2014 NFL Draft Recap & Grades

Before getting into my draft grades, I want to thank everyone who has visited Ringside to Sideline and read my posts leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft. I really enjoyed building and sharing my mock drafts in this forum and appreciate the support. It’s taken me a little bit of time and effort to compile my draft recap and draft grades, but I’m pleased to share my impressions and takeaways of what each team did over the course of three days and seven rounds of one of the most exciting, intriguing drafts the NFL has ever had.

My draft recap is organized by division, with each team’s selections listed in their draft order, followed by their grade and my commentary on their draft. Draft grades are based on my perception of the team’s needs, how they addressed them, the quality of the players selected, their draft position relative to perceived value, and my projection of what the draft does for the team moving forward.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills
1-4 [from Browns]: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
2-12 (44) [from Rams]: Cyrus Kouandjio, T, Alabama
3-9 (73): Preston Brown, LB, Louisville
4-9 (109): Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
5-13 (153) [from Rams]: Cyril Richardson, G, Baylor
7-6 (221) [from Buccaneers]: Randell Johnson, LB, Florida Atlantic
7-22 (237) [from Eagles]: Seantrel Henderson, T, Miami

GRADE: C
The Bills were aggressive in moving up to land arguably the top playmaker available in receiver Sammy Watkins, but trading away next year’s first-round pick is a calculated risk typically associated with a team that’s only a player or two away from competing for a championship. The Bills haven’t made the playoffs since 1999. I’m of the mind that Buffalo should have stayed put or traded back, and targeted one of the top safeties instead. Cyrus Kouandjio and Cyril Richardson slid because of durability concerns and inconsistency, respectively, but I like the two big offensive linemen to help Buffalo in the trenches and the value of where they were selected. Preston Brown and Ross Cockrell provide quality depth and down-the-road starter potential. All in all, a solid draft, but questionable decisions in trading up for Watkins and leaving the safety position completely unaddressed.

Miami Dolphins
1-19: Ja’Waun James, T, Tennessee
2-31 (63) [from Broncos through 49ers]: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
3-3 (67) [from Raiders]: Billy Turner, T, North Dakota State
4-25 (125) [from Chargers]: Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty
5-15 (155): Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia
5-31 (171) [Broncos through 49ers]: Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana
6-14 (190): Matt Hazel, WR, Coastal Carolina
7-19 (234): Terrence Fede, DE, Marist

GRADE: C–
The Dolphins came into the draft with a lot of holes to fill, and while they did a decent job of addressing positions of need, I don’t think they got the best value with their selections, starting with tackle Ja’Waun James, who I think they took a little high in the first round. You can’t blame Miami for taking the player they covet there, but exploring the opportunity to trade back should have been a possibility with several other quality offensive linemen still on the board. Jarvis Landry and Billy Turner, again solid choices, but Miami probably reached slightly on both. I like the selection of Jordan Tripp in the fifth round to strengthen their linebacking corps, but they could have also afforded to find help on the interior defensive line and at the safety position.

New England Patriots
1-29: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
2-30 (62): Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
4-5 (105) [from Jaguars]: Bryan Stork, C, Florida State
4-30 (130): James White, RB, Wisconsin
4-40 (140c): Cameron Fleming, T, Stanford
6-3 (179) [from Jaguars]: Jon Halapio, G, Florida
6-22 (198) [from Eagles]: Zach Moore, DE, Concordia
6-30 (206): Jemea Thomas, CB, Georgia Tech
7-29 (244): Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan

GRADE: C+
The Patriots had a solid, if unspectacular draft. I like what they did early and late, but I don’t know that they did enough overall to help their team right away. The durability of Dominique Easley will go a long way in determining whether they did so defensively. It was a bit of a gamble for New England to take him late in the first round, but f he can stay healthy, he can be a disruptive force on the defensive line and could prove to be one of the steals in this draft. I love the selection of Jimmy Garoppolo as the latest heir-apparent at quarterback. Zach Moore and Jemea Thomas could be sleeper picks to improve their pass rush and coverage. Day-three selections Bryan Stork, Cameron Fleming and Jon Halapio add depth to their offensive line, but I would have leaned more towards front-seven defensive help and weapons in the passing game there.

