2014 NFL Draft Awards

By Charlie Campbell.
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With the 2014 NFL Draft in the books, it is only fair to dish out some awards for a job well done by a number of teams across the NFL. It also doesn’t hurt to look at which teams may have made regrettable picks.

Pass along your thoughts on these awards and 2014 NFL Draft. I’ll put together a mail bag that answers questions/comments sent via email [email protected] or on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Best Value Pick Round 1: Green Bay Packers: S HaHa Clinton-Dix
Many people thought that Clinton-Dix wouldn’t get past the middle of the first round. There were projections of him going 10th overall to the Lions, and many thought he wouldn’t make it through a stretch in the teens that included the Bears, Cowboys, Ravens and Jets. Fortunately for the Packers, Clinton-Dix fell into their lap.

Green Bay needed to improve its free safety play as the team had too many busted coverage issues last year in the middle and deep portion of the field. Taking that away is Clinton-Dix’s speciality. He is a great center fielder who uses his intelligence and quickness to cover a lot of ground. Clinton-Dix also can pick up receivers in coverage to take away the big play. During the last two years, Clinton-Dix made a lot of clutch open-field tackles as the last line of defense for Alabama.

The Packers played the 2014 NFL Draft perfectly. They sat tight at No. 21 and were able to fill a huge need with the best player available. It’s drafting like this that explains why Green Bay is a perennial Super Bowl contender.

Honorable mentions: Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel and Denver Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby.

2013 Winner: Sharrif Floyd, Vikings
2012 Winner: Riley Reiff, Lions

Best Value Picks Day 2: Texans: NT Louis Nix and 49ers: RB Carlos Hyde
Even though Nix won’t rack up the stat lines of some of the offensive skill-position players listed below, he was an easy choice for me. The Texans trading up for Nix in the middle of the third round was an absolute steal. He is a first-round talent who can be a difference-maker at the point of attack. Nix is a load for offensive linemen with his power and burst off the snap. He stuffs the running game and eats up blockers.

The Texans needed a nose tackle for the middle of Romeo Crennell’s 3-4 defense, and they landed the best one in the 2014 NFL Draft. Nix will be superb at freeing up J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. If teams neglect Nix, he’ll routinely blow up plays at the point of attack. With Watt and Houston defensive line coach Bill Kollar, Nix will be forced to work and maintain his conditioning. Nix and Clowney also have similar goofy personalities, so they should bond and help each other transition to the NFL.

I feel as strongly about Hyde being a value as Nix. San Francisco’s physical ground game is a perfect fit for Hyde. Frank Gore is in the final year of his contract, and Hyde is a perfect replacement. The latter will be a powerful downhill runner who should thrive with the 49ers. Marcus Lattimore may not pan out for San Francisco, and Kendall Hunter could leave in free agency. Hyde is in line to be the 49ers’ running back of the future, and I think he could easily turn into a Pro Bowl runner.

Honorable mentions: Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill, Washington Redskins offensive tackle Morgan Moses, St. Louis Rams running back Tre Mason and Oakland Raiders guard Gabe Jackson.

2013 Winner: Eddie Lacy, Packers
2012 Winner: Janoris Jenkins, Rams

Best Value Pick Day 3: Oakland Raiders: NT Justin Ellis
This was a tough decision as there are a lot of worthy candidates. My finalists along alongside Ellis were Redskins running back Lache Seastrunk, Jets quarterback Tajh Boyd, Packers linebacker Carl Bradford and Packers wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. If I have to pick one, I’ll go with Ellis. Those other players are stuck behind veterans, and it is hard to predict when, or if, they’ll get an opportunity.

Scouts had previously told me they felt Ellis was extremely underrated. He received second-day grades, and teams picking early in the third round gave him consideration. One reason why Ellis slipped to Day 3 was because nose tackles overall fell in the 2014 NFL Draft. Ra’Shede Hageman fell to the second round, while Louis Nix fell to the third. That pushed Ellis down lower from where he should have typically gone.

It isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Ellis to earn a starting spot as a rookie. Oakland is weak on the inside of its defensive line. Veteran Antonio Smith is just a stopgap starter who is injured and in decline. Pat Sims is the other starter and the Raiders have nothing else. Ellis could provide a nice impact early with his size, power and quickness. Don’t be surprised if he is a draft-day steal for Oakland.

Honorable mentions: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant, Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage, Green Bay Packers linebacker Carl Bradford, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, Tennessee Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Robert Herron, Minnesota Vikings corner/safety Antone Exum, Washington Redskins running back Lache Seastrunk, New York Jets quarterback Tajh Boyd, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Daniel McCullers, Houston Texans cornerback Andre Hal, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis, San Diego Chargers wide receiver Tevin Reese and San Francisco 49ers fullback Trey Millard.

