Evan Silva

NFL Draft Grades

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Draft 2014: AFC Draft Grades

Monday, May 12, 2014


Bang it here for my 2014 NFC Draft Grades.

Baltimore Ravens

17. C.J. Mosley, inside linebacker, Alabama.
48. Timmy Jernigan, defensive tackle, Florida State.
79. Terrence Brooks, safety, Florida State.
99. Crockett Gillmore, tight end, Colorado State.
134. Brent Urban, defensive end, Virginia.
138. Lorenzo Taliaferro, running back, Coastal Carolina.
175. John Urschel, guard, Penn State.
194. Keith Wenning, quarterback, Ball State.
218. Michael Campanaro, wide receiver, Wake Forest.

Overview: GM Ozzie Newsome is a by-the-board drafter, and appeared to take the same approach in 2014. He didn't sweat Arthur Brown and Daryl Smith's roster presence when picking off Mosley at 17. Jernigan isn't the pass rusher some billed him to be early in the pre-draft phase, but fits in Baltimore as a one-gap nose. Newsome nabbed a third possible year-one starter in rangy Brooks, who will push Darian Stewart opposite SS Matt Elam as soon as camp opens. New OC Gary Kubiak utilizes frequent multi-tight end sets, explaining the Gillmore pick. A pro-ready blocker, Gillmore will battle Owen Daniels alongside Dennis Pitta. Urban is a five-technique end, and Taliaferro an interesting addition to Kubiak's zone-scheme run game. Wenning probably isn't long for the pros, but Urschel and Campanaro were late value picks. The only real quibble with this draft was its lack of a right tackle. Perhaps the Ravens have more faith in Rick Wagner than we know. I thought the value was good throughout, and Baltimore added several impact players.

Grade: B-

Buffalo Bills

4. Sammy Watkins, wide receiver, Clemson.
44. Cyrus Kouandjio, tackle, Alabama.
73. Preston Brown, inside linebacker, Louisville.
109. Ross Cockrell, cornerback, Duke.
153. Cyril Richardson, guard, Baylor.
221. Randell Johnson, linebacker, Florida Atlantic.
237. Seantrel Henderson, tackle, Miami (FL).

Overview: To get from No. 9 to No. 4 for Watkins, GM Doug Whaley surrendered a 2015 first-round pick and 2015 fourth-round pick. Last year's E.J. Manuel selection combined with the Watkins trade will define Whaley's Buffalo term. Whaley pulled off two more deals on day three, sending a conditional future third- or fourth-round pick to Philly for Bryce Brown, and adding a 2015 fifth-rounder in a trade with Tampa. The players Buffalo came away with are impressive. The cost at which they came is debatable. I thought Kouandjio and Cockrell were the best value picks. Brown is Brandon Spikes' heir apparent inside. Johnson is strictly a special teamer. Henderson offers huge upside if he "buys in," though the NFL obviously sees that as a long shot considering how far he fell. Ultimately, the success of this draft and Whaley as Bills GM has everything to do with Manuel's development. If the addition of Watkins helps turn E.J. into a successful NFL passer, the 2015 first-round pick will have been worth surrendering. If not, the entire front office could be replaced. My guess is Whaley's bold move will not work out, hence this low draft grade.

Grade: C-

Cincinnati Bengals

24. Darqueze Dennard, cornerback, Michigan State.
55. Jeremy Hill, running back, LSU.
88. Will Clarke, defensive end, West Virginia.
111. Russell Bodine, center, North Carolina.
164. A.J. McCarron, quarterback, Alabama.
212. Marquis Flowers, linebacker, Arizona.
239. James Wright, wide receiver, LSU.
252. Lavelle Westbrooks, cornerback, Georgia Southern.