New York Jets
1-18: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
2-17 (49): Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
3-16 (80): Dexter McDougle, CB, Maryland
4-4 (104) [from Buccaneers]: Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma
4-15 (115): Shaq Evans, WR, UCLA
4-37 (137c): Dakota Dozier, G, Furman
5-14 (154): Jeremiah George, LB, Iowa State
6-19 (195): Brandon Dixon, CB, Northwest Missouri State
6-33 (209c): Quincy Enunwa, WR, Nebraska
6-34 (210c): IK Enemkpali, DE, Louisiana Tech
6-37 (213c): Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
7-18 (233): Trevor Reilly, LB, Utah

GRADE: C+
The Jets had a lot of ammo to play with, but I think this was a hit-or-miss draft for them. The selections of Calvin Pryor and Jace Amaro were spot-on, both in terms of value and filling needs—an enforcer and ballhawk in the secondary, and a big reliable target in the passing game. I don’t think they got the best value in the middle rounds with injury-prone cornerback Dexter McDougle, diminutive receiver Jalen Saunders and undersized linebacker Jeremiah George, especially considering some of the other prospects still on the board. However, I do like their selections of Shaq Evans and Dakota Dozier, as well as the potential of all five of their late-round picks—although Tajh Boyd, even as a sixth-round compensatory could be seen as more of a luxury pick. With depth on the defensive line and at cornerback an issue, I might have looked at taking another defensive prospect there.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens
1-17: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
2-16 (48): Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
3-15 (79): Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State
3-35 (99c): Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State
4-34 (134c): Brent Urban, DE, Virginia
4-38 (138c): Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Coastal Carolina
5-35 (175c): John Urschel, G, Penn State
6-18 (194): Keith Wenning, QB, Ball State
7-3 (218) [from Browns]: Mike Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest

GRADE: B+
The Ravens typically have a strong draft, and this one was just another example. I love their first three selections of linebacker C.J. Mosley, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, and safety Terrence Brooks—each has the potential to start Week 1 for the Baltimore defense. Crocket Gillmore, Brent Urban, and Lorenzo Taliaferro could all see significant playing time, and late-round picks John Urschel, Keith Wenning and Mike Campanaro each have the tools to make the 53-man roster. The one knock on their draft is the lack of attention to the offensive tackle position, which they certainly had the opportunity to address and didn’t.

Cincinnati Bengals
1-24: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
2-23 (55): Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
3-24 (88): Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia
4-11 (111) [from Lions through Seahawks]: Russell Bodine, G, North Carolina
5-24 (164): A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
6-36 (212c): Marquis Flowers, LB, Arizona
7-24 (239): James Wright, WR, LSU
7-37 (252c): Lavelle Westbrooks, CB, Georgia Southern

GRADE: C+
The Bengals did a nice job at the top of the draft and made quality selections throughout, but drifted away from addressing their defensive needs. Cincinnati got great value at a position of need with their first-round pick, cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who was projected to go in the top half of the draft. Jeremy Hill is a tough, downhill runner who can make an impact if he can stay out of trouble. Will Clarke and Russell Bodine are solid mid-round selections who can compete on the defensive and offensive lines, while A.J. McCarron brings both youth and experience to the backup quarterback role and could eventually push to be a starter. However, with quality depth still an issue at nearly every defensive position going into the late rounds, the Bengals elected instead to draft players whose primary contributions project to be on special teams—if they even make the team.

Cleveland Browns
1-8 [from Vikings]: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
1-22 [from Eagles]: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
2-3 (35): Joel Bitonio, T, Nevada
3-7 (71): Christian Kirksey, LB, Iowa
3-30 (94) [from 49ers]: Terrance West, RB, Towson
4-27 (127) [from Colts]: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood

GRADE: B+
The Browns made a splash in the first round with three different trades, acquiring Buffalo’s first- and fourth-round picks in 2015 to swap firsts this year, trading away a fifth-rounder to swap spots with Minnesota to select playmaking cornerback Justin Gilbert, and then trading away a third to Philadelphia to move up from #26 to #22 to select quarterback Johnny Manziel. Day-two selections Joel Bitonio and Christian Kirksey are likely starters, while mid-round selections Terrance West and Pierre Desir should also see their share of playing time early. The Browns could have used more help on the offensive line and at wide receiver, but landing the additional first-round draft choice next year and getting a potential game-changer in Johnny Football puts Cleveland in a position for long-term success.

