These are 2014 NFL Draft Team Grades. I'll be posting them throughout Sunday. Follow @walterfootball
2014 NFL Draft Grades - Round: Picks 1-16
| Picks 17-32
| Team Grades
2015 NFL Mock Draft
Houston Texans: A- Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Texans are starting over, so they obviously need a franchise quarterback. However, they're not taking one at No. 1 overall, and they may even pass on one at No. 33, per our NFL Draft Rumor Mill. They have a bunch of other needs to fill, including pass-rusher (Jadeveon Clowney), inside linebacker, nickel corner, safety and tight end.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Texans have been criticized for not using an early pick on a quarterback, but they managed to secure Tom Savage at the end of the fourth round when they were considering him atop the third. They had to pick Jadeveon Clowney - he was just too talented to pass up - and all of the top quarterbacks were gone by the second frame. Derek Carr couldn't be an option because of what happened to David, so Savage was the next-best choice, outside of perhaps Jimmy Garoppolo. The fact that Houston was able to wait, fill other needs in the process and still obtain him later is pretty impressive.
The Texans improved their front seven with Clowney and Louis Nix, who was a steal in the third round. Xavier Su'a-Filo was the second-best guard in this draft, so he'll bolster the offensive front. C.J. Fiedorowicz will replace Owen Daniels, giving Ryan Fitzpatrick a solid intermediate target. And then there's Savage, whom Bill O'Brien can develop. Savage has the physical tools, so combine those with O'Brien's tutelage, and the Texans may have obtained their long-term starting quarterback.
Houston made some decent choices toward the end of the draft, so its class is very solid as a whole. The front office deserves a high grade.
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Washington Redskins: C+ Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Redskins don't have a first-rounder, so they won't be able to upgrade their roster very much. What they can do is find some potential starters on the offensive line and front seven. Some help in the secondary is needed as well.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Washington found two potential starters with its limited picks. The team did a good job of trading down, so it was able to acquire both Morgan Moses and Spencer Long on Day 2. I wasn't very high on the Long selection, but it's possible that he could beat out Chris Chester at right guard. If Moses doesn't start right away, it'll be a minor disappointment.
I didn't like the Redskins' first pick very much. I'm not going to rant and rave about it being a reach like Todd McShay; I thought the middle of the second frame was the right spot for Trent Murphy. My issue is that it means one of two things: Murphy will be a career backup with the Redskins, or Brian Orakpo will be gone in 2015. I don't think that's a good message to send to the team.
Washington also made strange choices. Long was taken too early, Ryan Grant was unnecessary, and a kicker didn't make any sense. I did like the Bashaud Breeland pick though.
Overall, the Redskins had a pretty average draft. They found two potential starters and did a nice job of trading down (robbing Dallas in the process), but some of their selections made little sense.
Jacksonville Jaguars: B- Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Jaguars finished the 2013 season strong, but they still need to breathe some life into their morbid franchise. That can happen with a quarterback. Unfortunately, it appears as though general manager David Caldwell is going to wait until the second round to select Teddy Bridgewater or Jimmy Garoppolo. Caldwell also needs to strengthen his weak defense and find another play-maker for his new quarterback.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Jaguars don't seem to know how to manage the draft. They reached for a signal-caller at No. 3, when the three other teams that were highest on Blake Bortles were willing to wait on him until Round 2. Caldwell then moved up twice unnecessarily: once to pick a second wideout, and the second time to take a mid-round guard in the third frame.
The move Jacksonville should have made was to go from No. 39 to the early 20s to select the quarterback of its choosing. That way, the team could have added a much-needed blue-chip player to its roster like Sammy Watkins or Khalil Mack. What's better? The trio of Bortles, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, or the duo of Johnny Manziel and Watkins? I'd definitely take the latter, and I have to think owner Shad Khan would too, given how many tickets the Browns sold upon drafting Manziel.
The Jaguars did, at least, make some nice selections. Lee was a steal at No. 39. Picking Aaron Colvin was a 49ers-type move in that Jacksonville can redshirt him this year and then use him as a potential starter in 2015. Telvin Smith provided great value in Round 5. So, even though Jacksonville did make some strange deals, this class is somewhat promising.
Cleveland Browns: C+ Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Browns haven't made the playoffs since the 2002 season. They also haven't had a franchise quarterback since their franchise reentered the NFL in 1999. It's time for that to change. They have to find a signal-caller who can transform them into a perennial playoff contender. Otherwise, they need to find another offensive play-maker, upgrade the offensive line and bolster a couple of positions on the defense.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Cleveland's draft is very difficult to grade. On one hand, the Johnny Manziel selection was excellent. No one would have been too upset if the team had taken him at No. 4, but being able to secure him with the second choice was brilliant. The Browns sold 2,000 season tickets within the first 48 hours, and their franchise was in the national discussion for the first time in more than a decade. Manziel is the play-making superstar Cleveland desperately needed.
