Unlike past drafts, most teams opted to stick to their board and let the draft unfold. Besides the Buffalo Bills dealing their future number one pick and a fourth rounder to move up to the number four spot, the draft was relatively quiet. Was the steady flow of the draft a good thing for everyone?
For the first time in a long time, teams played disciplined football. Even the bad ones. And that has to make fans happy. Sure, the Cowboys chose not to make a television-ratings splash like they usually do and opted to select a boring, but much needed pick in offensive tackle Zack Martin. However, their fans likely walk away feeling comfortable, and for a franchise that often lives on the edge with their personnel selections, their fans may actually be able to recline in their seats for once.
It was also a deeper draft than normal because a high amount of underclassman declared, which increased top-tier potential at a number of positions. USA Today writer Brent Sobleski put it well when he said, “In a normal draft class, approximately 20 players will receive a first-round grade from teams. A first-round argument can be made for over 50 prospects this year.”
So, while NFL teams haven’t necessarily gone soft, it is more likely they felt comfortable waiting for players to fall to them this year. And if those players didn’t fall, it was easier to move to Plan B or C.
There were a few complete failures in the 2014 draft. Most teams on this list will likely never look back on this draft as the reason their franchise fell apart. Teams just didn’t deal away future assets. They didn’t reach for players; and thus, they lowered the risk this draft would loom ominously over their head if certain players didn’t pan out. However, where some teams did fail was their inability to identify their needs and draft the correct players to fill those holes even when those players were still on the board.
So anyway, enough talk. Let’s jump right into this. What teams went home from the bar alone on draft night?
5. The Detroit Lions
The Lions continue to surround Matthew Stafford with skill players so he can become a top quarterback in the NFL. Notice the key word in that phrase, “become.” Six years into his NFL career—five if you count the year he only played 3 games—and the Lions are still trying to develop Stafford into the type of player they envisioned when they selected him first overall in the 2009 NFL draft. In six years, he has 109 touchdowns to 73 interceptions. In signing new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter, as well as Golden Tate and drafting tight end Eric Ebron, they hope they can propel their quarterback into the elite group of signal throwers. The problem is, will it help their team compete in the playoffs?
The Lions chose not to upgrade their secondary in the early rounds of the draft, despite ranking 23rd in the pass last year. They have a number of question marks on the back end and it starts with 34-year old Rashean Mathis. How much can they lean on him? Only one secondary player, Justin Gilbert, was taken before Detroit’s pick at number 10 overall. Maybe they believed the cornerback draft class was deep, so why reach at number 10? That’s a fair analysis, but they didn’t take a defensive back until the 133rd overall pick. And they only took one.
4. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts’ draft started when they traded their first-round pick for Trent Richardson during the 2013 season. Richardson ended last season with only 563 yards and three touchdowns, and the so-far bust trade proves why you don’t give away your top future draft picks. So, when looking at the Colts draft, we must include Richardson.
Other picks include offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, who has shown versatility and can play multiple positions. The main problem with this pick is that the Colts will likely try him at guard, and his 6’6’’ frame could hinder his ability to play effectively on the inside. The Colts one bright spot was drafting receiver Donte Moncrief who has shown versatility, size and speed and could provide Andrew Luck with a weapon opposite T.Y. Hilton.
Oh, and the last reason the Colts are losers in this draft, even though this is out of their control: Luck will have to face a combination of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney twice a year for a very long time. Have they really upgraded their line enough to handle that kind of pressure?
3. New England Patriots
Time will tell if this draft pans out for the Patriots. While many draft pundits have given the Patriots upwards of a C + for their draft, I would go as low as a C- to a C for the short term and upwards of a B+ for the long term. There are just too many question marks surrounding their draft class. First-round pick Dominique Easley has all the potential in the world to bolster the Patriots’ interior pass rush. If he can stay healthy, the team’s draft grade rises; however, if he fails, than their draft grade drops.
The same goes with their second round pick Jimmy Garoppolo. Did the Patriots reach here for a quarterback or did they simply believe Garoppolo was that much better than the rest on the board? This draft class will likely take longer to judge then most 2014 draft classes.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Who would have thought the 2013 Chiefs would hold a 9-0 record before their week ten bye. Sure, they only won two out of their next seven thereafter, but they finished the season 11-5, which is a far cry from where they were just a year before. So, did they do enough in this year’s draft to stay at a winning level. Likely, not enough.
The Chiefs’ passiveness to retain their offensive lineman in free agency and inability or lack of interest to sign offensive-skill players to help Alex Smith, put more pressure on them during this draft. Letting Emmanuel Sanders slip away to the Broncos in free agency was another tough blow.
Rookie receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Marqise Lee were also still on the board before the Chiefs picked at number 23. Reports had Benjamin as a potential game-changer and Lee was once considered a Top-10 pick before his performance last season dropped due a knee injury. Instead the Chiefs selected defensive end Dee Ford. Some wonder how Ford will find time to play with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston as starters.
1. Buffalo Bills
The Bills major problem is this: Their front office is dissolving before our eyes and they are in a win-now mode. That can be either boom or bust for a franchise, and I’d bank on the latter. The Bills traded their 2014 and 2015 first-round picks to move up and select Sammy Watkins. The receiver has the potential to be an all-star, but was it too rich of a move? For a front office desperate to make the playoffs, they aren’t worried about their likely to-be top 10 pick next year. They might not even be around to see it.
Other picks in their draft were safer and helped solidify what is sure to be a stout defense. Rookie linebacker Preston Brown joins a crowded, but talented core group. While rookie defensive back Ross Cockrell will need to develop his run-tackling, he possesses a physicality that may bode well for a Buffalo defense that will be very physical.
The Bills graded low in this draft was for two reasons 1) They sacrificed the future to help a quarterback that already is a question mark. Like we’ve seen in, say, Miami in recent years, skill players do not make a quarterback better. A quarterback makes skill players better. It would have made more sense for the Bills to draft a quarterback in the later rounds to at least push E.J. Manuel. Finally, the Bills actually tried to trade up to select Watkins number one overall, and instead got him at four.