Jets' fans are typically harsh when it comes to which players their team picks on draft day, but our own Daniel Soden says New York was one of several teams that made all the right moves in this year's draft.
Right off the bat, the biggest winner of the 2014 NFL draft is the NFL. Between NFL Network and ESPN, the draft drew a combined total of 32 million viewers for the first round alone. This is up 28 percent over last year’s 25 million total viewers for the first round.
The buzz around the draft got extended a bit this year, which, to some degree, makes the players, fans, and media the losers, but it only helped fuel the fire that was Johnny Manziel.
If Manziel was the talk of the first round, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam owned the rest of the draft. Sam made a bold statement prior to the draft process this year when he announced he was, indeed, a homosexual male, instantly becoming the first openly gay male to potentially be drafted. Sam was taken in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams and the buzz about him and his future in the NFL hasn’t stopped.
Of course, Manziel and Sam weren’t the only two men drafted. While draft grades this early are pretty worthless I think it’s pretty safe to say who the winners and loser of the 2014 NFL Draft are.
Winner: Oakland Raiders
It’s been a while since the Raiders were considered a winner and while it was only the draft, the Raiders were able to come away with players that could make an instant impact on both sides of the ball.
In the first round, they were able to land a guy who I thought was the best overall player in University of Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. Mack has the speed, strength, and power to be a serious threat, not to mention he will be teamed with Sio Moore, giving the Raiders one hell of combo at the second level.
The Raiders were able to follow up the Mack pick with another great pick in quarterback Derek Carr, who many argue was one of the best pure throwers in the draft. Realistically, Carr could be starting over Matt Schaub before the season is over.
The Raiders got tremendous value with their third round pick, Gabe Jackson. Jackson, has a very high football IQ and many are predicting that the former Mississippi guard could be starting sooner rather than later.
Best Bang for their Buck: The Raiders had issues with pass defense as they were ranked 28th overall last year, but that could change. Raider fans are going to have to keep an eye on Keith McGill, who has Brandon Browner size. This cornerback could excel in press-man coverage.
Winner: Houston Texans
While I thought the Texans should have drafted Khali Mack first overall, Jadeveon Clowney is no slouch. Clowney is a 6-foot-6, 260-plus pound freak of nature who can pretty much play any position on the defensive front, but they didn’t stop with Clowney. In the third round they managed to get defensive tackle Louis Nix from Notre Dame, another monster to plug into the defensive line.
They also picked up another gem in the second round with guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, who will most likely end up starting for the Texans. A lot of people knocked the Texans for taking Pitt quarterback Tom Savage with their fourth overall pick, but Savage has the ability to develop into a starter under Bill O’Brien’s tutelage, but, for now, it looks like Ryan Fitzpatrick will be their starter. With the defense they’ve put together, that shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Reports suggest that O’Brien feels that tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz could be the next Gronkowski. While I’m not exactly on board with that idea, I do think he can replace Owen Daniels.
Best Bang for their Buck: I gave the monster defensive tackle Louis Nix a first-round grade. The Texans were able to get him in the third. To me, there is no better value than getting great talent at a discounted price.
Winner: St. Louis Rams
Has anyone in recent memory profited from a trade as well as the St Louis Rams have? Head Coach Jeff Fisher and General Manger Les Snead have been able to build a team that is primed to compete in one of the, if not the, toughest divisions in the NFL.
In the first round alone, the Rams were able to bolster both sides of the ball. Drafting a 6-5, 332-pound physical offensive tackle in Greg Robinson with the second overall to help protect Sam Bradford was big for the Rams. While Robinson might not be ready to play left tackle in the NFL just yet he should be able to come in and start at right tackle and work his way to the left side, similar to what the Cowboys did with Tyron Smith.
With their second pick in the first round the Rams made their defense even stronger by drafting the man many, including myself, felt was the best defensive tackle in the draft, Aaron Donald. Donald is a disruptive penetrator who, alongside guys like Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers, should be able to slaughter offensive lines for years to come.
Lamarcus Joyner might not be a starter right off the bat, but has the potential to contribute in nickel situations. Joyner could also see some time in the return game, much like their third-round pick Tre Mason. Both men could be used to take some of the pressure off Tavon Austin. As for Mason, he and Zac Stacy could end up being a nice one-two punch for the Rams, with Mason seeing plenty of third down situations.
The Rams also garnered a lot of attention with one of their picks in the seventh round, Michael Sam. While there is no guarantee he will make the final roster, if he does he should be able to produce on special teams and add some nice depth in the pass rush.
