Months of buildup led to a massive three days at the 2014 NFL draft, as every team came away with a haul that might change several franchises.
Predicting who those pivotal picks will be is a discussion for another day a few years down the road. But with each class now officially in the books, it's time to start analyzing each class before ever seeing the players on an NFL field.
Actually putting a grade on classes seems a bit trivial at this point, but there is plenty to analyze already. No one could have foreseen the 2012 Seattle Seahawks draft class thriving the way it did, but Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner have certainly made a statement at the NFL level.
Depending on the fanbase's opinion, there were several winners and losers. Teams like the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans put together brilliant classes while some others baffled with absurd decisions.
Before minicamps and other offseason workouts begin, here's a look at grades for each team's entire draft class.
|Arizona Cardinals||B+: Selection of Deone Bucannon was a reach, but Kareem Martin and John Brown should be great pros.|
|Atlanta Falcons||B: This was a good class for the Falcons with Jake Matthews at the top. Maybe Ra'Shede Hageman is the pass-rusher they were looking for, but they still missed on key edge-rusher.|
|Baltimore Ravens||B+: Solid draft with C.J. Mosley and Timmy Jernigan, but not too sure John Urschel can replace the loss of Michael Oher.|
|Buffalo Bills||A-: Bills trade up for an outstanding receiver and got another great lineman with Cyrus Kouandjio in second round.|
|Carolina Panthers||C: Draft evaluation below.|
|Chicago Bears||B-: Solid draft for the Bears, but I still believe Kyle Fuller was the third-best corner on the board. Ka'Deem Carey will make a great stablemate in the backfield.|
|Cincinnati Bengals||B+: The Bengals had a glaring need and waited until the third round to address it. But getting Darqueze Dennard late and pairing Jeremy Hill with Gio Bernard could be lethal.|
|Cleveland Browns||B: Still in love with the early selections, but we still have no answers about the loss of Josh Gordon. Maybe the Browns know something we don't?|
|Dallas Cowboys||A: Only two picks in the first three rounds, but each addressed needs perfectly for the Cowboys. With limited selections, Dallas made each one work.|
|Denver Broncos||B+: Continuing to build during a strong offseason, the Broncos now have Bradley Roby in a strong secondary and another weapon in Cody Latimer.|
|Detroit Lions||C: Love the pickup of Kyle Van Noy and Eric Ebron, but neither fills the glaring needs in the secondary. Oh, and that hole is still there.|
|Green Bay Packers||A-: A dream draft for Packers fans. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will start right away, and Davante Adams could take over the vacant No. 3 WR role left by James Jones.|
|Houston Texans||A+: Draft evaluation below.|
|Indianapolis Colts||C: With just five picks in the entire draft, the Colts had to fill needs right away. Jack Mewhort makes sense, and Donte Moncrief is a luxury pick.|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||A: Draft evaluation below.|
|Kansas City Chiefs||C: Two picks for the Chiefs and they don't fill a need in the first round. Phillip Gaines is helpful, but a WR or CB in first round makes this a better class.|
|Miami Dolphins||D+: First-round pick is a second- or third-round talent. Second pick is a great WR but on a team with depth at the position. Miami's draft isn't making sense.|
|Minnesota Vikings||B: Unlike the Jags, the Vikings regressed after a strong first round. Minnesota got two outstanding players to start, but both have high-risk tags.|
|New England Patriots||B: The Patriots are allowed to take risks because they have a great team. After taking Dominique Easley and Jimmy Garoppolo, both could be the future for the Pats.|
|New Orleans Saints||A-: Everyone gets what they want with this draft class. Drew Brees and Rob Ryan are happy, as are Saints fans.|
|New York Giants||B+: Filling needs all around, the Giants picked up a dynamic receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. They also get an O-lineman and D-lineman, two other glaring needs.|
|New York Jets||B: Solid class overall with playmakers added on both sides. Jace Amaro is a huge pickup, and Tajh Boyd's addition could make for an interesting future QB battle.|
|Oakland Raiders||A: I'm in love with this crop. After being active in free agency, the Raiders now have the best LB in Khalil Mack and their top QB in Derek Carr.|
|Philadelphia Eagles||B-: If at first you don't succeed ... The Eagles addressed the loss of DeSean Jackson with two WRs on Day 2 after a swing-and-miss in the opening round.|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||C+: Ryan Shazier still doesn't make any sense to me in the opening round, and neither does Dri Archer in the third. Stephon Tuitt is the only player saving this crop.|
|San Diego Chargers||B+: The Chargers had needs and immediately filled them with Jason Verrett and Jeremy Attaochu. Philip Rivers also appreciates the third-round selection.|
|San Francisco 49ers||A-: The 49ers had myriad picks and got most of them absolutely correct. Carlos Hyde was a great pickup with Frank Gore having tread on the tires.|
|Seattle Seahawks||B: The Seattle Seahawks always baffle with their selections, but they usually get them right. Filled needs with unheralded players that will somehow materialize.|
|St. Louis Rams||A-: First-rounders were impressive, and Tre Mason alongside Zac Stacy makes the running game lethal. The historic pick of Michael Sam will pay off on the football front as well.|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||B+: For a defensive coach in Lovie Smith, he sure has gone crazy on offense. Mike Evans will be great alongside Vincent Jackson for whoever starts behind center.|
|Tennessee Titans||A: The Titans knew what they wanted and went after it. Taylor Lewan and Bishop Sankey give the team two outstanding young offensive players.|
|Washington Redskins||B: Without a first-round pick, the Redskins still came away with a great crop, highlighted by fringe first-rounders Trent Murphy and Morgan Moses.|
Houston Texans: A+
Simply put, this was a brilliant class for Bill O'Brien's first season with the Houston Texans.
