Evan Silva

NFL Draft Grades

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Draft 2014: NFC Draft Grades

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The 2014 NFL draft concluded Saturday evening. Rotoworld blurbed every single selection, picks one (Jadeveon Clowney) through 256 (Lonnie Ballentine). You can use our search engine in the top right-hand corner of this page to access our in-depth rookie writeups.

After a grueling three days of “work,” we'll put the finishing touches on our intensive draft coverage with post-draft grades.

But let's be clear: We don't believe in assessing draft hauls immediately after the three-day event. This is strictly for your pleasure. If you're reading this intro, you're interested. And we want to appeal to you. Don't take these grades too seriously. We'll know a lot more about this draft around 2017.

Here are the NFC Draft Grades:

Arizona Cardinals

27. Deone Bucannon, safety, Washington State.
52. Troy Niklas, tight end, Notre Dame.
84. Kareem Martin, defensive end, North Carolina.
91. John Brown, receiver/returner, Pittsburgh State.
120. Logan Thomas, quarterback, Virginia Tech.
160. Ed Stinson, defensive end, Alabama.
196. Walter Powell, wide receiver, Murray State.

Overview: Cards GM Steve Keim's second-ever draft took a nuts-and-bolts approach, adding a hulking in-line tight end in Niklas, ballhawking striker safety in Bucannon, two quality defensive line prospects in Martin and Stinson, and a big-armed, big-bodied developmental signal caller in Thomas. At 5-foot-10 and sub-180 pounds, Brown projects as primarily an NFL return specialist. I would be surprised if Powell made Arizona's 53. While I didn't have a problem with any of the Cardinals' picks in terms of draft slot or team fit, I was surprised Keim didn't more aggressively attack his needs at outside-edge rusher and on the right side of the offensive line. Arizona is putting a ton of faith in 36-year-old John Abraham, RT Bobby Massie, and RG Earl Watford at their respective positions. I don't think this was a bad draft, but I was underwhelmed.

Grade: C

Atlanta Falcons

6. Jake Matthews, tackle, Texas A&M.
37. Ra'Shede Hageman, defensive lineman, Minnesota.
68. Dezmen Southward, safety, Wisconsin.
103. Devonta Freeman, running back, Florida State.
139. Prince Shembo, outside linebacker, Notre Dame.
147. Ricardo Allen, cornerback, Purdue.
168. Marquis Spruill, linebacker, Syracuse.
253. Yawin Smallwood, linebacker, Connecticut.
255. Tyler Starr, outside linebacker, South Dakota.

Overview: Based on free agency and draft moves, it's pretty clear the Falcons will play base 3-4 defense under Mike Nolan in 2014. Rush 'backers Shembo and Starr fit the new-ish scheme, as do five-techniques Hageman and Tyson Jackson, and free-agent addition Paul Soliai. My favorite picks were plug-and-play tackle Matthews and fourth-rounder Freeman, a pass-game maven who fits perfectly into coordinator Dirk Koetter's pass-first attack. Southward is another intriguing pick with borderline-freak measurables and some potential to start at free safety right away, replacing Thomas DeCoud. Allen is a physical slot corner capable of pushing Robert McClain. Because Atlanta was exposed as one of football's most depth-deficient teams in 2013, I appreciated GM Thomas Dimitroff resisting the temptation to trade up for Jadeveon Clowney. I thought he brought in a solid class, but this team is still noticeably short on outside pass rush. The Falcons are also losing a major wrinkle from their offense as heavy-footed in-line blocker Levine Toilolo “replaces” Tony Gonzalez at tight end.

Grade: C+

Carolina Panthers

28. Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver, Florida State.
60. Kony Ealy, defensive lineman, Missouri.
92. Trai Turner, guard, LSU.
128. Tre Boston, defensive back, North Carolina.
148. Bene Benwikere, cornerback, San Jose State.
204. Tyler Gaffney, running back, Stanford.

Overview: Dave Gettleman's second draft as Panthers GM began with groans over Benjamin, whom many seem to have already decided is a bust. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound jump-ball specialist will get every opportunity to shine as Cam Newton's "X" receiver. Regardless of how you feel about his first-rounder, Gettleman did an excellent job of matching need with value for the rest of his draft. A Michael Bennett-type player, Ealy replaces Frank Alexander as the Panthers' No. 3 end, and can rush from the interior on passing downs. A powerful, high-ceiling drive blocker, Turner could be Carolina's Week 1 starting right guard. Boston and Benwikere may have fallen in the draft over "tweener" concerns, but both offer pro-ready traits and add much-needed talent to a weak secondary. I wasn't a fan of Gaffney's tape, but he can pass protect and get what's blocked. I still expect 2014 regression from the Panthers -- and the offensive line remains a pretty glaring concern, particularly at left tackle -- but I'm guessing I liked Gettleman's class a little more than most.

Grade: B-

Chicago Bears

14. Kyle Fuller, cornerback, Virginia Tech.
51. Ego Ferguson, defensive tackle, LSU.
82. Will Sutton, defensive tackle, Arizona State.
117. Ka'Deem Carey, running back, Arizona.
131. Brock Vereen, safety, Minnesota.
183. David Fales, quarterback, San Jose State.
191. Pat O'Donnell, punter, Miami (FL).
246. Charles Leno, guard/tackle, Boise State.

Overview: The Bears return virtually every key piece from an offense that finished 2013 No. 2 in points scored, so GM Phil Emery went to work on his patchwork defense in this draft. He got a Week 1 starter in Fuller, and likely year-one contributors in run-stopper Ferguson and three-technique penetrator Sutton. A versatile corner-safety hybrid and value pick where he went, Vereen is a sleeper to play meaningful snaps as a rookie. Noted measurables drafter Emery set aside the spreadsheet and trusted the tape for his Carey, Fales, and Sutton picks. Leno was a value addition so late in the seventh and could push LG Matt Slauson sooner rather than later. Chicago has emerged from an active free agency period and the draft with few remaining needs. I thought this draft attacked holes, added depth where necessary, and procured plenty of upside.