Pittsburgh Steelers
1-15: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
2-14 (46): Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
3-33 (97c): Dri Archer, RB, Kent State
4-18 (118): Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
5-17 (157): Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona
5-33 (173c): Wesley Johnson, G, Vanderbilt
6-16 (192): Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA
6-39 (215c): Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
7-15 (230): Rob Blanchflower, TE, Massachusetts

GRADE: B
The Steelers needed to focus on reloading an aging defense and they did just that. Linebacker Ryan Shazier was a surprise in the first, but gives Pittsburgh a sideline-to-sideline defensive playmaker. Stephon Tuitt and Daniel McCullers were great value picks that are perfect for the Steelers’ defensive scheme, while Shaquille Richardson and Jordan Zumwalt have the potential to grow into starters. I like the value and potential of Martavis Bryant in the fourth and while I’m not as high on Dri Archer, he does bring speed and explosiveness to the return game and offensive sub-packages. There are still questions on the offensive line and in the secondary, but Pittsburgh did about as good as any team can hope to at strengthening their weaknesses and easing their way into the transition to a new core of players.

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans
1-1: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
2-1 (33): Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA
3-1 (65): C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
3-19 (83) [from Steelers through Browns and Eagles]: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
4-35 (135c): Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh
6-1 (177): Jeoffrey Pagan, DE, Alabama
6-5 (181) [from Raiders]: Alfred Blue, RB, LSU
6-35 (211c): Jay Prosch, FB, Auburn
7-1 (216): Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt
7-41 (256c): Lonnie Ballentine, S, Memphis

GRADE: A
The Texans made the logical choice by taking the best talent available in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but they followed up with a series of sound selections to improve their football team. Xavier Su’a-Filo and Louis Nix were two of the better value picks in the draft and will help them in the trenches from day one. C.J. Fiedorowicz and Jay Prosch bring added toughness to an offense that has generally relied on finesse. And landing Tom Savage, who had been climbing up draft boards, at the bottom of the fourth round gives Houston a talented project at quarterback with the tools to develop into a future starter. I would have liked to see the Texans target a solid, durable inside linebacker on day two or day three, but it’s hard to argue with the overall quality of this draft class.

Indianapolis Colts
2-27 (59): Jack Mewhort, T, Ohio State
3-26 (90): Donte Moncrief, WR, Mississippi
5-26 (166): Jonathan Newsome, DE, Ball State
6-27 (203): Andrew Jackson, LB, Western Kentucky
7-17 (232) [from Ravens]: Ulrick John, T, Georgia State

GRADE: D
The Colts had the fewest selections of any team in the draft and did not have a first-round pick because of the Trent Richardson trade with the Browns, but with the depth of this draft class, they should have been able to do a lot more than what they did. Jack Mewhort can play guard or tackle for the Colts, but I don’t know that I like him late in the second round. I think Donte Moncrief is a nice prospect, but I didn’t really see the need to take a receiver that high. I had Indianapolis needing more help on defense, and while I like the selection of Andrew Jackson late in the sixth round, I would have liked to have seen Indianapolis add a defensive tackle and a safety somewhere in this draft.

Jacksonville Jaguars
1-3: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
2-7 (39): Marqise Lee, WR, USC
2-29 (61) [from 49ers]: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
3-29 (93) [from Patriots]: Brandon Linder, G, Miami
4-14 (114) [from Ravens]: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
5-4 (144): Telvin Smtih, LB, Florida State
5-19 (159) [from Ravens]: Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas
6-29 (205) [from 49ers]: Luke Bowanko, C, Virginia
7-7 (222): Storm Johnson, RB, Central Florida

GRADE: A
The Jaguars had a very good draft, starting with quarterback Blake Bortles. I had Jacksonville targeting linebacker Khalil Mack there, but I can’t fault them for taking a potential franchise quarterback, especially considering how they followed up. Marqise Lee, a projected first-rounder, and Allen Robinson were great value picks at receiver, where the Jags were desperate to get better. I love the Aaron Colvin pick in the fourth round, and selections of Telvin Smith and Chris Smith in the fifth—tremendous value in all three of those players. I also liked the Jaguars circling back to land Bortles’ college teammate Storm Johnson with their final pick. I wouldn’t be surprised if this draft ends up being the catalyst for the Jags turning the corner.

Tennessee Titans
1-11: Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan
2-22 (54) [from Eagles]: Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
4-12 (112): DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
4-22 (122) [from Eagles]: Marqueston Huff, S, Wyoming
5-11 (151): Avery Williamson, LB, Kentucky
6-2 (178) [from Redskins]: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU

GRADE: C+
The Titans landed several quality players, but they also overlooked a glaring need at cornerback and the opportunity to add another pass rusher. I really like Taylor Lewan and I see tackle as more of a need for the Titans than others, but I don’t know that they shouldn’t have gone in a different direction early. Bishop Sankey should step in immediately as Tennessee’s new feature back and DaQuan Jones gives them an imposing presence to work into their defensive line rotation. I also took a shine to both Marqueston Huff and Avery Williamson during the pre-draft process, so I like those picks in the middle rounds. And while I wasn’t high on Zach Mettenberger as a day two prospect, I think landing him in the sixth round is good value for a team with an unsettled quarterback position. So a good draft in terms of talent, but significant needs were left unaddressed.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos
1-31: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
2-24 (56) [from Chiefs through 49ers]: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
3-31 (95): Michael Schofield, T, Michigan
5-16 (156) [from Bears]: Lamin Barrow, LB, LSU
6-31 (207): Matthew Paradis, C, Boise State
7-27 (242) [from Saints through 49ers]: Corey Nelson, LB, Oklahoma

GRADE: B
The Broncos, even selecting late in each round, did well to draft players with high grades that could come in and contribute right away. Bradley Roby was a solid late-first selection to further improve an upgraded Denver secondary. The selection of Cody Latimer in the second round was one of my absolute favorite picks in this entire draft. He has the potential to be a dangerous weapon for the Denver offense right out of the gate. And Michael Schofield, selected at the end of the third round, could be a starter by the time the season starts. Drafting a running back could have been a possibility late, but I think the Broncos checked off all of the boxes they needed to with this draft class.

Kansas City Chiefs
1-23: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
3-23 (87): Phillip Gaines, CB, Rice
4-24 (124): De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
5-23 (163): Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
6-17 (193) [from Cowboys]: Zach Fulton, G, Tennessee
6-24 (200): Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, G, McGill

GRADE: C
The Chiefs had a good draft if you look at it in terms of overall talent, but they neglected relatively obvious needs at wide receiver, inside linebacker and defensive line. Dee Ford likely slides out to be a standup outside linebacker and makes one of the elite edge rushing teams even better. Phillip Gaines is a developmental corner with good measurables. De’Anthony Thomas is the kind of all-purpose player the Chiefs like to have that they can use in a number of different ways and I like the selection of Aaron Murray as a developmental quarterback while they sort out the future at that position. And the two guards should help shore up a position where Kansas City thinned out in the offseason. But, a curious decision to go without drafting a playmaking receiver or a big-bodied, 3-4 defensive end.

Oakland Raiders
1-5: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
2-4 (36): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
3-17 (81) [from Dolphins]: Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
4-7 (107): Justin Ellis, DT, Louisiana Tech
4-16 (116) [from Dolphins]: Keith McGill, CB, Utah
7-4 (219): Travis Carrie, CB, Ohio
7-20 (235) [from Cardinals]: Shelby Harris, DE, Illinois State
7-32 (247) [from Seahawks]: Jonathan Dowling, S, Western Kentucky

GRADE: A
The Raiders had as good a draft as any team in the league, specifically with their top five selections, where I thought they hit on every one. Khalil Mack is a stud—the dynamic playmaker that Oakland has desperately needed on defense. Derek Carr was in consideration as a first-round quarterback and comes into a good situation, where he can sit for a year and develop into the eventual starter behind veteran Matt Schaub. Gabe Jackson was a tremendous value pick in the middle of the third round and should improve their offensive line right away. And I really like their selections of Justin Ellis and Keith McGill in the fourth round to add more size to the defense. These five prospects in particular could go a long way towards helping the Raiders right the ship.

San Diego Chargers
1-25: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
2-18 (50) [from Dolphins]: Jeremiah Attaochu, LB, Georgia Tech
3-25 (89): Chris Watt, G, Notre Dame
5-25 (165): Ryan Carrethers, DT, Arkansas State
6-25 (201): Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State
7-25 (240): Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor

GRADE: C+
The Chargers zeroed in on their major needs on defense, landing a tough, talented corner in Jason Verrett, a high-value pass rusher in Jeremiah Attaochu, and a plugger in defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers. Chris Watt was also a nice addition on the interior line. I’m not a huge fan of their late-round picks, not because of the players, but because of the fit. I thought the Chargers to be solid at running back coming into the offseason, so I don’t see the need with adding another runner in Marion Grice. And while Tevin Reese can add speed on the outside, I’m not sure that he’s much more than a specialty weapon. I might have looked at adding another every-down receiver, an offensive tackle, or possibly a five-technique end instead.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys
1-16: Zack Martin, T, Notre Dame
2-2 (34) [from Redskins]: DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
4-19 (119): Anthony Hitchens, LB, Iowa
5-6 (146) [from Raiders through Seahawks and Lions]: Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh
7-16 (231): Ben Gardner, DE, Stanford
7-23 (238) [from Chiefs]: Will Smith, LB, Texas Tech
7-33 (248c): Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
7-36 (251c): Ken Bishop, DT, Northern Illinois
7-39 (254c): Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon

GRADE: B–
The Cowboys needed to focus on getting better defensively. They missed out on their top targets in the first round, so they essentially went the best player available with the selection of plug-and-play offensive lineman Zack Martin, which was sound decision. Trading away their third-round pick to move up in the second to grab defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence was an aggressive move to upgrade their pass rush. I like what they did in the late rounds, specifically trading up to land receiver Devin Street, selecting hard-hitting safety Ahmad Dixon and taking a solid defensive tackle in Ken Bishop, but I also think fourth-round pick Anthony Hitchens was as much of a reach as you could find on day three. He’ll have a place on the team, but I think by making that pick and by dealing away their third-rounder, Dallas missed out on an opportunity to land two players who could make more significant contributions right away.

New York Giants
1-12: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
2-11 (43): Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State
3-10 (74): Jay Bromley, DT, Syracuse
4-13 (113): Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
5-12 (152): Nat Berhe, S, San Diego State
5-34 (174c): Devon Kennard, LB, USC
6-11 (187): Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame

GRADE: C
The Giants did a decent job drafting quality football players, but I think they could have done better at addressing their needs. Taking Odell Beckham in the first round was a high-impact move, as was the selection of center Weston Richburg in the second—they both improve the New York offense right away. I like Jay Bromley, but I think taking him in the third round was too rich. Likewise, I’m a fan of Andre Williams, but I don’t know that adding another running back in lieu of more help in the trenches was the best decision. Devon Kennard helps at linebacker, but he’s more of a situational pass rusher than an every-down, second-level player. The Giants came into the draft with a lot of holes to fill, and come out of it with questions remaining at the tight end position and linebacker, where they could have used some help.

Philadelphia Eagles
1-26 [from Colts through Browns]: Marcus Smith, LB, Louisville
2-10 (42) [from Titans]: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
3-22 (86): Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
4-1 (101) [from Texans]: Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida
5-1 (141) [from Texans]: Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon
5-22 (162): Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
7-9 (224) [from Bills]: Beau Allen, DT, Wisconsin

GRADE: B+
The Eagles had a really strong draft, adding high-quality players from top to bottom. While a surprise selection late on day one, I think first-round pick Marcus Smith is a really nice fit for their defense as an athletic pass rusher who projects to get even better. I love what they did on day two to get two very talented receiver prospects in Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff—both of whom I really like. Jaylen Watkins, Taylor Hart and Ed Reynolds were sound picks, and all three should be immediate contributors on defense and special teams. I think they could have also looked at taking an interior offensive lineman for depth, but they did an exceptional job at addressing their most glaring needs.

Washington Redskins
2-15 (47) [from Cowboys]: Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
3-2 (66): Morgan Moses, T, Virginia
3-14 (78) [from Cowboys]: Spencer Long, G, Nebraska
4-2 (102): Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson
5-2 (142): Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane
6-10 (186) [from Titans]: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
7-2 (217): Ted Bolser, TE, Indiana
7-13 (228) [from Titans]: Zach Hocker, K, Arkansas

GRADE: C–
The Redskins had one of the more puzzling drafts, which started on day two with a swap of second-rounders that also landed them an additional third-round pick from Dallas. In doing so, Washington, needing offensive line help, missed out on two of the higher-graded tackles and the top center. So they end up taking tweener pass rusher Trent Murphy, a quality college player, but a considerable reach given the other players on the board at positions of greater need. Morgan Moses and Spencer Long were better selections that can help the Redskins in the trenches. Bashaud Breeland was a solid pick who can compete at corner or safety. And I like Lache Seastrunk as a change-of-pace back with speed. I didn’t see receiver or tight end as positions of need, but Washington burned a fifth and a seventh there. I think Washington would have been better served by loading up on more offensive line help and addressing the inside linebacker position.

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears
1-14: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
2-19 (51): Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU
3-18 (82): Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
4-17 (117): Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
4-31 (131) [from Broncos]: Brock Vereen, S, Minnesota
6-7 (183) [from Buccaneers]: David Fales, QB, San Jose State
6-15 (191): Pat O’Donnell, P, Miami
7-31 (246) [from Broncos]: Charles Leno, G, Boise State

GRADE: B+
The Bears did a lot to help a defense that struggled last season by taking four starting-caliber defenders in the first four rounds. Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton both have the potential to be impact players in Chicago’s defensive front, while Kyle Fuller and Brock Vereen could be Week 1 starters. I also liked what the Bears did offensively in this draft, adding quality depth at running back with Ka’Deem Carey and an underrated quarterback prospect David Fales. And I would not be surprised to see Charles Leno compete for snaps on the offensive line. A really solid seven-round effort from Chicago.

