The 2014 NFL Draft came to a close yesterday after the Houston Texans made Memphis Tigers safety Lonnie Ballentine the intriguing “Mr. Irrelevant” of this year’s draft class, and this year’s affair was as fun to watch as we expected. There were several shocks, twists and turns, and the third day of the draft still managed to give us some interesting storylines. The Texans finally took a quarterback, the Cincinnati Bengals (not the Baltimore Ravens…we were trolled by ESPN, too) drafted A.J. McCarron, and teams managed to find some more bargains on the final day of an incredibly deep draft class. Below are grades for each team based solely on what they did on the third day of the draft, and you can read our grades for the first day here and the second day here.
Buffalo Bills B
Just a quick note: this grade does not include the Bills decision to acquire backup running back Bryce Brown from the Philadelphia Eagles. Although I was a bit surprised to see Randell Johnson go drafted, the Bills turned in a solid final day of the draft, snagging a couple of well-known prospects. Cyril Richardson fell into the third day of the draft, but he didn’t last too long, as the Bills plucked him in the fifth round. He could easily turn into a major liability in pass protection, but he has plenty of upside as a run blocker. Speaking of upside, the other offensive line prospect they took yesterday simply oozes upside, as Seantrel Henderson has as good physical tools as No. 2 pick Greg Robinson. He isn’t anywhere close to being as good of a prospect as Robinson, though, and I actually thought Henderson would go undrafted. He’s probably the most frustrating player in the class, because he has massive character concerns after failing to fulfill his potential at Miami. I like the Bills decision to draft him, though. They also did a solid job of bringing on Duke cornerback Russell Cockrell in the fourth round, and he has good instincts and physical tools as a zone corner.
New York Jets B+
Manish Mehta’s bet backfired, as the New York Jets used up all of their draft picks and came away with a strong haul on the final day of the draft. John Idzik put together another strong draft this offseason, and the Jets spent their first two picks of the third day on wide receivers. Jalen Saunders has all the tools to be a very good playmaker in the slot at the next level, and I’m a big fan of that selection (I had Bruce Ellington rated higher, but Saunders is talented in his own right). Shaq Evans is a limited athlete who needs to do a much better job of catching passes in traffic, but he can develop into a solid No. 3 guy if he improves his hands; Evans understands the nuances of the position extremely well. They also snagged Nebraksa product Quincy Enunwa, who is a big sleeper at wide receiver. The Jets added two interesting edge rushers in IK Enemkpali and Trevor Reilly, and they also added Iowa State inside linebacker Jeremiah George. Before the draft, it was reported that Rex Ryan and the Jets were high on Tajh Boyd, and they drafted the developmental QB in the sixth. Guard Dakota Dozier and cornerback Brandon Dixon are two small-school prospects to watch in training camp.
New England Patriots B
The Patriots were also winners yesterday, and they are consistently one of the best teams in the NFL at drafting late-round prospects. They added a very solid running back to the rotation in the fourth round by pulling Wisconsin Badgers No. 2 back James White off the board, and he should immediately jockey for carries. If Stevan Ridley gets benched for another bout with fumbilitis next year, then White will get plenty of carries as LeGarrette Blount‘s replacement. Cameron Fleming was a steal ten picks later in the fourth, as I thought the run-blocking right tackle would go in the third round. I’m not a big Bryan Stork guy, but Jon Halapio had a very good career with the Florida Gators and could be the next solid late-round offensive lineman in New England. Zach Moore looks like a steal of a small-school prospect on paper, and the Patriots will hope that they he’ll be the impact backup pass rusher they’ve been looking for. Seventh-round selection Jeremy Gallon perfectly fits the profile of the kind of receiver the Patriots like going after. A productive slot guy in college, Gallon almost went undrafted due to limited physical tools. An undersized, late-round, productive Michigan product like Tom Brady (sorry, it was low-hanging fruit), Gallon will have to fight for a roster spot due to the depth and youth at WR on the Patriots.
Miami Dolphins B
So the AFC East had a good third day across the board, and I’m a huge fan of the Walt Aikens selection. He is a big-time sleeper at the position as a small-school cornerback from Liberty, and the Dolphins needed to add another cornerback to the mix with Dimitri Patterson gone. Jamar Taylor should make an impact next year after the second-round Boise State product did absolutely nothing last year, but he’s definitely not a sure thing. I’m not a big Arthur Lynch guy, but he should be a decent TE2 behind the much more athletic Charles Clay, who is a big part of the ‘Fins passing attack. Matt Hazel and Jordan Tripp were two other great small-school guys in this year’s class, and Tripp is a phenomenal value pick in the fifth round who could start if Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler don’t bounce back.