If the college prospects that were selected in the 2014 NFL draft thought the grading was done when they left school for the greener pastures of the professional ranks, they were mistaken.
While these grades may not carry as much weight as one of those final term papers that were due the Friday before a big game, it is still worth handing them out. After all, how are we supposed to know who had the best and worst classes without attaching letter grades to them, which are sure to change in the coming years?
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a couple of the best and worst classes from the 2014 NFL draft.
Baltimore Ravens: A
Anytime you can land two bona-fide collegiate superstars with first-round talent, it is a solid start to the draft.
The Baltimore Ravens did just that with linebacker C.J. Mosley of Alabama and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan of Florida State. Mosley has to stay healthy and Jernigan needs to improve his conditioning from what we saw in the national title game against Auburn, but both have the talent in place to start right away for the Ravens.
Speaking of Florida State defenders who could find themselves in the starting lineup as a rookie, Baltimore also added safety Terrence Brooks. Brooks is one of the best safeties in the entire draft class when it comes to helping out in run defense, and he has the athleticism to keep up with some of the league’s quicker tight ends.
Throw in underrated tight end Crockett Gillmore from Colorado State, and there is a lot of value in this draft for Baltimore.
Carolina Panthers: A-
The Carolina Panthers don’t get a complete A because they need serious help at the wide receiver position and only added one in this loaded draft, but it was still an impressive class.
That one receiver was Kelvin Benjamin from Florida State, and general manager Dave Gettleman discussed that selection, according to the Associated Press, via USA Today: "You can't coach 6-foot-5, 240. We feel really, really good about this pick."
While Benjamin is the headliner of Carolina’s class, the steals of the group were Missouri defensive lineman Kony Ealy and LSU guard Trai Turner.
Ealy has first-round talent, but the Panthers were able to snag him late in the second round, and Turner is a physical specimen who uses his power to clear out space for the running game. Ideally, Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney, who Carolina also grabbed late in the draft, will be one of the ball-carriers hitting those holes Turner creates.
From a production standpoint, Gaffney was one of the best running backs available in the entire draft (1,709 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns last year).
Tennessee Titans: C-
Let’s just say Vegas didn’t love the Tennessee Titans’ 2014 draft, as Clay Travis of Fox Sports points out:
Taylor Lewan is certainly a talented offensive lineman, but considering the Titans had other needs and Lewan has already had a run-in with the law (and has been known to be something of dirty player), they could have gone a different direction.
Other than Lewan, it’s hard to envision anyone from Tennessee’s draft eventually cracking the starting lineup.
Bishop Sankey was a great college running back at Washington but brings a slight frame to the table, and Zach Mettenberger fell all the way to Round 6 thanks to injury concerns.
Perhaps the biggest mark against Tennessee is the fact that it failed to add an outside linebacker or defensive end who can help the questionable pass rush. The Titans will have serious trouble dealing with Andrew Luck twice a year, among others, if they allow him to simply stand in the pocket all day to throw the ball.
Tennessee failed to land an answer to its biggest question. That is not a winning formula for any draft.
Philadelphia Eagles: C
One of the more confusing moments in the first round came when the Philadelphia Eagles selected Marcus Smith from Louisville. Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated discussed as much: "Chip Kelly’s second NFL draft provided its share of surprises, with Louisville end Marcus Smith going in the first round. You’d be hard-pressed to find any analyst who had that kind of grade on Smith — or anywhere close — so that’s one of those “wait and see” picks."
While Smith was a reach at best, you won’t get any criticism of the Jordan Matthews selection. Matthews was the most productive wide receiver in the storied history of the SEC and was overshadowed by pass-catchers in this draft with much lesser resumes.
After Matthews, picks like Josh Huff and Taylor Hart were quite risky and might not pan out.
Ultimately, the success or failure of this class will hinge on the career of Smith. Any time teams take a player in the first round who nobody expected to go off the board that early, immediate criticism is sure to follow if it doesn’t work out.
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