Grading Every First-Round Pick of the 2014 NFL Draft

Grading All 32 First-Round Picks

2014 NFL Draft
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Wow. The first round of the 2014 NFL Draft is over, and what a first round it was. With several intriguing trades, a number of surprise picks and plenty of suspense, it was easily one of the best in recent history. Still, there were some great picks and some that made fans everywhere shake their heads and shrug their shoulders.

With that in mind, here are my grades for each first-round pick of the 2014 NFL Draft.

1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Jadeveon Clowney
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1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

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Despite all of the speculation, this was the smart pick for the Texans. They get the best talent of the 2014 class to team with J.J. Watt, immediately creating a freakishly-talented defensive line.

Grade: A

2. St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

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2. St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

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An extremely smart pick from a football perspective, Robinson should be a cornerstone tackle for years to come in St. Louis. The Rams didn’t get to move down, but it certainly worked out well.

Grade: A

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

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3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

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While it was certainly surprising, it makes plenty of sense for the Jaguars. Bortles has tons of potential and can be the face of the franchise for years to come. This was a bit of stretch but still a good pick.

Grade: B+

4. Buffalo Bills: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

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4. Buffalo Bills: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

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They moved up five spots and gave up a 2015 first-rounder to grab the class’ best wide receiver. With E.J. Manuel still growing, he’ll be glad to have such an electric weapon in his arsenal.

Grade: A

5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

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5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

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This is easily the steal of the draft here. Mack slid much further than he deserved to, and the Raiders were the beneficiaries. He’ll start immediately and be a Pro Bowler before you know it.

Grade: A+

6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

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6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

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The Falcons knew they needed to do a better job of blocking for Matt Ryan, and Matthews can certainly help with that. He’s a well-rounded blocker who should start from Day 1 in Atlanta.

Grade: A

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

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7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

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Evans is certainly a first-round talent, but he doesn’t make a ton of sense for the Buccaneers considering him and Vincent Jackson are the same player. It’s a deadly combo but not exactly a versatile one.

Grade: B-

8. Cleveland Browns: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

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8. Cleveland Browns: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

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While Gilbert is certainly a worthy talent, No. 8 is a bit of a stretch considering many didn’t believe he was the best cornerback in the class. Still, he upgrades the Cleveland secondary immediately.

Grade: B-

9. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

Anthony Barr
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9. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

Anthony Barr
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This was one of the worst picks of the first round. While he’s athletic and has great closing speed, he’s extremely raw and doesn’t have the polish to warrant this high of a pick. The potential is there, but still.

Grade: C

10. Detroit Lions: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

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10. Detroit Lions: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

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It’s a solid pick for a team that loves to throw the football, but it was far from the Lions’ biggest need. With so many other options available, it’s hard to understand the Ebron pick.

Grade: B-

11. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

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11. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

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With both of their starting offensive tackles set to be free agents in 2015 and getting up there in age, Lewan is a great fit for the Titans here. He’s considered a Top 10 pick by some, so nice selection.

Grade: A

12. New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

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12. New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

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I know that some are convinced Beckham Jr. is a top-tier talent, but I’m not on the same page. Especially with other needs and Donald on the board, the Giants slipped up on this one.

Grade: B-

13. St. Louis Rams: Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt

Aaron Donald
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13. St. Louis Rams: Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt

Aaron Donald
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At No. 13, it’s a great addition for the Rams considering Donald’s elite talent. However, they had numerous other issues to address and instead bolstered an already-elite defensive line.

Grade: B+

14. Chicago Bears: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

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14. Chicago Bears: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

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This was an excellent pick for the Bears. They desperately needed help in the secondary and watched arguably the top cover man of the 2014 draft class fall into their laps in the middle of the first round.

Grade: A+

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

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15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

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I like this pick for the Steelers. Shazier is a terrific fit for the fast-flowing 3-4 defense, and the Ohio State product should have no problem becoming a contributor immediately in Pittsburgh.

Grade: A

16. Dallas Cowboys: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

Zack Martin
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16. Dallas Cowboys: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

Zack Martin
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The versatility that Martin brings to the table is terrific. However, it wasn’t a huge need for the Cowboys, who ignored the defensive front. Still, Martin could be starting before long in Dallas.