Detroit Lions
1-10: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
2-8 (40) [from Vikings through Seahawks]: Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
3-12 (76): Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
4-33 (133c): Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah State
4-36 (136c): Larry Webster, DE, Bloomsburg
5-18 (158) [from Cowboys]: Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
6-13 (189): T.J. Jones, WR, Notre Dame
7-14 (229) [from Bears through Cowboys]: Nate Freese, K, Boston College

GRADE: C+
The Lions drafted quality players, but didn’t address needs on the offensive line and in the secondary to the extent that I would have expected. One of the most surprising early picks was Detroit taking athletic tight end Eric Ebron in the top ten. I anticipate that they will use him more like an oversized wide receiver, which is actually a really smart move in a pass-heavy offense. I like the Kyle Van Noy pick in the second round and I think he could compete for a starting role at linebacker. The Lions also added one of my favorite day-three prospects in defensive tackle Caraun Reid, who can be a valuable contributor to their defensive line rotation. But, I do question Detroit’s decision to pass on using a high pick in the secondary and proceed through the draft without addressing the offensive tackle position.

Green Bay Packers
1-21: Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
2-21 (53): Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
3-21 (85): Khyri Thornton, DT, Southern Miss
3-34 (98c): Richard Rodgers, TE, California
4-21 (121): Carl Bradford, LB, Arizona State
5-21 (161): Corey Linsley, C, Ohio State
5-36 (176c): Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
6-21 (197): Demetri Goodson, CB, Baylor
7-21 (236): Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley State

GRADE: A
The Packers were firing on all cylinders throughout the draft, landing a nice mix of pro-ready players and developmental prospects, while addressing their immediate needs. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix was an exceptional value pick in the first round and the ideal solution to their most glaring weakness. Ha Ha has the tools to become one of Green Bay’s top defensive players in short order. The Packers also reloaded their offensive weaponry, adding a trio of tall, talented wide receivers that have become a staple of their passing game with Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis. Khyri Thornton and Carl Bradford will be solid contributors on defense right away. And don’t sleep on center Corey Linsley, tight end Richard Rodgers and cornerback Demetri Goodson. I would expect each to play meaningful snaps sooner rather than later. Definitely one of the better draft classes, player-for-player.

Minnesota Vikings
1-9 [from Bills through Browns]: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
1-32 [from Seahawks]: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
3-8 (72): Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
3-32 (96) [from Seahawks]: Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern
5-5 (145) [from Browns]: David Yankey, G, Stanford
6-6 (182) [from Falcons]: Antone Exum, CB, Virgina Tech
6-8 (184): Kendall James, CB, Maine
7-5 (220) [from Falcons]: Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut
7-8 (223): Brandon Watts, LB, Georgia Tech
7-10 (225) [from Giants through Panthers]: Jabari Price, CB, North Carolina

GRADE: A
The Vikings had a strong draft that should put a lot of quality players in position to help the team early. Anthony Barr is still developing as a defender, but has elite physical tools and raw ability as a pass rusher. The trade to get back into the first round to snare quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was a crafty move to land a potential franchise quarterback. With a high motor and a pro-ready build, Scott Crichton will bring relentless effort with minimal talent drop-off to the defensive line rotation. Jerick McKinnon is an intriguing offensive weapon that you find a role for, while David Yankey provides decent depth at guard. And I love what they did in the sixth round, landing two of my favorite late-round prospects in cornerbacks Antone Exum and Kendall James. The Vikings could have afforded to look at a wide receiver, but they targeted their most dire needs and received good value across the board.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons
1-6: Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M
2-5 (37): Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
3-4 (68): Dezmen Southward, S, Wisconsin
4-3 (103): Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
4-39 (139c): Prince Shembo, LB, Notre Dame
5-7 (147): Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue
5-28 (168) [from Panthers through Vikings]: Marquis Spruill, LB, Syracuse
7-38 (253c): Yawin Smallwood, LB, Connecticut
7-40 (255c): Tyler Starr, LB, South Dakota

GRADE: B
The Falcons made good-to-great additions at most of their positions of need, but curiously avoided taking a tight end in any round. Jake Matthews is a plug-and-play starter at tackle and considered one of the safest picks in the draft due to his natural talent and pedigree. Ra’Shede Hageman can play every position in the three-man front the Falcons are expected deploy and has the potential to be dominant at the point of attack. Dezmen Southward and Ricardo Allen were probably taken a tad high, but both are nice picks and can be difference-makers in the secondary. I love the Devonta Freeman pick because of all the things he can do for an offense. And while there should be a healthy competition at linebacker with the solid quartet of day-three prospects that Atlanta reeled in, I don’t know that they won’t regret using one of those selections on an outside rusher. So, while the Falcons did a lot of good things in this draft, I think they left something to be desired by not addressing the tight end position and not placing priority on upgrading their edge rush.