On the other hand, what the hell are the Browns going to do at receiver in the wake of Josh Gordon's impending suspension? They shouldn't have taken Sammy Watkins at No. 4 because they were able to obtain a 2015 first-round choice in the process - another terrific move - but why not grab Marqise Lee at No. 35? How about moving up from No. 71 to obtain Allen Robinson, Davante Adams or Jordan Matthews? Or, what about Martavis Bryant, Donte Moncrief, Cody Latimer or Paul Richardson at other junctures? It's impossible that the Browns didn't like a single wideout in this loaded class. Other teams took receivers, so why didn't Cleveland, considering the circumstances?
Again, this is a tough grade. I was ready to give the Browns an "A" after the first day, but they bombed the rest of the process. They found some nice players like Terrence West and Pierre Desir, but they've ensured that their rookie signal-caller will struggle because he won't have anyone to throw to.
Oakland Raiders: B Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: As with the Browns, the Raiders haven't been in the playoffs since the 2002 season when they lost to the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. They hit rock bottom earlier this spring when owner Mark Davis embarrassed Reggie McKenzie by vetoing the Rodger Saffold signing. Since then, McKenzie has made some moves to stay competitive, but the Raiders still barely have any depth. They need to improve that area, all while finding a long-term answer at quarterback. That could be a problem, however, considering that the front office needs to win now to stay employed.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I pretty much like everything the Raiders did in the draft except for taking Derek Carr in the second round. I was never a fan of Carr even before watching him be completely overwhelmed against USC in his bowl game. There's a reason he fell out of the first frame. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson is one of the best in the business, so he'll get the most out of Carr, but he may not be able to coach him very long, since another poor season could prompt the inept Mark Davis to send everyone packing. That's why the Carr selection was strange - it won't help the Raiders win now, so what good will it do for everyone currently on staff?
Otherwise, Oakland had a very solid draft. It was able to obtain a premiere pass-rusher in Khalil Mack, thanks to Jacksonville's incompetence. Gabe Jackson was the No. 1 guard on some boards (not counting Zack Martin because he can play tackle), so he was a steal in the third round. Keith McGill, meanwhile, was secured in the fourth frame despite being a second-round prospect. I wasn't a fan of some of the Raiders' late choices, but players taken in the final round usually don't make the roster anyway.
I'd say the Raiders improved overall. Had they opted for Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson or Jordan Matthews in the second round, I would've put them in the A- range.
Atlanta Falcons: C+ Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: Many seem to forget that the Falcons were in the NFC Championship 16 months ago. They fought through a barrage of injuries this past season and were never able to recover because of their lacking depth. Atlanta essentially just needs to bolster its roster while taking care of a few needs, including rush linebacker, safety and right tackle.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I don't think the Falcons are fans of their own draft. They got off to a good start with Jake Matthews, though he was close to being the worst-case scenario pick at No. 6 (Clowney-Robinson-Mack-Matthews-Watkins would have been disastrous for them). Matthews will be a huge upgrade at right tackle, and he'll eventually move over to the blind side, where he'll offer great protection for Matt Ryan.
It all went downhill from there, however. The Falcons were trying desperately to move into the end of the first to secure one of Dee Ford, Jimmie Ward or Deone Bucannon. All of them went off the board rather quickly. That prompted the front office to make a strange choice in Ra'Shede Hageman, who will be stuck behind a bunch of players on the depth chart. Atlanta followed that up with two reaches: Dez Southward and Marquis Spruill.
The Falcons saved themselves with some nice choices like Devonta Freeman and Ricardo Allen, but they didn't have a good draft overall.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Buccaneers have made a ton of acquisitions this offseason, but they're still weak in a few areas. They have to find a No. 2 receiving option, upgrade at linebacker and guard, and someone to help Gerald McCoy rush the passer on the interior of the defensive line. They'll also consider a franchise quarterback at No. 7 overall if they can get either Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Mike Evans is so much like Vincent Jackson that I accidentally tweeted out that Tampa Bay drafted Vincent Jackson No. 7 overall. He and Austin Seferian-Jenkins will provide Josh McCown with some rather large targets, a luxury that McCown enjoyed during his time with the Bears. Robert Herron, a smaller weapon, was a solid choice as well.
Tampa Bay's other picks weren't nearly as good. Kadeem Edwards and Kevin Pamphile were reaches in the fifth round - and the latter didn't provide a need - but the worst choice of all was Charles Sims in the third frame. With Doug Martin, Mike James and Bobby Rainey on the roster, there was absolutely no need to pick Sims, who was a reach at that point anyway. This earned the Buccaneers one of the dreaded "Millen" grades that I handed out over the weekend.
Overall, the Buccaneers didn't have a very good draft. They ignored needs, made reaches and failed to find a possible long-term solution at quarterback.
