2014 NFL Draft: Immediate Re-Do How the 1st Round Should Have Gone Down
The 2014 NFL draft is in the rear view mirror. But what if we look at it through the lens of hindsight?
Granted, we can't really get to 20-20 vision for a few years, but the first round could have certainly gone a different way. What if we changed something?
One or two changes at the top would have a butterfly effect on the rest of the draft. To wit, a quarterback run at the beginning of this re-do caused the rest of the first round to look drastically different.
Here is how the draft should have gone down, at least if the teams were forced to stay in their original draft slots.
1. Houston Texans
Original Pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Mulligan: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
It was tempting to slot in a top quarterback here for the Houston Texans, who wound up taking Tom Savage as a fourth-round project rather than one of the top guys in the class. In the end, the pick was too good to change.
Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is going to take that defensive front to another level.
Clowney brings his freakish athleticism to a team brimming with defensive talent. Imagine lining him up outside next to 2012 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. That thought is giving offensive coordinators the sweats as we speak.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
Original Pick: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Mulligan: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The St. Louis Rams originally made a pretty good pick here, taking offensive tackle Greg Robinson out of Auburn.
It can be argued, however, that offensive tackle wasn't a huge position of need. Sure, Jake Long is recovering from a torn ACL, but St. Louis has two solid tackles if Long comes back to start the season.
What they really needed was a quarterback, something they did not address in the draft. (Really, Garrett Gilbert in the sixth round hardly counts.) That's where Teddy Bridgewater comes in.
The embattled quarterback out of Louisville fell all the way to the end of the first round, but he is the most NFL-ready of the top quarterbacks. All those concerns about skinny knees and a quiet demeanor will vanish once he delivers on the field.
The Rams get to enjoy that in this alternate reality because, really, Sam Bradford isn't the answer.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Original Pick: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Mulligan: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Jacksonville Jaguars were the only team with the stones to take a quarterback in the top five of the draft. Having been pre-empted by the St. Louis Rams with the previous pick here, it became even more of a necessity to draft one in this spot.
Why Johnny Manziel instead of Blake Bortles?
For starters, Manziel is the better prospect right now. Bortles has a high ceiling, to be sure, but he is raw. Why else would general manager David Caldwell say he wants to see Chad Henne start for one more entire season?
Granted, Manziel is not a finished product either, but he is already an electrifying player who can start right away.
4. Cleveland Browns
Original Pick: Trade down
Mulligan: Sammy Watkins, WR, Cleveland
Imagine if the Browns had taken Sammy Watkins just before news of Josh Gordon's year-long suspension broke. It would have been a big letdown for Cleveland fans, but at least the Browns would have mitigated the damage.
Instead, Cleveland took exactly zero receivers in the draft, eschewing what has become a big position of need in order to stick to their draft board. According to Vic Carucci of ClevelandBrowns.com, general manager Ray Farmer preached patience following the draft:
“I would tell the fans that are in panic mode because we didn’t draft a wide receiver that patience really tells the tale,” Farmer told reporters during a wrap-up news conference at the end of the draft.
That isn’t to say that Farmer saw no help in what was widely viewed as an exceptionally talented draft class of wide receivers. He recognized that that position, in accordance with most projections, accounted for five first-round choices.
It’s just that the Browns, based on their definition of need and value, were convinced they were better off making the choices they made at other positions, particularly once the draft entered its second day.
“When, in our opinion, the most talented of that (receiver) group was surpassed, we weren’t in a position to take the top-rated guys we had on our board; those guys had already been drafted,” he said. “To that end, we took the players that we thought best helped our football team at different positions.”
That may be fine and dandy, but the Browns are headlining Greg Little and Andrew Hawkins at receiver right now. They should have nabbed one receiver, and Watkins fits that bill here.
5. Oakland Raiders
Original Pick: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Mulligan: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Raiders stood pat on draft day and wound up landing arguably the best pass rusher in the class as a result.
Khalil Mack out of Buffalo may not be quite the athletic specimen that Jadeveon Clowney is, but he is no slouch. Mack combines his explosiveness with a polished game that is close to a sure thing as there is coming out of college.
There is little reason to change this pick, though taking a quarterback was an option. With the top two already gone, this was a better choice.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Original Pick: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Mulligan: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Well isn't this fortunate?
The Atlanta Falcons probably feel pretty good about taking Jake Matthews at No. 6. The big offensive lineman should shore up the offensive line in a big way.
