The NFL Draft can make or break a team. They can infuse a team with energy, youth, and explosiveness. Or they can burden a roster with dead weight. It’s hard to know what you’re really going to get until the players all strap it on and step onto the field. But it’s still fun to project the possibilities.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how we feel the draft classes of all 32 NFL teams graded out…
Pairing 1st round pick Deonne Bucannon with Tyrann Mathieu gives the Cards one of the nastiest, hardest hitting secondaries in the league. And picking up QB Logan Thomas in the 4th round may turn out to be a real steal.
They filled their biggest need by taking OT Jake Matthews, and then upgraded a defense that sorely needed it by adding LB Prince Shembo and Marquis Spruill. But they failed to grab the edge rusher they needed.
The Ravens usually draft well, and 2014 is no exception. A class led by LB CJ Mosley from Alabama and FSU’s defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan. Baltimore added some terrific athletic talent that will help them immediately.
Adding Sammy Watkins was a great move, but they paid a steep price to land him. Fans have to hope Watkins is worth it, and can lead the team to some wins because Buffalo didn’t do much else in this year’s draft.
After an offseason that saw him lose nearly all of his receivers, QB Cam Newton didn’t get much help in the draft. Kelvin Benjamin in the 1st round was a big reach, especially given the fact that there were better options available.
The Bears biggest needs were on defense and they addressed them with their first 3 picks. Kyle Fuller, Ego Ferguson, and Will Sutton are potentially impact players who will help Chicago immediately.
Having lost Michael Johnson, drafting Will Clarke to help fill that void was a good move. And taking CB Darqueze Dennard in the 1st round was an even better one. But RB Jeremy Hill in the 2nd was baffling with so many other more pressing needs.
Johnny Manziel was a good pick up for the Browns at 22. He is potentially their franchise QB for years to come and gives the organization a face. But knowing that Josh Gordon is facing a lengthy suspension, it is baffling that they didn’t pick up a receiver. Cleveland had a very good first day in the draft, but that’s about it.
Surprisingly, Jerry Jones resisted the temptation to draft Manziel. Instead, he picked up guard Zack Martin in round 1 and then traded up in round 2 to acquire pass rusher Demarcus Lawrence. They may have also found a real gem in WR Devin Street, but they failed to get any help for a thin secondary.
Despite not addressing their need for a LB until the 5th round, Denver picked up a terrific CB in Bradley Roby. They also acquired an explosive receiver in Cody Latimer in the 2nd round that Peyton Manning will love to have.
With big question marks in their secondary, Detroit really needed some help – and failed to get it. Taking TE Eric Ebron – though athletic and talented – in the first round will not help them where they need it most.
Green Bay Packers
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix fills a big hole for Green Bay and adding Devante Adams in the 2nd round gives Aaron Rodgers a terrific weapon. But they failed to address some needs on the offensive front until the later rounds. It was a solid, if unspectacular draft for the Packers.
They hit a homer with Jadeveon Clowney in the 1st round, and picked up a solid lineman in Xavier Su’o-Filo in the 2nd. But Houston’s QB situation is dire and they addressed it late by taking Tom Savage with the hope that he develops into an NFL passer.
That Trent Richardson trade is looking worse by the day for the Colts. With no 1st round picks, the Colts were limited. However, Donte Moncrief was a good add in the 3rd and will give Andrew Luck another downfield threat.
The Jags shocked the football world by taking Blake Bortles with the 3rd overall pick. Btiu at least they then added some weapons for him to use in Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. Jacksonville drafted smart and vastly upgraded their offense.
Kansas City Chiefs
3rd round pick, CB Phillip Gaines was probably their best pick of the draft. Which isn’t a good thing. If 1st round pick Dee Ford – who many consider to be a real reach – fails to develop into a pass rushing monster, Kansas City’s 2014 draft is going to look a lot worse in hindsight.
Given the decimation of their offensive line in the wake of the Richie Incognito scandal, Miami had a decent, if not entirely sexy 2014 draft. Ju’Wuan James and Billy Turner will help fill the gaping holes in their line.