Minnesota Vikings: B+ Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Vikings would love for either Blake Bortles or Khalil Mack to fall to them. There's no chance the latter will be available, but Bortles could be. If not, they'll probably have to decide between Anthony Barr and Derek Carr. An ideal situation would be for Minnesota to move down and snag Carr in the mid- or late-teens. After that, they'd have to find some upgrades for their lackluster back seven.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I don't understand how Anthony Barr can be perceived as a reach for Minnesota. He was linked to them this entire time, and if Jake Matthews hadn't been on the board at No. 6, the Falcons probably would have chosen him at that juncture. Barr fit the range and filled one of Minnesota's top needs - and the team was able to obtain an extra pick in a trade with Cleveland before snagging him.
Barr is one of many solid selections the Vikings made throughout the weekend. In fact, excluding the seventh round, I gave just one of their selections lower than a B, which was the "C" I posted for Jerick McKinnon (there were better running backs available). Minnesota may have found its franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32. I'm not as crazy about Bridgewater as DraftTwitter is, but he should at least be a decent starter. Scott Crichton, meanwhile, was a steal in the third frame. He and Barr will help compensate for the loss of Jared Allen.
I liked the Vikings' draft overall. I would've done a couple of things differently, but there's no doubt that Rick Spielman improved his roster.
Buffalo Bills: C- Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: It appears as though the Bills have three prospects in mind at No. 9: Jake Matthews, Mike Evans and Eric Ebron. They'll almost certainly nab one of them, and they'll focus on the other two positions in later rounds. Buffalo has also met with a ton of cornerbacks and running backs, so the front office will probably address those two areas.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: If the Bills were the Broncos, Patriots, Seahawks, 49ers, Saints, etc., moving up for Sammy Watkins would have been a great move. Those teams are in win-now mode (especially Denver and New England), so giving up a valuable future resource to obtain a great play-maker like Watkins would have made a ton of sense.
The Bills are not those teams. They are not one or two pieces away from a Super Bowl. They're still in a rebuilding process, so sacrificing a 2015 first-round pick will have disastrous ramifications going forward. Buffalo will likely be drafting in the top 12 next year, so it'll miss out on a second potential blue-chip player.
Buffalo didn't make up for this blunder with its other selections. Cyrus Kouandjio looked completely helpless against the Oklahoma pass-rushers in his bowl performance, and on top of that, he has medical concerns that knocked him out of the first round. Preston Brown was a reach in the third, while Ross Cockrell doesn't really fill any sort of immediate need (and it's not like he was the best player available). Also, essentially trading Stevie Johnson for Bryce Brown is kind of stupid.
The Bills had one of the worst drafts this year - and they won't have a strong class next year either because of their missing picks.
Detroit Lions: B- Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Lions added Golden Tate through free agency, but they still need to obtain a couple of weapons around Matthew Stafford. This can be done via Eric Ebron or Odell Beckham at No. 10 (or trading up for Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans). Detroit also needs to work on its secondary and finding depth for its defensive line. A pass-rushing linebacker is needed as well.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Excluding the seventh round, I graded only one of Detroit's selections higher than a "B," which was the B+ I posted for fifth-round pick Caraun Reid. Conversely, the Lions had just one pick worse than a C+, so I'd say they had an average draft.
There were two puzzling things about the Lions' haul, one more so than the other. The minor concern was the first-round pick. Ebron makes sense as a potent intermediate weapon for Matthew Stafford, but with all of the second-round talent at the position, why not wait on a tight end? I get that Anthony Barr and Justin Gilbert were gone, but couldn't Detroit have traded back? It's not like any team in the 11-14 range was going to consider Ebron.
The bigger issue is the lack of secondary improvement. The Lions didn't address the defensive backfield until the end of the fourth round with Nevin Lawson. As a result, they'll look as helpless as ever while trying to defend Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler.
Tennessee Titans: B Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: It doesn't appear as though the Titans are interested in drafting a quarterback No. 11 overall. They'll give Jake Locker another year, which means they can focus on finding pieces for their new 3-4. A rush linebacker, five-technique, inside linebacker and cornerback are all needed. Finding a new running back and a left tackle of the future is something else Tennessee should focus on.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I don't understand why everyone was so up in arms over the Taylor Lewan selection. Michael Roos won't be on the team much longer, so Tennessee had to find a successor. Besides, with Justin Gilbert and the top three pass-rushers off the board, what else was Tennessee supposed to do, reach for a player? Lewan was the top prospect available, so he was a very good choice at No. 11.
The Titans made some other solid selections. Bishop Sankey could easily be Offensive Rookie of the Year. Getting DaQuan Jones in the fourth round was a steal. Zach Mettenberger, meanwhile, provided even more value in the sixth frame.
