After an exhaustive three-day event that featured more than 15 hours of live television coverage, round-the-clock analysis from all annals of the Internet and perhaps the most heartwarming conclusion in the event's history, the 2014 NFL draft concluded Saturday evening.
And we all know what that means—time to wildly overreact to the events we just finished watching hours ago. The only NFL draft movement that rivals #MockDraftSeason is #DraftGradeSeason, in which everyone attempts to quantify player value months before they step on the field.
Never mind we probably won't know the true value of these players until two or three years from now. There are hot takes to be had with your Mother's Day bacon, and we'll be damned if they're not delivered hot and piping.
In an effort to avoid such nonsense, allow me to explain how "grades" will be divvied out in this space. We are neither judging the player nor assessing his NFL talent. Grades here are representative of perceived value—where players were ranked by publicly available scouting services, along with my own assessment—and need based on current roster composition.
Case in point: The Internet would have shattered had the Dallas Cowboys taken Johnny Manziel. We'd have laughed and howled and been a part of a totally awesome, memorable draft moment. It also would have been a monumentally stupid decision given how much Dallas has invested in Tony Romo and the myriad needs across the roster.
I think Manziel will be a very good NFL player, but it'd be impossible to give the Cowboys a strong grade on the selection. That's what we're getting at here. With that in mind, let's check in on all 32 teams and highlight a few that stood out.
|Arizona Cardinals||SS Deone Bucannon (27), TE Troy Niklas (52), DE Kareem Martin (84), WR John Brown (91), QB Logan Thomas (120), DE Ed Stinson (160), WR Walt Powell (196)||B-|
|Atlanta Falcons||OT Jake Matthews (6), DL Ra'Shede Hageman (37), S Dez Southward (68), RB Devonta Freeman (103), LB Prince Shembo (139), CB Ricardo Allen (147), LB Marquis Spruill (168), LB Yawin Smallwood (253), LB Tyler Starr (255)||B+|
|Baltimore Ravens||ILB C.J. Mosley (17), DT Tim Jernigan (48), S Terrence Brooks (79), TE Crockett Gillmore (99), DT Brent Urban (134), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (138), G John Urschel (175), QB Keith Wenning (194), WR Michael Campanaro (218)||B+|
|Buffalo Bills||WR Sammy Watkins (4), OT Cyrus Kouandjio (44), LB Preston Brown (73), CB Ross Cockrell (109), G Cyril Richardson (153), LB Randell Johnson (221), T Seantrel Henderson (237)||A-|
|Carolina Panthers||WR Kelvin Benjamin (28), DL Kony Ealy (60), G Trai Turner (92), S Tre Boston (128), CB Bene Benwikere (148), RB Tyler Gaffney (204)||B|
|Chicago Bears||CB Kyle Fuller (14), DT Ego Ferguson (51), DT Will Sutton (82), RB Ka'Deem Carey (117), S Brock Vereen (131), QB David Fales (183), P Pat O'Donnell (191), T Charles Leno (246)||A-|
|Cincinnati Bengals||CB Darqueze Dennard (24), RB Jeremy Hill (55), DE William Clarke (88), C Russell Bodine (111), QB AJ McCarron (164), LB Marquis Flowers (212), WR James Wright (239), CB Lavelle Westbrooks (252)||B|
|Cleveland Browns||CB Justin Gilbert (8), QB Johnny Manziel (22), OL Joel Bitonio (35), LB Christian Kirksey (71), RB Terrance West (94), CB Pierre Desir (127)||A-|
|Dallas Cowboys||OT Zack Martin (16), DE Demarcus Lawrence (34), LB Anthony Hitchens (119), WR Devin Street (146), DE Ben Gardner (231), LB Will Smith (238), S Ahmad Dixon (248), DT Ken Bishop (251), CB Terrance Mitchell (254)||C+|
|Denver Broncos||CB Bradley Roby (31), WR Cody Latimer (56), T Michael Schofield (95), LB Lamin Barrow (156), C Matt Paradis (207), LB Corey Nelson (242)||B-|
|Detroit Lions||TE Eric Ebron (10), OLB Kyle Van Noy (40), C Travis Swanson (76), CB Nevin Lawson (133), DE Larry Webster (136), DT Caraun Reid (158), WR TJ Jones (189), K Nate Freese (229)||B|