1st round pick, LB Anthony Barr, will improve Minnesota’s defense immediately. Trading back into the tail end of the first round to grab QB Teddy Bridgewater was a slick move by a team that needs a viable passer. But the 3rd round pick of QB Jerick McKinnon – with the intent to convert him to a running back – is perplexing and looks like a wasted pick.
New England Patriots
With Tom Brady‘s championship window closing – hey, he’s not getting any younger – the Patriots should have loaded up on weapons for a final run. Instead, they took a DT with a history of injuries, and Brady’s “heir apparent” in QB Jimmy Garappolo with their first two picks. Not a great draft by a team that usually nails it.
New Orleans Saints
Though they failed to address needs on the offensive line, New Orleans traded up to get QB Drew Brees a slick new weapon in Brandin Cooks. Then in the 2nd, they picked up a solid CB in Stanley Jean-Baptiste which will improve Rob Ryan’s secondary.
New York Giants
Taking WR Odell Beckham in the first round raised some eyebrows, but it’s not nearly as bad of a pick as some think it is. Beckham gives Eli Manning another weapon and will take some pressure – and double teams – off of Victor Cruz, which will benefit the offense as a whole. It was a good pick in a so-so draft for the G-Men.
New York Jets
Safety Calvin Pryor will bring an edge and some toughness to a Jets’ secondary that needs it. But taking TE Jace Amarao in round 2 doesn’t make much sense when they had bigger areas of need. CB Dexter McDougle – smallish for his position – also seems a bit of a reach in round 3.
Having arguably, one of the two best players in the draft, LB Khalil Mack, fall into their laps was a stroke of luck. Mack will add further toughness into a rebuilt defense that looks like it could be nasty. The Raiders added a number of other talented pieces that fill a variety of needs – including adding their potential QB of the future in Derek Carr – and appear poised for a breakthrough season.
Needing a pass rusher, the Eagles took Marcus Smith in round 1. They also attempted to replace DeSean Jackson by drafting receivers in rounds 2 and 3. But it wasn’t until round 4 that they addressed a glaring need in the secondary.
Taking Ryan Shazier and Stephon Truitt in rounds 1 and 2 will bolster an aging defense. Adding Dri Archer and Martavis Bryant will put a jolt into the offense – assuming Archer’s smaller stature will withstand the punishment at the next level. All in all, a very solid draft for the Steelers.
St. Louis Rams
They hit paydirt with their two 1st round picks – OT Greg Robinson and DT Aaron Donald – arguably two of the best at their position. RB Tre Mason in the 3rd round was a reach, and not the most pressing need for St. Louis but an otherwise solid draft class.
San Diego Chargers
Needing defensive help, taking Jason Verrett in round 1 was a gimmie. Trading up to take Jeremiah Attaochu may backfire on them depending on whether nor not he develops though. It’s a mixed bag for San Diego with no sure-fire hits.
San Francisco 49ers
Safety Jimmie Ward was a smart pick up by a team that needs help in the secondary. He fills a hole, but the 49ers still have a few more to fill. RB Carlos Hyde may be a bit of a reach with the 57th overall pick, especially with Frank Gore still healthy and productive. They had areas of need and picking up a running back wasn’t the most pressing.
Trading out of the first round to acquire more picks was a smart, shrewd move. Picking up playmaking wideouts Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood will help to reinvigorate Seattle’s passing attack while Cassius Marsh and Jimmy Staten will load up their dangerous defensive front again.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Being able to line up WR Mike Evans opposite Vincent Jackson will give defensive coordinators nightmares and secondaries fits. And adding TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – a dangerous red-zone target – is just more icing on their cake.
Taking OT Taylor Lewan in the 1st round when they didn’t really need another tackle is a questionable move, to say the least. Most of the Titans draft picks appear to be projects rather than players ready to step in and contribute now. The only exception is RB Bishop Sankey, who has star potential. Sankey is the only thing that prevents them from grading lower in this draft.
Despite not having a 1st round pick, Washington had a respectable draft. OT Morgan Moses might see significant playing time this year, and can hopefully help keep RGIII upright and healthy. Washington may have found some gems in RB Lache Seastrunk and LB Trent Murphy. It’s a solid draft class with some potential impact players.
Draft Grade: B