The 2014 NFL draft lived up to the hype. The league deserves a lot of credit for turning a pretty mundane process into terrific theater on a yearly basis. It gets a lot of help from promising prospects like Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel, who helped drive interest this year.
Ultimately, each team will look back in two or three years and decide exactly how successful their draft class turned out. It will then use the information from its hits and misses to help mold its strategy moving forward. But fans don't want to wait three years for a review.
So let's check out final grades for every franchise based on what we know now. As always, some teams seemed to take far better advantage of the seven rounds than others. Whether the prospects they put their faith in will end up reaching their potential is now the biggest question.
2014 NFL Draft Grades
|Arizona Cardinals||SS Deone Bucannon (27), TE Troy Niklas (52)||B-|
|Atlanta Falcons||OT Jake Matthews (6), DL Ra'Shede Hageman (37)||B+|
|Baltimore Ravens||ILB C.J. Mosley (17), DT Tim Jernigan (48)||B+|
|Buffalo Bills||WR Sammy Watkins (4), OT Cyrus Kouandjio (44)||C+|
|Carolina Panthers||WR Kelvin Benjamin (28), DL Kony Ealy (60)||B-|
|Chicago Bears||CB Kyle Fuller (14), DT Ego Ferguson (51)||C+|
|Cincinnati Bengals||CB Darqueze Dennard (24), RB Jeremy Hill (55)||C|
|Cleveland Browns||CB Justin Gilbert (8), QB Johnny Manziel (22), OL Joel Bitonio (35)||A|
|Dallas Cowboys||OT Zack Martin (16), DE Demarcus Lawrence (34)||B|
|Denver Broncos||CB Bradley Roby (31), WR Cody Latimer (56)||B-|
|Detroit Lions||TE Eric Ebron (10), OLB Kyle Van Noy (40)||B|
|Green Bay Packers||FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21), WR Davante Adams (53)||C+|
|Houston Texans||DE Jadeveon Clowney (1), OG Xavier Su'a-Filo (33), TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (65), DT Louis Nix III (83)||A|
|Indianapolis Colts||OL Jack Mewhort (59), WR Donte Moncrief (90)||C-|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||QB Blake Bortles (3), WR Marqise Lee (39), WR Allen Robinson (61)||A-|
|Kansas City Chiefs||DE Dee Ford (23), CB Phillip Gaines (87)||D+|
|Miami Dolphins||OT Ja'Wuan James (19), WR Jarvis Landry (63)||C-|
|Minnesota Vikings||OLB Anthony Barr (9), QB Teddy Bridgewater (32), DE Scott Crichton (72)||B|
|New England Patriots||DT Dominique Easley (29), QB Jimmy Garoppolo (62)||C+|
|New Orleans Saints||WR Brandin Cooks (20), CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (58)||B+|
|New York Giants||WR Odell Beckham Jr. (12), C Weston Richburg (43)||B-|
|New York Jets||FS Calvin Pryor (18), TE Jace Amaro (49)||B|
|Oakland Raiders||OLB Khalil Mack (5), QB Derek Carr (36), OG Gabe Jackson (81)||A-|
|Philadelphia Eagles||DE Marcus Smith (26), WR Jordan Matthews (42)||D|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||OLB Ryan Shazier (15), DL Stephon Tuitt (46)||B+|
|San Diego Chargers||CB Jason Verrett (25), OLB Jeremy Attaochu (50)||B|
|San Francisco 49ers||SS Jimmie Ward (30), RB Carlos Hyde (57), OG Marcus Martin (70), ILB Chris Borland (77)||A-|
|Seattle Seahawks||WR Paul Richardson (45), OL Justin Britt (64)||C|
|St. Louis Rams||OT Greg Robinson (2), DT Aaron Donald (13), CB Lamarcus Joyner (41), RB Tre Mason (75)||A|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||WR Mike Evans (7), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (38)||B+|
|Tennessee Titans||OT Taylor Lewan (11), RB Bishop Sankey (54)||C+|
|Washington Redskins||LB Trent Murphy (47), OT Morgan Moses (66)||B-|
Picks via NFL.com
For a full list of results, check out NFL.com's Draft Tracker.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams owned two picks inside the top 13, giving them a golden opportunity to create a very strong foundation for their class. They did exactly that by selecting Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald to fortify their play in the trenches.
Which team was the draft's biggest winner?
While those type of selections don't jump off the page, they are essential to success. St. Louis has come to understand that while facing the Seattle Seahawks twice per season. The reigning champions' ability to dominate up front is one of the main reasons they have been so successful.
From there, the Rams did a very nice job of plugging holes. Lamarcus Joyner is capable of stepping right in at free safety. Tre Mason can serve as a solid backup option for running back Zac Stacy. And E.J. Gaines will provided very solid value in the secondary for a sixth-round pick.
Of course, St. Louis also garnered a lot of attention for selecting Missouri linebacker Michael Sam. While most of the focus was on his personal story, the pick itself has a lot of upside. He's a "tweener," but it's hard to argue against the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the seventh round.
It's hard to find many flaws with how the Texans handled the draft process. They did a great job of keeping their plans under wraps. The front office knew it could demand a king's ransom if a team was desperate to move up and if not, they would get the best player available.
The latter scenario played out and they landed Jadeveon Clowney. Yes, there are questions about his play-to-play intensity. But his combination of size, strength and athleticism give him the potential to become the most impactful defender in the league.
Deepi Sidhu of the team's official site passed along comments from the No. 1 pick, who said he's ready to team up with J.J. Watt:
I just got off the phone with him (Watt). He says he's going to stay on my butt when I get there.
He told me he's going to give me every piece of knowledge to help me improve my game. He's going to show me like a mentor or big brother to me and I told him I appreciate that and I'm looking forward to working with him.
Houston's draft hits didn't stop there. They added perhaps the best true guard in Xavier Su'a-Filo, a tight end upgrade in C.J. Fiedorowicz, great mid-round value in defensive tackle Louis Nix III and a potential quarterback of the future in Tom Savage.
The Texans accomplished all of that before the end of the fourth round. Of their remaining pick, running back Alfred Blue as somebody who can make a quick impact, especially if Arian Foster doesn't get back to full strength as quickly as expected.
Cleveland might have the most varied draft grades of any team. That's because the entire class leans heavily on the success of Johnny Manziel, and it's impossible to get a general consensus of exactly how successful he'll be at the next level.
He was the second pick of the opening round by the Browns. They also grabbed Justin Gilbert, the draft's top corner, who will benefit from the spotlight shifting to Manziel. The Texas A&M quarterback is going to get his chance sooner rather than later, even if he's not the Week 1 starter.
Above all else, he should bring a new dimension to the Cleveland offense, as ESPN Stats and Info notes:
Johnny Manziel rushed for more yards in 2 college seasons (2,169) than all of Cleveland's QBs combined since 2001 (1,796).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 9, 2014
If Manziel doesn't work out, the class won't be able to retain it's top-tier status. That said, the Browns did add some other nice pieces in Nevada offensive tackle Joel Bitonio and Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey. There are more questions about running back Terrance West and corner Pierre Desir after facing lesser college competition, but they were standouts nonetheless.
Then there's the factor of adding another first-round pick for next season in their trade with the Buffalo Bills. If EJ Manuel doesn't take a major step forward in Buffalo and Cleveland endures one more transition year, the Browns could end up with two top-10 picks, and that's a factor in the high mark.