2014 NFL Draft First Round Grades

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Pittsburgh Steelers B-

The Pittsburgh Steelers biggest need going into the draft was at cornerback, but the Steelers also filled out a need on draft day by snagging Ryan Shazier at No. 15. Shazier was one of the draft’s fastest risers, so it wasn’t overly surprising to see him make it into the top 15. The Baltimore Ravens took the other top LB prospect two picks later (C.J. Mosley), but it wasn’t surprising to see Shazier go before Mosley due to the Alabama product’s medical red flags. Shazier is the best coverage linebacker in this class due to his ridiculous speed and athleticism, and he will form a top starting LB duo with Lawrence Timmons.

Baltimore Ravens B-

Ozzie Newsome decided to go with the best available player at No. 17, and he pulled Mosley despite not having a pressing need at linebacker after re-signing standout Daryl Smith. The Ravens also have talented second-year pro Arthur Brown, who was a high pick last year, coming up the ranks, but I guess  the Ravens saw that Mosley was too good to pass up on. Arguably one of the top ten prospects in the class when looking at overall talent, Mosley can be an excellent all-around linebacker in this league due to his strong work in all facets of the game. He has top intangibles, can cover at a high level, and he is a plus run defender with great range.

Cincinnati Bengals B+

I thought the Cincinnati Bengals did an excellent job this year by drafting Darqueze Dennard at 24, and he is a great addition to a secondary that includes top corner Leon Hall. Dennard is the best press corner in this year’s class due to his physicality and football IQ, and he’s faster than some give him credit for. The Bengals got good value by picking up Dennard in the late first, and he could develop into a true shutdown corner.

Cleveland Browns B-

I’m sure the Cleveland Browns were livid that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to pick Mike Evans over Odell Beckham Jr., because the Browns seemed to have a huge amount of interest in drafting the Texas A&M Aggies product. Ray Farmer did plenty of wheeling and dealing in the first as a first-year GM, trading down with the Buffalo Bills instead of drafting Sammy Watkins, before moving up to No. 8 in order to take Justin Gilbert. The Browns needed a top CB opposite of shutdown corner Joe Haden, and Gilbert has excellent tools and playmaking ability. More of a boom-or-bust prospect than some think due to his lack of polish and horrific run defense, Gilbert could excel in Cleveland. Mike Pettine excels at developing talent, and the Browns needed a playmaker in their secondary. Plus, Gilbert will have some legroom as a rookie with Haden as the CB1, and Haden’s physicality meshes well with Gilbert’s finesse style of play. As for the Johnny Manziel pick, all I can say that the Browns got their man, and it all comes down to what Kyle Shanahan and Dowell Loggains can do; I have confidence in those two stalwart coaches.

Denver Broncos B-

I’m sure the Denver Broncos were disappointed to see both Mosley and Shazier drafted in the top ten, because those two would have been dream picks for the LB-needy Broncos. The prime Super Bowl contenders needed some CB help too, and they were able to add another talented player to their defense by drafting Ohio State Buckeyes product Bradley Roby. He fell in this year’s draft due to some character concerns, a lack of discipline in coverage (gets burned a bit too much), and a weak 2013 season. But it’s important to note that Roby has as much raw talent as anyone at corner, and I would go as far to say that he has the best pure physical tools of any CB in this draft. My fifth-ranked guy at the position, Roby could be an excellent starter across from Aqib Talib if developed correctly, and I firmly believe Urban Meyer did not use him right last year. Roby struggles in zone coverage, but he can be an All-Pro man cover corner if he fulfills his potential. Due to the Broncos overall depth and talent, they are definitely in a position to take that risk. Plus, Roby was probably the best prospect available for them anyway.

San Diego Chargers A

Jason Verrett has been my top-ranked cornerback for quite some time, and I am absolutely in love with Tom Telesco’s pick at No. 25. Verrett lacks size, but that doesn’t scare me at all, even if he is forced to play in the slot in the pros. I mean, slot corners are still very valuable in this league, and I’m sure Chargers fans who have watched Denver Broncos SCB Chris Harris Jr. closely know this very well. Although he is small, Verrett could be the next Brent Grimes on the outside due to his top-notch technique, football IQ, elite ball skills (check out his pass defended numbers throughout his career at TCU), solid run defense, and physicality. In my eyes, Verrett has the total package at corner, and the only thing missing is height.

Kansas City Chiefs D+

I’m not a fan of the Dee Ford pick, but I do wonder if I’m being a little bit too critical of it. Ford was a stud at the Senior Bowl and did a very good job of getting quick pressure off the edge during his time at Auburn, but he’s a one-dimensional player who doesn’t make much of an impact in run defense. If the Chiefs wanted a pass rusher, then I think they would have been better off drafting Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu. But I’m disappointed that the Chiefs passed up on Marqise Lee and Jimmie Ward, whom I believe to be better prospects than Ford, and both would have filled major positions of need in KC. That said, John Dorsey and Andy Reid are clearly good decision-makers, so they could easily make me eat crow with this one.

Oakland Raiders A

I love it. The Oakland Raiders didn’t need to trade down or overdraft Aaron Donald, as Khalil Mack fell right into their laps at No. 5. There was once some buzz that Mack would go No. 1 overall to the Texans, and there’s was no way of him making it past the top five. The Raiders now have a very formidable front seven featuring LaMarr Woodley, Justin Tuck, Sio Moore, Antonio Smith, and now Khalil Mack.

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