Only time will tell, but it sure smacks A+. Based on how this rookie class was forecast, Houston snagged the best player (Jadeveon Clowney), best guard (Xavier Su'a-Filo), best nose tackle (Louis Nix) and maybe even the best developmental pocket passer (Tom Savage), who could blossom under the watch of quarterback whisperer Bill O'Brien. This team is taking shape as a far more physical outfit under O'Brien, especially on offense.
Which team had the best draft class?
Just envision this: Andrew Luck breaks from the line on a five-step drop, scans to his left to see Clowney, looks right with J.J. Watt's gigantic paws in his face and gets brought to the ground by Louis Nix.
It's a terrifying thought, but one that is now all too real for AFC South signal-callers.
If Tom Savage can develop under O'Brien, not taking Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel at No. 1 will look even more brilliant. The man turned Matt McGloin from a walk-on into a winner at Penn State, so anything is possible.
With a cast that already includes Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and Nuke Hopkins on offense, Savage has all the firepower around him to get the job done. Now it's just time to take the reins and win—something the Texans only did twice in 2013.
Jacksonville Jaguars: A
Never judge a book by its cover.
If the first night of the draft was the cover for the Jacksonville Jaguars, it looked horrendous. Taking Bortles at No. 3 overall with zero offensive weapons around him seemed like the team was setting up the UCF quarterback to fail.
Then came the second round, where the Jaguars took receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. Both were projected in the first round earlier in the draft process but fell to the Jags on the second day.
Not only do the two wideouts have a wealth of talent, but they also fit their new quarterback's style of play perfectly. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com points to Bortles' time at UCF to explain the two perfect picks:
Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson are both great after the catch…Blake Bortles threw a million bubble screens at UCF, we'll see more of that— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) May 10, 2014
Throw in the receiving talents of Cecil Shorts, and this receiving group looks lethal from Week 1. While Maurice Jones-Drew might not be in Jacksonville anymore, grabbing UCF running back Storm Johnson gives Bortles familiarity in the backfield.
Still unsure about the defense, but this offense will be one to watch in the AFC South. Good luck against that aforementioned defensive line in Houston, though.
Carolina Panthers: C
Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman had one job—OK, maybe two—and he missed out completely.
In a loaded offensive line class, the Panthers didn't take one lineman. The franchise also took just one wide receiver in the first round.
This is a team without Jordan Gross following his retirement, no Steve Smith or Brandon LaFell. I'm not sold on Kelvin Benjamin, and while his home run potential might pay off, it certainly doesn't make up for the lack of depth at the position.
Gettleman spoke about his reasoning behind the Benjamin selection, per Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel:
Size. You can’t coach 6-5, 240, 34-inch arms and 10-inch hands. You can’t coach it, I’ve tried. It doesn’t work.
He has a lot of upside and he gives us a legitimate chance to have a number one [receiver]. One of the things he’ll definitely do for us is he is a red-zone threat right now and other teams will not be able to have eight guys in the box.
Carolina did pick up an offensive guard in Trai Turner, but befuddled nearly every analyst with its decision to take Kony Ealy. The luxury pick could be a safety blanket if Greg Hardy walks after this season, but he doesn't play offensive tackle—so there's that.
Passing on corners in later rounds might also hurt in the future, but this is still a talented team that can contend. So maybe Gettleman is aloud to take some risks every once in a while.
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