2014 NFL Draft First Round Grades

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Teddy Bridgewater after being selected as the number thirty-two overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft to the Minnesota Vikings at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to hand out some brief report cards for each team’s picks in the first round of the draft, with only teams that picked players receiving grades. The Seattle Seahawks did well to trade down with the Minnesota Vikings, but it’s a given that teams trading down from the bottom half are usually regarded as “winners”. My grades will be higher than most, because I don’t believe in handing out very harsh grades right after the conclusion of the draft, because we simply don’t know if a reach pick was truly a reach. I mean, take a look at the job Travis Frederick did for the Dallas Cowboys last season for a prime example of a “reach” prospect starring in their first season in the league. Heck, you can add Bruce Irvin to that list, too.

New York Jets C

I’m not a fan of this pick, but I’m not going to slam it either. The New York Jets were expected to select a wide receiver or cornerback in the first round, but CB/S was pretty much an interchangeable need for them; they needed major help in the secondary. Calvin Pryor could be that major help, and he has plenty of physical tools that remind some people of former Chicago Bears safety Mike Brown. I did an in-depth film breakdown on him, and I noticed that he’s more comfortable in zone than in man coverage. Pryor is a ridiculously good run defender with plenty of ball skills, but I wanted the Jets to go after a better coverage player. I’m cool with people ranking Pryor as the best safety in the class, but it was a surprise to see the Jets draft him over Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Jimmie Ward, and CB Darqueze Dennard. To me, this is a boom-or-bust pick that should receive average marks, but Pryor’s true success in the NFL depends on his coaching. If Rex Ryan and the Jets staff do their job correctly, then they could get someone who can play more than just an in-the-box role and could potentially become an All-Pro player at the position. They hit on Sheldon Richardson last year and received some strong play towards the end of the season from Dee Milliner, so I’m not going to make a strong bet against them this year.

Buffalo Bills D+

Doug Whaley is an aggressive GM, and the trade up for Sammy Watkins shouldn’t have taken anyone following pre-draft rumors closely by surprise. Not only did the Bills love Watkins as a prospect, but there were always rumors circulating around that they would be willing to trade up to the fourth or fifth pick in order to draft him. That’s exactly what they did, and they were able to land a marquee wide receiver for E.J. Manuel. But while the Bills did well to trade up for the most talented receiver in the class, they could have drafted someone like Odell Beckham Jr. or Eric Ebron at No. 9 without paying the price of moving up to No. 4. Watkins should be great in Buffalo, but is the drop off between OBJ and Watkins worth the haul of picks? I’m not so sure about that. This move gives Stevie Johnson a bit of a cloudy future, so we’ll see if the whispers of a potential trade become audible talk.

New England Patriots B-

It’s always a risk to bank on a prospect with two torn ACLs, but I’m a fan of the Patriots decision to draft Dominique Easley. This guy would have easily been one of the top 15 prospects in this year’s draft if he didn’t get injured again, and I would have ranked him in the top ten without much hesitation. An explosive pass rusher who can plug up holes against the run, Easley is a high-impact DT who is what people thought Sharrif Floyd was last year. Easley can be a dynamic partner for Vince Wilfork at the heart of the Patriots defense, and there’s no doubt that the Pats could use a guy with Easley’s talent at DT. Again, there’s some risk here, but a contender like the Patriots can afford to take that risk, especially if they snag a pick from the Houston Texans by trading Ryan Mallett to them.

Miami Dolphins D+

Ja’Wuan James was mentioned in a vast amount of Dolphins pre-draft chatter, so it wasn’t a surprise when the Dolphins decided to draft the former Tennessee Volunteers right tackle in the first. That said, they had better be sold on him big-time, because this looks like a massive reach for Dennis Hickey on paper. James has talent, but he received a third-round grade from most draft analysts. As I said in the first paragraph, we’ve all been wrong before, but I can’t help but feel that the Dolphins could have easily taken him in the first. They reached for their need at offensive tackle, but I feel like the Dolphins were hurt badly by a “perfect storm” situation. We have to take into account the fact that the Dolphins probably couldn’t find a legit trade partner, and they were dealt a tough blow when both Ryan Shazier and C.J. Mosley went to top AFC North teams; the Dallas Cowboys decision to draft Zack Martin also screwed them over.

Houston Texans A

There really isn’t much explaining needed here, and those tuned in to pre-draft rumors yesterday knew that the Houston Texans were expected to draft Jadeveon Clowney. He gives the Texans an elite talent on defense in the front seven, and he will greatly bolstered a pass rush that disappointed last season. Now, it will be interesting to see what the Texans do at quarterback.

Jacksonville Jaguars C+

The Jacksonville Jaguars smokescreened the heck out of us with Johnny Manziel rumors and the believeable reports of the team looking to draft a “safe” prospect at No. 3 before drafting “their guy” at quarterback in round two. Instead, the Jaguars made Blake Bortles the first quarterback off of the board, and it will be interesting to see if Jedd Fisch and Gus Bradley can fulfill his vast potential. Bortles is unpolished and stares down receivers, but nobody can deny that he has excellent physical tools. It looks like the Jaguars will let Bortles learn and develop this season, suffer through a year of Chad Henne, draft another top prospect next year, and hopefully be ready to roll soon.

Tennessee Titans C+

I think drafting Taylor Lewan was about an average move for the Tennessee Titans, but they would have received a higher grade if they never made the strange decision to overpay RT Michael Oher in free agency. Lewan is one of the top ten prospects in the entire class, and he will be a franchise starting tackle in Tennessee due to his excellent pass blocking and run blocking. He could start this year at RT, and he will likely supplant Michael Roos next year when the veteran LT’s contract runs out.

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