The issue I have with Tennessee's class, however, is that it didn't find enough pieces for the 3-4. Rush linebacker and defensive end had to be addressed, but those areas were completely ignored.
New York Giants: B- Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: It's all about bolstering the trenches. Multiple upgrades should be obtained on both the offensive and defensive lines. The Giants can also look at the receiver, running back and safety positions, but all of that is secondary when it comes to improving the fronts. The Giants can nab a left tackle at No. 12 and then snag defensive ends and tackles a bit later.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Giants came into the draft needing to improve both fronts, but they passed on Zack Martin and Aaron Donald at No. 12 for Odell Beckham. The pick made sense though, given that Hakeem Nicks defected for Indianapolis. Eli Manning will enjoy airing it out to the speedy wideout.
New York did manage to address the trenches a bit later by adding Weston Richburg and Jay Bromley. However, the latter was a huge reach, as was fifth-round safety Nat Berhe. In total, the Giants added just one blocker and one defensive linemen prior to the sixth round. They just didn't do enough to improve the lines, but I understand that they had other needs, including running back (Andre Williams).
The Giants just had a so-so draft. What they really should have done was move back from No. 12. They had so many options that made sense at that point, so acquiring an extra pick would have made sense - and I'm sure they would've been able to add another lineman with that choice.
St. Louis Rams: C+ Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Rams have a loaded roster and would have a high chance of making the playoffs if they were in any other division. They need to add more talent around Sam Bradford, including a No. 1 receiver and protection up front. Many expect the Rams to address the latter in the first round, particularly at No. 2 overall via Greg Robinson, but Jeff Fisher's M.O. is to wait on linemen. Thus, St. Louis is in position to take the best player available with its two first-round choices to make its team even stronger.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Everyone is praising the Rams for having a great draft, but I just don't see it. I absolutely loved the Aaron Donald pick - how is sick is that defensive line going to be? - and Lamarcus Joyner and E.J. Gaines were some solid choices to help improve the secondary, but St. Louis' other decisions didn't make much sense to me.
Greg Robinson was locked in at No. 2 overall, but why? The Rams were already set at tackle with Jake Long and Joseph Barksdale, and Jeff Fisher has a history of turning mid- and late-round tackles into studs. I get that protecting Sam Bradford is paramount, but why not take Sammy Watkins over Robinson, and then snag a tackle later on? Elsewhere, Mo Alexander was a mega reach, while Tre Mason didn't fill any sort of need, though he did provide good value in the third frame.
The Rams improved their roster after the draft, but that was natural, given that they had two top-13 picks. There was just potential for so much more.
Chicago Bears: B- Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: Defense, defense, defense. The Bears have to bolster every single level of their stop unit with multiple upgrades. They may take a running back or tight end late in the draft, but they have to focus on fixing their pathetic defense.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I only really disliked two of Chicago's selections: Second-rounder Ego Ferguson was a reach, while Pat O'Donnell in the sixth frame was a bit silly because he's a punter. Yes, Rich Eisen, punters are people too, but that doesn't mean they should be chosen in the sixth round.
The Bears otherwise made three quality selections in the first four rounds to improve their defense. Phil Emery loves picking players who can be used at multiple positions, so Kyle Fuller made a ton of sense because he can start at cornerback and safety. Will Sutton should be able to improve the interior of the defensive front, while Brock Vereen provided great value at the end of the fourth frame.
Chicago had somewhat of a decent haul overall, but I just wish it used its second-rounder on a better prospect to improve its stop unit.
Pittsburgh Steelers: A- Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Steelers have lost two starting receivers in as many offseasons, so they'll need to find some help for Ben Roethlisberger. Mike Evans at No. 15 would be a wet dream. More realistically, Pittsburgh could find some help at cornerback and then focus on getting a new wideout a bit later. Getting an upgrade or two in the front seven is also a must.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Steelers had a fantastic draft. Some might think that No. 15 was too early for Ryan Shazier, but I know for a fact that a team picking soon after them was ready to pounce on the speedy Ohio State linebacker. The next selection, Stephon Tuitt, provided ridiculous value, given that he was once viewed as a first-round prospect. The other defensive player, Shaq Richardson, is a tall corner who should help improve the secondary a bit.
The Steelers also added some needed play-makers on offense. Dri Archer will serve as a Darren Sproles-type weapon for Ben Roethlisberger, while the athletically gifted Martavis Bryant will have a chance to start right away despite being chosen in the fourth round.
The only reason Pittsburgh isn't getting a pure "A" is because it waited so long to address the cornerback position. However, that certainly doesn't spoil this great class that the front office put together.
Dallas Cowboys: C- Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Cowboys have a terrible defense with plenty of holes. Upgrades are needed all over. Some areas could be addressed on offense, including right tackle and receiver, but Dallas has to spend most of its energy improving the stop unit.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Some expected Johnny Manziel to be the pick at No. 16, but that was never a realistic option, given Tony Romo's contract. Zack Martin made a lot more sense even though the Cowboys had to upgrade their defense. The guard position had to be addressed in order to keep Romo healthy, and Martin will be able to start there right away before perhaps moving to right tackle once Doug Free moves on.
