NFL Draft first round analysis and grades
The first round of the 2014 NFL Draft unfolded Thursday night, with a defensive phenom going first overall. Every quarterback except UCF's Blake Bortles fell precipitously, with Johnny Manziel going 22nd overall and the Vikings moving back up into the first round to grab Teddy Bridgewater with the final pick. Read analysis of every pick here:
Team • Player • School • Position • Grade
1. Houston Texans • Jadeveon Clowney • South Carolina • DE • A+
The Texans grab the best defensive player in the draft who will be a terror paired with J.J. Watt. He can be a defensive end or outside linebacker and will be a pass rushing force in the AFC South. The motivation concerns will disappear right after his first NFL sack.
2. St. Louis Rams • Greg Robinson • Auburn • OT • A
The Rams reportedly hoped to trade down with this spot, but Robinson is a great fit. This is a "make or break" year for Sam Bradford and with left tackle Jake Long coming off a torn ACL, Robinson is a great insurance policy. He needs work on his pass protection, but could fit at left guard for a year before becoming a dominant tackle.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars • Blake Bortles • UCF • QB • C
The Jaguars needed a quarterback after moving on from Blaine Gabbert, but this is a reach. Bortles is talented, big armed and has a good frame, but he's green and will need time to learn. The Jags will need him to contribute right away, which might be a problem.
4. TRADE - Buffalo Bills • Sammy Watkins • Clemson • WR • B
The Bills give up a small fortune, but grab the most explosive playmaker in this draft for EJ Manuel. Watkins will form a formidable pairing with Robert Woods and will stretch the field and make plays for Buffalo. The trade doesn't seem prohibitively expensive.
5. Oakland Raiders • Khalil Mack • Buffalo • OLB • A+
Oakland needs talent at nearly every position and Mack is a game changing talent. He's a spectacular pass rusher and tackler in the mold of Denver's Von Miller. He'll contribute right away and put pressure on division passing foes Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith.
6. Atlanta Falcons • Jake Matthews • Texas A&M • OT • A
With the top two pass rushers off the board, the Falcons secure the cleanest prospect in the draft. Matt Ryan needs better protection and Matthews is a technical and intelligent upgrade over Sam Baker. He'll help Atlanta get back to the playoffs.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers • Mike Evans • Texas A&M • WR • A
Tampa Bay goes with the pick the team has been heavily linked to, grabbing the imposing and physical Evans. Evans routinely dominated the best teams in the SEC and will be a terror along with fellow tall receiver Vincent Jackson.
8. TRADE - Cleveland Browns • Justin Gilbert • Oklahoma State • CB • C
Gilbert is arguably the best corner in the draft, but he's a reach at this spot. The Browns needed a corner across from Joe Haden, but Johnny Manziel would have been a better selection. The upside is the Browns need another guy to stop division receivers like A.J. Green and Gilbert will do that.
9. Minnesota Vikings • Anthony Barr • UCLA • OLB • B
New coach Mike Zimmer grabs Barr, who will slot in immediately at outside linebacker. He's a big, physical linebacker that can rush the passer.
10. Detroit Lions • Eric Ebron • TE • North Carolina • B
The Lions needed a weapon to take some pressure off Calvin Johnson and Ebron will do it. He's in the mold of Vernon Davis and is next in line of the playmaking tight ends that are too fast for linebackers and too big for safeties to cover. However, the Lions ignore a big need at corner with in-state product Darqueze Dennard sitting there.
11. Tennessee Titans • Taylor Lewan • OT • Michigan • C-
Lewan is my least favorite selection so far. He's a mauler and had plenty of starting experience in Michigan, but the Titans had greater needs at corner and pass rusher. Lewan will help Jake Locker if the Titans remain committed to him, but this pick is a head scratcher.
12. New York Giants • Odell Beckham Jr. • WR • LSU • B
Beckham Jr. is a great weapon and will help and eventually succeed Hakeem Nicks. He plays well in traffic, has strong hands and runs clean routes, essential for Eli Manning. However, Notre Dame OT Zack Martin was there and the Giants needed some pass protection help.
13. St. Louis Rams • Aaron Donald • DT • Pittsburgh • A
The Rams could have gone with a corner here, but Donald is too good to pass up. He's on the smaller side, but will make the St. Louis defensive line virtually unblockable with him, Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn and Chris Long. He's a great interior pass rusher and the Rams invest in both lines to beef up in the NFC West.
14. Chicago Bears • Kyle Fuller • CB • Virginia Tech • B-
Fuller is a solid corner, but I think that he's near his ceiling comparative to Darqueze Dennard. He'll help against the run and will be solid outside, but Chicago's run defense was abysmal last season. Louisville's Calvin Pryor would have been a better option along with Florida State's Timmy Jernigan.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers • Ryan Shazier • OLB • Ohio State • B
The Steelers got old at too many positions on defense and Shazier is a good pick for what they like to do. James Harrison is long gone and Lamarr Woodley moved on, leaving Jason Worilds as the best option. Shazier will help boost the pass rush as well as tackling in the front seven.
