Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
The 2014 NFL Draft is officially wrapped up, and this year’s draft has been the most exciting and entertaining one that many of us have ever seen. There were surprise picks and unexpected trades made over the three days of action and all of it added to the much anticipated and record-setting action in Radio City.
Whoever your favorite team is chances are that they selected someone of notable status. Whether or not that status will equal success of disaster is still to be determined, but for now, optimism is aplenty all over the league.
For anyone still craving some draft notes and thoughts, enjoy.
Biggest Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
Just about every single pick made by the Jaguars was pure gold, and they have drastically improved their roster. The only real question mark for them was their first pick, quarterback Blake Bortles. With all of the class’s quarterbacks still available, guys like Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel both have much more to offer than him. However, Caldwell was reported to have fallen in love with Bortles from the very beginning, and he should be commended for sticking with his guy.
As for the rest of their picks, the Jaguars used two of their next three picks to add some targets for Bortles to throw to, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. Two defensive players drafted could turn out to be steals, as well. Former Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin and former Florida State outside linebacker Telvin Smith were taken in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively. All in all, Jacksonville walks away with the most successful draft in the league.
Winner: St. Louis Rams
Many expected the Rams to make some big trades heading into the first day of the draft, but that turned out to not be the case. St. Louis kept both of their first round picks where they were and selected offensive tackle Greg Robinson with the second overall pick and defensive tackle Aaron Donald with the thirteenth overall pick. Both are great talents and will be able to provide immediately for their new team.
The next three picks were used to draft defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, running back Tre Mason, and safety Maurice Alexander, all of whom will figure to get a lot of early playing time. Joyner offers versatility as he can play both corner and safety for the Rams, and Mason will contribute to the running game along with Zac Stacy. St. Louis then went on to make headlines by drafting defensive end Michael Sam, who will look to try and make their roster over the offseason as a situational pass rusher.
Winner: Oakland Raiders
The Raiders were more than happy to see outside linebacker Khalil Mack fall all the way down to them at fifth overall. Over the draft process leading up to the event, nearly everyone had Mack within their top five overall prospect rankings, and some even had him as the top overall prospect in this class. With guys like Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater, that is quite the compliment. The former University of Buffalo standout will bring a lot to the table for Oakland and looks to be the face of the defense for years to come.
The Raiders next pick was used on their probable quarterback of the future in former Fresno State Bulldog Derek Carr. There were a lot of rumblings going on around the league and throughout the social media that Carr would be likely picked somewhere within the first round and that is where I had him graded out to be, so Oakland got a good deal for him with their second round pick. Guard Gabe Jackson, cornerback Keith McGill, and safety Jonathon Dowling were several other notable selections made by the Raiders and should all look to either contribute or start early.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
There are multiple reasons why the Vikings had one of the best draft classes this year, and it starts with their two first round selections. Minnesota actually traded down a spot and was still able to pick up outside linebacker Anthony Barr with the ninth pick overall. Though Barr may not project well in a base 4-3 scheme, I have no doubt that Mike Zimmer will shape him into the type of player he needs him to be. The team then made waves and traded back into the first round as a deal was made with the Seattle Seahawks for the 32nd pick. They used this pick to draft quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the best quarterback in this year’s class.
Nearly all of the rest of the Vikings picks are great values for where they were selected. Defensive end Scott Crichton seemed like a bit of a reach for me with the 72nd overall selection but is now in an excellent position to succeed. Running back Jerick McKennon will not be restrained to just one position as the Vikings will be able to use him all over the field to make plays. The next two picks, offensive guard David Yankey and cornerback/safety Antone Exum are both players who have a few issues but could push for a starting role for Minnesota over their offseason training.
Winner: San Diego Chargers
San Diego made two of the best moves for bolstering their defense by adding cornerback Jason Verrett and outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu with their first two picks. Verrett is my number one corner this year and even though he may not be at the height that many teams would like, he is insanely gifted with his abilities and more than makes up for his physical limitations. The Chargers should be able to line Attaochu up from anywhere along their defensive front and see him get after the quarterback on a regular basis.
The Chargers held only six total draft picks this year but were able to use each one and make the most out of them. Guard Chris Watt was their next selection and has the opportunity to protect quarterback Phillip Rivers for years to come. As for the rest of the group, nose tackle Ryan Carrethers, running back Marion Grice, and wide receiver Tevin Reese, all add valuable depth and potential to garner touches and snaps in the upcoming season.
Biggest Loser: Carolina Panthers
Looking at Carolina, there are so many holes and positions that need attending to that it was imperative that they make the most out of it. Not only did they not make the most out of their selections, but they failed to address some of their biggest needs. Their first round pick was used on wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and while he may have issues with drops, there is a lot of potential with him and he could develop into a great target for Cam. Defensive end/tackle Kony Ealy dropped all the way into the second round and when he was still on the board when the Panthers were up, they pulled the trigger. Ealy will provide immediate pass rushing help and could replace Greg Hardy if a deal is not addressed by next season.
Although the Ealy pick was excellent value, they are desperately in need of an upgrade at left tackle and passed on guys like Morgan Moses to select the talented pass rusher. Carolina did, however, improve their interior offensive line by selecting guard Trai Turner out of LSU. Turner has the size and strength needed to move bodies and clear running lanes. The rest of the draft is puzzling for me as the Panthers would then go on to draft safety Tre Boston, cornerback Bene’ Benwikere, and running back Tyler Gaffney. All three will only add depth to their positions and it’s not like Carolina doesn’t already have enough running backs on their roster, so why use a pick on another one?
Loser: Cincinnati Bengals
This may not be a popular opinion for some, but I feel that the Bengals did not use their draft picks in the best of ways. First round selection, cornerback Darqueze Dennard, is my favorite of their picks and is one of the best cornerbacks in this class. They needed help at this position and were able to get a great pro prospect to help address it. Outside of this, there was not a whole lot to be positive about for the Bengals. Their second round pick was used on running back Jeremy Hill, a position that is already in a great spot on a player who has a lot of off-field issues which doesn’t make for a great usage of a high draft pick.
Defensive end Will Clarke is an intriguing player who could work into becoming a good starter in the league but doesn’t fit this defensive scheme well. Former North Carolina center Russell Bodine has good strength but was a bit of a reach in the fourth. The Bengals then went on to add Andy Dalton’s backup (and possible replacement) quarterback A.J. McCarrron. There are a lot of people who are split on whether or not McCarron has the skill set to handle the starting duties at quarterback, but with time, I think he could do just that.
Loser: Seattle Seahawks
Before anyone reads too much into this, I know this team’s draft history, and I know about what they have been able to do with those picks. However, there are several picks that could have either been used for a different position or player. Their first selection in the draft, wide receiver Paul Richardson, was a great pick up for their offense, and he will be able to use his hands and athletic ability to help out Russell Wilson. Even with Richardson, this group lacks a lot of firepower and immediate production.
Former Missouri offensive tackle Justin Britt will provide solid depth at both guard and tackle spots and could take over starting duties in a few years time. Wide receiver Kevin Norwood will also prove to be a good addition to an already very productive receiving corps. The rest of the group includes guys like linebacker Cassius Marsh and strong safety Dion Bailey, but all are looking at Pro Bowl level players ahead of them and will be pushing for the backup role behind them. Some of these players are not yet proven or have off-field problems, but all will have time to show what they can bring to the Seahawks.