So, did the Cowboys manage to bolster their stop unit with the rest of their selections? Not really. Demarcus Lawrence was a solid pick, but Jerry Jones made a ridiculous trade in order to get him, surrendering his third-rounder to the Redskins, of all teams. With no choice in the third frame, the Cowboys' next selection came in the fourth, where they took Anthony Hitchens, an undraftable player. The next defender would be chosen at No. 231.
Dallas is still going to have a terrible defense, so it obviously deserves a poor mark. There are two things saving it from an "F." The first is the Martin pick; Jones didn't reach, so that was a miracle. The second were some exceptional seventh-round choices. All eyes were on Michael Sam toward the end of the draft, so no one noticed that Jerry was absolutely on fire. My theory is that he handed the reins over to his scouts because he didn't recognize any of the names remaining on the board.
Baltimore Ravens: C Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Ravens are 15 months removed from winning the Super Bowl, but that doesn't mean that they don't have a lot of work to do. They have to find a new weapon for Joe Flacco, upgrade the offensive line and obtain some help for the secondary. They also need to acquire at least one new running back in the wake of Ray Rice's off-the-field issues.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Ozzie Newsome typically dominates the draft, but that wasn't the case this year. Several of his picks were questionable, including the first two. C.J. Mosley is damaged goods. We spoke to multiple teams that expected him to drop into Round 2. He didn't even fill much of a need either. Baltimore then took Timmy Jernigan in the second round despite the fact that the other players who tested positive at the Combine slipped. Jernigan didn't, and once again, he didn't fill much of a need.
The Ravens then took a couple of players too early: Crockett Gilmore and Lorenzo Taliaferro. I liked some of Baltimore's other choices, including Terrence Brooks, but where was the offensive line help? Why wasn't a receiver drafted before the seventh round?
I'm used to Baltimore drafting well, so giving them a grade like this seems strange. Perhaps Newsome will prove me wrong, but this seems on par with the atrocious Steve Smith signing in free agency.
New York Jets: C- Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Jets have the least-talented roster in the NFL. Excluding the defensive and offensive lines, every group on their roster is sub par at best. This is why I have them picking No. 1 in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft. New York will have to enjoy a masterful draft in order to avoid owning the NFL's worst record in 2014. Unfortunately, it simply has too many holes to fill, so taking the best player available each time is probably the way to go.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: It's safe to say that the Jets did not take the best player on the board each time. The only occasion in which that may have been the case was in the second round when they snagged Jace Amaro. The Texas Tech tight end was in first-round consideration at one point, and he'll give the starting quarterback a potent intermediate weapon. The first-round choice, Calvin Pryor, could have been picked a bit later, but he fits Rex Ryan's defensive scheme very well.
The Jets' downfall began at No. 80 when they chose seventh-round prospect Dexter McDougle. They could have obtained him much later. The same could be said for Jalen Saunders, Shaq Evans, Jeremiah George and other selections. In fact, the Jets did not obtain appropriate value with any of the receivers they took, meaning their quarterbacks won't have any reliable wideouts to throw to besides Eric Decker.
It doesn't appear as though the Jets understand the value aspect of the draft. They see players they like, and they take them, completely ignoring the fact that they can obtain better prospects at earlier picks all while still securing the players they covet much later.
Miami Dolphins: C Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: Miami's No. 1 priority is finding multiple upgrades on the offensive line to compensate for the ridiculous Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito situation last year. Help is also needed at linebacker, wide receiver and cornerback, but fixing Ryan Tannehill's blocking has to be the team's top goal.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Can one pick spoil an entire draft class? JaWuan James was a miserable selection in the first round. I understand the huge need, and I even slotted him there in my mock draft, but it was a mega reach. We spoke with five teams about James, and none of them had him as a solid first-round prospect. One tackle-needy team even pegged him in the fifth round! I'm not saying James can't pan out, but Miami probably would have been able to obtain him in the second frame.
The rest of Miami's haul was decent. Billy Turner, who might actually be better than James, was a solid third-round pick. Jarvis Landry provides needed depth at wideout. Walt Aikens and Jordan Tripp were steals.
If the Dolphins hadn't reached in the first round, I might give them a "B" overall. However, the James blunder has to drop them a full letter grade.
Arizona Cardinals: C+ Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Cardinals would probably win most divisions in the NFL, but they're only the third-best team in the fierce NFC West. They have no real holes outside of safety and rush linebacker, so those two areas should be addressed. They may also want to spend an early selection on a long-term quarterback to take over once Carson Palmer moves on.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Arizona addressed its biggest need in the first round. It reached while doing so, choosing Round 2-3 prospect Deone Bucannon, but at least the team initially moved down and acquired a third-round pick from the Saints. They used one of their third-round selection to bolster their defensive front with Kareem Martin. In between, they added an intermediate weapon for Carson Palmer in Troy Niklas.
