NFL Draft: Recapping The Best Picks By Each Team After An Exciting NFL Draft
Taking a closer look at some of the best draft picks and overall value by each team after a very busy 2014 NFL Draft:
Via ESPN Insider: After looking through each team’s draft board, these choices stood out as being the best based on what each player brings to the table, how he fits with his new team and where he was drafted in the order (and also who else was available at the time).
Here are my favorite picks of all 32 teams, plus plenty of thoughts on some of the other choices I did or didn’t like for each.
Round 3 (79): Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State
I could have gone with C.J. Mosley, who was the best player on the board when the Ravens took him at No. 17 overall, and is an NFL-ready player who will be a playmaker behind the Ravens’ big defensive front.
But I decided to go with Brooks here, as I think he was a steal in the third round and could develop into an every-down starter for Baltimore given his physicality near the line and range in coverage. He’s always around the football.
Timmy Jernigan, drafted at No. 48 in the second round, is a good player, but I don’t totally understand his fit as a 1-technique. He won’t provide much as a pass rusher, and he comes with some character baggage.
Rd. 1 (4): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (from CLE)
It came at a high cost (a 2015 first-rounder in the trade with Cleveland to move up from No. 9 to No. 4), but the Bills got the most dynamic offensive playmaker in this draft — and the best wide receiver prospect since A.J. Green — in Watkins. They are going to need to surround second-year QB EJ Manuel with great players to give him a chance to succeed, and in Watkins he will have a true No. 1 target.
Second-rounder Cyrus Kouandjio has high upside at tackle given his youth (still just 20 years old) and physical tools, but has some technique and injury issues to overcome in order to reach his full potential.
Rd. 1 (24): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Dennard was one of the top value picks of the first round. He dropped a bit because of durability concerns, but assuming he stays on the field he could wind up as one of the 10-15 best players in this class. He isn’t a burner and didn’t pick off a ton of passes, but he’s Velcro in coverage, sticking to receivers with great instincts, quickness and body control in press-man coverage. I also liked the picks of RB Jeremy Hill (second round) and C Russell Bodine (fourth) — both of those signaled to me the Bengals want to get more physical in the running game to solve some of their past offensive issues in December and January.
Rd. 1 (22): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (from PHI)
For starters, the Browns offer a great scheme fit for Manziel in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, given Shanahan’s experience at adapting his playbook for Robert Griffin III in Washington, playing to RG III’s strengths as a mobile quarterback and allowing him to make a smooth transition from a spread college scheme to an NFL offense. But perhaps just as important, they did a great job of managing their first-round draft strategy. They kept the defensive coaching staff happy by getting the cornerback they wanted in Justin Gilbert, and picked up a 2015 first-round pick from the Bills in the process.
No matter where he went, Manziel was going to face a lot of attention, but there will be less pressure on him in Cleveland, given the way everything played out in the draft, than he would likely have faced in most other situations.
Rd. 2 (56): Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana (from KC via SF)
Peyton Manning is going to love this young guy. He uses his size to his advantage, winning with physicality and body control and by attacking the football with his hands. He didn’t drop a pass in the five games I studied of him. While he isn’t a burner, I think he can absolutely get enough separation at the pro level. Latimer can have an impact right away, and provides good depth to a unit that will see both Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker become free agents next offseason.
Denver is taking a chance with first-round cornerback Bradley Roby, given his discipline issues both on and off the field, but he has all the physical tools to be a very good NFL corner if the staff can coach him up. The presence of the sheriff in the locker room (Manning) allows you to take the risk here.
Rd. 1 (1): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Texans put together a good draft, and while there were a few different picks that merit consideration, I had to go with the No. 1 pick. Houston made the right decision in taking Clowney first overall. He is the best and most talented player in this class, and the Texans will make him fit in Romeo Crennel’s scheme, taking advantage of his excellent pass-rushing ability and physical tools (including wide receiver-like straight-line speed). He’s got a chance to be a superstar in the NFL.
Rd. 5 (166) Jonathan Newsome, DE, Ball State
The Colts only made five picks in this draft, and I wasn’t all that excited about the five players they took, but I’ll go with Newsome here because of his potential to develop into a good pass-rusher. In the fifth round, he provides very good upside. Jack Mewhort brings physicality and toughness to the offensive line and wide receiver Donte Moncrief has excellent athleticism, although neither represents a sure thing.