But what if they had a chance to take Greg Robinson instead?
That's what they do here, taking the athletic big man as the first tackle off the board in this re-draft. Who knows whether Robinson or Matthews will be better in the long run, but the Falcons were able to take the one who won out on draft day here.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Original Pick: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Mulligan: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Mike Evans was a great pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on draft day. You know who would have been better?
Of all the positions the Buccaneers addressed this offseason, offensive tackle left something to be desired. Sure, Anthony Collins came over from the Cincinnati Bengals to replace Donald Penn, but the chance to take one of the top two offensive tackles in the draft was too much to pass up in this exercise.
Matthews is a technician that could step in right away and start at left tackle, allowing Anthony Collins to succeed in the same way as he did in Cincinnati—as a backup.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Original Pick: Trade down
Mulligan: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
The Vikings originally bamboozled the Browns here, nabbing a fifth-round pick to move down just one spot even though they were unlikely to take Cleveland's choice.
There will be no tomfoolery here, though, and the Vikings cannot afford to take their original pick, Anthony Barr. At least not if they want to lose out on their quarterback of the future.
With the top two guys gone—including their draft day steal of Teddy Bridgewater, whom they took at the end of the first round—Blake Bortles is the pick here.
He isn't quite NFL-ready like Bridgewater, but he is a fine choice for a team that needs to move in a new direction at the position.
9. Buffalo Bills
Original Pick: Trade up
Mulligan: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Bills made a bold move up to No. 4 to snag Sammy Watkins, one that cost them future first- and fourth-round picks. While it's debatable whether that was a wise decision, nothing could have turned up better for them here than to have Mike Evans fall to No. 9.
Whether Buffalo was nearly as high on Evans as Watkins, we'll never know. But he was arguably the best receiver heading into the draft, and the Bills snagged him without giving anything up here.
Evans is certainly a different kind of receiver as Watkins, a giant possession receiver instead of an after-the-catch burner. Either way, the receiver position improves, and the Bills get to keep their future draft picks.
10. Detroit Lions
Original Pick: Eric Ebron, TE, UNC
Mulligan: Hasean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Eric Ebron was a nice addition for Detroit. It was also a bit of a luxury pick.
The talented tight end is sure to bring an added pass-catching threat in the seam for the Lions, making a dangerous offense even more so. But the Lions took him here with no regard for a secondary that needed some attention.
Hasean Clinton-Dix, meanwhile, became a first-round steal when he fell all the way to No. 21. In this do-over, Clinton-Dix is the first safety off the board, and Detroit's defense gets a much-needed boost.
The Lions can deal with Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria at tight end.
11. Tennessee Titans
Original Pick: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Mulligan: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Tennessee Titans have a quality left tackle in Michael Roos and they just signed right tackle Michael Oher to a four-year, $20 million deal. So why was Taylor Lewan the pick here?
Granted, Roos is in the final year of his contract and Oher has actually been a turnstile in recent years, but this still seemed like a luxury pick. Why not address a position of need like, say, cornerback?
Kyle Fuller was in the top tier of a loaded cornerback class, and the Titans had a chance to snag him when they took Lewan instead. Here they make the better decision.
Fuller would step in and immediately fill the void left behind by Alterraun Verner's departure.
12. New York Giants
Original Pick: Odell Bekcham Jr., WR, LSU
Mulligan: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Odell Beckham Jr. is a nice player, widely considered the third-best receiver of the draft class. The Giants lost Hakeem Nicks to free agency. So what's the problem?
Well, for starters, New York has an X-receiver in Rueben Randle, who is entering his third season. While that doesn't fill the hole Nicks left behind, it makes the receiver less important.
More important is the fact the Giants lost some serious talent on the defensive line, namely Linval Joseph. Aaron Donald seemed like the pick here on draft night, but the Giants went in a head-scratching direction.
Not only was Beckham a bit of a luxury, one of his pro player comparisons is none other than Victor Cruz, whom the Giants already have on the roster.
13. St. Louis Rams
Original Pick: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Mulligan: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Just missing out on their actual pick, Aaron Donald, the Rams must go a different direction in this re-draft.
There are plenty directions they could go here, and shoring up the secondary seems like a good path to pick. Cornerback Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State is the pick.