|Green Bay Packers||FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21), WR Davante Adams (53), DT Khyri Thornton (85), TE Richard Rodgers (98), LB Carl Bradford (121), C Corey Linsley (161), WR Jared Abbrederis (176), CB Demetri Goodson (197), WR Jeff Janis (236)||A|
|Houston Texans||DE Jadeveon Clowney (1), OG Xavier Su'a-Filo (33), TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (65), DT Louis Nix (83), QB Tom Savage (135), DE Jeoffrey Pagan (177), RB Alfred Blue (181), RB Jay Prosch (211), CB Dre Hal (216), S Lonnie Ballentine (256)||A|
|Indianapolis Colts||OL Jack Mewhort (59), WR Donte Moncrief (90), DE Jonathan Newsome (166), LB Andrew Jackson (203), T Ulrick John (232)||C|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||QB Blake Bortles (3), WR Marqise Lee (39), WR Allen Robinson (61), G Brandon Linder (93), CB Aaron Colvin (114), LB Telvin Smith (144), DE Chris Smith (159), C Luke Bowanko (205), RB Storm Johnson (222)||B+|
|Kansas City Chiefs||DE Dee Ford (23), CB Phillip Gaines (87), RB De'Anthony Thomas (124), QB Aaron Murray (163), G Zach Fulton (193), T Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (200)||C+|
|Miami Dolphins||OT Ja'Wuan James (19), WR Jarvis Landry (63), T Billy Turner (67), CB Walt Aikens (125), TE Arthur Lynch (155), LB Jordan Tripp (171), WR Matt Hazel (190), DE Terrence Fede (234)||C+|
|Minnesota Vikings||OLB Anthony Barr (9), QB Teddy Bridgewater (32), DE Scott Crichton (72), RB Jerick McKinnon (96), G David Yankey (145), CB Antone Exum (182), CB Kendall James (184), DT Shamar Stephen (220), LB Brandon Watts (223), CB Jabari Price (225)||A-|
|New England Patriots||DT Dominique Easley (29), QB Jimmy Garoppolo (62), C Bryan Stork (105), RB James White (130), T Cameron Fleming (140), G Jon Halapio (179), DE Zach Moore (198), S Jemea Thomas (206), WR Jeremy Gallon (244)||C|
|New Orleans Saints||WR Brandin Cooks (20), CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (58), LB Khairi Fortt (126), S Vinnie Sunseri (167), LB Ronald Powell (169), T Tavon Rooks (202)||B-|
|New York Giants||WR Odell Beckham (12), C Weston Richburg (43), DT Jay Bromley (74), RB Andre Williams (113), S Nat Berhe (152), LB Devon Kennard (174), CB Bennett Jackson (187)||B|
|New York Jets||FS Calvin Pryor (18), TE Jace Amaro (49), CB Dex McDougle (80), WR Jalen Saunders (104), WR Shaq Evans (115), T Dakota Dozier (137), LB Jeremiah George (154), CB Brandon Dixon (195), WR Quincy Enunwa (209), DE IK Enemkpali (210), QB Tajh Boyd (213), LB Trevor Reilly (233)||B+|
|Oakland Raiders||OLB Khalil Mack (5), QB Derek Carr (36), OG Gabe Jackson (81), DT Justin Ellis (107), CB Keith McGill (116), CB T.J. Carrie (219), DE Shelby Harris (235), S Jonathan Dowling (247)||A|
|Philadelphia Eagles||DE Marcus Smith (26), WR Jordan Matthews (42), WR Josh Huff (86), CB Jaylen Watkins (101), DE Taylor Hart (141), S Ed Reynolds (162), DT Beau Allen (224)||C|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||OLB Ryan Shazier (15), DL Stephon Tuitt (46), WR Dri Archer (97), WR Martavis Bryant (118), CB Shaquille Richardson (157), C Wesley Johnson (173), LB Jordan Zumwalt (192), DT Dan McCullers (215), TE Rob Blanchflower (230)||A-|
|San Diego Chargers||CB Jason Verrett (25), OLB Jeremy Attaochu (50), G Chris Watt (89), DT Ryan Carrethers (165), RB Marlon Grice (201), WR Tevin Reese (240)||B|
|San Francisco 49ers||SS Jimmie Ward (30), RB Carlos Hyde (57), OG Marcus Martin (70), ILB Chris Borland (77), G Brandon Thomas (100), WR Bruce Ellington (106), CB Dontae Johnson (129), DE Aaron Lynch (150), CB Keith Reaser (170), CB Kenneth Acker (180), DT Kaleb Ramsey (243), FB Trey Millard (245)||A-|
|Seattle Seahawks||WR Paul Richardson (45), OL Justin Britt (64), DE Cassius Marsh (108), WR Kevin Norwood (123), LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (132), DT Jimmy Staten (172), T Garrett Scott (199), S Eric Pinkins (208), FB Kiero Small (227)||B-|
