12 May 2014

2014 NFL Draft Team Grades

(USA Today)
The 2014 NFL Draft has concluded. How did your team do? Here are my grades for every team's draft.

1st Round Grades
Best Picks: Day 2
Best Picks: Day 3

Arizona Cardinals
Deone Bucannon was a nice safety prospect, fits well with Tyrann Mathieu and fills a big need but he was a reach in the 1st round. Troy Niklas was a very solid tight end prospect that can block very well and be a nice weapon in the middle of the field for Carson Palmer. And I liked the Kareem Martin selection in the 3rd round as a potential replacement for Darnell Dockett. Logan Thomas has a lot of physical talent but he needs a lot of work, therefore he was a passable selection in the fourth. A decent draft for the Cardinals but not particularly great by any stretch.
Grade: C+

Atlanta Falcons
I liked what the Falcons did at the top of their draft but beyond that, except for finally selecting an edge rusher in Prince Shembo in round five and linebacker Yavin Smallwood in round seven, there was not a whole lot there. Atlanta did not panic and stayed put at six amid rumors they would trade up to the first pick, and they selected a heck of a lineman in Jake Matthews. He should start right away and could be a franchise left tackle. And Ra'Shede Hageman is a good fit for the team's 3-4 defense and was a really good value at 37.
Grade: B-

Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are a team that generally does not draft for need and focuses instead on taking the best player on drafting for value and they proved that right away. C.J. Mosley should help replace Ray Lewis more so than the team was able to do last year and he is your ideal linebacker. Timmy Jernigan was a great value in the 2nd round and with his excellent run stuffing skills should improve the defensive front. Terrance Brooks should be able to contribute right away at safety. I was surprised that they did not take a wide receiver until the seventh round but Michael Campanaro is a solid player that could make an impact.
Grade: B

Buffalo Bills
Now I love Sammy Watkins as a player and the Bills had a need for him to give E.J. Manuel some more weapons, but trading up for him and giving Cleveland next year's 1st round pick was very risky considering they are no playoff team. That was a very bold move but the rest of the Bills' selections were solid. Cyrus Kouandijo was a nice value at 44 and should he be healthy, he should be a force at right tackle. More line help came with solid selections of Cyril Richardson at 153 and the talented but unfocused Seantrel Henderson in the seventh round. Ross Cockrell is a solid corner that should see some time as well.
Grade: B-

Carolina Panthers
A lot of folks are lauding the Panthers' draft but I am not loving it nearly that much. They had big needs at receiver and at offensive tackle but they only drafted one wideout and a risk at that in Kelvin Benjamin. Kony Ealy was an awesome pick late in the 2nd round and gives them some key insurance at defensive end. Trai Turner is a solid guard, but he is not a tackle and does not fill that need. Beyond that, the draft was okay but they did not sufficiently address their big needs.
Grade: C

Chicago Bears
I liked a lot of what the Bears did in the draft. Kyle Fuller is a rock solid defensive back that should play well right away either at corner or potentially at safety, both big positions of need. They then double dipped at tackle but made a better pick in the 3rd round with Will Sutton then their 2nd rounder Ego Ferguson. Ka'Deem Carey is a very nice back to complement Matt Forte. Brock Vereen is a solid safety and David Fales is a nice developmental quarterback.
Grade: B+

Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals had a big need at cornerback and they were very happy to see Darqueze Dennard fall to them. He is a great fit for Cincinnati's defense. I like Jeremy Hill but the Bengals really did not have a big need at running back after taking Gio Bernard in last year's draft. The rest of the draft was pretty "meh" but I liked their pick of A.J. McCarron as while he probably will not be a top starter in the NFL, he can push Andy Dalton.
Grade: C+

Cleveland Browns
The Browns made a great move down to eight with Buffalo, nabbing the Bills' 1st round pick next year in the process, but then bizarrely swapped spots with Minnesota to take Justin Gilbert. I like Gilbert a lot but they could have nabbed a 2nd corner later. I loved the move to acquire Johnny Manziel, he was my favorite quarterback in the draft and he will bring great excitement to Cleveland. Cleveland made some nice picks in lineman Joel Bitonio and running back Terrence West but I have no idea why in the world they did not select a receiver, particularly in the wake of a potentially lengthy suspension for star wideout Josh Gordon.
Grade: C+