Best Bang for their Buck: This goes to 6th round pick E.J. Gaines. Not only was he one of the better cornerbacks in the SEC last year, but he fills a major need for the Rams at cornerback. Gaines was a high-value selection. There is no doubt he has tremendous versatility as cornerback.
Winner: New York Jets
We all know that if Head Coach Rex Ryan had his choice then the Jets entire draft would have been hard-hitting defensive players, but, lucky for Jets fans, General Manager John Izdik is there to balance things out.
Even with balance, the Jets made sure to draft an old-school safety with an Arn Anderson mentality in Louisville’s Calvin Pryor. Pryor is about as Rex Ryan of a player as any player can be and will help shut down running lanes and have quarterbacks second-guessing whether or not to throw down the middle.
There are 13 players currently listed on the receivers depth chart. Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley are the only two that are guaranteed roster sports for the Jets. Among the other 11 are Jalen Saunders, Shaq Evans, and Quincy Enunwa, who were all drafted this year. Sanders' 40 time was a .01 second slower than first round picks Odell Beckham Jr. and Sammy Watkins. He was one of the most physical receivers in the draft, and could play either in the slot or on the outside, but, given his size, chances are he will see more time in the slot. Good thing the Jets picked up Evans and Enunwa, who both have better builds for the outside. Evans is more of a possession receiver, but his lack of leaping ability could limit him as a deep threat. Enunwa might be the sleeper of the team, with the best combo of size and speed out of the three. He is a big, tough receiver who has to prove himself.
Many draft pundits were upset that the Jets didn’t use any of their early picks on a wide receiver, but tight end Jace Amaro may very well be just as good of an answer for their offense as any wide receiver would have been. It’s not too bold of a prediction to say Amaro has a great chance to surpass the team's 2013 tight end production on his own. Jeff Cumberland is a fine tight end, but I see a little bit of Aaron Hernandez in Amaro, minus all the off-the-field issues, of course.
Two guys who have the ability to make an impact on the Jets roster are Dakota “Bull” Dozier and Dexter McDougle, who both could see substantial time on the field this season.
Best Bang for their Buck: This is going to be a pick that not many will agree with. The best bang for the Jets’ buck was quarterback Tajh Boyd. His talent, athleticism and leadership make him a high value. Personally, I can see Boyd lasting longer with the Jets than current starter Geno Smith.
To me there were some clear-cut winners, but when you look at the flip side of things it’s a bit harder to pick up complete losers. Instead of calling a team’s full draft roster a loser, I figured I would point out a few moves that had me scratching my head.
Kansas City Chiefs selecting Dee Ford.
I, like many others, expected the Chiefs to address their need at wide receiver with their first-round pick. Of course, Andy Reid did exactly the opposite and picked up Dee Ford, a defensive end from Auburn. Ford is a great pass-rusher, but the Chiefs already have that with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. With those two forces in his way, Ford could see little time on the field, but drafting a receiver here would have given the Chiefs instant impact on the field. Marqise Lee and Kelvin Benjamin would have been my choice in this situation.
Tennessee Titans selecting Taylor Lewan.
Much like Dee Ford, Taylor Lewan isn’t a bad talent; he's just in the wrong situation. I’m not sure I understand why you would draft a player when you already have two starters at that position. The Titans have Michael Roos and Michael Oher, so why draft Lewan? I get that Roos is a little older, but he is still playing well. There is no issue with having too much offensive line talent, but when you have other needs, they should be addressed. Kyle Fuller was there for the Titans to take and the void at cornerback after Alterraun Verner left made it a top priority in my book.
Buffalo Bills trading up for Sammy Watkins
Sammy Watkins could end up being the best receiver in the draft. He was clearly the best going into the draft. The issue here is when you are a team still rebuilding, you don’t mortgage your future for the now. Giving up a first- and fourth-round pick in next year’s draft to move up five spots? They made a move that a Super Bowl contender should have made, not a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in the last 14 years like the Bills. Looking back on it, guys like Eric Ebron and Odell Beckham Jr. would have been there for the Bills to take.
Here is the only true loser … running backs
Unlike your average fantasy football draft, running backs are starting to get drafted later and later in the real world. The first back didn’t get taken until the 54th overall pick in the second round, and it looks like this trend may continue. With the league being a pass-first league and the rules favoring the quarterbacks more, running backs should get used to not hearing their names in the first round.
The NFL draft is currently at the top of its game, but with a money-hungry mindset we could see the NFL start to make some fatal errors soon. With the concept of expanding the draft into a four- to five-day process and tinkering with the location, we may start to see some backlash from casual fans. The NFL needs to make sure they don’t make the fans the biggest loser when it comes to the draft.
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