2013 Winner: Philip Thomas, Redskins
2012 Winner: Bobbie Massie, Cardinals

Best Trade: Houston Texans: NT Louis Nix
All the Texans gave up to move up and land a first-round caliber nose tackle was a fifth-round pick. That is a draft-day theft for Houston. If the Texans had taken Nix with the 33rd overall pick to lead off the second round, that would have made sense, but to move up from their fourth-round pick to the middle of the third round to snag Nix was a tremendous trade.

Honorable mentions: 49ers trading up for Carlos Hyde, Saints trading up for Brandin Cooks, Vikings trading down for Anthony Barr and Lions trading up for Kyle Van Noy.

2013 Winner: Alec Ogletree, Rams
2012 Winner: Justin Blackmon, Jaguars

Biggest Reach Round 1: Miami Dolphins: OT JaWuan James
This was a clear-cut no brainer. Everybody knows that the Dolphins were desperate to upgrade a porous offensive line before they ruin quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but taking James in the top 20 was a stretch by any imagination.

Two teams that drafted offensive tackles before Miami told WalterFootball.com they did not have a first-round grade on James – one of them had him in the third. Another team that selected a few picks after the Dolphins did not have a first-round grade on James. That organization had him with a late third-round and early fourth-round grade.

A team picking in the top 10 that was rumored to be in the tackle market told WalterFootball.com that they had a fifth-round grade on James. While that sounds extremely low, that team felt the only tackles worthy of a first-round pick were Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan and Zack Martin.

All told, WalterFootball.com heard from five teams that did not have a first-round grade on James. One team that drafted a left tackle in the top 10 said they had a late first- or early second-round projection on James. Thus, no team that we spoke with had a legitimate first-round grade on James.

Miami could realistically have drafted the top guard in the 2014 NFL Draft, Xavier Su’a-Filo, at No. 19 and landed James with its second-round pick. That still would have been a reach, but not of epic proportions like it was in the first round. This was an ugly start for new Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey.

Honorable mentions: Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford, Arizona Cardinals safety Deone Bucannon, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and San Francisco 49ers safety Jimmie Ward.

2013 Winner: Travis Frederick, Cowboys
2012 Winner: Bruce Irvin, Seahawks

Biggest Reach Day 2: Indianapolis Colts: OT Jack Mewhort
There were a lot of divided opinions of Mewhort. Some felt he was good, while others felt that he was a mid-rounder. The Colts taking him in the second round wasn’t good value. Mewhort was dominated by Khalil Mack to open 2013 and also struggled against Clemson speed rusher Vic Beasley. Mewhort will probably move to guard in the NFL, but I think he’s going to get targeted and abused by Houston’s duo of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Tennessee’s Jurell Casey should also handle Mewhort with ease.

Indianapoliswould have gotten better value by drafting tackle Morgan Moses and sliding him inside to guard. If Gosder Cherilus doesn’t pan out, Moses could replace him at right tackle as well. Another good pick the Colts passed on for Mewhort was Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste. He could have formed a nice duo with Vontae Davis.

Honorable mentions: Atlanta Falcons safety Dezmen Southward, New York Giants defensive tackle Jay Bromley, San Diego Chargers guard Chris Watt, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown, Denver Broncos guard/tackle Michael Schofield.

2013 Winner: Duron Harmon, Patriots
2012 Winner: Bryan Anger, Jaguars

Best Undrafted Free Agent Signing: Minnesota Vikings: OT Antonio Richardson
In watching Jadeveon Clowney over the past three seasons, the player who did the best against Clowney in one-on-one blocking was Richardson in their 2012 matchup. All game, Richardson had Clowney blocked – until late in the fourth quarter when Clowney beat Richardson for sack-fumble to stop a potential comeback win from Tennessee. Still, Richardson won the vast majority of reps against Clowney in that contest.

Richardson was one of the top left tackles in the SEC during the past few season. He came out after his junior year, despite the 2013 season not being as good as the 2012 season. Richardson’s 2012 South Carolina game and that season overall caused many to project Richardson as a future first-rounder entering the 2013 season.

Sources have told WalterFootball.com that the reason why Richardson wasn’t drafted was because teams flunked him medically. He is said to have a microfracture knee injury that caused a lot of teams to take him off their draft boards entirely. Some believe Richardson is going to need a year on injured reserve before he’ll be ready to compete.

After going undrafted, Richardson signed with the Minnesota Vikings. He reminds me of Minnesota having Donald Penn on its roster before losing him to Tampa Bay because of veteran starters already in place. If Richardson returns to 100 percent health, I think he’s going to be a huge steal for the Vikings.

Honorable mentions: St. Louis Rams cornerback Marcus Roberson, Indianapolis Colts cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, Washington Redskins wide receiver Cody Hoffman, Seattle Seahawks safety Dion Bailey, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Morgan Breslin, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Shayne Skov, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandon Coleman and Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Anthony Johnson.

2013 Winner: Chase Thomas, Saints
2012 Winner: James Brown, Bears

Best Draft Class: Houston Texans
Teams picking early have an advantage, but Houston was able to come away with a draft class that is going to pay off immediately and should vault the franchise to new heights in years to come. The Texans did the smart thing and took the draft’s best player in Jadeveon Clowney. He could end up being an NFL legend.

