There is a great deal of depth in the 2014 NFL Draft class, and that was reflected in the sheer amount of quality picks made in the second and third rounds yesterday. After grading the first round of the draft, it’s time to hand in the report cards for day two. Teams like the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars look like big winners on paper, but there are other teams who didn’t seem to fare out so well. It’s critical to note that draft grades are all knee-jerk, and we never even know how good a prospect is until after three years. But it’s still good to take a quick look at what teams were able to do on draft day, and I always keep in mind the caveat that apparent “reach” picks (like Travis Frederick) have a way of becoming home-run picks when we look at the draft in hindsight. Thus, I only rarely give out grades below passing (C-).
New York Jets B
The New York Jets decided to take a defensive back instead of a wide receiver in the first round, passing up on Brandin Cooks, who was taken by the New Orleans Saints with the 20th overall pick. But the Jets unsurprisingly added a top pass-catcher in round two, selecting Texas Tech Red Raiders tight end Jace Amaro, who should form an excellent TE duo with the steady Jeff Cumberland. Geno Smith will likely get a quality wideout to throw it to on day three, as there are still some talented guys left at the position like Jared Abbrederis, Martavis Bryant, and Brandon Coleman. Anyway, Amaro was one of the “big three” TE prospects in this draft, and he should start over Cumberland as a rookie. Blessed with a great size/speed combination, Amaro has upside as a blocker. He isn’t nearly as dynamic as Eric Ebron and isn’t as polished as Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but he’s talented and was a very good pick for the Jets. John Idzik also scooped up cornerback Dexter McDougle in the third round, and he’s an interesting player who could become a viable slot corner for the Jets.
Buffalo Bills B
The Bills came away with a solid haul yesterday, as they snagged an offensive lineman and linebacker who can make a big impact in the running game. With Morgan Moses and Joel Bitonio off of the board with early picks, the Bills were forced to settle for Cyrus Kouandjio, who has major health concerns. That said, Kouandjio is a talented prospect who was a consensus first-round pick before the red flags became known, and he should start over Erik Pears as a rookie. The Bills have a top-notch left tackle in Cordy Glenn, and Kouandjio can take the Bills strong-side run blocking for the duo of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson to the next level. The Bills also drafted inside linebacker Preston Brown, and his game reminds me of one of their current starting LBs in Brandon Spikes. Brown struggles in coverage, but he could be an elite run defender in the NFL a la Spikes. Since Spikes was only signed to a one-year deal, Brown looks like a tailor-made replacement for the former New England Patriots MLB in 2015.
New England Patriots C-
This was about an average pick for the Patriots, but I think they took a quarterback too early. It would have been ideal for the Patriots to take another top skill position player in the second round before snagging a quarterback in the third, but I can understand why the Patriots would take Jimmy Garoppolo in the second. Maybe they like Garoppolo a lot more than the other quarterbacks behind him, and Garoppolo most likely wouldn’t have been available for them in the third. Plus, it’s possible that other quarterbacks like Aaron Murray wouldn’t have been there in round three either, so the Patriots decided that it’s too risky to wait on a QB they are sold on. This pick makes sense if Garoppolo is indeed the heir apparent to Tom Brady, and he has good physical tools and intriguing upside. That said, the Patriots have their work cut-out with Garoppolo, because he’s raw and struggles mightily under pressure. He has plenty of time to develop, though, and he could become an even more valuable trade chip than Ryan Mallett. After all, the Patriots spent a higher pick (second vs. third) on Garoppolo than Mallett.
Miami Dolphins B
The Miami Dolphins also did a solid job on day two, and I think they absolutely nailed the Jarvis Landry pick. Even though his measurables are poor, scouting players with their actual game tape is far more important, and Landry really jumps off on tape. He has great body control, runs clean routes, should have no issues translating to the NFL, and he has the quickness to make up for his lack of long speed. Landry cuts well, and he has the best hands in the class thanks to impeccable technique, big hands, and a chokehold to secure the ball when he gets his hands on it. The Dolphins have given Landry a reliable target, and they have one of the best-looking WR corpses on paper in Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, and Landry (that’s not even mentioning athletic TE Charles Clay). The Dolphins made another upgrade on their offensive line by adding small-school sleeper guy Billy Turner, who can play at guard or tackle and has big upside as a run blocker.