|St. Louis Rams||OT Greg Robinson (2), DT Aaron Donald (13), CB Lamarcus Joyner (41), RB Tre Mason (75), S Maurice Alexander (110), CB E.J. Gaines (188), QB Garrett Gilbert (214), T Mitchell Van Dyk (226), S C.B. Bryant (241), DE Michael Sam (249), C Demetrius Rhaney (250)||A|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||WR Mike Evans (7), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (38), RB Charles Sims (69), G Kadeem Edwards (143), T Kevin Pamphile (149), WR Robert Herron (185)||A-|
|Tennessee Titans||OT Taylor Lewan (11), RB Bishop Sankey (54), DT DaQuan Jones (112), CB Marqueston Huff (122), LB Avery Williamson (151), QB Zach Mettenberger (178)||C+|
|Washington Redskins||LB Trent Murphy (47), OT Morgan Moses (66), G Spencer Long (78), CB Bashaud Breeland (102), WR Ryan Grant (142), RB Lache Seastrunk (186), TE Ted Bolser (217), K Zach Hocker (228)||B-|
Best of the Best
Green Bay Packers
Ted Thompson has been making player personnel decisions for a decade-and-a-half now. And it isn't because NFL teams are charitable organizations. The Seattle Seahawks began turning things around when Thompson arrived in 2000, and when he left to return to Green Bay in 2005, lo and behold, things started working out there, too.
We should all strive to have the longevity and competence of Thompson. Such was the case again this weekend when Thompson employed a near-perfect combination of filling needs and snagging appropriate value.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix fits a massive hole at safety and was considered by some a top-10 selection. Numerous pre-Thursday mock drafts had the Alabama product going to the Detroit Lions at No. 10. The Packers nabbed him not only 11 picks later but after Louisville's Calvin Pryor—a player most had rated lower on their boards—went to the New York Jets at No. 18.
The Packers were able to offset the loss of James Jones in free agency by picking up Davante Adams in Round 2 and Jared Abbrederis on Saturday.
Neither guy projects as a superstar talent, but both are solid, ready-to-contribute guys who give Aaron Rodgers arguably the deepest stable of wideouts in the NFL. Abbrederis is a bit slow, but he runs beautiful routes and the ball suctions to his hand. Adams is a better athlete and strong leaper, projecting as a No. 2 if he pans out.
Richard Rodgers should also be a solid pass-catching option out of the tight end spot. Eric Ebron and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are arguably the only guys in this class you'd 100 percent bet are going to be better NFL players. Rodgers will fit nicely in the spot vacated by Jermichael Finley. There just aren't any bad picks here, folks.
If their first draft together is any indication, head coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith are going to work out plenty fine together. Houston had the advantage of having the No. 1 overall pick and top selection in most rounds—its picks are going to look strong respective to other teams'.
Give credit to the Texans, though, for not overthinking. Jadeveon Clowney has been the best player in the 2014 draft since even before the 2013 season began. You might question his work ethic, fairly or not, but no one denies he's a once-in-a-generation talent who could haunt a franchise for years to come.
That said, he's an awkward scheme fit and doesn't fill remotely the biggest need on this roster. The Texans will move Clowney to outside linebacker for the first time in his career, and given the presence of the equally safe Khalil Mack, one could understand the temptation to take a risk on the Buffalo product. Hell, most teams would have actually bit the bullet, succumbed to pressure and selected a quarterback at No. 1.