Overview: The Bengals already have a top-eight roster and not many "needs." So the fact that they didn't have an overly impressive 2014 draft doesn't mean they suddenly suck. But I think they could've done better with their picks. I like Dennard a lot as a player and expect him to be a quality starter from day one. Hill is best suited as a complementary two-down banger back and will handle that role in Cincinnati, upgrading on BenJarvus Green-Ellis. I thought the draft took a turn for the worse quickly thereafter. Clarke is an intriguing physical specimen and long-term project, but probably won't contribute much in 2014. The Bengals needed immediate pass-rush help. Bodine is another plus-measurables project who's not yet ready to play in the league. McCarron is just an NFL backup. Flowers, Wright, and Westbrooks are strictly special teamers. Even if I had liked the Bengals' third- through seventh-round picks more, I'm not sure I would have projected them to suddenly rise atop the NFL mountain. The Bengals need better quarterback play, or to figure out a way to become a dominant football team that minimizes their quarterback's impact.

Grade: C-

Cleveland Browns

8. Justin Gilbert, cornerback, Oklahoma State.
22. Johnny Manziel, quarterback, Texas A&M.
35. Joel Bitonio, guard/tackle, Nevada.
71. Christian Kirksey, inside linebacker, Iowa.
94. Terrance West, running back, Towson.
127. Pierre Desir, cornerback, Lindenwood.

Overview: Rookie GM Ray Farmer opened his first-ever draft with a bang, robbing the Bills of 2015 first- and fourth-round picks in just a five-spot first-round drop. Farmer pulled off two trades back up the board, securing Gilbert and Manziel at positions of glaring need. He added a 2015 sixth-rounder in a day-three trade with Baltimore. Throughout this draft, Farmer consistently matched value with needs. Gilbert's elite ball skills will come in handy opposite lock-down LCB Joe Haden. The Browns' quarterback hole was obvious. Bitonio is Cleveland's likely day-one starter at left guard, solidifying an impressive O-Line. Kirksey upgrades on Craig Robertson next to Karlos Dansby. West is a 225-pound workhorse with Alfred Morris-like open-field jump cuts. Gilbert has some boom or bust to him, so the Browns found fourth-round insurance in Desir, an intriguing press-corner prospect. The lack of wide receivers concerns me less because OC Kyle Shanahan will orchestrate a heavily run-based offense as he eases in Johnny Football. All in all, the Browns not only came away with six impressive players; they stockpiled 2015 picks as well.

Grade: A-

Denver Broncos

31. Bradley Roby, cornerback, Ohio State.
56. Cody Latimer, wide receiver, Indiana.
95. Michael Schofield, tackle, Michigan.
156. Lamin Barrow, linebacker, LSU.
207. Matt Paradis, center, Boise State.
242. Corey Nelson, linebacker, Oklahoma.

Overview: It's worth noting GM John Elway added a 2015 fifth-round pick in a day-three deal with the Bears. My lone quibble with this draft was the lack of an impact middle linebacker, but I preferred Latimer as a pure prospect over Wisconsin ILB Chris Borland, and applaud that pick. Roby filled a need and was great value so late in round one. Latimer is essentially a suped-up Eric Decker. He'll likely enter the starting lineup in 2015, when Wes Welker almost certainly departs. Schofield is an old-school, drive-blocking right tackle who can push Chris Clark for snaps right away. Barrow is a rangy weak-side 'backer who could be an eventual option to start if the Broncos kick Danny Trevathan inside, plugging the aforementioned Mike linebacker hole. Paradis and Nelson are long shots. This was a short, sweet draft that brought to Denver 2-4 eventual starters. Combine it with Elway's free agency dealings, and I think Elway deserves an offseason "A" grade.

Grade: B-

Houston Texans

1. Jadeveon Clowney, linebacker/end, South Carolina.
33. Xavier Su'a-Filo, guard/tackle, UCLA.
65. C.J. Fiedorowicz, tight end, Iowa.
83. Louis Nix, nose tackle, Notre Dame.
135. Tom Savage, quarterback, Pittsburgh.
177. Jeoffrey Pagan, defensive end, Alabama.
181. Alfred Blue, running back, LSU.
211. Jay Prosch, fullback, Auburn.
216. Dre Hal, cornerback, Vanderbilt.
256. Lonnie Ballentine, safety, Memphis.

