much as expected; Jadeveon Clowney went first overall, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans were both selected in the top 10, and the top three tackles were off the board before the 12th pick.
The only real surprises in the first 16 picks were the Steelers taking Ryan Shazier and the Cowboys resisting the urge to pick Johnny Football. The second half of the draft, on the other hand, was a bit less predictable.
The Jets got the surprises rolling by passing over Brandin Cooks and all other receivers to take Louisville safety Calvin Pryor. They have an obvious need at receiver but bypassed it to seemingly appease Rex Ryan after his public dissatisfaction over missing out on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
The Dolphins followed it up with taking Tennessee tackle Ja'Wuan James, who generally had a late first-round grade at best. It was a bit of a surprise too, given that Darqueze Dennard was still on the board and the Dolphins need an upgrade over Cortland Finnegan at corner.
This trend continued with the Chiefs taking defensive end Dee Ford. I did rate him as a player who could be taken in the first round, but it was still a bit surprising the Chiefs picked him up. They lost their do-it-all player Dexter McCluster in free agency, and Marqise Lee would have been an excellent replacement. One thing is for sure: With the addition of Ford, the Chiefs now sport one of the fiercest defensive lines in football.
The Eagles surprised many by passing on Lee to draft pass-rushing linebacker Marcus Smith. He does fill a need as the Eagles are desperate for help in getting after the quarterback after finishing in the bottom third in the NFL in sacks. However, like the Chiefs, the Eagles had the perfect chance to replace a departed playmaker but instead reached for a positional need.
Two second-round-graded safeties, Deone Bucannon and Jimmie Ward, found their way into the first round by way of Arizona and San Francisco, respectively. Bucannon is a hard-hitting safety who looks to be Arizona's enforcer over the middle. Ward is a prototypical center fielder who can also play the run. Both safeties will pair with each team's stud safety from last year's draft.
All of these surprise picks added to the excitement that the draft brings (unless you are Lee). Some of them were the result of positional needs, while others were simply the best players available. Only time will tell if these picks will look like savvy moves or head-scratchers.
Cleveland Browns Move Past Offseason Dysfunction
The Browns suffered through more adversity this offseason than some teams face in a decade. After dealing with the firing of head coach Rob Chudzinski, general manager Michael Lombardi and CEO Joe Banner, it was imperative for the new regime to bring the fans' focus back on football, and their best bet to do that started on Thursday night.
Cleveland was in a great position in this year's draft with two first-round picks, including the fourth overall one. The Browns started things off with a bang by trading out of their spot with the Bills, picking up Buffalo's first- and fourth-round picks in next year's draft.
They followed this up by trading up one spot with the Vikings to draft Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. He will team up with Pro Bowl corner Joe Haden to form the best cornerback tandem in the AFC North. This makes an already good young defense even better.
The draft got even sweeter for Cleveland when Manziel inexplicably fell all the way into the 20s. The Browns, not wanting to test their luck even more, traded up with the Eagles to select him with the 22nd overall pick. As fate would have it, this is the third time Cleveland has selected a quarterback at that position since selecting Brady Quinn in the 2007 draft.
The beginning of this draft for Cleveland has gone a long way toward instilling a sense of belief from the fans. The Browns managed to snag the best corner in the draft and one of the most electric quarterbacks as well while securing an extra first-round pick next year. If they continue to pick well in the later rounds, they may finally move out of the AFC North's basement.
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