Gilbert was the first cornerback taken in the actual draft and the second one here. Given his elite athleticism, it is easy to see why the Browns were enamored enough with him to move up one pick to snag him at No. 8.
The Rams would make great use of that athleticism across from Janoris Jenkins, and the pass defense would be all the better for it.
14. Chicago Bears
Original Pick: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Mulligan: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Bears narrowly missed out on Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald in the real draft. Their luck was no better this time around.
Chicago's original choice, cornerback Kyle Fuller, was also unavailable. So the best player available was the choice here.
Offensive tackle wasn't pegged as a big need for the Bears with all their defensive woes, but Chicago could use an upgrade on that offensive line. Specifically, offensive tackle needs improvement.
Incumbent right tackle Jordan Mills was the third-worst tackle in the entire league last season, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Sure, he was a rookie, but an upgrade would mean a sunk cost of a 2013 fifth-round pick—not exactly expensive.
Lewan could step in right away and shore up the position.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Original Pick: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Mulligan: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
The Pittsburgh Steelers were in dire need of help at linebacker, and Ryan Shazier fills that need nicely. This was one of the better picks in the first round, and there is little reason to go a different direction.
Shazier is a highly athletic linebacker capable of playing all of the linebacker positions. The Steelers could use him inside with a little seasoning, or they could have him rush the passer if it tickles their fancy.
Really, this was an excellent pick.
16. Dallas Cowboys
Original Pick: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
Mulligan: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Cowboys took a good offensive lineman in Zack Martin here in the draft, exercising some restraint in avoiding Johnny Manziel despite reportedly having him at the top of their draft board.
Martin is a nice player, but how much will he impact the team? Sure, Martin should slot in as a starting guard right away, but that wasn't the team's biggest need.
The Cowboys had a porous defense last season, and they could use plenty of help from the draft. The defensive line needed the most help, but all the top options were taken at this point.
Safety Calvin Pryor is that help in this do-over.
Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox were productive last season if you look at their volume statistics, but Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated them below average. Pryor would be a big upgrade.
Pryor was the first safety taken in the entire draft, going to Rex Ryan and the New York Jets. The big hitter got taken a couple of spots sooner here.
17. Baltimore Ravens
Original Pick: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Mulligan: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
There are a few different directions the Ravens could have taken in this re-draft, but C.J. Mosley was a great pick that needs not be changed. Mosley could team up with second-year linebacker Arthur Brown to become a fearsome tandem in the middle in Baltimore.
18. New York Jets
Original Pick: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Mulligan: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
No Calvin Pryor? No problem.
The last time the New York Jets took an offensive player int he first round was Mark Sanchez. Head coach Rex Ryan loves his defenders.
There are no qualms taking an offensive player here, though, and Odell Beckham Jr. was beckoning. The talented receiver out of LSU would be an excellent complement to newly minted Jet receiver Eric Decker.
19. Miami Dolphins
Original Pick: Ju'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
Mulligan: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
The Dolphins were originally stuck taking Tennessee offensive tackle Ju'Wuan James in this spot because of a massive need at right tackle.
James was a solid plug-and-play option, but Zack Martin is a versatile option capable of stepping in at right tackle or somewhere else on the line if needed.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Original Pick: Trade down
Mulligan: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Anthony Barr had fallen far enough here.
The talented linebacker out of UCLA went to the Tennessee Titans at No. 11, but circumstance and need had him tumbling down in this re-draft.
While the Arizona Cardinals didn't necessarily have a big need at outside linebacker, but John Abraham isn't getting any younger at 36. Barr would be a highly athletic addition that could stand to benefit from a little seasoning under the tutelage of someone like Abraham.
In the meantime, Barr would add a dangerous pass-rushing element to a strong defense when on the field.
21. Green Bay Packers
Original Pick: Hasean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Mulligan: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
The Green Bay Packers fell into one of the steals of the first round when Hasean Clinton-Dix out of Alabama fell all the way to No. 21 in the draft. There was no such luck this time around, but the Packers got a player capable of being just as good, if not better at the next level.
Jimmie Ward is a quality, versatile free safety who would be an immediate starter in Green Bay.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Original Pick: Trade down
Mulligan: Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
Louisville's Marcus Smith was a bit of a surprise first-rounder when the Eagles took him a few spots lower than this after trading down from here. Auburn's Dee Ford was available at this stage, but the Eagles chose the value of an additional draft pick.