Unfortunately, Bucannon wasn't the only reach Arizona was guilty of; John Brown was taken about 100 picks earlier than he should have been. He didn't even fill a big need, so that was puzzling. I also don't like how the rush linebacker position was completely ignored. Trevor Reilly was just sitting there for the Cardinals in the middle of the sixth round. Why not take him there?
The Cardinals had a pretty mixed draft. I love when teams move down and acquire valuable selections. I just wish Arizona didn't reach with two of its top-100 choices.
Green Bay Packers: B+ Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Packers' primary objective is to get faster on defense. They are tired of losing to Colin Kaepernick, so they have to be able to defend scrambling quarterbacks. Look for them to use multiple selections on quick defenders. They also have to give Aaron Rodgers some help in terms of a new center and a replacement for Jermichael Finley at tight end.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: This was a pretty solid draft for the Packers. I wrote that their primary objective was to find speedy defenders to help against mobile quarterbacks, and they obtained three such players in the first four rounds. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was the headliner, and he was a minor steal at No. 21. Carl Bradford, who can play either linebacker position, provided even more value in the fourth frame. He should have been chosen two rounds earlier.
Ted Thompson also addressed the offense. Davante Adams was a good value selection in the second round, as he could eventually be an upgrade over James Jones. Richard Rodgers may improve the tight end position, though I feel like the Packers reached for him a bit. Corey Linsley was also taken slightly early, but he fills a huge need.
A couple of reaches will keep the Packers out of the A/A- range, but they still deserve a high mark for their class.
Philadelphia Eagles: C Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Eagles have an abysmal secondary that needs multiple upgrades. Obtaining those and a new receiver are what their front office has to focus on during the draft. Acquiring some help in the front seven is also needed, but not before fixing those two aforementioned areas.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I had numerous Eagle fans asking me how they could get excited for Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft after the perceived reach of Marcus Smith in the first round. Philadelphia did take Smith too early, but it at least traded down while doing so. It's also worth noting that Smith would have been in play for the Seahawks at No. 32 had Minnesota not moved up into that slot.
Having said that, I realize why the Eagles' draft was so frustrating. I don't understand why they didn't move up fo Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Brandin Cooks when both prospects were chosen right before the No. 22 spot. It wouldn't have cost much to shift up to No. 19, where the Dolphins would have been more than happy to trade down and still obtain JaWuan James.
I only scored one of Philadelphia's picks better than a "B," which was the B+ I gave to Jaylen Watkins, the opening pick of the fourth round. He's a nice fit, as is Jordan Matthews, though I didn't like that the Eagles traded up for him with so much receiving talent still on the board in the second frame. And what was up with the Josh Huff selection? That was indefensible.
It's hard to like the Eagles' draft because they reached on multiple occasions, failed to take advantage of an opportunity and squandered some resources. I don't hate their haul, but they could have done much better.
Kansas City Chiefs: C- Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Chiefs are missing a second-round pick, so they want to move down more than anything. Their aim is to do so and then grab a guard like Xavier Su'a-Filo or Joel Bitonio. After that, they have to use some selections on the receiving corps and secondary. Getting some help in the front seven and on the defensive line is another goal.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I get the feeling that the Chiefs spent more time trying to trade their pick rather than deciding whom they were going take. They let the clock run down because they were desperate to move out of the No. 23 spot, but they couldn't do anything and panicked, taking Dee Ford off the board. That was a dreadful selection; not only was Ford deemed a reach by teams we've spoken to, but he didn't even fill a need. There are members of Kansas City's organization who don't even like the pick. It was that bad.
The Chiefs redeemed themselves a bit with Phillip Gaines in the third round. Gaines is a tall, athletic, talented cornerback, who could start once Brandon Flowers is dealt. Taking Aaron Murray in the fifth frame was also a solid move, but once again, Kansas City had to redeem itself because of a reach - which was De'Anthony Thomas in the previous round.
Kansas City unquestionably came away with one of the worst classes this year. It made multiple reaches and failed to address most of its glaring needs. That's not how teams are supposed to draft.
Cincinnati Bengals: C Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Bengals don't believe in signing free agents, so they'll have to find replacements for the players they lost in free agency during the draft. This includes Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins. However, cornerback could be the team's biggest need, given that Mike Zimmer will no longer be around to get the most out of the players at that position. Cincinnati also needs to think about finding a new quarterback because Andy Dalton doesn't appear to have what it takes to lead the team deep into the playoffs.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Bengals got off to a good start with Darqueze Dennard, who shouldn't have been available at No. 24. However, they quickly faded after that. Many of their second- and third-day selections made little sense. Picking Jeremy Hill in the second round was silly, as was taking a flier on A.J. McCarron, who has no upside to ever become a starting quarterback.
