NFL Draft Winners and Losers 2014: Team-by-Team Grades from Round 1 Results

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2014

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel reacts after being selected by the Cleveland Browns as the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Thursday, May 8, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

With the 2014 NFL draft's first round in the books, it's time to bring back that annual tradition of judging how each team did. We won't know about the players for a few years, but we can look at the value teams got and how well it fills a need. 

Don't get caught up in the name of a player, because that means nothing at this point. Cleveland isn't getting a great grade simply because it drafted Johnny Manziel, but based on where he went and other moves made, it was a fantastic night.

The 32 players drafted aren't going to play a professional down for another three months. The best way to evaluate a draft is on value and plugging holes. Here are our first-round grades and analysis of the notable teams. 

2014 NFL Draft 1st Round Grades (Listed in order of pick)
TeamRound 1 PickOverall Grade
Houston TexansJadeveon Clowney, DEA
St. Louis RamsGreg Robinson, OTA-
Jacksonville JaguarsBlake Bortles, QBB-
Buffalo BillsSammy Watkins, WRC+
Oakland RaidersKhalil Mack, OLBA-
Atlanta FalconsJake Matthews, OTA-
Tampa Bay BuccaneersMike EvansA
Cleveland BrownsJustin Gilbert, CBA+
Minnesota VikingsAnthony Barr, OLBB
Detroit LionsEric Ebron, TEC+
Tennessee TItansTaylor Lewan, OTC
New York GiantsOdell Beckham Jr., WRB+
Chicago BearsKyle Fuller, CBB+
Pittsburgh SteelersRyan Shazier, OLBB-
Dallas CowboysZack Martin, OTB
Baltimore RavensC.J. Mosley, ILBB-
New York JetsCalvin Pryor, SB+
Miami DolphinsJa'Wuan James, OTC
New Orleans SaintsBrandin Cooks, WRB+
Green Bay PackersHa Ha Clinton-Dix, SA-
Kansas City ChiefsDee Ford, DEC
Cincinnati BengalsDarqueze Dennard, CBA-
San Diego ChargersJason Verrett, CBB+
Philadelphia EaglesMarcus Smith, DEC
Arizona CardinalsDeone Bucannon, SB-
Carolina PanthersKelvin Benjamin, WRB
New England PatriotsDominique Easley, DTD+
San Francisco 49ersJimmie Ward, SB-
Denver BroncosBradley Roby, CBB+
Analysis

 

Biggest Winner: Cleveland Browns

Craig Ruttle/Associated Press

Even if the Browns hadn't selected Manziel with the No. 22 pick, they would have been the biggest winner in this draft because they fleeced Buffalo in a deal that got them a first-round pick next year. 

Sammy Watkins might turn out to be a superstar wide receiver for the Bills, but that's a steep price to pay for a wide receiver when they could have saved a first-round pick and moved up three spots to take a bigger, more physical player in Mike Evans. 

As Chris Rose of MLB Network, an avid Cleveland sports fan, noted on Twitter, this was a great night for general manager Ray Farmer: 

Moving down to No. 8, the Browns were able to get arguably the best cover cornerback in this draft, Justin Gilbert, to play on one side of the field with Joe Haden on the other. 

A lot is going to be said and written about Manziel, even more than there already has been in the last 12 hours. We won't know if he's Cleveland's savior at quarterback for some time, but to get a player who ranked as a mid-first-round pick in the back half of the round is excellent value. 

 

Biggest Loser: New England Patriots

Every year the Patriots make an early move at which everyone raises an eyebrow, yet no one really questions it because Bill Belichick plays in AFC Championship games and Super Bowls all the time. 

There's nothing wrong with Dominique Easley's talent on the field, as Albert Breer of the NFL Network noted when recalling a discussion he had with an NFL scout last year:

As impressive as his talent is, there's a lot more to Easley than what happens between the lines. This is a 22-year-old who has torn the ACL in both of his knees at college and started three games last season. 

There were other defensive-line options available who may not have had Easley's ceiling but have much higher—and safer—floors. Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman and Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt immediately come to mind as fits in Belichick's defense. 

Defensive line was a need area for the Patriots, especially when they got picked apart by Denver last year in the AFC title game, but it was a need precisely because of the season-ending injury to Vince Wilfork. 

Now the Patriots are putting faith in a player who is susceptible to injuries. If Easley hits this is a brilliant pick, because he's got great burst off the line and can get after the quarterback. But that's a big "if" at this point. 

 

Team to Watch on Friday: San Francisco 49ers

Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

Even though the 49ers didn't wow anyone with their selection of safety Jimmie Ward at No. 30, Friday is going to be their day to shine. They have five picks remaining in the top 100, including two in the second round. 

San Francisco is going to dictate what happens in these two rounds. General manager Trent Baalke told Scott Kegley of 49ers.com prior to the first round that the team wasn't afraid to make a move under the right circumstance. 

That obviously never materialized in the first round, but with the 49ers still needing to find a receiver and possibly add some insurance on the defensive line if Aldon Smith ends up being suspended, today will be a day to strike while the iron is hot. 

Of course, the 49ers have quality depth at a lot of positions on the field, so they can just stay put and keep adding players to reload a roster that should have no problem competing for a playoff spot in 2014. 

 

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