In the second round, Houston landed the best guard in the 2014 NFL Draft, Xavier Su’a-Filo. He should make an immediate impact in reestablishing the Texans’ ground game. Along the same lines, Houston landed the best Y tight end in the 2014 NFL Draft in C.J. Fiedorowicz. He’s best as a blocker, but has surprising quickness and athleticism. Fiedorowicz will play as a rookie as well.

Louis Nix, as documented above, was one of the best moves in the 2014 NFL Draft. He’ll be the starting nose tackle and should really help keep blockers away from J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Brian Cushing.

At the end of the fourth round, Houston was able to land the quarterback it were considering on Day 2, Tom Savage. The big-armed pocket-passer is a perfect developmental signal-caller for Bill O’Brien to work with. Savage has the skill set to be a starter in the NFL.

The Texans continued to add some contributors in the late rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft. Defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan will be in position to compete for playing time as a five-technique defensive end as a rookie. Later in the sixth round, Houston landed a starting fullback in Jay Prosch. The devastating blocker was huge for Auburn in 2013. Arian Foster will love having Prosch in front of him.

The Texans also landed a rotational back and special teams star in Alfred Blue. Seventh-round cornerback Andre Hal was a steal and could compete at nickel for Houston. Even Mr. Irrelevant, Memphis safety Lonnie Ballentine, could make the roster. He has a real combination of size and speed. Ballentine could have gone much earlier.

At the end of the day, Houston at least five starters. If Savage turns into a steal and Clowney becomes what he’s capable of, this could be a draft class of the ages.

Honorable mentions: Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.

2013 Winner: Green Bay Packers
2012 Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

Worst Draft Class: Kansas City Chiefs
Clearly, I blew it with the 2012 award for Seattle, so Kansas City fans should rejoice that I’m picking them this year. That being said, I really dislike what the Chiefs did with the 2014 NFL Draft. Starting in Round 1, they reached for a one-trick pony player in Dee Ford. Sources from multiples teams told WalterFootball.com that they didn’t grade Ford as a first-round pick. They had him as a late second-rounder on their boards, yet felt a team could reach for him on Day 1. The Chiefs were that team. Ford could get some sacks here and there, but he may never be a starter because he’s undersized and weak against the run. A top-25 pick shouldn’t be used on a situational player.

In the third round, Kansas City reached again with cornerback Philip Gaines. Sources from other teams said that Gaines was a reach in the third round.

The Chiefs kept up the trend with De’Anthony Thomas. He was phased out last year at Oregon and never was the Ducks’ feature back. Thomas might provide a highlight-reel play once in awhile, but he didn’t have the durability to get a lot of touches in college. That won’t change in the NFL.

Some in the media feel that Aaron Murray was a steal, but WalterFootball.com knows plenty of teams that don’t think he’ll be anything more than a backup and spot starter. Plus, Kansas City took Murray over quarterbacks with a lot more upside like Zach Mettenberger.

Sixth-round pick Zach Fulton was viewed as a seventh-round choice or undrafted free agent by other teams, while Canadian Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff is a gamble.

This looks like a very questionable draft class for Kansas City filled with a lot of reaches and overdrafting players ahead of where they should have gone.

2013 Loser: Dallas Cowboys
2012 Loser: Seattle Seahawks

Top Draft Newcomer: Cleveland Browns GM Ray Farmer
There weren’t a lot of new general managers to pick from. The finalists were Farmer and Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht. I think Licht has done a tremendous job of revamping a weak Buccaneers roster, but I think Farmer got more impact out of his draft class. He should given that he had more premium picks than Licht – including two first-rounders and two third-rounders.

To get Cleveland’s draft started, Farmer made a wise decision to move down and acquire the Bills’ 2015 first-round pick, which could easily be a top-10 selection. From the ninth spot, Farmer moved up one slot to get the player he wanted, Justin Gilbert. He should form an excellent cornerback tandem with Joe Haden.

Later in the first round, the Browns were aggressive to land their franchise quarterback in Johnny Manziel. Even if the pick doesn’t work out, when you’ve been starved for a quality quarterback like Cleveland has, Manziel is worth the roll of the dice.

On Day 2, the Browns were able to land three starters with guard/tackle Joel Bitonio, inside linebacker Christian Kirksey and running back Terrance West.

The big flaw in Cleveland’s draft was not landing a wide receiver despite a good class of wide outs, but the organization seemed to stay true to its board while filling needs. Rome wasn’t build in a day. Considering what he inherited, I think Farmer had a strong debut for Cleveland.

2013 Winner: John Idzik, Jets
2012 Winner: Ryan Grigson, Colts

Once again, pass along your thoughts on these awards and 2012 NFL Draft. I’ll put together a mail bag that answers questions/comments sent via email [email protected] or on Twitter @draftcampbell.

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