Carolina Panthers
1-28: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
2-28 (60): Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
3-28 (92): Trai Turner, G, LSU
4-28 (128): Tre Boston, S, North Carolina
5-8 (148) [from Vikings]: Bene Benwikere, CB, San Jose State
6-28 (204): Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford

GRADE: C
The Panthers had a nice draft on paper, but I’m shocked at how little they did, as a legitimate Super Bowl contender, to address critical needs at offensive tackle and wide receiver. Kelvin Benjamin is raw, and could be considered a reach in the first round, but the potential and the upside is there – and it was at a position of need. I like the pick. Kony Ealy is a solid addition with position flex for one of the better defensive line rotations, but a luxury pick. Trai Turner is big and athletic and could find a place starting on their offensive line very soon. Tre Boston and Bene Benwikere should be contributors in the secondary from the start. I don’t get the Tyler Gaffney pick – good player, but by no means a need. I think Carolina’s draft is an example how the best player available strategy can backfire. There were some solid tackles still available when they were on the clock early and this was a deep draft for receivers, so they had an opportunity to load up and fill those holes. They just didn’t.

New Orleans Saints
1-20 [from Cardinals]: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
2-26 (58): Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
4-26 (126): Khairi Fortt, LB, California
5-27 (167): Vinnie Sunseri, S, Alabama
5-29 (169) [from Patriots through Eagles]: Ronald Powell, LB, Florida
6-26 (202): Tavon Rooks, T, Kansas State

GRADE: C
The Saints made a splash trading up in the first round, which was the right move to get the perfect first-round pick to help their team, but I’m not a huge fan of what they did after in terms of quality. Brandin Cooks was going to make an immediate impact for any team that scooped him up, but playing for New Orleans, he’ll be downright dangerous. With Stanley Jean-Baptiste, you’re looking at his measurables and his upside, and you’re hoping that he can develop into a quality pro. I thought he went a little high, but I’m not surprised given how popular tall, rangy cornerbacks are becoming. Khairi Fortt and Ronald Powell are athletic linebackers who can probably earn snaps as reserves and on special teams. I anticipated the Saints to draft one of the center prospects and do more to improve their pass defense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1-7: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
2-6 (38): Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
3-5 (69): Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
5-3 (143): Kadeem Edwards, G, Tennessee State
5-9 (149) [from Bills]: Kevin Pamphile, T, Purdue
6-9 (185) [from Bills]: Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming

GRADE: B–
The Buccaneers made significant strides toward improving one of the league’s more anemic offenses—so much so that they didn’t draft any defensive players. Mike Evans became the obvious first-round pick for Tampa Bay leading up to the draft, and by adding a tall, dynamic tight end in Austin Seferian-Jenkins and a shifty underneath threat with elite speed in Robert Herron, the Buccaneers should have one of the toughest passing attacks to defend this season. Charles Sims gives Tampa a versatile threat out of the backfield and should see meaningful snaps early, but was arguably a luxury pick. And while the Bucs addressed their needs on the offensive line in the fifth round, I’m not sold on Kadeem Edwards and Kevin Pamphile being able to do much to help early. I might have looked at adding an offensive lineman who could be a more immediate contributor, and likely would have considered a quality linebacker or cornerback prospect.

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals
1-27 [from Saints]: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
2-20 (52): Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
3-20 (84): Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
3-27 (91) (from Saints): John Brown, WR, Pittsburg State
4-20 (120): Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
5-20 (160): Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama
6-20 (196): Walt Powell, WR, Murray State

GRADE: B–
The Cardinals overachieved with a roster that was greater than the sum of its parts, and while they added a few more quality pieces, they still have a few problem areas that went unaddressed. I’m a big fan of the Deone Bucannon pick in the first round. He’s a banger and gives the Cardinals an imposing presence in the middle of the field in a tough division. Troy Niklas was a solid selection, a big target that blocks like a tackle, as was John Brown, a small-school standout who can stretch the field and play the slot. Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson are two big bodies that can do work in the defensive line rotation. But, down the road, the steal of this draft could end up being Logan Thomas, a big-armed quarterback with prototypical physical tools who needs time and a coaching staff with the patience to help him develop. I think he’s in the right situation with Arizona. The big miss of this draft class, to me, is the lack of an inside linebacker to man the middle of a stout defense.

