2014 NFL Draft Grades: Day 1 Results and List of Marks for Each Franchise

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2014 NFL Draft Grades: Day 1 Results and List of Marks for Each Franchise
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The 2014 NFL draft was the most hyped draft in recent memory, but it didn't disappoint. The drama in Radio City Music Hall was palpable as the first 32 selections unfolded. 

So who came out on top?

It's impossible to know for sure until at least two to thee years down the road. However, with 32 picks in the books, it's a lot easier to evaluate each team's class than it was just 24 hours ago. 

Here's a complete look at the results last night followed by a grade for each team:

2014 NFL Draft Round 1 Results
Pick Team Player Position School Grades
1. Texans Jadeveon Clowney DE/OLB South Carolina A: Clowney was clearly the best player available and the Texans didn't overthink it.
2. Rams (from WSH) Greg Robinson OT Auburn A: The Rams got themselves one of the few offensive lineman that can truly impact a game by himself.
3. Jaguars Blake Bortles QB UCF C-: Bortles has some impressive tools and the size scouts covet. But given the quarterback climate a trade down may have been better.
4. Bills* Sammy Watkins WR Clemson B+: There were four blue-chip prospects in this year's draft class. The Bills did what they had to do to ensure they got one.
5. Raiders Khalil Mack OLB Buffalo A: The Raiders had plenty of holes to fill and made sure they scooped up the last blue-chipper.
6. Falcons Jake Matthews OT Texas A&M A: Sometimes the best player available also happens to meet a need. Perfect match.
7. Buccaneers Mike Evans WR Texas A&M A: Mike Glennon and/or Luke McCown will have no excuse not to flourish in Tampa now.
8. Browns* Justin Gilbert CB Oklahoma State B+: The best part about this pick was the 2015 first rounder that comes with it. Gilbert should be a quality starter.
9. Vikings* Anthony Barr OLB UCLA B: Never hurts to add an explosive pass-rusher, but fans will need to wait for him to develop.
10. Lions Eric Ebron TE North Carolina B+: Matt Stafford may have the best weapons cache in the league for the foreseeable future if Ebron plays to potential.
11. Titans Taylor Lewan OT Michigan B-: Off-field concerns must not mean much to Titans. Jake Locker should appreciate the protection though.
12. Giants Odell Beckham Jr. WR LSU A-: Eli needs help. Beckham certainly qualifies.
13. Rams Aaron Donald DT Pittsburgh A: St. Louis: Where common sense happens.
14. Bears Kyle Fuller CB Virginia Tech A-: If Fuller can stay healthy, he may wind up as the best corner in the class.
15. Steelers Ryan Shazier OLB Ohio State B-: Not entirely sure where Shazier will play in Steelers 3-4. He'll make plays wherever it is though.
16. Cowboys Zack Martin OG/OT Notre Dame B+: Is this flashy? No. Effective? Yes.
17. Ravens C.J. Mosley ILB Alabama A: Once again the Ravens prove why they have a claim as the NFL's best drafting team. Perfect combination of best player available and need.
18. Jets Calvin Pryor FS Louisville B+: The Jets could use a safety. They got the first pick of the litter.
19. Dolphins Ja'Wuan James OT Tennessee B-: Wasn't a player many speculated would be in the first. But he certainly fills a need.
20. Saints* Brandin Cooks WR Oregon State A: Cooks will be a prime candidate for offensive rookie of the year with Drew Brees throwing him passes.
21. Packers Ha Ha Clinton-Dix FS Alabama A: The Packers got zero interceptions from safeties last season. That will change.
22. Browns* Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M D+: Ray Farmer guaranteed his team more time on SportsCenter and that's about it with this pick.
23. Chiefs Dee Ford DE/OLB Auburn B-: Chiefs had needs on offense. Can't fault them for stock-piling pass-rushers, though.
24. Bengals Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State A: Team in need of a corner got one that could be the best in his class at 24? That's value.
25. Chargers Jason Verrett CB TCU A: The Chargers had a need and filled it with the best player available. That's a winning combination every time.
26. Eagles* (from IND) Marcus Smith DE/OLB Louisville C: Every year there's a pick that elicits a "Who?!" from the crowd. Here's your 2014 "Who?!" pick.
27. Cardinals* Deone Bucannon SS Washington State B: Getting one of the hardest-hitters in the entire draft isn't a bad thing. Reaching for him is troublesome, though.
28. Panthers Kelvin Benjamin WR Florida State C+: Classic case of right position, wrong player. Benjamin's hands and route running are concerns. Looks great on paper, though.
29. Patriots Dominique Easley DT Florida B+: The Patriots take a calculated risk that could pay big dividends.
30. 49ers Jimmie Ward SS Northern Illinois B: Again, it looks like a reach for a safety. Then again, the Niners track record is hard to doubt.
31. Broncos Bradley Roby CB Ohio State B: The Broncos know the secondary must improve to take the next step. Can Roby return to the form that made him an All-American two seasons ago?
32. Vikings Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville A: May very well be best pick of the entire draft. Not often best quarterback goes 32 overall.

