Most teams hope to get at least one impact player out of the first three rounds of the NFL draft, but some savvy teams were able to come away with several on Thursday and Friday.
Organizations picking near the top of the draft need to hit on multiple picks in order to exit the league's basement and there is no doubt that a handful of teams took steps toward doing precisely that.
On the other hand, some teams failed to capitalize on the opportunities afforded to them in the first three rounds. A draft can't truly be judged accurately until a few years down the line. However, there are clearly a few franchises that didn't put themselves in position to succeed.
Here is a full listing of grades for every team's draft thus far along with a closer look at the teams that have fared best.
Rounds 1-3 Grades
|Arizona Cardinals||SS Deone Bucannon (27), TE Troy Niklas (52)||C+|
|Atlanta Falcons||OT Jake Matthews (6), DL Ra'Shede Hageman (37)||A-|
|Baltimore Ravens||ILB C.J. Mosley (17), DT Tim Jernigan (48)||B|
|Buffalo Bills||WR Sammy Watkins (4), OT Cyrus Kouandjio (44)||B+|
|Carolina Panthers||WR Kelvin Benjamin (28), DL Kony Ealy (60)||B-|
|Chicago Bears||CB Kyle Fuller (14), DT Ego Ferguson (51)||C|
|Cincinnati Bengals||CB Darqueze Dennard (24), RB Jeremy Hill (55)||C|
|Cleveland Browns||CB Justin Gilbert (8), QB Johnny Manziel (22), OL Joel Bitonio (35)||A|
|Dallas Cowboys||OT Zack Martin (16), DE Demarcus Lawrence (34)||B|
|Denver Broncos||CB Bradley Roby (31), WR Cody Latimer (56)||B-|
|Detroit Lions||TE Eric Ebron (10), OLB Kyle Van Noy (40)||B+|
|Green Bay Packers||FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21), WR Davante Adams (53)||B|
|Houston Texans||DE Jadeveon Clowney (1), OG Xavier Su'a-Filo (33), TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (65), DT Louis Nix (83)||A|
|Indianapolis Colts||OL Jack Mewhort (59), WR Donte Moncrief (90)||D+|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||QB Blake Bortles (3), WR Marqise Lee (39), WR Allen Robinson (61)||A|
|Kansas City Chiefs||DE Dee Ford (23), CB Phillip Gaines (87)||D|
|Miami Dolphins||OT Ja'Wuan James (19), WR Jarvis Landry (63)||D+|
|Minnesota Vikings||OLB Anthony Barr (9), QB Teddy Bridgewater (32), DE Scott Crichton (72)||B|
|New England Patriots||DT Dominique Easley (29), QB Jimmy Garoppolo (62)||D+|
|New Orleans Saints||WR Brandin Cooks (20), CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (58)||B+|
|New York Giants||WR Odell Beckham (12), C Weston Richburg (43)||B-|
|New York Jets||FS Calvin Pryor (18), TE Jace Amaro (49)||A-|
|Oakland Raiders||OLB Khalil Mack (5), QB Derek Carr (36), OG Gabe Jackson (81)||B+|
|Philadelphia Eagles||DE Marcus Smith (26), WR Jordan Matthews (42)||D|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||OLB Ryan Shazier (15), DL Stephon Tuitt (46)||A-|
|San Diego Chargers||CB Jason Verrett (25), OLB Jeremy Attaochu (50)||B-|
|San Francisco 49ers||SS Jimmie Ward (30), RB Carlos Hyde (57), OG Marcus Martin (70), ILB Chris Borland (77)||A-|
|Seattle Seahawks||WR Paul Richardson (45), OL Justin Britt (64)||D|
|St. Louis Rams||OT Greg Robinson (2), DT Aaron Donald (13), CB Lamarcus Joyner (41), RB Tre Mason (75)||A|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||WR Mike Evans (7), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (38)||B+|
|Tennessee Titans||OT Taylor Lewan (11), RB Bishop Sankey (54)||B-|
|Washington Redskins||LB Trent Murphy (47), OT Morgan Moses (66)||B-|
Picks courtesy of NFL.com
The team with the top pick in the draft should always come away with a great haul, but that isn't always the case. However, the Houston Texans haven't disappointed. They very well could have netted themselves four future starters in the first three rounds.
Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney at No. 1 overall was considered a no-brainer by most, and they continued to make great picks on Day 2.
Clowney should step in and play right away. As should guard Xavier Su'a-Filo—who Houston made the first pick in the second round before making two fantastic value picks in the third. C.J. Fiedorowicz was one of those picks and the last upper-tier tight end remaining—he fills a definite position of need.
