5 Top NFL Rookies Who Were Drafted by the Wrong Teams in 2014
When it comes to analyzing prospects for the NFL draft, it is very much an imperfect science. You can come up with analytics and metrics to try and differentiate players, but ultimately, once they get to the league, everything changes.
Every year, exceptional college football players end up on teams that will not allow them to be successful. Whether it’s a matter of personnel already on the roster, talent around them or coaching, problems arise that force players with unlimited potential down a path to mediocrity.
Taking an early look at 2014, there are eight players who stand out as great prospects who could be doomed because of where they were drafted. Nothing is certain of course, but with NFL players having such a short shelf life, if you can’t hit the ground running, your chances of success become low in a hurry.
When research started on this, the expectation was that finding poor fits would be a simple task. However, the contrary was true. It is a reflection of the depth of this draft and the work these teams put in that most front offices did a really good job in the early rounds of this draft.
All NFL draft data courtesy of NFL.com.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns
Perhaps the most fascinating story of the 2014 NFL draft belonged to that of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The former Aggie quarterback was probably the most polarizing player in the entire draft. His wild antics and reckless paying style made him a player you either loved or hated.
The Cleveland Browns didn’t love him enough to draft him with the No. 8 overall pick, but when he was still on the board at No. 22, they jumped at the chance. And for Cleveland the pick was smart. Like it or not, this is a league where you cannot win if you don’t have great quarterback play.
However, it is hard to picture Manziel becoming a great NFL quarterback in Cleveland, at least initially. If wide receiver Josh Gordon is suspended for a good chunk of the 2014 season, Manziel’s options in the passing game will be limited in his rookie year.
Even the Cleveland running game is questionable. They Browns put their fate in Ben Tate, a running back who has never rushed for 1,000 yards in a season. What all this adds up to is an arrogant young quarterback who is going to feel the need to press the issue.
With such limited talent around him, Manziel's going to force plays. In college, he would at times simply throw it up for grabs and rely on his big wide receiver Mike Evans to come down with the ball.
In Cleveland, will Manziel simply be throwing it up to tight end Cameron Jordan until Gordon returns? And when the inevitable happens—Gordon is suspended again—will Andrew Hawkins and Nate Burleson be enough to help the rookie signal-caller out?
It seems that anyone who thinks Manziel is going to come in and take the league by storm isn’t looking at the Cleveland roster very closely. 14 teams drafted a quarterback, and there are probably 10 or 11 of them that would have been better landing spots for Manziel.
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders
When talking about Fresno State’s David Carr, we must bring up the same arguments against his selection as we did with Manziel. Carr slipped to the second round, even though he might have the best tool belt of physical skills of any quarterback in the draft. When he was on the board at No. 36, the Oakland Raiders didn’t hesitate to scoop him up.
Coming out of college, the chief criticisms of Carr pertained to when he went off script. At Fresno State they used a spread-passing attack that utilized a lot of quick throws and the horizontal passing game. Getting through his progressions is something he needs to improve, and even though he can make all the throws, he doesn’t always execute the way his physical gifts suggest he should.
Nevertheless, fans of his (myself included) were looking forward to seeing him operate in the NFL. Carr has a rocket launcher for an arm and makes every throw like the game is on the line. He just needed to be in a system that gave him some weapons to throw to, and he’d be set.
However, what he got was a one-way trip to Oakland and their dreadful cast of skill position players. The only dependable target Carr is going to have is 30-year-old James Jones. However, Jones has never had more than 64 catches or 817 yards receiving in a single year.
Not to mention, the fans in Oakland are going to eat this poor kid alive if he struggles. With Matt Schaub on the roster there is going to be a quarterback controversy and all the nonsense that goes with it. All this happening on a team like Oakland is the absolute last thing a young quarterback needs.
Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Atlanta Falcons
Sometimes a player and a franchise can overthink a situation. This could be the case with former Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman and his second-round selection by the Atlanta Falcons.
In film study of Hageman, one thing that really stood out was that in certain roles, he was very good. However, in games where he was moved around a lot and asked to fill multiple roles, he struggled. In fact, some games he was almost nonexistent, due in part to him not ever getting into a rhythm on defense.
So, why is he a bad pick for the Falcons? Because they want to test Hageman's versatility. Atlanta runs a sort of hybrid 3-4 defense and is surely going to want to shuffle him up and down the line. While this makes sense, it is not going to help Hageman as a player.
The best for Hageman would have been for him to go to a 4-3 team that would allow him to dominate the defensive interior as a massive 3-technique.
Instead, Hageman is going to get shuffled around and never settle into a position where he can be at his best.
Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers
C’mon San Francisco, what are you doing? In 2013, the 49ers snatch up Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round and stashed him away for a year. They already have Frank Gore who shows no signs of slowing down. And in between you have Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James.
So why, with all these running backs do the 49ers feel the need to draft another in Ohio State's Carlos Hyde? Even if the 31-year-old Gore is on his way out, it seems that among the rest of the players on this depth chart, Hyde has a real shot to get caught up in the wash.
There are so many teams that Hyde could have ended up on where he’d have had a significant and immediate impact. Instead, he’s going to sit.
Does the drafting of Hyde mean the Lattimore experiment is over? If Lattimore is in fact still in the mix, then I see no way that Hyde gets any significant touches in this offense.
Anthony Barr, LB, Minnesota Vikings
Part of the job of analyzing prospects is determining what sorts of roles a player can fill in the NFL. This situation is exacerbated when a player is raw but athletic. UCLA defensive end Anthony Barr falls into that category. And it’s because of this that his selection by the Minnesota Vikings makes little sense.
Barr is a straight-line athlete. He can explode and close in a hurry. However, when forced to turn and move laterally, his lack of experience really shows. The Vikings are hoping to convert Barr from a pass-rush specialist to a true strong-side linebacker.
The problem is, that isn’t what Barr does best. The best situation for Barr would have been to go to a team that would use him as a Wide 9 defensive end, or even a 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker. Instead, Barr is going to struggle to operate in space the way Minnesota is going to want him to, and he could find himself lost.