It's a bit of asinine to rank the winners and losers of round 1, after all games are not won in May (formerly April). But that being said, it doesn't mean it's not a fun or productive thing to do. So without further ado, the winners of the 2014 NFL draft's first round...
1- It's a little bit of a cheat having two first round picks so high in the draft, but the Rams used them well. I like that they didn't mess around with trades, they stood pat and got their guys. Greg Robinson is one of the most athletic freaks in the draft, and with the right coach he could be a pro bowl tackle for years to come. Aaron Donald at 13 is something I didn't see coming but the more I think about it, it's a great pick. Plug him in beside Michael Brockers, Chris Long and Robert Quinn and you've got one of the best defensive lines in th NFL. Scary.
2- Winning the first round of the draft is generally an empty accolade, but the Cleveland Browns stormed out of the Radio City Music hall as victors last night. Wringing two first round picks and a fourth out of the Bills to move down 5 slots was a job well done for Browns GM Ray Farmar, securing cb Justin Gilbert with a trade up one spot was even better. Gilbert was just about the consensus best cornerback in the draft, and pairing him with Joe Haden should make a scary good cb corps. The Browns wheeled and dealed again, sending the 26th pick and their third rounder to the Eagles for the right to select Johnny football. I'm a self professed huge fan of Manziel, and I think the Browns absolutely killed it with this selection, considering it was assumed they would have to pull the trigger on him at 4.
3- Might be starting to see a trend develop here where more picks equals more success, because I really love what the Vikings did last night. Anthony Barr seems to have been somewhat of a forgotten man these last couple of weeks, but he's still the same uber-athletic linebacker who many thought could go in the top 3 not too long ago. Considering he's only played two years on the defensive side of the ball, defensive guru Mike ,Zimmer formerly of Cincinnati Benagls fame, should be able to coach him right up and find good uses for him. And if anyone is a big stickler for the value of a pick, I don't see how it gets any better than the Teddy Bridgewater at #32. Maneuvering in in front of the Texans for a qb, the Vikings got what was for me the steal of the draft. Bridgewater also gets placed in the perfect position, in that with both Ponder and Cassell on the roster there is no pressure to start right away. But if and when he wins the starting job, he'l have Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings and Cordarelle Patterson to back him up.
4- The Green Bay Packers will be sitting pretty heading into round 2 tonight. Some picks just seem destined to be, and in just about every mock draft under the sun the Packers were selecting Alabama safety Ha' Sean Clinton-Dix. As it turned out the Packers just had to sit tight at 21 and select the promising do-it-all safety at they were always going to, at their position of greatest need. That's a win-win.
5- Kelvin Benjamin to the Panthers is not one I considered, largely because my thought process rarely worked past the Steelers at #15, but as I think about it it's a great pick. Wide receiver is undoubtedly Carolina's greatest position of need, closely followed by offensive tackle. At #27 Benjamin was definitely the biggest bang for their buck. Benjamin has a huge 6ft 5 frame and a fair amount of speed to go along with it. He is somewhat raw, but after a bit of coaching, I could see him and Cam Newton growing old together in Carolina. That, and a ton of touchdowns.
1- The Buffalo Bills paid a rich price to move up 5 spots and select wide receiver Sammy Watkins, too rich for me actually. Don't get me wrong, Watkins is about as close to a lock as it gets for a great transition to the NFL, he can do it all. But trading two first rounders and a fourth, thats GM Doug Whaley mortgaging his future right there. After a move like that, wins have to follow or the axe surely will. Can Watkins get it done? No doubt. But was the team at the point where it just needed one final "big piece" to add to the puzzle? Nup'. Is E.J Manuel even the right guy for the job? Watkins can be as good as he wants it won't matter if he has a scrub throwing the football to him. If i were Buffalo, I would have stood pat at 9.
2- The Titans has a reasonable offensive line, did they really need to draft another offensive tackle? Sitting at 11, it just felt there was so many other ways they could go with it. Replacing Alterruan Verner with Kyle Fuller or pairing Aaron Donald with Jurrel Casey are just two examples. Not really a classic loser pick, but if you're not winning then I suppose you're losing...
3- It just felt like the Philladelphia Eagles board evaporated in front of them last night. Calvin Pryor to the Jets, Clinton-Dix to the Packers, Cooks to the Saints, the most obvious Philly picks were all snatched up by the time 22 rolled around. Choosing to trade down was probably the right move, and they garnered an extra third round pick in the process. But choosing an OLB prospect Mike Mayock didn't have going until at the earliest the second round? Chip Kelly might know something everyone else doesn't. The losing grade is more for being reactive than proactive.
1- The selection of Ryan Shazier sorted of blind sided me. It's not that I thought he was a bad pick, it just didn't seem to compute in my mind at the time he was a possibility. That sentiment seems to have been shared by many. An athletic demon, Shazier could be the next great Steelers linebacker. Or he could be a marginally undersized athlete who isn't a great pro, or is better suited in a 4-3.
2- I think the Jacksonville Jaguars won the shock and awe game last night by selecting Blake Bortles #3 overall. Fair play to Gus Bradley, he identified the quarterback who for better or worse will define his tenure in Florida and he got em' early, to hell with what anyone else thinks. Still, Bortles was very far from the consensus top quarterback. Bradley has tied his and the fortunes of the team to the pretty huge shoulders of Bortles.
3- The 49ers were absolutely prime candidates for a blockbuster trade last night, seeing as they had a veritable treasure chest of draft picks and seemingly few roster spots. I thought they were going to do something sensational, instead they stood still at #30 and selected...who? Jimmie Ward the safety that's who. Trent Balke and Jim Harbaugh must know something most don't ,and maybe Ward becomes an All Pro behemothth with 20 interceptions a year. Still, it was a mild surprise, and far from the exciting splash I expected.