2014 NFL Draft Picks: Grading the Best and Worst from Round 1 Results

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2014

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel poses for photos after being selected by the Cleveland Browns as the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Thursday, May 8, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Craig Ruttle/Associated Press

After all the drama in the extra time between the end of the NFL season and the first round of the draft, we ended up seeing three quarterbacks taken in the first round (although not necessarily in the order many anticipated). Jadeveon Clowney went No. 1 and enough cornerbacks came off the board to stop even the most creative spread offenses. 

Without further ado, let’s take a look at grades for each first-round pick and then dig into a bit more detail on a few of the best and worst selections:

2014 NFL Draft Round 1 Grades
1.TexansJadeveon ClowneyDE/OLBSouth CarolinaA: Draft's best player and will be beast with J.J. Watt
2.Rams (from WSH)Greg RobinsonOTAuburnA-: Upside a bit higher than other tackles because of athleticism
3.JaguarsBlake BortlesQBUCFC-: Could have traded down and gotten QB later
4.Bills*Sammy WatkinsWRClemsonA: Arguably draft's top play-maker, needed explosive option in passing game
5.RaidersKhalil MackOLBBuffaloA+: Needed a pass-rusher and got the best one
6.FalconsJake MatthewsOTTexas A&MA: Perhaps best-suited player to come in and start from first day
7.BuccaneersMike EvansWRTexas A&MA: Now have one-two punch at wide receiver. Look out
8.Browns*Justin GilbertCBOklahoma StateB-: Such a deep corner draft, could have gotten comparable one later
9.Vikings*Anthony BarrOLBUCLAB: Not Mack or Clowney, but solid pick
10.LionsEric EbronTENorth CarolinaC: Just too many other needs to pick a TE here, although very talented
11.TitansTaylor LewanOTMichiganC: Like Lions, had other needs that could have addressed
12.GiantsOdell Beckham Jr.WRLSUB: Possibly fastest receiver in draft, solid pick
13.RamsAaron DonaldDTPittsburghA: Good luck blocking this defensive line
14.BearsKyle FullerCBVirginia TechB+: Needed a corner, underrated versatility
15.SteelersRyan ShazierOLBOhio StateB: Fastest linebacker in draft, only question is whether he can handle middle linebacker in NFL for 10+ years
16.CowboysZack MartinOG/OTNotre DameB-: Probably could have used help in the secondary here
17.RavensC.J. MosleyILBAlabamaB: Nothing flashy, all production
18.JetsCalvin PryorFSLouisvilleA-: Needed help at the back end of the defense and got maybe best safety in draft
19.DolphinsJa'Wuan JamesOTTennesseeB-: Were more talented tackles in this draft but fills a pressing need
20.Saints*Brandin CooksWROregon StateB+: Will put up serious numbers in that offense
21.PackersHa'Sean Clinton-DixFSAlabamaA: Packers need serious help in secondary and he can start right away
22.Browns*Johnny ManzielQBTexas A&MA: How can you not love getting Johnny Manziel this late in the first round?
23.ChiefsDee FordDE/OLBAuburnC: Had some other needs, doesn't make as much sense as others would have here
24.BengalsDarqueze DennardCBMichigan StateA: Great value pick this late in the draft
25.ChargersJason VerrettCBTCUB+: Don't get caught up in the height discussions, a true playmaker
26.Eagles* (from IND)Marcus SmithDE/OLBLouisvilleB-: Need a pass-rusher, but weren't there better ones available still?
27.Cardinals*Deone BucannonSSWashington StateB: Not a lot of name recognition but solid football player
28.PanthersKelvin BenjaminWRFlorida StateB+: Needed a receiver in the worst possible way
29.PatriotsDominique EasleyDTFloridaB-: Lots of upside, but has to stay healthy
30.49ersJimmie WardSSNorthern IllinoisB-: Probably had more pressing needs than safety, but solid pick
31.BroncosBradley RobyCBOhio StateB+: Immediate need and serious upside and speed
32.VikingsTeddy BridgewaterQBLouisvilleA-: Needed a quarterback and got a top-15 talent at the end of the first round. Great value
Grades are all personal opinion

Best: QB Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns

Johnny Manziel mania has hit the shores of Lake Erie, and the Cleveland Browns will be much more exciting because of it.

The Browns are loaded with offensive weapons, with Josh Gordon at wide receiver, Jordan Cameron at tight end and Ben Tate at running back, and now they have a quarterback to spread the ball to all those guys. What’s more, Manziel is more than capable of moving the ball with his feet if nobody else gets open. 

There could even be a motivation factor in play, as Pro Football Talk points out:

Look for Manziel to win the starting job before the season after his playmaking abilities shine through in training camp and preseason games. He will infuse some enthusiasm to a fanbase that has struggled throughout some lean years recently in the process. 

Cleveland still won’t be good enough to make the playoffs in Manziel’s rookie year, but as long as he stays healthy and shows improvement, Browns fans will be pleased. They finally have a franchise quarterback.

Worst: QB Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars 

ESPN’s Skip Bayless certainly did not approve of the Jacksonville Jaguars taking Blake Bortles with the No. 3 pick:

The fact that the Browns and Minnesota Vikings scooped up comparable signal-callers at No. 22 and 32 respectively makes this pick look much worse in hindsight. The Jaguars could have traded down and still landed Bortles, or another quarterback, and picked up some valuable pieces along the way. 

We are talking about a squad that is still multiple players away on both sides of the ball from competing for a playoff spot. It could have taken care of more than just quarterback Thursday or even gotten Sammy Watkins from Clemson, especially since wide receiver Justin Blackmon’s future is cloudy at best after his latest substance-abuse issues.

Best: DT Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams

Good luck blocking this defensive line next season. 

ESPN Stats & Info points out just how dominant the St. Louis Rams were at rushing the passer a year ago, and that was before they added the best defensive tackle in the draft in Aaron Donald:

Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Donald is an intimidating trio along the defensive front, and Donald seems to have the right attitude about things, via CBS Pittsburgh: “It’s just the beginning. I still got a lot of work to do and a lot more time to put in.” 

With Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson in that division, the Rams are going to need to put serious pressure on the quarterbacks. That is exactly what they will do all season.

Worst: TE Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions 

Putting Eric Ebron on this list is not a knock on the tight end because he is one of the most gifted weapons in this draft. Rather, let Pete Prisco of CBS Sports explain why this wasn’t a great selection for the Detroit Lions: "This kid has a ton of talent, but is he really a need? They had other more pressing needs."

Detroit could have added a cornerback or wide receiver with this pick if it was looking to fill those pure needs. Considering how loaded the NFC North is at the wide receiver position, the Lions need all the help they can get in the secondary, and they simply missed on a number of potentially elite pass defenders. 

There were tons of corners taken in the first round. Detroit should have been one of the teams that took one.

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