Grade: B

Dallas Cowboys

16. Zack Martin, guard/tackle, Notre Dame.
34. Demarcus Lawrence, defensive end, Boise State.
119. Anthony Hitchens, linebacker, Iowa.
146. Devin Street, wide receiver, Pittsburgh.
231. Ben Gardner, defensive end, Stanford.
238. Will Smith, linebacker, Texas Tech.
248. Ahmad Dixon, safety, Baylor.
251. Ken Bishop, defensive tackle, Northern Illinois.
254. Terrance Mitchell, cornerback, Oregon.

Overview: The Martin pick put the finishing touches on one of the best offensive lines in football. I'm also a big fan of Lawrence's potential and scheme fit under new DC Rod Marinelli. After signing Henry Melton in free agency and drafting the ultra-productive Boise pass rusher, Dallas finally has some D-Line credibility. I was disappointed in middle-rounders Hitchens and Street, the former of whom I expect to max out as an NFL special teamer, and the latter of whom I think will be exposed as a good college player who lacked necessary traits to become a productive pro. Round-seven stabs on Gardner, Dixon, Bishop, and particularly Mitchell all offered value and were very much worthwhile. My opinion on the 2014 Cowboys hasn't suddenly changed -- I still expect them to play top-five offense and struggle on defense -- but I think this was a fine draft.

Grade: B-

Detroit Lions

10. Eric Ebron, tight end, North Carolina.
40. Kyle Van Noy, linebacker, BYU.
76. Travis Swanson, center, Arkansas.
133. Nevin Lawson, cornerback, Utah State.
136. Larry Webster, defensive end, Bloomsburg.
158. Caraun Reid, defensive tackle, Princeton.
189. T.J. Jones, wide receiver, Notre Dame.
229. Nate Freese, kicker, Boston College.

Overview: I read somewhere that GM Martin Mayhew is catching heat from fans for not focusing enough on defense. Well, Detroit should already have a good defense because they are loaded in the front seven, which if coached properly can mask back-end deficiencies. (See the Panthers.) My bet is Mayhew is counting on improved coaching from new coordinator Teryl Austin to improve the Lions' pass defense. Mayhew did bolster the "D" with swiss-army-knife Van Noy, interior pocket pusher Reid, and Lardarius Webb clone Lawson. He also supplied Matthew Stafford with much-needed weapons in future star Ebron and sure-handed Jones, who may contribute in the slot right away. The Swanson pick was a head scratcher because I see him topping out as an interior "swing" reserve who would struggle if pushed into the starting lineup. But I thought this was a pretty good draft, got value, and did not ignore needs. The offense is going to be great, and the back four will look much, much better if Austin can get the max from his up-front personnel.

Grade: C+

Green Bay Packers

21. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, safety, Alabama.
53. Davante Adams, wide receiver, Fresno State.
85. Khyri Thornton, defensive tackle, Southern Miss.
98. Richard Rodgers, tight end, California.
121. Carl Bradford, outside linebacker, Arizona State.
161. Corey Linsley, center, Ohio State.
176. Jared Abbrederis, wide receiver, Wisconsin.
197. Demetri Goodson, cornerback, Baylor.
236. Jeff Janis, wide receiver, Saginaw Valley State.

Overview: GM Ted Thompson's first three picks were outstanding. He shored up a glaring weakness at free safety by stopping Clinton-Dix's slide at No. 21, and Thornton adds physicality to a defensive line that needs it. Don't be surprised if Thornton quickly pushes underachieving B.J. Raji for nose-tackle snaps. A Hakeem Nicks clone who will unseat Jarrett Boykin sooner rather than later, Adams is going to be a really good addition to Green Bay's three- and four-wide offense. I also liked the Bradford and Linsley picks. Tight end was one of this draft's thinnest positions, so I would have liked for Thompson to address that weakness earlier. I don't think much of Rodgers as a long-term prospect. Abbrederis and Goodson should be core special teamers. Janis is a high-ceiling measurables freak who may head to the practice squad in year one. All in all, I thought this was a sturdy draft with plenty of potential for major year-one impact.

Grade: B+

Minnesota Vikings

9. Anthony Barr, linebacker/end, UCLA.
32. Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback, Louisville.
72. Scott Crichton, defensive end, Oregon State.
96. Jerick McKinnon, running back, Georgia Southern.
145. David Yankey, guard, Stanford.
182. Antone Exum, defensive back, Virginia Tech.
184. Kendall James, cornerback, Maine.
220. Shamar Stephen, defensive tackle, Connecticut.
223. Brandon Watts, linebacker, Georgia Tech.
225. Jabari Price, cornerback, North Carolina.

Overview: After landing speedy outside rusher Barr, GM Rick Spielman traded back into round one for Bridgewater, sending Seattle the Nos. 40 and 108 picks. If Bridgewater becomes the long-term solution so many seem to believe he will, that trade will go down as one of the best in franchise history. I'm more skeptical due to Teddy's size and arm strength limitations. I liked the Crichton, Exum, and Stephen picks for value. Yankey has a big name but little game, and I don't see him panning out in the pros. Blessed with explosive physical tools, McKinnon is a intriguing project running back who may prove to be 29-year-old Adrian Peterson's successor. Price, Watts, and James are likely special teamers. Spielman annually drafts well-known names and gets positive "draft grades," but the Vikings haven't been very good during his tenure. That said, I'm optimistic about this group. Ultimately, it will be defined by Bridgewater's success or lack thereof.

Grade: B

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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