Before we look ahead to training camp and the preseason, let's look back at the 2014 NFL draft one last time and evaluate how it affected what's to come.
So much of grading a draft comes down to judging the opportunities an organization has as well as the players it gets.
By virtue of gaining Jadeveon Clowney, the Houston Texans are obviously one of the most improved teams in the league, but it doesn't take all that much drafting skill to take a freak-of-nature edge-rusher with the first overall pick.
Rather, we're here to praise the teams that made efficient use of their picks to land effective players at any given point, on Thursday as well as on Saturday. So let's highlight some teams that landed useful players with later selections.
|Arizona Cardinals||SS Deone Bucannon (27), TE Troy Niklas (52), DE Kareem Martin (84), WR John Brown (91), QB Logan Thomas (120), DE Ed Stinson (160), WR Walt Powell (196)||B-|
|Atlanta Falcons||OT Jake Matthews (6), DL Ra'Shede Hageman (37), S Dez Southward (68), RB Devonta Freeman (103), LB Prince Shembo (139), CB Ricardo Allen (147), LB Marquis Spruill (168), LB Yawin Smallwood (253), LB Tyler Starr (255)||B+|
|Baltimore Ravens||ILB C.J. Mosley (17), DT Tim Jernigan (48), S Terrence Brooks (79), TE Crockett Gilmore (99), DT Brent Urban (134), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (138), G John Urschel (175), QB Keith Wenning (194), WR Michael Campanaro (218)||A-|
|Buffalo Bills||WR Sammy Watkins (4), OT Cyrus Kouandjio (44), LB Preston Brown (73), CB Ross Cockrell (109), G Cyril Richardson (153), LB Randell Johnson (221), T Seantrel Henderson (237)||C|
|Carolina Panthers||WR Kelvin Benjamin (28), DL Kony Ealy (60), G Trai Turner (92), S Tre Boston (128), CB Bene Benwikere (148), RB Tyler Gaffney (204)||B-|
|Chicago Bears||CB Kyle Fuller (14), DT Ego Ferguson (51), DT Will Sutton (82), RB Ka'Deem Carey (117), S Brock Vereen (131), QB David Fales (183), P Pat O'Donnell (191), T Charles Leno (246)||B+|
|Cincinnati Bengals||CB Darqueze Dennard (24), RB Jeremy Hill (55), DE William Clarke (88), C Russell Bodine (111), QB A.J. McCarron (164), LB Marquis Flowers (212), WR James Wright (239), CB Lavelle Westbrooks (252)||B-|
|Cleveland Browns||CB Justin Gilbert (8), QB Johnny Manziel (22), OL Joel Bitonio (35), LB Charles Kirksey (71), RB Terrance West (94), CB Pierre Desir (127)||B|
|Dallas Cowboys||OT Zack Martin (16), DE Demarcus Lawrence (34), LB Anthony Hitchens (119), WR Devin Street (146), DE Ben Gardner (231), LB Will Smith (238), S Ahmad Dixon (248), DT Ken Bishop (251), CB Terrance Mitchell (254)||B-|
|Denver Broncos||CB Bradley Roby (31), WR Cody Latimer (56), T Michael Schofield (95), LB Lamin Barrow (156), C Matt Paradis (207), LB Corey Nelson (242)||C+|
|Detroit Lions||TE Eric Ebron (10), OLB Kyle Van Noy (40), C Travis Swanson (76), CB Nevin Lawson (133), DE Larry Webster (136), DT Caraun Reid (158), WR T.J. Jones (189), K Nate Freese (229)||B-|
|Green Bay Packers||FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21), WR Davante Adams (53), DT Khyri Thornton (85), TE Richard Rogers (98), LB Carl Bradford (121), C Corey Lindsey (161), WR Jared Abbrederis (176), CB Demetri Goodson (197), WR Jeff Janis (236)||B|
|Houston Texans||DE Jadeveon Clowney (1), OG Xavier Su'a-Filo (33), TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (65), DT Louis Nix (83), QB Tom Savage (135), DE Jeoffrey Pagan (177), RB Alfred Blue (181), RB Jay Prosch (211), CB Dre Hal (216), S Lonnie Ballentine (256)||B+|