Houston did none of those things. Now, AFC South opponents will have to deal with blocking J.J. Watt on one side and Clowney on another, all while Louis Nix is clogging up the middle. Nix might wind up being the steal of the draft regardless of position. He was a menace to society in 2012 and is talented enough the Texans could have easily justified taking him at No. 33. They landed him 50 picks later.
Xavier Su'a-Filo and C.J. Fiedorowicz were also solid Day 2 selections who should be ready to contribute right away. I'm far from the biggest Tom Savage fan and have a feeling he'll be the worst value selection Houston made in this draft. But at least O'Brien was able to wait until Round 4 before he came off the board and the insanity of taking him at the top of the second round subsided.
Add a couple of late-round running backs in Alfred Blue and Jay Prosch as potential Ben Tate replacements, and you have the makings of an all-around solid weekend.
Today in "Predictions Sure to Go Wrong," we praise Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders. Oakland has typically been a place where promising young talent goes to die.
There is this strange narrative that says the Raiders have been bad at drafting because they overreach for players. Though that is sometimes the case, a quick look back at recent high-pick history says Oakland had largely fallen within convention.
Michael Huff, JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden were not derided picks on draft day—just after they busted out. Darrius Heyward-Bey was a massive reach, yet a year later we were singing the praises of Rolando McClain. Even last season, D.J. Hayden was only drafted a handful of picks before most expected.
The Raiders' issues come not in identifying talent but fostering it, which should be just great news to Mack, hailed as one of the surest things in the 2014 class. The Buffalo defensive end/linebacker has an almost unimpeachable NFL resume. He has size, blasts off the ball and was a vocal leader for a solid Buffalo defense.
Oakland was also able to land the quarterback some feared it would take in Round 1. McKenzie and Co. were said to have a "massive crush" on him all the way back in March, per The Fresno Bee's David White, and with Derek Carr being mocked by some in the first round, it stood to reason they'd missed out by selecting Mack.
Only the Raiders lucked out when quarterback-needy Houston went with Su'a-Filo and the Cleveland Browns traded up for Manziel in Round 1.
Carr is properly valued as a second-round guy, but he could be very good in the right system. Also give credit to McKenzie for pumping even more talent into the defense Saturday. Not all of the picks are going to work out—they never do for any team—but Justin Ellis and Keith McGill are talented enough that they might contribute as rookies.
St. Louis Rams
Not even sure where to begin here. The Rams just won. If using the verbal "winning" didn't hearken memories of a spiraling Charlie Sheen abusing his way into Internet infamy, perhaps I'd use that word to describe St. Louis.
It nonetheless applies. Greg Robinson is the best tackle in this class and allows the Rams to move Jake Long to the right side—whether that's immediate or in a couple of years. The Rams really couldn't have gone wrong going with Robinson or Sammy Watkins, the other player widely linked to the No. 2 spot.
And while they shocked a few people at No. 13, it wasn't in a bad way. Very few (if anyone) mocked Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald to the Rams, mainly because their defensive line is already a strength. But when Odell Beckham Jr. went off the board a pick earlier and no other attractive offer presented itself, Jeff Fisher went with the best player available.
Donald is a tough, athletic freak of nature who would have challenged Clowney for the top overall player slot if he weren't undersized. With Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Donald manning the middle for the Rams, the Seahawks have a strong challenger for the NFC's best defensive line.
Fisher also addressed the secondary, taking cornerbacks Lamarcus Joyner and E.J. Gaines along with safety Maurice Alexander. Joyner is another undersized guy who can do just about everything, though his top-end speed is a little lacking. He and Gaines both have a chance to contribute right away.
But no value is the comparable to the one St. Louis got at No. 249. It's not too often an SEC Defensive Player of the Year is hanging around in the seventh round. In fact, it had never happened in the history of the award's existence. Each of the last seven recipients had gone on to first-round glory.
None of those players, though, was Michael Sam. We don't need to go over this pick's importance again. Anyone who has read anything about the weekend knows Sam is the first openly gay player ever to be taken in the NFL draft. Given his production at the college level, most expected him to be taken higher—even if he is a bit of a positional tweener.
Let's just continue giving the Rams credit for taking a chance on this kid while getting a really solid value. From top to bottom, this was a heck of a class, but Sam made it historic.
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