Houston may have gotten the steal of the draft at No. 83 in the form of Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix. His draft stock has fallen as of late due to potential injury and stamina concerns, but Nix has first-round talent.
As pointed out by Bill Barnwell of Grantland, nobody would have batted an eye had the Texans selected Nix 50 picks earlier:
Texans could have credibly drafted Louis Nix at 33. Getting him at 83 is a bargain.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) May 10, 2014
Adding great supplementary prospects (to an elite one like Clowney) is exactly what the Texans needed to do in order to greatly improve upon their 2-14 campaign last season.
The one thing Houston didn't come away with was a franchise quarterback, Peter King of Sports Illustrated was critical of that deficiency:
There's this position called "quarterback,'' Texans. Fairly new one. Might want to familiarize yourselves with it.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) May 10, 2014
As much as the quarterback tandem of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum doesn't inspire confidence, the Texans should be commended for building their team as a whole rather than reaching for a quarterback they don't necessarily like.
QB figures to be Houston's No. 1 priority next year and that signal-caller will be lucky enough to step into an ideal situation thanks to the Texans' deep 2014 draft class.
The Cleveland Browns have been one of the most unassuming franchises in the NFL for the past two decades, but that is no longer the case.
Cleveland has long been known for taking the conservative route and opting against ruffling feathers. That changed during Thursday night's first round with the Browns traded up from No. 26 to No. 22 in order to select Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Johnny Football fell further than most expected after one of the greatest collegiate careers ever by a signal-caller. The Browns were seemingly thrilled to land him at No. 22, and Manziel is ready to go to work.
Manziel gained a reputation in college for being cocky, but he insists that his focus is on being a team player and a winner in Cleveland, according to Pat McManamon of ESPN.com.
I'm a rookie coming in, low guy on the totem pole. I need to show these guys with actions to earn their respect. ... I think I'm Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football is what I am in the media and I'm accepting of it, but at the same time I know who I am. It doesn't make me lose sleep at night.
Cleveland's success hinges largely on Manziel's development, but the rest of its draft has been spectacular, as well.
The selection of cornerback Justin Gilbert at No. 8 has been somewhat forgotten, although he should form an elite corner tandem with Joe Haden.
The Browns then managed to nab another potential starter early in the second round in the form of Nevada offensive lineman Joel Bitonio. Whether Bitonio starts opposite Joe Thomas at right tackle or kicks inside to guard, there is no question that the Browns improved their line as a whole.
Like the Texans, the Browns have received some criticism for neglecting one position in particular.
Cleveland didn't select a wide receiver in the first three rounds despite the fact that leading receiver Josh Gordon could be facing a year-long suspension reportedly stemming from a failed drug test, per SportsCenter:
However, this class is particularly deep at wide receiver, which means Cleveland should be able to find some guys on Day 3. Rather than dwelling on the picks the Browns didn't make, the picks they did make should be applauded.
St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams took some big strides forward under head coach Jeff Fisher last season, and they are seemingly poised to reach a playoff level in the very near future.
Based on what they have done thus far in the 2014 NFL draft, "the very near future" may be the upcoming season.
St. Louis was fortunate enough to pick No. 2 overall by virtue of the Washington Redskins' selection they acquired when Washington traded up to select quarterback Robert Griffin III in 2012.
With that pick, the Rams attempted to ensure quarterback Sam Bradford's health by selecting stud offensive tackle Greg Robinson out of Auburn.
Which of these teams has had the best draft thus far?
The Rams also held their own pick at No. 13, which they used to solidify the defensive line in the form of defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
With Chris Long and Robert Quinn causing havoc at defensive end, Donald will have the opportunity to be dominant on his own due to the attention his linemates will garner.
St. Louis could have stopped there and considered the draft a success, but things only got better.
Cornerback Lamarcus Joyner out of Florida State was a great under-the-radar pick at No. 41, as was that of Auburn running back Tre Mason in Round 3.
Mason could potentially be the best running back in the 2014 draft class and depth at that position is something St. Louis desperately needed. Interestingly enough, Mason will have the opportunity to reunite with and run behind his Auburn teammate in Robinson, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Rams reunite Auburn RB Tre Mason with OT Greg Robinson. Auburn led the FBS in rushing last season #STLpick— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 10, 2014
From top to bottom there is very little to dislike about the Rams' draft. That prompted ESPN's Adam Caplan to pay them the ultimate compliment:
Rams are having one of the best drafts of any team so far.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) May 10, 2014
The Rams are quietly building one of the deepest and most talented overall teams in the league. It will be interesting to see how they fare in the stacked NFC West.
They may not receive as much publicity as the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals, but they were competitive against those teams last year. This year, the Rams are even better and may even be the surprise team of 2014.
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