|Indianapolis Colts||OL Jack Mewhort (59), WR Donte Moncrief (90), DE Jonathan Newsome (166), LB Andrew Jackson (203), T Ulrick John (232)||C|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||QB Blake Bortles (3), WR Marqise Lee (39), WR Allen Robinson (61), G Brandon Linder (93), CB Aaron Colvin (114), LB Telvin Smith (144), DE Chris Smith (159), C Luke Bowanko (205), RB Storm Johnson (222)||A|
|Kansas City Chiefs||DE Dee Ford (23), CB Phillip Gaines (87), RB De'Anthony Thomas (124), QB Aaron Murray (163), G Zach Fulton (193), T Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (200)||C|
|Miami Dolphins||OT Ja'Wuan James (19), WR Jarvis Landry (63), T Billy Turner (67), CB Walt Aikens (125), TE Arthur Lynch (155), LB Jordie Tripp (171), WR Matt Hazel (190), DE Terrance Fede (234)||C+|
|Minnesota Vikings||OLB Anthony Barr (9), QB Teddy Bridgewater (32), DE Scott Crichton (72), RB Jerick McKinnon (96), G David Yankey (145), CB Antone Exum (182), CB Kendall James (184), DT Shamar Stephen (220), LB Brandon Watts (223), CB Jabari Price (225)||A|
|New England Patriots||DT Dominique Easley (29), QB Jimmy Garoppolo (62), C Bryan Stork (105), RB James White (130), T Cameron Fleming (140), G Jon Halapio (179), DE Zach Moore (198), S Jemea Thomas (206), WR Jeremy Gallon (244)||C|
|New Orleans Saints||WR Brandin Cooks (20), CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (58), LB Khairi Fortt (126), S Vinnie Sunseri (167), LB Ronald Powell (169), T Tavon Rooks (202)||B|
|New York Giants||WR Odell Beckham (12), C Weston Richburg (43), DT Jay Bromley (74), RB Andre Williams (113), S Nat Berhe (152), LB Devon Kennard (174), CB Bennett Jackson (187)||B|
|New York Jets||FS Calvin Pryor (18), TE Jace Amaro (49), CB Dex McDougle (80), WR Jalen Saunders (104), WR Shaq Evans (115), T Dakota Dozier (137), LB Jeremiah George (154), CB Brandon Dixon (195), WR Quincy Enunwa (209), DE IK Enemkpali (210), QB Tajh Boyd (213), LB Trevor Reilly (233)||B-|
|Oakland Raiders||OLB Khalil Mack (5), QB Derek Carr (36), OG Gabe Jackson (81), DT Justin Ellis (107), CB Keith McGill (116), CB T.J. Carrie (219), DE Shelby Harris (235), S Jonathan Dowling (247)||B+|
|Philadelphia Eagles||DE Marcus Smith (26), WR Jordan Matthews (42), WR Josh Huff (86), CB Jaylen Watkins (101), DE Taylor Hart (141), S Ed Reynolds (162), DT Beau Allen (224)||C+|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||OLB Ryan Shazier (15), DL Stephon Tuitt (46), WR Dri Archer (97), WR Martavis Bryant (118), CB Shaquille Richardson (157), C Wesley Johnson (173), LB Jordan Zumwait (192), DT Dan McCullers (215), TE Rob Blanchflower (230)||B-|
|San Diego Chargers||CB Jason Verrett (25), OLB Jeremy Attaochu (50), G Chris Watt (89), DT Ryan Carrethers (165), RB Marlon Grice (201), WR Tevin Reese (240)||B|
|San Francisco 49ers||SS Jimmie Ward (30), RB Carlos Hyde (57), OG Marcus Martin (70), ILB Chris Borland (77), G Brandon Thomas (100), WR Bruce Ellington (106), CB Dontae Johnson (129), DE Aaron Lynch (150), CB Keith Reaser (170), CB Kenneth Acker (180), DT Kaleb Ramsey (243), FB Trey Millard (245)||B+|
|Seattle Seahawks||WR Paul Richardson (45), OL Justin Britt (64), DE Cassius Marsh (108), WR Kevin Norwood (123), LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (132), DT Jimmy Staten (172), T Garrett Scott (199), S Eric Pinkins (208), FB Kiero Smal (227)||B-|
|St. Louis Rams||OT Greg Robinson (2), DT Aaron Donald (13), CB Lamarcus Joyner (41), RB Tre Mason (75), S Maurice Alexander (110), CB E.J. Gaines (188), QB Garrett Gilbert (214), T Mitchell Van Dyk (226), S C.B. Bryant (241), DE Michael Sam (249), C Demetrius Rhaney (250)||A|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||WR Mike Evans (7), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (38), RB Charles Sims (69), G Kadeem Edwards (143), T Kevin Pamphile (149), WR Robert Herron (185)||B+|