Grade: B+

17. Baltimore Ravens: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

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17. Baltimore Ravens: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

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Mosley is an excellent fit for the Ravens and brings extreme value at No. 17. He’s a fiery leader who can fill the void left by Ray Lewis and be the face of the Baltimore defense moving forward.

Grade: A

18. New York Jets: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville

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18. New York Jets: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville

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The Jets get their hard-hitting safety and finally upgrade a position that has been marred by mediocrity, but I think it was too early. And personally, I think his coverage skills need a lot of work.

Grade: B-

19. Miami Dolphins: Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee

Ja'Wuan James
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19. Miami Dolphins: Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee

Ja'Wuan James
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What a reach. While the Dolphins certainly fill a need, they could have waited until the second round for James while upgrading at other positions. This was one of the worst picks of the first round.

Grade: C-

20. New Orleans Saints: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

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20. New Orleans Saints: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

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The Saints knew who they wanted, and they moved up to get him. Cooks is a productive, reliable option who should love catching passes from Drew Brees for years to come.

Grade: A

21. Green Bay Packers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama

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21. Green Bay Packers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama

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The Packers had a serious need at safety and got a steal at No. 21. It was a surprise that Clinton-Dix fell, but the Packers reaped the rewards and should see significant production early.

Grade: A

22. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

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22. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

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The Browns went into this draft with a plan, and they followed it. After grabbing their cornerback at the top of the round, they trade back down to No. 22 to snag the face of their franchise.

Grade: A

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn

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23. Kansas City Chiefs: Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn

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I'm not entirely sure I understand this pick. The Chiefs already have Tamba Hali and Justin Houston as their edge-rushing outside linebackers, so why use a first-round pick on a depth player?

Grade: C-

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Darqueze Dennard
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24. Cincinnati Bengals: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Darqueze Dennard
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What a steal this was for the Bengals. Dennard was arguably the best cornerback of the class, and Cincinnati got him at a reduced price while filling a significant need in their secondary.

Grade: A+

25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Jason Verrett
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25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Jason Verrett
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Here's another excellent addition for a team desperate for cornerback help. While his size is a concern, Verrett is a tenacious, feisty player who will help the Chargers field a decent secondary in 2014.

Grade: A

26. Philadelphia Eagles: Marcus Smith, OLB, Louisville

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26. Philadelphia Eagles: Marcus Smith, OLB, Louisville

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This is a solid pick for a team that needed to upgrade its pass rush. Smith is definitely a reach at No. 26, but the Eagles had already traded back and got the player they wanted. It makes sense to me.

Grade: B

27. Arizona Cardinals: Deone Bucannon, SS, Washington State

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27. Arizona Cardinals: Deone Bucannon, SS, Washington State

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The Cardinals were set on upgrading at safety. They traded down and grabbed Bucannon, who should team with Tyrann Mathieu to give Arizona a lethal one-two punch on the back end.

Grade: B

28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

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28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

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This is a huge risk here for the Panthers. Benjamin is a boom-or-bust type of prospect, and with players like Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee still on the board, I find this pick a bit illogical.

Grade: C

29. New England Patriots: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida

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29. New England Patriots: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida

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Easley has the talent and potential to be a dominant force for the Patriots. However, he’s had too many health issues in the past and could have been had for a later pick than No. 29.

Grade: B-

30. San Francisco 49ers: Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois

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30. San Francisco 49ers: Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois

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I know the 49ers were really excited about Ward, but I don’t quite get using a first-rounder on him. They signed Antoine Bethea this offseason and already have Eric Reid entrenched at free safety.

Grade: C+

31. Denver Broncos: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

Bradley Roby
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31. Denver Broncos: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

Bradley Roby
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Apart from Aqib Talib, the Broncos have a lot of uncertainty at cornerback. While there’s plenty of bust potential in Roby, he has enough athleticism and natural talent to be a Day 1 starter in Denver.

Grade: B+

32. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Teddy Bridgewater
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32. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Teddy Bridgewater
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The final candidate for the biggest steal of the first round, Bridgewater goes to a terrific situation in Minnesota. The Vikings get the best quarterback of the 2014 class at the end of the first. Huge win.

Grade: A+

Gil Alcaraz IV is the Director of Content for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.


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