Improving through the draft is of the utmost importance for every NFL franchise. A great draft haul ensures long-term success, whereas a couple of mistakes can set a team back for years.
So, which team came away with the best draft in 2014?
Well, we really don't know for sure just yet. After all, rookies have yet to take the field, and their impact may not be felt until well into the season—or possibly not until further down the road.
Although, it's never too early to speculate.
Based on what we currently know about each prospect, how well they fit in their new systems and their draft positions, we can begin to paint a picture of each team's future potential.
Let's take a look at the draft grades for each franchise and pinpoint which teams are most likely to benefit from this year's haul.
Complete NFL Draft Grades
|Arizona Cardinals||7||Deone Bucannon||B|
|Atlanta Falcons||9||Ra'Shede Hageman||B+|
|Baltimore Ravens||9||C.J. Mosley||B+|
|Buffalo Bills||7||Sammy Watkins||B|
|Carolina Panthers||6||Kony Ealy||C|
|Chicago Bears||8||Kyle Fuller||C|
|Cincinnati Bengals||8||Darqueze Dennard||C+|
|Cleveland Browns||6||Johnny Manziel||A|
|Dallas Cowboys||9||Zack Martin||C-|
|Denver Broncos||6||Bradley Roby||B|
|Detroit Lions||8||Eric Ebron||C+|
|Green Bay Packers||9||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||B-|
|Houston Texans||10||Jadeveon Clowney||A|
|Indianapolis Colts||5||Donte Moncrief||C|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||9||Marqise Lee||A-|
|Kansas City Chiefs||6||De'Anthony Thomas||C-|
|Miami Dolphins||8||Jarvis Landry||C-|
|Minnesota Vikings||10||Teddy Bridgewater||B+|
|New England Patriots||9||Cameron Fleming||D+|
|New Orleans Saints||6||Brandin Cooks||B-|
|New York Giants||7||Odell Beckham Jr.||B|
|New York Jets||12||Jace Amaro||B+|
|Oakland Raiders||8||Khalil Mack||A-|
|Philadelphia Eagles||7||Jordan Matthews||D+|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||9||Ryan Shazier||B-|
|San Diego Chargers||6||Jason Verrett||C|
|San Francisco 49ers||12||Marcus Martin||C+|
|Seattle Seahawks||9||Kevin Norwood||D+|
|St. Louis Rams||11||Aaron Donald||A|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||6||Mike Evans||B-|
|Tennessee Titans||6||Bishop Sankey||B|
|Washington Redskins||8||Morgan Moses||C|
Sean O'Donnell's Grades
2014 Best Draft Classes
1. Cleveland Browns
|1||8||Justin Gilbert||CB||Oklahoma State|
|1||22||Johnny Manziel||QB||Texas A&M|
The Browns absolutely nailed it.
Cornerback Joe Haden has never really had a viable complement in Cleveland. The Browns rectified that problem early in the draft, trading down and selecting the speedy Justin Gilbert at No. 8 overall.
The team continued to make plenty of noise in the first round, moving once again—this time trading up from No. 26 to No. 22 overall to select quarterback Johnny Manziel.
For years, the quarterback position has been Cleveland's Achilles' heel. One after another, each failed miserably under center. That trend is likely to come to an end this season with the dynamic Manziel in the fold.
Not only does Manziel bring some talent to Cleveland, he's also getting some butts in the seats, according to a tweet from Sports Illustrated:
His ability to scramble, intelligence on the field and refined technique should allow him to find early success as a rookie.
After selecting the strong Joel Bitonio and versatile Christian Kirksey, Cleveland added great depth in the backfield with Terrance West and improved the secondary by stealing Pierre Desir in the fourth round.
2. St. Louis Rams
|2||41||Lamarcus Joyner||CB||Florida State|
|4||110||Mo Alexander||SS||Utah State|
|7||226||Mitchell Van Dyk||OT||Portland State|
|7||241||C.B. Bryant||FS||Ohio State|
|7||250||Demetrius Rhaney||C||Tennessee State|
St. Louis improved its roster in a big way through the draft.
Sam Bradford remains the team's quarterback, yet he's struggled with injuries throughout his NFL career. The Rams helped their signal-caller in a big way by selecting Greg Robinson at No. 2 overall.
Robinson is a physical and athletic specimen. He has a ton of experience under his belt and will be able to take the field immediately and anchor the offensive line for the long haul.
Even more impressive than the Robinson selection was taking Aaron Donald at No. 13 overall. Donald is a beast in the trenches. He's a strong gap-filler and athletic pass-rushing three technique. Putting him next to Robert Quinn, Chris Long and Michael Brockers makes this the NFL's most ferocious defensive line.
ESPN Stats & Info tweeted what the Donald signing means to this defensive line:
Rams adding to an already strong DL by drafting DT Aaron Donald. Rams DL had 47 sacks last season, most in NFL. #STLpick— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 9, 2014
Lamarcus Joyner is a versatile defensive back with the ability to play outside cornerback, in the slot and at the safety position. The Rams should get plenty of value from him.
Tre Mason not only provides an electrifying complement to Zac Stacy but gives the team a dangerous return man.
The team did well in the later rounds as well, selecting E.J. Gaines—a special teams contributor who has the ability to blossom into a starter—and Michael Sam—a solid pass-rusher who was a steal so late in the draft.
3. Houston Texans
|1||1||Jadeveon Clowney||DE||South Carolina|
|3||83||Louis Nix||DT||Notre Dame|
Houston used the first overall pick wisely.
Selecting Jadeveon Clowney will do wonders for this team's defense. We all know Clowney is an athletic freak; however, teaming him up with J.J. Watt and Co. simply puts Clowney's ceiling over the top.
Xavier Su'a-Filo was an absolute steal in the second round. The draft's best guard prospect, Su'a-Filo has a great combination of strength and speed. He can hold up in pass protection against the strongest defensive tackles and can get to the second level quickly when blocking for the run.
According to a tweet from NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah, he loved the pick as well:
Love the HOU pick of Xavier Su'a Filo..nasty dude!— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) May 9, 2014
C.J. Fiedorowicz will be a great complement to Garrett Graham. While Graham is a solid receiving tight end, Fiedorowicz is a good inside blocker who still has some ability to record some receptions.
Adding the free-falling Louis Nix III in the third round may have been the steal of the draft. A true 3-4 nose tackle, he'll fit perfectly in Houston's defensive scheme and demand the attention to allow Watt and Clowney to do some major damage on the outside.
Houston finally addressed the quarterback position in Round 4 with Tom Savage. Although he may need some time to develop, Savage has a big arm and looks every bit the part of a Bill O'Brien quarterback.
He may not start immediately, but he has some nice upside and can become a future starter.