16. Dallas Cowboys • Zack Martin • OT/OG • Notre Dame • A
The assumed pick here was Johnny Manziel, but Martin is a much smarter and safer choice. He's versatile and will give the Cowboys a boost at either right tackle or inside at guard. He's smooth in pass and run blocking and will be a building block across from Tyron Smith.
17. Baltimore Ravens • C.J. Mosley • ILB • Alabama • B
Mosley is a perfect Baltimore pick. He's intelligent, can become a quarterback of the defense and will flow from sideline-to-sideline, despite his smaller size. The Ravens have the luxury of bringing him along slowly as he puts on more weight and he could become a poor man's Ray Lewis.
18. New York Jets • Calvin Pryor • Safety • Louisville • A
The Jets nab an enforcer at safety and one of the top defensive players available. Pryor is in the mold of Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor and is a hard hitter while still being able to cover ground in the defensive backfield. He'll add an edge to Rex Ryan's defense.
19. Miami Dolphins • Ja'Wuan James • OT • Tennessee • C+
The Dolphins reached to fill a need, usually a bad plan. James is a solid tackle, but Miami should have tried to move up for Zack Martin. The offensive tackle class falls off after Robinson, Matthews, Lewan and Martin. The Dolphins needed to shore up a unit that allowed 58 sacks last season, but James isn't a great pick with other options here.
20. TRADE - New Orleans Saints • Brandin Cooks • WR • Oregon State • A+
Drew Brees gets another weapon in the explosive Cooks, who dominated the Pac-12 last season. He had 16 touchdowns last season and is a speedster. An offense with Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, Jimmy Graham and Brandin Cooks? Good luck to the rest of the NFC South on defending the Saints.
21. Green Bay Packers • Ha Ha Clinton-Dix • Safety • Alabama • A
The Packers sat tight and picked the best player available. Clinton-Dix is rangy and although the comparisons to Earl Thomas are generous, he'll be a good free safety. The Packers also add a player that can help over the top with division receivers like Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson and Alshon Jeffery.
22. TRADE - Cleveland Browns • Johnny Manziel • QB • Texas A&M • A
Manziel slipped all the way down to 22 and was a great pick at this spot. He'll pump some excitement into the Browns franchise and will pair well with Josh Gordon.
23. Kansas City Chiefs • Dee Ford • DE • Auburn • B
Ford showed up well in the tough SEC with 10.5 sacks. He'll be good for pressuring Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. Interesting that they passed on Marqise Lee at this spot when Dwayne Bowe has been unreliable.
24. Cincinnati Bengals • Darqueze Dennard • CB • Michigan State • A
Dennard is a perfect marriage of need and talent. He's great in the press and man coverage, allowing the Bengals to leave him on an island with guys like Josh Gordon. The Bengals needed an upgrade in an aging secondary and Dennard could have been a top 10 pick.
25. San Diego Chargers • Jason Verrett • CB • TCU • A
The Chargers get my favorite corner in the draft. He's undersized, but fluid and quick in coverage. The Chargers needed a corner and even if Verrett plays primarily in the slot, he'll be a great cover man.
26. Philadelphia Eagles • Marcus Smith • OLB • Louisville • D
The Eagles grab a guy that wasn't on my radar when Kony Ealy was still there. Receiver was a higher need for Philadelphia after DeSean Jackson left for division rival Washington.
27. Arizona Cardinals • Deonne Bucannon • Safety • Washington State • B
Bucannon is a bit of a reach, but is one of my favorite players at the safety position. He's similar to Pryor with his physicality and will add toughness to a defensive backfield with talents like Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
28. Carolina Panthers • Kelvin Benjamin • WR • Florida State • C+
The Panthers fill a need, but Benjamin is an older prospect that is one-dimensional and stiff. He'll be a jump ball target for Cam Newton, but the Panthers could have taken Morgan Moses or a similar receiver like Cody Latimer that is better overall.
29. New England Patriots • Dominique Easley • DT • Florida • B
Easley has had ACL surgery on both knees, but has reportedly been given a clean bill of health and fits perfectly with New England, He's in the mold of former Patriots star Richard Seymour and he'll boost New England's pass rush.
30. San Francisco 49ers • Jimmie Ward • Safety • Northern Illinois • B
Ward adds to an already talented 49ers defense that spent a first round pick on Eric Reid last year. San Francisco needed a corner more, but with a shallow group at safety, Ward is a good pick. He's smaller, but is a rangy ballhawk.
31. Denver Broncos • Bradley Roby • CB • Ohio State • A
Roby fell because of off-the-field concerns and a down 2013, but he's quick, athletic and a smooth cover man. He'll add to free agent signee Aqib Talib after Champ Bailey and Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie moved on.
32. TRADE - Minnesota Vikings • Teddy Bridgewater • QB • Louisville • A+
Bridgewater is intelligent, accurate and a fantastic value at this spot. He fell in the pre-draft process, but the Vikings get a quarterback for the future and a franchise leader.
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