*indicates trade

 

Best in Class

St. Louis Rams

The headlines probably won't show it, but the St. Louis Rams walked away as the biggest winners of Day 1. They use the second selection to secure one of the most athletic tackle prospects in draft history. They then followed that up by taking the best interior defensive lineman in the draft. 

It may not be flashy, but football games are still won on both lines. Adding immediate contributors and eventual stars to both lines is something that will vault a team into contention quicker than anything. 

Jeff Fisher obviously agrees:

In Robinson, they'll have a player who can contribute right away. While he will eventually make a fine franchise tackle, his versatility is what will stick out to fans right now, per Fisher:

Donald, who racked up 28.5 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks last season, will join an already fierce pass rush, per ESPN Stats & Info:

The Rams had to get difference-makers with both top-15 picks to compete in the NFC West and they did just that with Robinson and Donald. 

 

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings didn't quite have the day that the Rams did, but they ended the night with a bang. First, Mike Zimmer and Co. grabbed a promising pass-rusher in Anthony Barr. 

The UCLA product may not have a complete repertoire of pass-rushing moves, but his freakish athleticism is something that general manager Rick Spielman must have loved, per Albert Breer:

That athleticism will definitely provide a boost to the Vikings front seven with Zimmer in charge. As Pro Football Focus noted, it provides them with added flexibility to get the most out of the prospects currently on the roster:

But Barr isn't what made the Vikings the big winner Thursday night. He'll be a strong starter, but he won't change the franchise.

That will be Teddy Bridgewater

Bridgewater was overshadowed by the more flashy quarterback in Johnny Manziel on draft night. But flashy has never been the secret to success as a signal-caller. The best have been cerebral, methodical and accurate. All traits that don't show up on SportsCenter, but they equate to a well-oiled offensive machine. 

The Vikings managed to get a player with all of those qualities with the very last pick in the first round. Which not only means they will save plenty of money compared to, say Jacksonville, who took Blake Bortles at No. 3, but it also gives them a fifth-year option on their guy, as Ian Rapoport tweeted:

With an elite front seven and a franchise quarterback in tow, the Vikings appear to be on the right track. 

 

Class Clown: Cleveland Browns

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

The night started off well enough for the Browns. They began by trading out of No. 4 to No. 9 and netted a 2015 first-round pick from the Buffalo Bills in the process. Anytime you can gain a first-round pick and stay in top 10, that's a good deal. 

But then they traded traded back up to No. 8 and things got weird. 

First, the Browns selected Justin Gilbert, the cornerback out of Oklahoma State. One one hand, Gilbert fills a need. Cleveland could use a strong corner opposite Joe Haden to solidify their developing secondary. 

On the other, when one sees that players such as Darqueze Dennard and Jason Verrett were available in the 20's, the value of taking Gilbert at No. 9 has to be questioned, something that Robert Smith of ESPN did:

The Gilbert pick could be explained away as a matter of preference, though. What Ray Farmer did next will certainly put his job on the line already. 

With Bridgewater and Manziel both on the board at No. 22, he traded up and selected the most risky player in the draft—one Johnathan Football. 

Sure, this will guarantee that the Browns are covered more than they have been in all of the years combined since the team returned in 1999. But for all of the reasons listed above that Bridgewater will flourish in the NFL, Manziel is not the right quarterback for the Browns. 

With Jordan Cameron, Josh Gordon and Ben Tate all now in the fold, the Browns finally have the weapons to provide a quarterback with the tools to succeed. Instead, they drafted a quarterback who will attempt to carry the team on his back at every opportunity and is more prone to turnovers than any of the first-round prospects available. He threw just as many interceptions as Bortles and Bridgewater combined last season. 

Drafting Manziel may ultimately work out. As unorthodox as his college career was, he possesses tremendous arm talent. However, it's not often that a prospect has to completely change his game to succeed and goes in the first round. 

That's something that Manziel will have to do. 

With everything in place to become a successful team, that's the risk that Farmer took. 

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