Cincinnati tried to fill some of its non-cornerback needs in Rounds 3 and 4 with Will Clarke and Russell Bodine. That said, the former has a questionable scheme fit. Clarke would be better off in a 3-4, so he likely won't be a viable replacement for Michael Johnson. As for Bodine, he could start at center this upcoming season, but he was a slight reach.
The Bengals didn't come away with a very good haul. Only two players have a shot at starting, so they needed to do much better if they wanted to retain the AFC North crown.
San Diego Chargers: B Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: San Diego's defense played better down the stretch, but it still needs help at multiple positions. Rush linebacker and nose tackle both have to be addressed, but the big holes are in the secondary, especially cornerback. The Chargers also have to give Philip Rivers a new downfield target because all Rivers has is Keenan Allen.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I gave the Chargers positive grades for all but one selection, their third-round choice of Chris Watt. It filled a slightly lesser need, but the issue was that it was a pretty big reach. Other than that, San Diego did pretty well.
The Chargers took care of two of their biggest holes early on when they chose Jason Verrett and Jeremiah Attaochu. They happened to be solid value selections, and they both have the potential to start this season. The other huge need, nose tackle, was addressed a bit too late for my liking. Ryan Carrethers was obtained in the fifth round, but I don't understand why San Diego didn't opt for the falling Louis Nix in the third frame. Nix would have been a massive upgrade.
San Diego's front office put together a solid draft, outside of the Nix and Watt blunders. It wasn't enough to overtake the Broncos, but that was nearly an impossible task to begin with.
Indianapolis Colts: C- Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Colts don't pick until No. 59, so their resources are limited. They have to bolster their secondary, but that's No. 2 on their list of priorities behind improving Andrew Luck's pass protection. Indianapolis has to shield its franchise player.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Colts didn't have the resources to do much in the 2014 NFL Draft, thanks to their missing first-round pick from the Trent Richardson trade. They still could have found help on the offensive line and bolstered the secondary. They only managed to accomplish one of those things - and they didn't do enough of it.
Indianapolis picked Jack Mewhort at No. 59. That was a fine choice, but why wasn't another selection used on a center? And why wasn't the defensive backfield improved? Donte Moncrief was a solid value selection in the third round, but he won't help this year. Why not draft a player for the secondary who can?
It's difficult to like what the Colts came away with. This draft class won't improve their roster very much, if at all.
New Orleans Saints: B Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Saints don't have any glaring needs, excluding center, wide receiver and cornerback. Outside of addressing all three of those spots, the Saints can take the top player available to help shore up their roster for a potential Super Bowl run.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I criticized the Bills earlier for surrendering a valuable resource to move up for Sammy Watkins. The Saints did the same thing, albeit in a move with lesser magnitude, but they'll be praised for doing so. Unlike Buffalo, they are prepared to win a Super Bowl this year, so it was in their best interest to obtain someone who could help them do that, even if it cost them a third-round selection. Brandin Cooks, who would have been off the board at No. 27, will be a very potent weapon for Drew Brees.
Save for the center position, the Saints filled their other needs, albeit with some reaches. Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Vinnie Sunseri, who could help in the secondary, were chosen too early. However, New Orleans did make a decent value selection with Khairi Fortt, an inside linebacker who may start if David Hawthorne continues to struggle.
Overall, the Saints did a decent job of bolstering their roster. They gave themselves a better chance of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Carolina Panthers: C Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Panthers lost a ton of talent this offseason, particularly at wideout and on the offensive line. Some contrarians think they can look at other positions, but the receiving corps and front are in such dire need of help that the front office almost has to address them early and often.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Panthers had to obtain multiple receivers and a left tackle. They failed in both matters, which has to be frustrating for the fans. They did, at least, snag one receiver, but he was a reach. Kelvin Benjamin was a consensus second-round prospect, and one team we spoke to even had him in the middle rounds. The 28th pick was too early for him, but Carolina was at least addressing a huge hole.
I don't know what happened after that, but receiver and tackle were ignored. I don't mind the second-round choice of Kony Ealy because he presented such great value at that juncture, but one of the next three selections should have been used on a greater position of need.
Given all that's happened, who's Newton going to throw to, and how will his blind side be protected? Carolina's franchise quarterback can't be happy with what his team did this weekend.
New England Patriots: D Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Patriots were able to upgrade their roster in free agency, but they have a few things they must take care of in the draft. They need to add at least one defensive tackle, find a new center, obtain a speedy linebacker and acquire a replacement for Aaron Hernandez. Bill Belichick may also want to add another running back because he doesn't trust anyone on his roster to carry the load.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Patriots have to win now. I think we can all agree on that. Tom Brady is 37 in August, so he has limited time remaining in his career. The Broncos have recognized this with their own aging signal-caller, so they've done everything in their power to give themselves the best shot at a Super Bowl. The Patriots appeared to be mirroring their actions in free agency, but they went a completely different route during the draft.
