2014 NFL draft grades: Vikings, Packers and Raiders receive highest marks
With all 256 picks of the 2014 NFL draft in the books, it’s time to take a look at where things stand.
Find grades and breakdowns for all 32 teams below.
One thing is for sure — if you’re a receiver and you’re facing Arizona’s defense, keep your head on a swivel. Between second-year safety Tyrann Mathieu and 2014 first-rounder Deone Bucannon from Washington State, the Cardinals are looking to scare enemy offenses with their safeties. Bucannon plays at full speed and with killer intensity at all times, and if he ever finds his sense of direction, he’s going to be even more dangerous.
Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas is a big blocker and burgeoning receiver who will take time to develop. North Carolina end Kareem Martin is a huge (6-foot-6, 272) defender who could back up Calais Campbell. Pittsburg State receiver John Brown will help take the top off enemy defenses. Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas is a developmental prospect who might find his way at another position and Murray State receiver Walter Powell is a smaller slot man. Overall, the Cards added some targets and got meaner in the defensive backfield; two musts as they try to move atop the NFC West.
– Doug Farrar
The Falcons started their draft by getting bigger, stronger and more talented at their most pressing positional groups — the offensive and defensive lines. First-round offensive tackle Jake Matthews should slot right in as Matt Ryan’s blindside protector for the next half-decade. And on defense, Minnesota hybrid lineman Ra’Shede Hageman has the potential to play over multiple gaps on a line that has changed in scheme. Wisconsin safety Dezmen Southward is an excellent athlete who can move around to a few different roles, and Notre Dame outside linebacker Prince Shembo is an interesting developmental pass rusher. All in all, a nice haul for the Falcons — if Hageman develops into the player he can be.
From a strict talent-and-value perspective, the Ravens may have done as well as any other team in the draft. LB C.J. Mosley, if he’s healthy, could be a Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner; DT Timmy Jernigan had mid-Round 1 potential, only to fall to pick 48; safety Terrence Brooks may be an instant starter. Baltimore also landed some of the better role players available, like TE Crockett Gillmore and underrated QB Keith Wenning. The lone knock here comes from Baltimore’s inability to really address its offensive line.
– Chris Burke
A gambler’s draft. The Bills traded the No. 9 pick and two 2015 selections (first- and fourth-round) to Cleveland so they could nab WR Sammy Watkins, then traded Stevie Johnson away to San Francisco. That’s all after they traded earlier for ex-Bucs WR Mike Williams. Oh, and they sent Philadelphia a draft choice for RB Bryce Brown. But for all that, their biggest risks came along an offensive line that needed some help. OTs Cyrus Kouandjio and Seantrel Henderson and G Cyril Richardson all are rolls of the dice.
Safer selections came in Rounds 3 and 4, with solid LB Preston Brown and CB Ross Cockrell, respectively. At least one sure thing on the O-line would have been nice, given how Buffalo sacrificed to make itself a contender in 2014.
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman got some great value picks, though Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin went about as projected as the 28th overall pick. However, getting Missouri defensive lineman Kony Ealy with the 60th pick was a steal, if you believe the many first-round grades he had. Perhaps the best value Carolina got came in the third round, with LSU guard Trai Turner, a true mauler who fits the Panthers’ power offense perfectly. Tre Boston is a nice-sized safety who will help in the defensive backfield, and Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney fits the Panthers’ power prototype. They still need receivers, and Benjamin is an unfinished project, so it would be fair to ding the Panthers a bit because they didn’t take advantage of such a deep wideout class.
General manager Phil Emery hit a number of potential home runs, starting with first-round cornerback Kyle Fuller, who may have had the cleanest tape of anyone in this class at his position. Second-round LSU DT Ego Ferguson, though still learning the finer points of the game, should be able to stick at multiple spots. Grabbing Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton in the third round and Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey should be a win for the team’s Southwest area scout. Minnesota safety Brock Vereen actually projects pretty nicely as a slot corner at the next level, filling another clear need. Head coach Marc Trestman gets his developmental quarterback in David Fales, and Boise State offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. projects nicely as a possible guard.
After absolutely stealing CB Darquze Dennard at No. 24, it would have been hard for Cincinnati to screw this up too badly. The Bengals kept their momentum going with later selections of RB Jeremy Hill (likely a BenJarvus Green-Ellis replacement) and DE Will Clarke. Trading up for C Russell Bodine — just the third trade-up in team history — was an odd move, even though Cincinnati needed someone to push Trevor Robinson. Ultimate judgment of this class, no matter how unfair, may rest with the future of QB AJ McCarron.
The first day of the draft may have been among the most exciting stretches in franchise history, what with a trade down and then two trades up, netting the Browns CB Justin Gilbert and QB Johnny Manziel. There was talent found after that, as well, namely versatile OL Joel Bitonio and CB Pierre Desir — the latter a remarkable value at No. 127 overall. RB Terrance West is a sleeper. But Desir was Cleveland’s final pick, and there was nary a receiver to be found among the previous five choices.
For the second straight season, the Cowboys went offensive line in the first round — but unlike Travis Frederick, Zack Martin wasn’t a reach. The former Notre Dame tackle can be a fantastic guard with a little finishing work. Boise State defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence will try to replace a more prominent DeMarcus (Mr. Ware), and he has the nascent tools to do so, though the second round might have been a slight reach. Outside linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Will Smith will reinforce positions needed as Dallas tries to move intelligently to a 4-3 this year, and Baylor safety Will Dixon could be special as long as he stays out of trouble off the field and plays with a bit more discipline on it. Seventh-round Oregon cornerback Terrance Mitchell might be the sleeper here.
Denver checked off several needs: CB with Bradley Roby, WR depth with Cody Latimer and LB with Lamin Barrow. The first two there dipped a slight bit on the board, so the Broncos could claim them as values. They need third-round pick Michael Schofield to pan out … and preferably to do so at guard, where the Broncos are thin yet did not make any additions. Nothing too remarkable here, though both Roby and Latimer may develop into stars in the not-so-distant future.