Round 1 of the 2014 NFL draft lived up to the hype. Between a rare instance where the first overall pick wasn't truly known until it was announced by Roger Goodell, several key trades and some surprising selections, the opening round was enough to keep fans on the edge of their seat.
The good news for front offices heading into the next two rounds on Friday night is the fact that there are still some impact players available. Derek Carr, Marqise Lee and Louis Nix are among the prospects who should hear their name called early on Day 2.
Before the draft rolls on, however, let's check out a complete list of grades for every team based upon their haul from Round 1. The chart is followed by a deeper dive into the three teams that walked away from Thursday as the biggest winners.
Round 1 Grades
|Arizona Cardinals||(27) Deone Bucannon, SS||C+|
|Atlanta Falcons||(6) Jake Matthews, OT||A-|
|Baltimore Ravens||(17) C.J. Mosley, ILB||B+|
|Buffalo Bills||(4) Sammy Watkins, WR||B|
|Carolina Panthers||(28) Kelvin Benjamin, WR||B-|
|Chicago Bears||(14) Kyle Fuller, CB||B|
|Cincinnati Bengals||(24) Darqueze Dennard, CB||B+|
|Cleveland Browns||(8) Justin Gilbert, CB; (22) Johnny Manziel, QB||A+|
|Dallas Cowboys||(16) Zack Martin, OT||B+|
|Denver Broncos||(31) Bradley Roby, CB||A-|
|Detroit Lions||(10) Eric Ebron, TE||B|
|Green Bay Packers||(21) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS||A|
|Houston Texans||(1) Jadeveon Clowney, DE||A+|
|Indianapolis Colts||No selections||n/a|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||(3) Blake Bortles, QB||B-|
|Kansas City Chiefs||(23) Dee Ford, DE||C+|
|Miami Dolphins||(19) Ja'Wuan James, OT||C-|
|Minnesota Vikings||(9) Anthony Barr, OLB; (32) Teddy Bridgewater, QB||B+|
|New England Patriots||(29) Dominique Easley, DT||C|
|New Orleans Saints||(20) Brandin Cooks, WR||A|
|New York Giants||(12) Odell Beckham, WR||B|
|New York Jets||(18) Calvin Pryor, FS||B+|
|Oakland Raiders||(5) Khalil Mack, OLB||A|
|Philadelphia Eagles||(26) Marcus Smith, DE||C-|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||(15) Ryan Shazier, OLB||B-|
|San Diego Chargers||(25) Jason Verrett, CB||A-|
|San Francisco 49ers||(30) Jimmie Ward, SS||B|
|Seattle Seahawks||No selections||n/a|
|St. Louis Rams||(2) Greg Robinson, OT; (13) Aaron Donald, DT||A+|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||(7) Mike Evans, WR||B+|
|Tennessee Titans||(11) Taylor Lewan, OT||B|
|Washington Redskins||No selections||n/a|
Picks via NFL.com
Things couldn't have gone much better for Cleveland. An early deal with the Buffalo Bills allowed them to slide down a handful of spots while also picking up what could become a high first-round pick next season. They then filled a need by selecting cornerback Justin Gilbert at No. 8 after a swap with the Minnesota Vikings.
The main reason the night turned to gold for the Browns was thanks to a little bit of luck. Johnny Manziel, who would have been a solid selection even if they took him at No. 4 before the trading frenzy began, started to slide.
Cleveland's front office started working the phones again, moved up four spots from their second selection in the opening round and grabbed the Texas A&M quarterback at No. 22 overall. Pro Football Talk passed along comments from Manziel after the pick:
"I really, truly believe Cleveland was where I was supposed to end up. . . . Dawg Pound here we come."— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 9, 2014
So the Browns emerged from Round 1 with two key holes filled by two high-upside prospects as well as another first-round pick in their back pocket. While there's certainly work left to do, it finally seems like Cleveland is moving firmly in the right direction.
St. Louis Rams
It would have been a surprise if the Rams didn't walk away from Thursday's action as one of the biggest winners. They had two picks inside the top 13, giving them an outstanding opportunity to add a pair of top-tier prospects. The front office still deserves credit for executing, though.
Which team had the best Round 1?
With the second overall pick, the Rams went for perhaps the surest player in the class in Greg Robinson. The tackle out of Auburn, who will probably shift inside to guard next to Jake Long for the time being, can help stabilize the team's offensive line immediately.
They then made another move to help upgrade their play in the trenches by taking Aaron Donald at No. 13. The defensive tackle out of Pittsburgh has all the tools to become a monster in the middle, giving St. Louis one of the league's best front fours.
Given the chaotic nature of the opening round, the Rams didn't make the same type of major splash as other teams did. They simply took care of business, adding two players who are ready to help the team compete in the NFL's most potent division right away.
In the end, the Texans made the right move by selecting Jadeveon Clowney after there was plenty of talk throughout the draft process about what they would do. Khalil Mack was viewed as another possible option since he was a good fit for their defensive scheme, while quarterback was always the team's most pressing need, but Clowney ultimately won out.
Clowney is the most promising prospect in the class, and sometimes the draft is about taking the best player available. Pairing him with J.J. Watt is going to create a nightmare scenario for opposing offensive coordinators.
Clowney needs to answer questions about his work ethic. He also must show that he can transition to outside linebacker—if that's where Houston plans to use him—but there's no denying his awe-inspiring talent. That's the main reason he became the first defensive player to go No. 1 overall in nearly a decade, as Adam Schefter of ESPN noted:
Jadeveon Clowney is the 1st defensive player drafted No. 1 overall since Mario Williams in 2006, last time Texans had No. 1 pick.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 9, 2014
Clowney has the skill set and potential that is necessary to become one of the best defensive players in the NFL within the next few years. If the Texans would have passed on that, there's a good chance it would have come back to haunt them. Making the best pick earns them the top mark.