Rd. 1 (3): Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
I really liked the two receivers the Jaguars got in the second round in Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson — two good values who will provide their rookie quarterback with some good weaponry. But Bortles has to be the pick here. He might not be ready to play at a high level right away (he doesn’t have to, either), but he has the potential to develop into a very good NFL quarterback. If you think he can be your franchise QB, you have to take him at No. 3. They also deserve credit for keeping their intentions under wraps.
Kansas City Chiefs
Rd. 4 (124): De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
Hopefully for the Chiefs, Thomas will arrive at their program with a chip on his shoulder after dropping all the way to the fourth round. Because if he plays with more motivation than he showed at times for the Ducks last season, he has the potential to be their replacement for Dexter McCluster as an O.W. (offensive weapon, as coined by McCluster when he was going through the draft process) who can exploit matchups and make defenders miss in space. He didn’t run a great 40-yard dash time, but showed very good explosiveness on tape. Third-rounder Phillip Gaines has intriguing potential as a cover corner with his straight-line speed, ball skills and length.
Rd. 2 (63): Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU (from DEN)
He is one of my favorite players in this entire class, and he’s pound-for-pound the toughest, most physical skill-position player in this draft, and he has the best ball skills of any receiver. He doesn’t have great top-end speed which is why he wound up going in the late second round, but he does all the little things well and catches everything. He’ll do well in Miami. The Dolphins took Ja’Wuan James much earlier than where I had him graded, but I don’t think he’s a bad pick because he’s an efficient blocker who fits their system.
New England Patriots
Rd. 2 (62): Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
I can understand why some Patriots fans may have been frustrated by this pick, because with a second-rounder you want to get a guy who can have an immediate impact as the Pats try to maximize their championship window with Tom Brady. But you have to have a long-term vision at the quarterback position, and Garoppolo is a good fit for the Patriots’ program. He has the potential to develop into a good starting quarterback. He has a lot of learning to do, transitioning from the FCS to the pros, but he has the mental makeup to do so and possesses above-average accuracy.
New York Jets
Rd. 2 (49): Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Adding pass-catching weapons was a need for the Jets heading into the draft, and while someone from the trio of Jalen Saunders, Shaq Evans and Quincy Enunwa could emerge as a solid contributor, Amaro has the best chance to make an early impact. He doesn’t have elite speed but at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds he is a huge target who will provide the Jets starting QB (whether it’s Michael Vick or Geno Smith) a security blanket in the passing game.
Rd. 1 (5): Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Jaguars’ decision to take Blake Bortles at No. 3 paved the way for Mack, one of the four elite prospects in this class, to drop to the Raiders at No. 5, and they made the right choice to snap him up. He gives them an instant-impact player whose versatility allows him to be an every-down contributor; he is good at defending the run, he can hold up in pass coverage, and most importantly, he is a very good pass-rusher.
Utah CB Keith McGill was an intriguing pick in the fourth round, given his size and athleticism.
Rd. 2 (46): Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Rd. 4 (118): Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
I’m breaking the rules here by including two guys for the Steelers, but I really couldn’t decide between these two, as they were tops among the many picks of Pittsburgh’s that I really liked in this draft. Tuitt needs to keep his weight down and play with a consistent motor, but he is a top-15 talent in this class who is a great scheme fit for Dick LeBeau’s defense. He is strong and long and can get to the QB.
As for Bryant, he provides the Steelers’ receiving corps with a size element that it doesn’t currently have right now, and he has really good speed (4.42 40) to go with great body control and movement skills. He needs to stay out of trouble, but if he can he’s a steal. Ben Roethlisberger is going to love this pick.
San Diego Chargers
Rd. 2 (50): Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech (from MIA)
Tom Telesco aced the test last year, with an outstanding draft class, and I feel as though he did another good job this year. TCU corner Jason Verrett has a chance to start and was a good pick at No. 25 overall, but I’m going with Attaochu here. I love his motor and versatility, and I think that the Nigerian is really starting to put it all together. Most importantly, he can convert speed to power — a skill that is essential to being a successful pass-rusher in the NFL.