|Tennessee Titans||OT Taylor Lewan (11), RB Bishop Sankey (54), DT DaQuan Jones (112), CB Marqueston Huff (122), LB Avery Williamson (151), QB Zach Mettenberger (178)||B-|
NFL.com/Josh Cohen's grades
A brief note on the right teams taking the right players.
Kelvin Benjamin has physical gifts for days, but he wouldn't have fit with every team. He works in very specific circumstances: He's not polished enough to work with a middling quarterback (or worse), nor would he be productive as a guy midway down the depth chart. Benjamin's explosive talent needs to be on the outside every down, working on corners until he breaks through.
Kelvin Benjamin is an absolute specimen. Standing next to him in locker room after BCS game, he's huge. Unfair cover for small DB.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) May 9, 2014
Kony Ealy would have been a nice find for any team picking 60th; Carolina just happened to be the organization that pulled the trigger. Ealy is a developing talent who was once considered a potential top-15 pick, so to let him learn with the ferocious Panthers defensive line works perfectly for both parties.
Tack on Trai Turner, who has the potential to develop into a stalwart guard, and Tre Boston and Bene Benwikere to bolster the secondary, and Carolina set itself up well to stay successful.
In a gross departure from historical reputation, the Bears got gashed on the ground last season, ceding a league-worst 5.3 yards per carry. Shoring up the middle of the defense had to be a priority, and credit Chicago for effectively addressing it without using its first-rounder.
Chicago used both its second- and third-round picks on defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton, respectively.
Ferguson is a 303-pound mauler who has the footwork to get the right angles on interior linemen and push them back, while Sutton is an undersized but explosive tackle—a la former Bear Henry Melton—who can swim and rip around blockers and get into the backfield.
I watched a bunch of 2012 Will Sutton highlights today, so I'm gonna think the Bears' draft is an unequivocal success until further notice.— Robert Mays (@realrobertmays) May 12, 2014
The Bears will appreciate Ferguson's and Sutton's skill sets for two reasons. Not only will they go a long way to shoring up the run defense, but landing them in middle rounds allowed Chicago to inject youth into an aging secondary with Kyle Fuller in the first and athletic safety Brock Vereen in the fourth, both of whom can make immediate impacts as well.
Clowney might not have been a hard choice, but the Texans kept making opportune picks thereafter.
Also doing great work on Day 2, Houston picked up Xavier Su'a-Filo in the second round and Louis Nix III in the third, bolstering the interior on the offensive line and strengthening an already terrifying line on the other side of the ball.
Louis Nix can be used like Casey Hampton--get deep penetration and make RB cut back to a hungry Watt and Clowney. Good stuff.— Seth Payne (@PayneNFL) May 11, 2014
Yes, Houston had loads of issues with the quarterback position last season, but there is a lot of sense in a 2-14 team rebuilding from the lines out, especially when the linemen are the most talented and NFL-ready players available.
So also credit the Texans for picking Tom Savage in the fourth. He's got prototypical size and a shot at developing into a solid NFL QB. If he doesn't, Houston would come away with little loss for its risk; if he does, he'll have a staunch group of teammates in place to support him.