Overview: I realize it was just a sixth-round blip on the radar, but the Texans' selection of Auburn lead-blocker Prosch is a strong indication of how this team plans to play until rookie coach Bill O'Brien finds a legitimate quarterback: Houston is going to run the ball with volume and play stout defense. Almost every pick here suits that philosophy. A freakazoid outside pass rusher in Clowney. A two-down toilet clogger in Nix. A hammerhead, lane-clearing fullback in Prosch. A pro-ready blocking tight end in Fiedorowicz. A high-ceiling left guard in Su'a-Filo. Running back depth with Blue. Even Mr. Irrelevant Ballantine is a toolsy safety with starting-caliber measurables. I appreciate teams that pick a defined way to play and make moves in coherent fashion, designing their roster with a purposeful goal in mind. When O'Brien finally finds his signal caller -- and I wouldn't completely rule out big-armed Savage becoming that guy -- this team will ascend quickly.

Grade: A

Indianapolis Colts

59. Jack Mewhort, offensive lineman, Ohio State.
90. Donte Moncrief, wide receiver, Ole Miss.
166. Jonathan Newsome, outside linebacker, Ball State.
203. Andrew Jackson, inside linebacker, Western Kentucky.
232. Ulrick John, tackle, Georgia State.

Overview: The Colts sent their 2014 first-round pick to Cleveland in September of last year, so GM Ryan Grigson was handcuffed from the start. I did think he plucked value with Mewhort late in the second round and Moncrief in the third, though I don't expect the latter to make any year-one noise. Due to Reggie Wayne's age and Hakeem Nicks' contract, however, Moncrief is a candidate to start opposite T.Y. Hilton by 2015. Mewhort is a good bet to push for playing time right away, at guard or even center. Newsome was a productive pass rusher in the MAC, but lacks an NFL skill set and would do well to earn a job on Indianapolis' kick and punt coverage teams. Jackson will open camp buried on the inside linebacker depth chart, vying for a roster spot on special teams. John is a practice squad candidate. The Colts entered this draft with several needs, and only Mewhort stands out as a player capable of immediately satisfying a weak spot. We also have to build the so-far-failed Trent Richardson trade into Grigson's 2014 draft grade.

Grade: D

Jacksonville Jaguars

3. Blake Bortles, quarterback, Central Florida.
39. Marqise Lee, wide receiver, USC.
61. Allen Robinson, wide receiver, Penn State.
93. Brandon Linder, offensive lineman, Miami (FL).
114. Aaron Colvin, cornerback, Oklahoma.
144. Telvin Smith, linebacker, Florida State.
149. Chris Smith, defensive end, Arkansas.
205. Luke Bowanko, center, Virginia.
222. Storm Johnson, running back, Central Florida.

Overview: Many observers skewered the Bortles pick, yet showered the Vikings in praise for Teddy Bridgewater. It always fascinates me when folks believe they know the NFL future of quarterbacks ahead of time, considering it is by far the most difficult position to evaluate and project in pro sports. A lot of people were balls-to-the-wall confident Cam Newton would bust in 2011. Many believed Geno Smith should have been a 2013 top-five pick. Bortles' success or lack thereof will surely define the success or lack thereof of GM Dave Caldwell's second draft, but the rest of it was quite impressive. Robinson is a prospect with legit NFL No. 1-receiver traits. If Lee's balky knee holds up, he will be a steal. Linder was underrated throughout the pre-draft process. I suspect he'll start at right guard in year one. The Smiths are likely rookie contributors. Colvin will redshirt and push to start in 2015. I don't think Johnson will pose much 2014 threat to Toby Gerhart, but he's a good fit for Jacksonville's one-cut run scheme. Caldwell had a productive first draft, and I think he's got another one here. I continue to believe the Jags are a team in ascent.

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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