Rd. 1 (11): Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
I think that they might have taken Blake Bortles had he dropped this far, but they did a good job of taking Lewan when he fell into their lap at No. 11. Not only is he a good value, but if you’re the Titans and you want to give Jake Locker a legitimate last chance to prove himself as being the answer at QB, you need to provide him with the assets on offense to succeed. Lewan is a very efficient blocker and excellent athlete. And even if things don’t work out with Locker, in Lewan the Titans have a good building-block player for the future. I like second-round RB Bishop Sankey a lot, but I would’ve preferred to see them take Carlos Hyde.
Round 3 (91): John Brown, WR, Pittsburg State (from NO)
I really like this pick. The Cardinals needed to add depth to their receiving corps both for this year and going forward, and Brown has a high upside at the position. He possesses an excellent combination of speed and quickness out of cuts, which allows him to create good separation from defensive backs, and he can be a nightmare for defenses to bring down in the open field. He also loves going over the middle.
Rd. 4 (103): Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
I thought the Falcons made a can’t-miss pick with Jake Matthews at No. 6 overall, as he is a plug-and-play starter at either left or right tackle who can help keep Matt Ryan upright (career-high 44 sacks last season). But I’m going with Freeman for this one, as he was a great value choice near the top of the fourth round. He runs like his hair is on fire and possesses very good acceleration and lateral agility. Second-round D-lineman Ra’Shede Hageman brings good versatility to Atlanta’s defensive front.
Rd. 2 (60): Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
I like this pick for the Panthers, as Ealy could have gone as early as the late first round and they took advantage of him falling this far. He plays with too much finesse and he has a lot of work to do in his game, but he’s very athletic for his size. What he does best is get up field and be disruptive, and I think he’ll provide that for the Panthers in rotation early in his career, and he could potentially be a long-term replacement for Greg Hardy and/or Charles Johnson.
Rd. 4 (131) Brock Vereen, S, Minnesota (from DEN)
The Bears want versatile, explosive defensive backs, and Vereen fits the bill here. He has excellent closing burst and versatility, and he’s willing to come up and support the run. He should be able to contribute in sub packages for the Bears. I love the way Vereen plays the game. I also really like the Kyle Fuller pick at No. 14 in the first round, as he is just a really good football player who tackles well and shows really good recognition and ball skills. These are two nice additions to Chicago’s secondary.
Rd. 1 (16): Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
I think taking Johnny Manziel at No. 16 overall would have been a mistake based on all the other needs they have on this roster and the risk they’d run in terms of potentially losing the locker room by not addressing those other needs and inviting a possible QB controversy. But that isn’t the only reason I like this pick. Martin was the No. 9 player on our board and should be able to step in and start right away, either at right tackle or left guard. With this pick, the Cowboys have now taken an O-lineman in the first round in three of the last four years, showing good roster management by turning a weakness at a key position group into a strength.
Rd. 5 (158): Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
I think Reid has a chance of sticking. He has really good first-step quickness, and should be able to contribute as part of a rotation early in his career. If he develops, he could be a potential long-term replacement for Nick Fairley. Fourth-round cornerback Nevin Lawson was another intriguing pick to me, as the Lions still need help at that position (they extended their NFL-leading streak by not selecting a defensive back in the first round of their 16th straight draft). We’ll see if he can come in and contribute as a rookie. Tight end Eric Ebron could be a difference-maker at No. 10 overall.
Green Bay Packers
Rd. 2 (53): Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
The Packers put together a really strong draft. I almost went with third-round D-tackle Khyri Thornton for this one, as he has a quick first step and explosive power as a one-gap disruptor, and he helps Green Bay achieve its goal of getting more athletic along the defensive front. But I’ll instead take Adams, an outstanding route runner with exceptional hands who can be a very productive target for Aaron Rodgers in multi-receiver formations.
Rd. 1 (32): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (from SEA)
I wasn’t crazy about the Vikings using the No. 9 overall pick on Anthony Barr, but I do like the pick of Bridgewater with the 32nd pick. He doesn’t have the big-time arm you’d like to see, but he is the most NFL-ready of the quarterbacks in this class with the fastest eyes and very good accuracy on tape. The Vikings have to keep taking swings in an attempt to land their franchise quarterback. Also, don’t be surprised if one of the late-round cornerbacks they took — Antone Exum, Kendall James and Jabari Price — earns significant playing time. Exum is really talented and has just had issues staying healthy, James has very good speed and Price can be a solid performer so long as he’s protected vertically.
