Grading the 2014 NFL Draft: Two True Winners for Best Opening Round

By Jeff Smith
2014 NFL Draft Winners
Adam Hunger- USA TODAY Sports

We’re through a crazy opening round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and it was one that featured some major moves, some “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” from the crowd and some draw dropping picks that left fans in awe. All in all, I’d say that it was a pretty fun first round to watch.

With so many players going off the board and so many moves being made, everyone will have their list of winners and losers; but in my mind there were two REAL winners out of the entire group of teams. Sure, many teams filled positions of need and picked up great players instead of sexy names, which was smart, but these two teams just went above and beyond by making moves that could push them to the next level sooner than later.

Before I start with the big two, some quick love goes to:

Atlanta Falcons: They didn’t make the sexy pick, but it was the right pick with Jake Matthews. He immediately helps.

Green Bay Packers: I’m shocked Ha Ha Clinton-Dix fell to them, but he was exactly what they needed and you can bet they’re thrilled that they got him however it managed to happen.

Dallas Cowboys: As a Cowboys fan, sure, I wanted to see Johnny Manziel with a star on his helmet, but it wasn’t the right move. They made a very good pick on the offensive line with Zack Martin in a draft that has a ton of strength on the defensive side of the ball. This was the RIGHT pick, not the SEXY pick.

Minnesota Vikings: The fact that they moved up to the final pick of the first to land Teddy Bridgwater and avoid losing him to the Houston Texans possibly was just an excellent move.

Winner No. 1 is the St. Louis Rams. Maybe it wasn’t the star-studded draft by them that some people wanted to see, but they added two big-time players on the offensive and defensive lines who are immediately going to help. Sam Bradford needed to get some help on the line, and after a bit of work with an offensive line coach, I think Greg Robinson is a real game changer, especially since he’s just a dominant run-blocker as well.

Aaron Donald may have been the steal of this draft. He’s going to be such a strong player in this league, and pairing him up on a defensive line that features Robert Quinn, Chris Long and also Michael Brockers is pretty insane to think about. This Rams’ defense just got even better than it was before, and after watching them at the end of last year, that’s not fun to think about for the rest of the NFC, specifically the NFC West.

Winner No. 2 goes to the Cleveland Browns. They can push themselves to the next level with this draft, including more than just the players they picked. They moved down in the first and picked up even MORE picks in a first rounder next year and a 4th rounder next year as well. They opted not to take Sammy Watkins in a draft class that is loaded with wideouts, even if Watkins is the best option.

Now, speaking of that Manziel guy above, the Browns immediately injected some excitement into their fanbase with the pick of the former Texas A&M quarterback. After making a few early trades, they weren’t risking trying to wait until 26 to get him, so they traded up and got their man. Manziel to the Browns is an excellent move, and how they got him is even better.

I’m not as sold on Justin Gilbert as some people, but I think he fills a need opposite of Joe Haden for this team. He’s not going to have to be defending the go-to guys in this league right out of the gate, and that’ll benefit him. I think Gilbert will be a good player at the next level, and I had him mocked 10, so going at 8 isn’t crazy.

Jeff Smith is a Dallas Cowboys writer for Follow him on Twitter @JSM8ith, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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