Since the Eagles can't trade down, Ford is the pick here.
Philadelphia needed help at outside linebacker—hence the Smith pick—and Ford was the best option available at this stage.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
Original Pick: Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
Mulligan: Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
The Kansas City Chiefs needed offensive linemen and wide receivers in a bad way heading into the draft. Naturally, they took an edge rusher.
Not that a team can ever have too many edge rushers, but was Dee Ford the wisest pick?
Ju'Wuan James was gone at No. 23, making the decision to roll with Ford a little easier. But the Chiefs lost offensive tackle Branden Albert—not to mention guards Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz—to free agency, and James would be a nice plug-and-play tackle to fit in on the right side while last year's No. 1 pick, Eric Fisher, moves back to left tackle.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Original Pick: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Mulligan: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
We could have juggled the defensive backs taken in the back quarter of this re-draft, but that would have been an arbitrary exercise.
The Bengals needed to get younger and better at cornerback, and Darqueze Dennard is a nice pick out of Michigan State. He might not be an elite athlete, but he is a quality press corner that should fit right in with Cincinnati.
25. San Diego Chargers
Original Pick: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Mulligan: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
In the same vein as the previous pick, the Chargers needed to get better at cornerback and Jason Verrett was the best available in this exercise. There is no reason to change this pick.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis)
Original Pick: Trade up
Mulligan: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Alright, so the Browns couldn't get their quarterback like they did in the draft. Too many went in the top 10, unlike the real deal, and Cleveland can't move up to boot.
So cornerback Bradley Roby is the pick, replacing Justin Gilbert whom the Browns took at No. 8 on draft day. Roby is not the prospect Gilbert is, but he should be able to come in and start opposite Joe Haden and be productive.
You know, if this were real.
27. New Orleans Saints
Original Pick: Trade up
Mulligan: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Saints felt they had to move up to nab Brandin Cooks in the real draft. No such trade was needed (or allowed) here.
28. Carolina Panthers
Original Pick: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Mulligan: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
General manager David Gettleman and the Carolina Panthers made arguably the worst pick of the first round on draft day.
True, the Panthers needed help at wide receiver like a man stranded in the desert needs water, but receiver Kelvin Benjamin is a mirage.
That is not to say he will be a complete bust, but the 6'5", 240-pound receiver is a tight end masquerading as a receiver. Worse, he had concentration issues in college.
There were so many receivers to choose from here, but Jordan Matthews would have been the better pick. At 6'3" and 205 pounds, Matthews isn't not quite the hulking receiver Benjamin is, but he a more refined and athletic prospect.
29. New England Patriots
Original Pick: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Mulligan: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Defensive tackle was a big need for the New England Patriots heading into the draft, and Dominique Easley easily fills that need.
The only reason he didn't get drafted much higher was his ongoing recovery from a torn ACL, something from which he hopes to bounce back early enough to start in Week 1.
There was no real reason to change this pick.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Original Pick: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
Mulligan: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
Alas, the San Francisco 49ers were not as fortunate this time around as they were in the first round of the real draft.
San Francisco managed to snag safety Jimmie Ward out of Northern Illinois at No. 30, but he was gone much earlier than that in this do-over. That leaves the 49ers in a bit of a pickle, given there isn't a lot of value at positions of need at this point.
Deone Bucannon was their next-best choice at safety, and he has to be the pick here.
31. Denver Broncos
Original Pick: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Mulligan: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
With all the top cornerbacks gone, the Denver Broncos can turn their attention to a bigger need—offensive guard.
Zane Beadles is gone, and the Broncos didn't replace him in free agency. Granted, Orlando Franklin might be moving inside, but why not plug in an actual guard?
Xavier Su'a-Filo was the draft's best pure guard, an excellent fit for the Broncos had they taken him in the real thing. We'll send him to Denver here.
32. Seattle Seahawks
Original Pick: Trade down
Mulligan: Joel Bitonio, OL, Nevada
The Seahawks did well to maneuver their way down the draft and grab the guys they wanted to grab. The problem? Some of those picks seemed like big reaches. How else could head coach Pete Carroll have tipped his picks before he took them?
No matter. There are no moves down, and the Seahawks needed some help along that offensive line heading into the draft.
Joel Bitonio got some buzz as the draft process neared an end, ultimately getting drafted in the second round. He squeaked in here at No. 32, filling a need at guard nicely.