Taking Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round was the worst decision in the 2014 NFL Draft. I'm not saying Garoppolo will bust, but how is he going to help Brady win another Super Bowl? Using a major resource on him could cost the Patriots the Super Bowl. What if they need a key depth player or a potential starter that they could have acquired at that juncture? It was an awful decision.
Furthermore, how are New England's other picks supposed to help the team win now? Dominique Easley could be dominant in the future, but he won't be 100 percent in 2014 because he's coming off his second torn ACL. Bryan Stork, meanwhile, may not be able to win the starting job. He was a reach in the third round. James White was taken too early as well.
The Patriots had one goal in the 2014 NFL Draft, and that was to acquire a couple of pieces to help them claim another Lombardi Trophy. They failed to do so, and that's why they are getting the worst grade of any team in this class.
San Francisco 49ers: B Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The 49ers have so many picks that they almost have to move up. It'll be too costly to get Mike Evans, but they can get either Justin Gilbert or Odell Beckham without having to worry about surrendering too many selections because they have so many. Outside of obtaining a top-15 talent, San Francisco needs to address the receiver, cornerback and safety positions. Getting another pass-rusher as insurance for Aldon Smith would be smart as well.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The 49ers were discussing the possibility of moving up for Odell Beckham, but ultimately decided against it. They realized that they'd have to give up too many resources to do so. I'm fine with that sentiment as long as their trading partner was asking for a 2015 first-rounder. That would have been too much. San Francisco should have pulled the trigger for a pair of twos.
At any rate, the 49ers took a whopping 12 players, and of course, some of them will be redshirted in typical San Francisco fashion. Brandon Thomas, perceived to be a potential first-round tackle prior to a torn ACL, was a solid choice at the end of the third round. Receiver Bruce Ellington is raw, but he'll have time to learn behind the three wideouts ahead of him on the depth chart. Fullback Trey Millard, a fourth-round talent before his own torn ACL, could start in the future.
As for the picks who will help the 49ers win now, Jimmie Ward was a bit of a reach at No. 30; we know of a safety-needy team that wasn't even going to consider him in the second round. On a positive note, I loved many of San Francisco's selections, including Chris Borland, Thomas, Ellington and Dontae Johnson. I graded Carlos Hyde poorly, but after thinking about it, he did provide some decent value at the end of the second round.
Overall, the 49ers had a solid draft. I would have done some things differently, but I don't have too many complaints.
Denver Broncos: A- Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Broncos aren't worried about the future. They're all in for a potential championship this year. Thus, look for them to draft prospects who were productive in college and could contribute immediately.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Whereas the Patriots did everything in their power to sabotage their chances for this year, the Broncos took additional steps to ensure a Super Bowl victory. They began with taking Bradley Roby, a talented corner who thrived in 2012, but struggled this past season because he was concerned with getting hurt. Roby has character issues, but Denver won't have to worry about any long-term ramifications, given its goals.
Some other solid choices included Lamin Barrow, a potential starting linebacker, and Cody Latimer, who will replace Eric Decker. Latimer was a steal at the end of the second round. I only question one selection Denver made. I wasn't a fan of Michael Schofield going as early as he did, but he should still provide adequate depth on the offensive line.
The Broncos did a great job of accomplishing its goal and drafting quality players. They deserve one of the highest grades.
Seattle Seahawks: A Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Seahawks obviously don't need to deviate from their strategy. They've drafted highly athletic players under this regime, and that has worked out perfectly thus far. Seattle will take the same type of athletes, focusing on the offensive line, as well as the cornerback, receiver and LEO positions.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I asked this earlier: Can one pick spoil an entire draft class? For the Dolphins, absolutely, because we were talking about their first-round acquisition. Seattle's mega reach came at the end of the second, so it's not nearly as bad. I don't quite get why Seattle thought anyone else would select Justin Britt prior to the fifth frame, but the team has had luck with perceived reaches before.
I loved all of Seattle's other choices. Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood should give Russell Wilson some potent weapons to work with. Cassius Marsh is a quality pass-rusher who provided solid value at the beginning of the fourth round. Kevin Pierre-Louis was a sound selection later on, as he is the type of athletic linebacker the Seahawks love.
In addition to these quality picks, the Seahawks did a masterful job of wheeling and dealing, moving down on multiple occasions. Considering that they entered the draft with only two choices on the first two days, they came away with a very impressive haul. That's why they've earned my highest grade.
2014 NFL Draft Grades - Round: Picks 1-16 | Picks 17-32 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | Team Grades
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