We expected madness. Our expectations may have been exceeded.
There were so many delicious storylines Thursday night during the first round of the NFL draft, it was almost too much to take in.
Blake Bortles at No. 3? That was a shocker.
The Buffalo Bills giving up their No. 9 pick, along with a first- and fourth-round selection next year, to draft Sammy Watkins at No. 4? Quite the steep price, though Watkins has the sort of dynamic talent that could make the gamble pay off.
Johnny Manziel dropping to No. 22, where the Browns nabbed him after passing on him at No. 8 and selecting Justin Gilbert instead? A stroke of genius.
The Minnesota Vikings trading back into the first round and selecting Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32? A move that could change the future of the franchise.
It was compelling television, and over nine million people agree with me on that, per Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated:
ESPN’s first round coverage of the NFL Draft was watched by 9,943,000 viewers last night, most-viewed NFL Draft telecast in history.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) May 9, 2014
And if you don't think the draft can change the fate of a franchise, just consider how much the pick of Manziel enthralled Cleveland, per Darren Rovell of ESPN:
Team president Alec Scheiner told ESPN.com on Friday that, in the time since Manziel was selected, the team sold more than 2,000 season tickets.
'We know right now that every one of our games is going to be sold out for next season,' Scheiner said.
Despite knowing that picking Manziel would result in a frenzy, Scheiner stressed that the business ramifications of the pick weren't considered.
'The beauty of picking Johnny was that this was a football decision only,' Scheiner said. 'It had nothing to do with business in any way. The fact that he's an incredibly popular athlete wasn't factored in at all.'
But for all of the madness, the business implications and the surprises, there is still the task of analyzing how each team fared in the draft process. And that's where my draft grades come into play.
Keep in mind, these grades aren't necessarily an indication of how much I like a given player. They take into account whether or not a team got a good value with the selection, filled a major need, etc. That's the tricky thing about draft grades—if a player becomes a future star, it may not matter in three years if a team "overpaid" to get him. But when analyzing the first round the very next day, value and team needs must be considered.
OK, enough of the stipulations, let's get to the grading!
|Houston Texans||Jadeveon Clowney (1)||A||The Texans did what they were supposed to do—take the best player available. Clowney and JJ Watt together is frightening.|
|St. Louis Rams||Greg Robinson (2); Aaron Donald (13)||A+||Great draft. The Rams bolstered both lines with the best offensive lineman prospect and best interior defensive lineman prospect. That RG3 trade continues to give.|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Blake Bortles (3)||C+||First real shocker of the draft. Can't blame the Jags for identifying the quarterback they wanted and nabbing him, but this wasn't great value with Watkins and Mack still on the board.|
|Buffalo Bills||Sammy Watkins (4)||B||Love the pick, don't love the small fortune Buffalo (first- and fourth-round picks neck year, No. 9 this year) gave up to make it. Watkins is a special talent, however.|
|Oakland Raiders||Khalil Mack (5)||A||Excellent pick for the Raiders. Mack is the perfect player to lead this defense. He looks like he'll be a force for the next decade.|
|Atlanta Falcons||Jake Matthews (6)||A-||The Falcons would have likely loved to nab a pass-rusher, but staying put and getting Matthews is still great value. Most polished of the offensive lineman in this draft.|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Mike Evans (7)||A||Another team that stayed put and was rewarded. The combo of Evans and Vincent Jackson will be explosive.|
|Cleveland Browns||Justin Gilbert (8); Johnny Manziel (22)||A+||The Browns get the top corner on the board to pair with Joe Haden, the new face of the franchise in Manziel and a 2015 first-round pick. What a Thursday night for Cleveland.|
|Minnesota Vikings||Anthony Barr (9); Teddy Bridgewater (32)||B+||The Barr pick was a touch surprising, but his upside is intriguing. Getting Bridgewater at No. 32 could end up being the steal of the draft.|
|Detroit Lions||Eric Ebron (10)||B-||Did Detroit really need a tight end? Probably not. Still, Ebron's talent makes this an interesting match and will make the team's passing attack all the more formidable.|
|Tennessee Titans||Taylor Lewan (11)||B-||Great value, yes, but a need? Not so much.|
|New York Giants||Odell Beckham (12)||B||Yet another pick that didn't fill the team's biggest need but was a nice value. Beckham should have an instant impact in the passing game and allow Victor Cruz to work in the slot more.|
|Chicago Bears||Kyle Fuller (14)||B||Probably would have been Donald were he available. Corner wasn't the biggest need, but Fuller is an intriguing talent.|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Ryan Shazier (15)||C+||Felt like a reach. Shazier's versatility makes him appealing, even if Pittsburgh could have traded back a bit and still landed him.|
|Dallas Cowboys||Zack Martin (16)||B||Solid value, but bigger needs were on the defensive side of the ball. Still, Martin's versatility makes him a plug-and-play option from day one.|
|Baltimore Ravens||C.J. Mosley (17)||B+||Great fit, nice value. If he can stay healthy, the Ravens have their Ray Lewis replacement.|
|New York Jets||Calvin Pryor (18)||A-||Yes, the Jets had some bigger needs, but Pryor's hard-nosed, physical style perfectly fits this team's attitude on defense. He's going to be a force.|
|Miami Dolphins||Ja'Wuan James (19)||C||Yes, the Dolphins need to completely rebuild the defense. But they could have traded back, added more picks and still drafted James. A curious move.|
|New Orleans Saints||Brandin Cooks (20)||A-||Darren Sproles who? Of all the rookie receivers taken, don't be surprised if Cooks puts up the biggest numbers next year in this offense. He's going to make a lot of people miss after the catch.|
|Green Bay Packers||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21)||A-||Great value here. Safety was a need, and the Packers got a good one.|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Dee Ford (23)||C+||With Tamba Hali and Justin Houston already coming off the edge, this pick was a bit of a surprise. Selection might make more sense in three years than it did Thursday night, however.|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Darqueze Dennard (24)||A-||The Bengals must have been giddy Dennard dropped to them, as he perfectly fits their scheme. They addressed their biggest need with a great value pick.|
|San Diego Chargers||Jason Verrett (25)||B+||Another team that filled a major need with a nice value. If Verrett were a bit bigger, he'd have likely come off the board sooner.|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Marcus Smith (26)||C||Another reach, though the Eagles seemed intent on adding a pass-rusher, and Smith probably wouldn't have been there for them in Round 2. They added a third-round pick when they moved back four spots in Cleveland trade—a savvy bit of business.|
|Arizona Cardinals||Deone Bucannon (27)||B||If Bucannon can make an impact as a starter right away, the Cards have built one of the strongest secondaries in the league.|
|Carolina Panthers||Kelvin Benjamin (28)||B||Some will see this as a reach, but Benjamin's size and ability to go up and get the ball makes him intriguing. Big upside. Cam Newton gets a much-needed playmaker.|
|New England Patriots||Dominique Easley (29)||B+||Huge risk, huge reward pick. Were it not for ACL tears in each knee since 2011, Easley would have been top-15 pick. Could be a huge steal here.|
|San Francisco 49ers||Jimmie Ward (30)||B||Niners see him as nickel corner initially, so this pick makes more sense in that regard. Future likely at safety, however.|
|Denver Broncos||Bradley Roby (31)||B||Nice value here. Roby needs to match up his raw athleticism and talent with on-field production more consistently, however.|