New Orleans Saints
Rd. 1 (20): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State (from ARI)
The Saints had to trade up to get Cooks, but he could prove to be worth it. He is explosively fast, has outstanding hands and may be the best route runner in this class. He’s also an elite competitor, and I really like his fit alongside Marques Colston and Kenny Stills in the Saints’ receiving corps. Cornerback Stan Jean-Baptiste was a good pick at the end of the second round as well. He’ll give Rob Ryan a big, physical press corner whose measurables and background remind of Richard Sherman. He has a chance to be a steal.
New York Giants
Rd. 2 (43): Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State
Richburg should be the Giants’ new starting center. He is a great fit for their offense as a zone blocker, due to his footwork, long arms (33 inches) and ability to move his feet after initial contact. He doesn’t come from a powerhouse program, but his performance against the bigs of Alabama won me over. The Giants really need to keep Eli Manning upright, and this pick will help with that. But it was a tough call deciding between this pick and WR Odell Beckham Jr. at No. 12 overall, an explosive weapon in the passing game.
Rd. 3 (86): Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
Huff came off the board a little earlier than I would have expected based on the grade we gave him, but I think it made sense for the Eagles to take him where they did. Obviously, Chip Kelly has a high level of familiarity with Huff from their time together at Oregon, and Huff knows the language of Kelly’s program and what’s expected of him coming in as a rookie. He is a very versatile athlete who should be able to produce big plays both running the ball and as a receiver.
San Francisco 49ers
Rd. 3 (70): Marcus Martin, C, USC (from JAC)
Rd. 4 (106): Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina (from CLE)
I really liked a lot of the Niners’ picks in the 2014 draft, so I went with two here. Martin is a steal — we had him ranked as the 37th-best player in the draft, and they got him in the third round. He is a physical interior lineman who is close to a finished project, and the Niners can play him at either center or guard and can get him on the field right away if they want. As for Ellington, he brings really good speed to the slot receiver position, and he’s a good route runner with solid hands.
Rd. 4 (123): Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama (from CIN)
I like the speed, route-running and overall upside of second-round WR Paul Richardson, but he is likely more of a long-term project given that he needs to add more bulk and strength. Norwood, on the other hand, could come in and contribute right away in a receiving corps that could use some more depth. He doesn’t have great top-end speed, but his football intelligence is off the charts. Some of his best work came when AJ McCarron went off-script, as he would come back to the ball, find soft spots in zone coverage and just generally make plays for his QB, and that same kind of improvisational QB play is a big part of Russell Wilson’s game.
St. Louis Rams
Rd. 1 (2): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn (from WAS)
The Rams had a really good draft, and any of their top four picks would have been good choices here; Robinson, DT Aaron Donald (13th pick), CB Lamarcus Joyner (41st pick) and RB Tre Mason all ranked in the top 61 of our prospect rankings, and each was a great value choice based on where the Rams picked him. But Robinson is the best of the bunch. He is the most dominant offensive lineman at the point of attack that I’ve ever evaluated, and he is at his best when he’s freed up to just steamroll guys in the running game. I think he can start right away at right tackle, or they could kick him inside to guard to start his career and adjust to the NFL level before transitioning him to tackle.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rd. 1 (7): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Bucs were fortunate Evans fell this far, and they didn’t try to out-smart themselves and instead just took him as the best available player. He is a huge target with very good competitiveness and a high success rate on 50-50 balls, and by drafting him to play opposite Vincent Jackson the Bucs are giving new QB Josh McCown a big receiver duo similar to what he had in Chicago with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. He could have an immediate impact.
Rd. 3 (66): Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
I had a first-round grade on Moses, and while I realize I liked him as a prospect better than many others did, he still represents excellent value as a third-round pick. He struggled for the first part of his career but really started to excel after moving over to left tackle this past season. Defensive players need to take a cab ride to get around his long arms. I thought the Redskins reached by taking OLB Trent Murphy in the second round, but that was off-set by landing a great value in the third in Moses — at a need position.
Posted on May 11, 2014, in College Football, NFL, Sports Media World and tagged Blake Bortles, Clowney, Johnny Manziel, NFL Draft, Sammy Watkins. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on NFL Draft: Recapping The Best Picks By Each Team After An Exciting NFL Draft.