Dallas Cowboys
As par for the course for the Cowboys, they were all over the place in their draft. I liked their 1st round selection of Zack Martin who will give them an upgrade at right tackle right away, if not he could kick inside to guard. I did not love the Demarcus Lawrence pick whom they traded up for but it was a big need to add some pass rushers and Lawrence is a solid player. Anthony Hitchens went in the 3rd round when he should have gone in the sixth, so that was a bad reach. They did make some nice picks in the seventh round with end Ben Gardner, safety Ahmad Dixon, tackle Ken Bishop and corner Terrance Mitchell.
Grade: C

Denver Broncos
With a draft like this one, the Broncos should be back in the Super Bowl mix in 2014. Bradley Roby slipped due to an inconsistent 2013 and some off the field issues but he was an excellent value at a big need position of cornerback. Cody Latimer is a great fit for the Denver offense in the Eric Decker role. They did reach for Michael Schofield but he gives some depth to tackle. Lamin Barrow may just start right away at inside linebacker and center Matthew Paradis could see some key time at center.
Grade: A-

Detroit Lions
Detroit selecting Eric Ebron would look even better had they not re-signed Brandon Pettigrew but even then, he will be another key weapon  for Matt Stafford and with his receiving skills, he will be a matchup nightmare. Kyle Van Noy was a really good pick in the 2nd as he gives them a pass rusher and an outside linebacker in their 4-3. Travis Swanson is a nice center and Nevin Lawson is a solid cornerback. Caraun Reid was an excellent value pick in the fifth round and makes their strong defensive line even better. And I actually did not mind them selecting a kicker in the final round in Nate Freese.
Grade: A-

Green Bay Packers
Ted Thompson knows what he is doing on draft day and he showed it yet again this weekend. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix somehow fell to the 21st pick and fills a huge need at safety. The Packers ended up taking three wide receivers when they really only needed one but all were fine selections. Davante Adams in the 2nd round gives them a physical wideout in the mold of the departed James Jones. Jared Abbrederis was a steal at the end of the fifth and he has great hands and runs great routes. And Jeff Janis in the seventh round is very athletic. Khyri Thornton gives them more flexibility on the defensive line and Carl Bradford was a great steal at pick 121 at inside linebacker.
Grade: A-

Houston Texans
The only way that Houston was not going to take Jadeveon Clowney was if somebody blew them away with a massive offer, but that offer never came so they took the supremely talented Clowney who should make the Texans pass rush a juggernaut. The rest of their draft was filled by a number of good value picks. Xavier Su'a-Filo could have gone in the 1st round and he should improve their interior offensive line. Louis Nix was an insane value in the 3rd round, he also should have gone in the first and will give them a stout nose tackle. C.J. Fiedorowicz should help replace Owen Daniels and while Tom Savage is not ready to start right away, he was widely thought to go earlier than he did. All in all, a very good draft for GM Rick Smith.
Grade: A-

Indianapolis Colts
In the wake of the ill-fated Trent Richardson trade, the Colts had limited draft picks to operate with, not picking until 59, so they had to hit on their selections. Unfortunately, they had a couple of decent selections early and that was it. Jack Mewhort was not a bad selection at 59 even with better guards on the board, and receiver Donte Moncrief was a nice value at 90. However with their remaining three, they largely failed to get anything of significance.
Grade: D+

Jacksonville Jaguars
Reaching a little bit for who you think is your franchise quarterback is not a terrible idea in my mind, and I like Blake Bortles and had him as a 1st round pick, but I think Jacksonville could have moved down (maybe with Buffalo at nine?) and still taken him as the next quarterback didn't go for 20 picks. The rest of their draft was solid. They greatly upgraded their receiving corps by adding Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson in the 2nd round, Aaron Colvin should help out at corner, Telvin Smith and Chris Smith were both steals and Storm Johnson could end up being the team's top running back at some point.
Grade: B

Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs made the worst pick of the 1st round in Dee Ford. He was a speed rusher with no moves and does not fill a need at all. Philip Gaines is a solid cornerback that gives them some insurance should Brandon Flowers be traded down the road. They took De'Anthony Thomas a little early but Aaron Murray should be a fine backup and solid spot starter. Their best selections came late in terms of offensive linemen Zach Fulton and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
Grade: C-

Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins were going to have to go lineman early in the NFL Draft but were going to have to reach for a tackle with the top guys being off the board. That is exactly what happened by selecting Ja'Waun James who was a solid 2nd round prospect but not a 1st round guy. They also addressed the line with a solid pick of Billy Turner at 67 and with some polish can be a starting left tackle. Jarvis Landry is a solid slot receiver at 63 and Walt Aikens at 125 could potentially push Cortland Finnegan for playing time. Perhaps their best pick came in the fifth round with linebacker Jordan Tripp as he fills a big need and is talented. A solid draft hurt by the early reach.
Grade: B-

Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings had one of the strongest drafts in the league. Anthony Barr has the potential for greatness at defensive end under new coach Mike Zimmer. Minnesota made a great move to trade back into the 1st round to take Teddy Bridgewater, who can start at quarterback right away. Scott Crichton gives the team another talented pass rusher. They did need another back but Jerick McKinnon was a reach late in the 3rd round. David Yankey in the fifth was a total steal and he should start.
Grade: A

New England Patriots
This was a disappointing draft for the Patriots and the biggest reason why came with their 2nd round selection of Jimmy Garoppolo. If you are trying to be a Super Bowl contender, why are you wasting such an early selection on a potential protege at quarterback? Dominique Easley was a reach in the 1st round but should he be healthy, he will be a good football player. Their next good selection came at 140 with tackle Cam Fleming, who has the ability to start, but beyond that, not all that much.
Grade: D+

New Orleans Saints
I have said this for other teams but the Saints started off their draft really well but the rest was less than inspiring. They moved up in the 1st round seven spots to take Brandin Cooks and he should be awesome in the New Orleans offense catching passes from Drew Brees. Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the 2nd round was a good pick too as he is the big corner that teams love to use these days in the Seattle model. The remaining four picks were not great but they should at least improve their special teams units.
Grade: B-

New York Giants
While it was a little surprising that the Giants passed on both Aaron Donald and Zack Martin with the 12th pick but Odell Beckham was a very good pick nonetheless and helps to replace Hakeem Nicks. Their next selection was pretty solid in Weston Richburg, the best center in the draft, and he should bring some improvement to the interior of their porous offensive line. But beyond addressing the need for a running back by taking Andre Williams, the Giants mostly failed to address their needs at tackle and along the defensive line.
Grade: C+

New York Jets
At least the Jets had a great start to their draft in adding the talented safety Calvin Pryor in the 1st round, who looks like an excellent fit for Rex Ryan's defense, and tight end Jace Amaro in the 2nd to give Geno Smith an excellent receiving option. But until the seventh round, the Jets reached on a number of guys throughout the course of the draft, particularly at their biggest needs at corner and receiver. But I do give them credit, I really like the picks of quarterback Tajh Boyd at 213 and of pass rusher Trevor Reilly at 233. Both were steals.
Grade: C

Oakland Raiders
I really liked what the Raiders did in this draft from top to bottom. They did not overthink their selection at five when Khalil Mack fell to them and they select a great football player that will improve their defense and their pass rush right away. Derek Carr was a good value early in the first and Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson is a very good QB tutor. Gabe Jackson was a very good pick in the third and he probably will start right away at guard, while the big defensive tackle Justin Ellis was tremendous value in the fourth. Cornerback Keith McGill was also a steal in the fifth round and he will find playing time right away.
Grade: A

Philadelphia Eagles
I was not in love with the first three rounds of Philadelphia's draft work but beyond that, it was not all that bad. Marcus Smith fills a need for a pass rusher in their 3-4 scheme but he was a reach at 26, even after Philadelphia traded back for it. I liked Jordan Matthews a solid amount but I did not see the need in such a deep receiver draft to move up for him. Josh Huff was a terrible pick, unless you like taking sixth round players in the 3rd round. But Jaylen Watkins in the fourth round was a very good pick as he fits exactly what the Eagles want from their corners. They went defense the rest of the draft and all were solid selections.
Grade: C+

Pittsburgh Steelers
More or less, the Steelers know how to get it done on draft day and they had a very nice draft this go-around. They addressed the defense early and made strong picks with Ryan Shazier, who should give their linebacking corps more speed and athleticism, and a steal of Stephon Tuitt in the 2nd round to upgrade the defensive line, which was also bolstered by a great pick of nose tackle Daniel McCullers in the sixth round. Dri Archer at 97 and Martavis Bryant at 118 will give Ben Roethlisberger more weapons, Shaq Richardson at 157 should help improve the cornerback crop and Wesley Johnson at 173 is a nice versatile reserve offensive lineman.
Grade: A

