With a strong 2014 draft class, the entire NFL is now more talented, but that doesn't mean every team will be better next season because of it.
For instance, there are teams like the Kansas City Chiefs who desperately needed to add a wide receiver if they wanted this draft to help them improve upon last season. They didn't draft a single one. Perhaps their class, which featured defensive end Dee Ford as their first-round selection, will provide the basis for future success, but it isn't going to do much to help the Chiefs next season.
Then there are teams like the 49ers. By all accounts, the 49ers nailed this draft, but San Francisco was one play away from reaching the Super Bowl last year. It may take things a step or two further this season, but it was far too good to say it guaranteed itself a better 2015.
We can say that about the following three teams.
|Raiders' 2014 Draft Class|
|2||36||Derek Carr||QB||Fresno State|
|3||81||Gabe Jackson||OG||Mississippi State|
|4||107||Justin Ellis||DT||Louisiana Tech|
|7||235||Shelby Harris||DE||Illinois St.|
|7||247||Jonathan Dowling||SS||Western Kentucky|
The Oakland Raiders went 4-12 last season featuring a bunch of unheralded players. The roster was not without talent, but it was thin and lacking playmakers.
The Raiders then made a ton of moves this offseason and brought in a host of aging and proven free agents such as Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, James Jones and Maurice Jones-Drew.
This more than replaced the value they lost in free agency with the departure of Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston.
Then in the draft, this team got the kind of playmaker it's been lacking when it drafted Khalil Mack. Mack will instantly boost the Raiders pass rush and give them lots of defensive flexibility.
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen was with the Denver Broncos when they drafted linebacker Von Miller, and as the San Francisco Chronicle's Vic Tafur reports, Allen sees similarities with Mack:
The Raiders spent their second-round pick on quarterback Derek Carr. Carr may or not play this season, as Oakland acquired veteran Matt Schaub to handle the starter's role, but any way you look at it, the Raiders will be improved at quarterback next year. Even if Schaub and Carr are disasters, the starter at the end of last season, Matt McGloin, is still on the roster and entering his second year.
Guard Gabe Jackson was selected in the third round and adds to a deep group of talent in the offensive trenches that will be far more effective than last year's group.
The Raiders will need a lot of their free-agent signings to find the Fountain of Youth to make the postseason, but this team should have little difficulty surpassing last year's win total.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|Buccaneers' 2014 Draft Class|
|1||7||Mike Evans||WR||Texas A&M|
|3||69||Charles Sims||RB||West Virginia|
|5||143||Kadeem Edwards||OG||Tennessee St.|
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also went 4-12 this past season and will pass that mark with ease this season. They all but assured that prior to the draft by bringing in new head coach Lovie Smith and being aggressive in free agency.
The Buccaneers did lose standout corner Darrelle Revis, but they brought in a solid replacement with Alterraun Verner. They also brought in defensive lineman Clinton McDonald and Michael Johnson to help plays never reach the corner position in the first place.
On top of this, Smith is a wonderful defensive coach. Tampa will be better on defense if for no other reason than Smith coaching them up.
Still, it is on offense where this team will be the most improved.
The Buccaneers brought in veteran quarterback Josh McCown and return last year's starter Mike Glennon, who had a decent rookie outing. McCown figures to be a big upgrade, especially now that he has weapons similar to what he had in Chicago last season where he flourished.
The Bucs already had the lengthy Vincent Jackson at one receiver position. They then added 6'5" Mike Evans with their first selection. The two will pair a formidable combo along the lines of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in Chicago.
With their second pick, they added another big target with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
I wouldn't be at all shocked to see the Buccaneers make a run to the postseason.
St. Louis Rams
|Rams' 2014 Draft Class|
|2||41||Lamarcus Joyner||CB||Florida State|
|4||110||Mo Alexander||SS||Utah State|
|7||226||Mitchell Van Dyk||OT||Portland St.|
|7||241||C.B. Bryant||FS||Ohio State|
|7||250||Demetrius Rhaney||C||Tennessee St.|
The St. Louis Rams will have a harder time improving from last season than our first two teams, as they went 7-9 last season. On top of that, they are in the NFL's toughest divison: the NFC West. Still, this team will improve.
The Rams were in the enviable position in this draft of having two picks in the first round. They grabbed offensive tackle Greg Robinson with the first pick. Robinson is an athletic specimen who needs polish in pass blocking. He may start off as a guard, but no matter where he is, he will improve the run game.
Along the lines of the running game, the Rams also selected back Tre Mason in the third round. Mason will be able to produce instant results behind a good Rams line.
It is the defense, however, that will really ensure this team improves. The Rams already had a tremendous defensive line. After they selected explosive Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald with their second pick in the first round, they gave themselves the best defensive line in the NFL.
The Twitter account for ESPN's Numbers Never Lie highlights the Rams' amazing pool of talent in the defensive trenches:
The Rams backed up their first-round selections with corner Lamarcus Joyner in the second round and safety Mo Alexander in the fourth round to ensure that in the off chance an opposing quarterback has time to get rid of the ball, he won't be able to find an open receiver.
The NFC West is stacked, but not talented enough to keep the Rams from being at least a .500 team.