The Biggest Reaches from Round 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft
Every year, a handful of players come off the board earlier than expected. Last year, guys like E.J. Manuel and Travis Frederick turned heads. This year’s draft wasn’t any different, as it featured several surprises.
The upcoming slides break down several players who had no business coming off the board so early in the draft. This group is based on where I rated each player, so the article includes some surprises.
As is the case with many evaluators, I have a very different opinion than others on some prospects, which is why this could be a bit controversial.
Kelvin Benjamin to the Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers needed a wide receiver who is capable of coming in and making an instant impact. Kelvin Benjamin isn’t that player and will struggle to get on the field as a rookie. He is too raw and undisciplined to make a major impact this year.
This is a player who has great size, solid speed and a ton of potential. The issue is that he doesn’t always play with great effort. His size advantage is routinely wasted because Benjamin tends to allow the defender into his body.
He doesn’t show the aggressiveness needed to go out and attack the ball at its highest point. That lack of motivation also shows up in his route running. Benjamin doesn’t run his routes with deception, often telegraphing his direction.
The Panthers have their work cut out for them as they attempt to help him live up to his potential.
Blake Bortles to the Jacksonville Jaguars
I did a more in-depth breakdown on why the Jacksonville Jaguars’ pick of Blake Bortles was a reach. However, it became more and more apparent that they made a mistake as the draft progressed.
He is not only a raw prospect who needs to develop but was also the only quarterback who was picked in the top 20. The Jaguars could have added a safer prospect like Khalil Mack or Sammy Watkins at No. 3 only to trade back into the later part of the first round to get Bortles.
It’s hard to predict how the draft will develop, but the teams that go with the best player available typically end with the best overall drafts. The selection of Bortles at No. 3 appears to be too much of a need-oriented pick.
He was my third-rated quarterback behind Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel. Seeing those other two drop so far had to be a little painful for the Jaguars.
Dee Ford to the Kansas City Chiefs
This was a rough offseason for the Kansas City Chiefs, who saw several contributors leave because of salary-cap issues. They have major needs in the secondary, at wide receiver and arguably along the offensive line. This is why adding Dee Ford to the mix is a real head-scratcher.
He joins a defense that already features Justin Houston and Tamba Hali on the edge. It’s going to be tough to find room for all three players. With other glaring holes on the roster and no second-round pick, selecting Ford is a luxury they couldn’t afford.
Ford isn’t a clean prospect in that he has size concerns, shaky snap awareness and a lack of pass-rush moves. He mainly looks to use his initial burst to attack the edge and bend the corner. He rarely uses a power move or look to counter inside.
I would have loved to see the Chiefs add someone like Darqueze Dennard, Jason Verrett or Xavier Su’a-Filo. Those picks would have filled needs and represented good value.
Deone Bucannon to the Arizona Cardinals
I personally like Deone Bucannon as a prospect, but taking him in the first round is a major reach. He is a physical safety who excels at supporting the run. He has issues in coverage, where he displays some tightness in his hips.
The Arizona Cardinals are likely looking for him to play mainly in the box while allowing Tyrann Mathieu to play deep coverage. However, Mathieu is coming off an ACL injury and might not be full-strength by the start of the season.
This means that Bucannon might have to play more center field than he’s used to.
This year’s draft features a strong crop of in-the-box safeties whom the Cardinals could have targeted later in the draft. Prospects like Jonathan Dowling, Ahmad Dixon and Sean Parker aren’t far away from Bucannon in my rankings.
Ryan Shazier to the Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers made an interesting decision when they selected Ryan Shazier at pick No. 15. He is an exceptional athlete, but there are plenty of legitimate issues with his game.
His lack of bulk makes it tough for him to take on blocks and disengage. He’s tends to look to avoid blocks rather than plugging the hole. The Steelers will need to correct this problem if they hope to see Shazier succeed in their system.
Based on Pittsburgh’s roster, it’s safe to assume that he will be asked to play in the middle alongside Lawrence Timmons. Asking Shazier to set in and quickly fill that role is a mistake.
Pittsburgh needs newly signed Cam Thomas to fill the nose tackle spot and occupy blockers. They need him to play at an elite level for Shazier to succeed. It goes back to his struggles taking on blocks, which will only be highlighted if Thomas isn’t able to play strong two-gap football.
The Steelers should have added a physical cornerback like Darqueze Dennard.
Dominique Easley to the New England Patriots
Dominique Easley is only a reach because of his questionable medical history. He had two ACL injuries during his career at Florida, which obviously raise durability concerns. The New England Patriots have a big need at defensive tackle and are taking a risk with this pick.
New England sees his potential to wreak havoc in the backfield. There’s no doubting his potential, but grabbing a player with his injury history in the first round is unsettling.
On top of the injury problems, he doesn’t have the frame that is typically featured by defensive tackles in the NFL. He checked in at 6’2” and 288 pounds, which fits more for a 5-technique defensive end than defensive tackle.
This pick could come back to haunt the Patriots. Several other intriguing defensive line prospects like Ra’Shede Hageman, Louis Nix III and Timmy Jernigan were available.
Anthony Barr to the Minnesota Vikings
Anthony Barr is one of the more naturally gifted players in this year’s draft. However, he needs to develop a better feel for the game. His fit with the Minnesota Vikings is interesting and has a chance to backfire.
His best attribute is his ability to generate pressure on the quarterback. He’s built to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. The issue is that the Vikings will run a 4-3 attack with new head coach Mike Zimmer in place.
It’s possible the Vikings could try him at defensive end, where he can focus on rushing the quarterback. However, Minnesota has several solid defensive ends like Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and Corey Wootton. It’ll be tough for Barr to find playing time within that rotation.
The more likely scenario is for Barr to line up at outside linebacker and attack the quarterback on passing downs. This concerns me because it means that he’ll be asked to drop in coverage more often than not. All aspects of his game can be considered works in progress, but it is especially true of his coverage skills.
This pick is an odd fit, especially when someone like Aaron Donald was still on the board. He would have been a great complement to Minnesota’s edge pressure because of his ability to wreak havoc from the middle of the defense.
Eric Ebron to the Detroit Lions
Over the past several years, the Detroit Lions have developed a reputation as a team that consistently makes mental errors. On Thursday night, they added another player in Eric Ebron who has a tendency to lose focus on the field.
He is an exceptional talent who has a chance to provide Detroit with a big-play guy in the passing game. However, he needs to mature as both a player and a person before he can reach his full potential. The first thing that needs his attention is keeping focus on the football.
Too often, he takes his eye off the ball, which results in dropped passes. The Lions experienced firsthand last season how drops can impact the flow of an offense. Detroit can’t afford to have Ebron leave game-changing plays on the field because of a lack of focus.
Another area of concern is his inconsistent effort as a blocker. He needs to show more of a nasty streak and willingness to help in the run game. With Brandon Pettigrew already in the mix, it’s possible Ebron won't be on the field in early-down situations.
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