St. Louis Rams
1-2 [from Redskins]: Greg Robinson, T, Auburn
1-13: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
2-9 (41) [from Bills]: Lamarcus Joyner, S, Florida State
3-11 (75): Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
4-10 (110): Maurice Alexander, S, Utah State
6-12 (188): E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
6-38 (214c): Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU
7-11 (226): Mitchell Van Dyk, T, Portland State
7-26 (241) [from Colts]: Christian Bryant, S, Ohio State
7-34 (249c): Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
7-35 (250c): Demetrius Rhaney, C, Tennessee State

GRADE: A–
The Rams maximized their opportunity to improve their team with two early first-round picks. Tackle Greg Robinson is an instant starter, a mammoth mauler with an incredibly high ceiling to address their most glaring need. They followed up with one of my favorite players of this draft, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, a disruptive penetrator who gives St. Louis, player-for-player, the most fearsome front-four in all of football. Lamarcus Joyner is a dynamic and versatile addition to the secondary, while Maurice Alexander and E.J. Gaines provide quality depth and special teams value. Tre Mason was my favorite back in the draft and a steal in the third round. And then there was the seventh-round selection of Michael Sam, which was the major headline on day three. Because of Sam’s size and skill set, he doesn’t have a natural position fit, but there could be a role for him as a sub-package pass rush specialist. I like what the Rams did overall, but with all of their picks, I’m surprised that they didn’t draft a wide receiver from one of the deepest classes in years.

San Francisco 49ers
1-30: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
2-25 (57) [from Chargers through Dolphins]: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
3-6 (70) [from Jaguars]: Marcus Martin, C, USC
3-13 (77) [from Titans]: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
3-36 (100c): Brandon Thomas, G, Clemson
4-6 (106) [from Browns]: Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
4-29: Dontae Johnson, CB, North Carolina State
5-10 (150) [from Lions through Jaguars]: Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida
5-30 (170): Keith Reaser, CB, Florida Atlantic
6-4 (180) [from Browns]: Kenneth Acker, CB, SMU
7-28 (243) [from Panthers]: Kaleb Ramsey, DE, Boston College
7-30 (245): Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma

GRADE: A
The 49ers continue to draft extremely well, landing top talent at every pick from day one into day three. Jimmie Ward was a nice get at the end of the first round, as he gives the Niners another starting-caliber safety who can also cover the slot. Carlos Hyde is a great fit in their ball-control offense and a good value pick. Marcus Martin is likely to be their new starter at center and another great value pick, as was Brandon Thomas, whose pre-draft ACL injury saw him slide until late in the third round. He’ll redshirt this year and be in contention for a starting role in 2015. Chris Borland is a tough, instinctive linebacker who doesn’t have the best measurables, but can play. Bruce Ellington, again a great value pick, is a shifty slot receiver who can add another dimension to the 49er offense. When you factor in the trade with Buffalo for talented receiver Stevie Johnson, San Francisco comes out of this draft younger and better—and once again ready to compete for a championship.

Seattle Seahawks
2-13 (45) [from Lions]: Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
2-32 (64): Justin Britt, T, Missouri
4-8 (108) [from Vikings]: Cassius Marsh, DE, UCLA
4-23 (123) [from Bengals]: Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama
4-32 (132): Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB, Boston College
5-32 (172): Jimmy Staten, DT, Middle Tennessee State
6-23 (199) [from Bengals]: Garrett Scott, T, Marshall
6-32 (208): Eric Pinkins, S, San Diego State
7-12 (227) [from Lions]: Kiero Small, RB, Arkansas

GRADE: D+
The Seahawks have earned a reputation as one of the better-drafting teams in recent years, particularly in the later rounds, but I didn’t like their draft at all. Paul Richardson, a slight, but speedy receiver, was probably their best pick. I anticipate that he will fill the role vacated by Golden Tate, but I don’t like him as a top-fifty pick, especially with other bigger, stronger receivers still on the board. I’m also not as high on the Kevin Norwood pick in the fourth as most, but he will probably compete for a roster spot. To me, Justin Britt was a major reach at the end of the second round, but he probably has a chance to compete at right tackle. I did like the selections of Cassius Marsh and Kevin Pierre-Louis, solid picks to help reload the front-seven, but I thought it was interesting that they didn’t consider taking any of the bigger corners to do the same in the secondary. We’ll see how this draft class eventually pans out, but for now, I see this as a lackluster effort from the defending Super Bowl champions, especially considering how much better their division rivals fared.

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Thanks for reading!

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