San Diego Chargers
San Diego surprised in making a run for the playoffs last year and they did solid work in this draft. Jason Verrett was a very nice pick in the 1st round as he should be plugged in and fill a big need at corner. Jeremiah Attaochu was taken a little earlier than I would have liked but considering the dearth of pass rushers for a 3-4 in this draft, the raw but talented Georgia Tech product makes sense. Chris Watt, a guard from Notre Dame, and Ryan Carrethers, the nose tackle from Arkansas State, were taken a little early but I liked how they finished with running back Marion Grice and especially wideout Tevin Reese.
Grade: B

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco had the most picks in the draft and while many thought they would move up in the draft for somebody like Odell Beckham, they held firm with their selections and took a number of guys that should be contributors down the line. Jimmie Ward is a fine safety, although he may play some corner for them, but he was a reach at the end of the 1st round. They took the best running at the 57th pick in Carlos Hyde, but they already have a handful of solid backs. Marcus Martin was a really good pick to improve their center action. Chris Borland should be a good fit at inside linebacker, Brandon Thomas will be a good tackle down the line, Bruce Ellington is a raw but talented wideout and Trey Millard in the seventh round is a talented fullback.
Grade: B

Seattle Seahawks
The Super Bowl champs traded out of the 1st round but they had a very nice draft save for the ridiculous 2nd round pick of Missouri tackle Jordan Britt. Paul Richardson is a great fit for their offense and Russell Wilson will love have another speedy and athletic pass rusher. Cassius March is the kind of athletic pass rusher that Seattle craves. Kevin Norwood is a solid wideout, Kevin Pierre-Louis is an athletic linebacker (they do love athletic guys), Jimmy Staten helps fill a need for more depth at defensive tackle and Garrett Scott is a better player than the aforementioned Britt.
Grade: B

St. Louis Rams
The Rams had a pair of 1st rounders thanks to the Robert Griffin trade of a couple years ago and they made very good selections with both. Greg Robinson is supremely athletic and has the skills to be a star tackle while Aaron Donald is an excellent tackle that should make their strong defensive line even better. Lamarcus Joyner at 41 gives them versatility and I like Tre Mason, although the Rams did not need another running back. E.J. Gaines should be a contributor at corner, Garrett Gilbert is a decent project and Michael Sam should give them depth at end.
Grade: A-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I love how the Buccaneers started and finished but the middle of their draft was a mess. Mike Evans was a great pick at seven as he will more than replace Mike Williams and pair with Vincent Jackson to form a very good receiver pairing, and adding Austin Seferian-Jenkins gives them a strong weapon at tight while also providing a good value. And Robert Herron was a good value in the seventh round and he should contribute right away in the slot. But beyond that, not very much. They reached for Charles Sims when they did not need another running back and I am not much of a fan of the linemen they drafted afterwards.
Grade: B-

Tennessee Titans
Tennessee did a good job in the draft this year. There is not an immediate need for Taylor Lewan at least for a year or two, but he is an excellent blocker that should have gone by the Titans' selection. Bishop Sankey was not the best running back in the draft but he fills a big need in the backfield in the wake of the departure of Chris Johnson. They are moving to a 3-4 defense and thus picked up a great piece in a nose tackle in DaQuan Jones. And I have no idea how Zach Mettenberger fell to the sixth round, he can push Jake Locker right away as a matter of fact.
Grade: B+

Without a 1st round selection due to the 2012 Robert Griffin trade, Washington had to hit with their limited picks and they did a decent job save for the selection of Trent Murphy. I like the Stanford defensive end and he was a nice value, but for a team with not that many picks and many needs, taking another pass rusher made little sense. Beyond that, they did a fine job. They added some much needed reinforcements for the offensive line in tackle Morgan Moses, who probably will start right away, and guard Spencer Long and Lache Seastrunk was a very good pick in the sixth round to complement Alf Morris. Bashaud Breeland was also a solid pick but there was no reason to select a kicker in the seventh round in Zack Hocker.
Grade: B-

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