Grading Each Pick of the first round of the NFL Draft

1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney

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Grade: A

Due to the Texans multitude of flaws, they could have gone in many different directions. Although the Texans could have picked a quarterback, Clowney was the best player on the board and should be dominant player for the next 10 to 15 years. Although the quarterback is the most important player on the field, a pass rusher is the most important defensive player because of the pressure Clowney can apply on Luck or any other top quarterback.The combination of Clowney and JJ Watt was too impressive for the Texans to pass up.


2. St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson

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Grade: B+

Before the draft, many experts believed that Robinson was the second best player and the best offensive player in the draft. Although Robinson should be a Pro Bowler and possibly All-Pro player in the future, the Rams spent a lot of money on Roger Stafford and Jake Long, two offensive tackles, the last two offseasons. The Rams already had a decent offensive line while their wide receivers severely lack talent or size. Although the Rams selected Tavon Austin in the first round last year, they desperately need a number one wide receiver for Sam Bradford and Sammy Watkins would have been a great selection.


3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles

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Grade: A-

Although many believe that Johnny Manziel was the best quarterback in the draft, Bortles was my favorite quarterback in the draft. Bortles has the size, arm, and agility to be a successful quarterback in the league. Since Bortles is raw, he should sit for the first few games behind Henne and learn the speed of the game. The Jaguars did a great job later in the draft by selecting talented wide receivers like Marqise Lee and Allan Robinson who will give Bortles weapons on the outside. Although the first season may be rough, the trio of Bortles, Lee, and Robinson should thrive and lead the Jaguars to respectability.


4. Buffalo Bills – Sammy Watkins

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Grade: A-

The Bills made a bold move by trading two first round picks and a fourth for Sammy Watkins.  The Bills desperately need more weapons on the outside for EJ Manuel, but it is unknown if Manuel can be a future franchise quarterback. However, Watkins will significantly help because he is a star receiver. Watkins is big, strong, and fast and was considered the best wide receiver in this loaded draft. Watkins will be a future number one receiver in Buffalo and should be a lock for 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns every season.


5. Oakland Raiders – Khalil Mack

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Grade: A

The Raiders have been extremely active this offseason with the picks that they owned and the tens of millions of dollars in free cap room. Many believed that Mack was the second best player in the draft because he has the ability to rush the passer and make big plays. Although he is from a small school, Buffalo, he showed that he could compete against the power conference schools when he dominated Ohio State in Columbus. Like Clowney, Mack has great speed and size, which will make him a terror along with Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley.


6. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews

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Grade: A

The Falcons were in the discussion to trade up for Mack or Clowney, but decided to stay at six and rebuild their offensive line. Matthews was the second best lineman in the draft that boasted many talented players. Although the Falcons need more physicality on the defensive line, they needed to bolster their offensive line so that Matt Ryan will have time to throw to his skilled wide outs and they did not want to be the worst running team in the league for the second straight season. With the combination of Matthews, White, Ryan, and Jones, the Falcons offense should once again become one of the top five offenses in the league.


7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Evans

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Grade: A-

The Buccaneers are hoping that their offense can resemble the Bears’ offense that almost led them to the playoffs, even without a capable defense. The Buccaneers have one of the best receiving cores in the league with Evans, Jackson, and Jenkins, which should give McCown plenty of options when he does not hand the ball off to Doug Martin. If the Bucs finally find a franchise quarterback in the next 2-3 years, he will not have to worry about weapons because Evans has the potential to be a number one wide receiver with his size and ability to catch the ball in traffic.


8. Cleveland Browns – Justin Gilbert

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Grade: B-

The Browns have a desperate need at wide receiver, but passed on three very talented wide receivers with their first pick in the first round. The Browns originally held the fourth pick and could have drafted Mike Evans or Sammy Watkins. After they traded down to 9 and then traded up to 8, they had the opportunity to draft Odell Beckham Jr, the talented wide receiver from LSU. Although Gilbert is a good cornerback, he does not tackle well and he should have been drafted in the mid teens. The Browns already have a great corner in Joe Haden, who they recently locked up for a long term deal.


9. Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Barr

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Grade: B

The Vikings, like the Browns, reach with their first first round pick. Although Barr is a very good pass rusher and could become a quality replacement for Jared Allen, he does not have many  other talents besides pass rushing. Barr does not have the ability to take on blockers and stop the run or cover running backs on the outside in passing plays. Although Barr started as a top ten talent, many experts felt that he should have fell into the twenties. Aaron Donald would have been a better pick for the Vikings because he has the ability to apply pressure up the middle and stop the run. Donald could have become a great replacement for the Williams duo, which clogged the middle in Minnesota for nearly a decade.


10. Detroit Lions – Eric Ebron

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Grade: B

Although the Lions needed a pass catcher, they should have drafted a wide receiver instead of a tight end. Ebron will provide the Lions with another talented player, but they need a player with more heart and leadership. Although Ebron has great hands and the ability to run routes, Odell Beckham would have been a better selection. The Lions used a first round pick a few years ago on Brandon Pettigrew, but he has failed to live up to expectations since entering the league. The Lions desperately have a need in the secondary and should have used the tenth pick on a safety like Clinton Dix or a corner like Dennard.


11. Tennessee Titans – Taylor Lewan

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Grade: B

The Titans decided to draft the best player available on the board, but it was at the position where they have the most depth. The Titans already have 4 quality starters at guard and tackle that are signed to long term deals. If the Titans find a way to trade Michael Roos or Michael Oher or move one of their guards to center, the pick will receive an A because Lewan is a great player and should be a staple on the line for the next decade. The Titans should have drafted Dennard or CJ Mosley because they have needs at both linebacker and corner.


12. New York Giants – Odell Beckham Jr

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Grade: A

The Giants made a great pick with Odell Beckham Jr. After the loss of Hakeem Nicks, Eli and the Giants desperately needed a big play wide receiver that can score and move the chains. Beckham is a great route runner with very good hands. Under the tutelage of Cam Cameron, Beckham Jr significantly grew as a wide receiver and showed teams that he can separate from corners and win jump balls. Along with his skills as a wide receiver, Odell will serve as the kick return man and a punt returner because he has great speed and the ability to allude tackles.


13. St. Louis Rams – Aaron Donald

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Grade: A

With the addition of Aaron Donald, the Rams probably have the best defensive line in the league. Along with Chris Long and Robert Quinn, Donald has the ability to rush the passer. However, Donald will be different than the other two because he will apply pressure up the middle while the other two are pass rushers from the outside. In the NFC West with teams that have the ability run, Donald is important because he is a big body that can stuff the line and clog running lanes. Although the Rams needed a wide receiver, they did not have a good option at 13.


14. Chicago Bears – Kyle Fuller

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Grade: B

The Bears desperately needed to improve the defense because last season they could not stop one offense the whole season.  However, the best part of the defense was their cornerbacks with Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman, although they are on the wrong side of 30. If the Bears wanted a corner, they should have drafted Dennard because I felt that he was the best corner in the draft. The Bears should have taken a linebacker or a safety like Clinton Dix or Pryor. The addition of a stud safety would have drastically improve the defense, especially the pass defense. The safety would have helped with their run defense as well, which was putrid.


15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ryan Shazier

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Grade: B

The Steelers have always liked to have great players at linebacker and they believe that Shazier has the talent to become the next great Steelers’ linebacker. However, Shazier was a reach for the Steelers at 15. Most draft experts felt that he would fall into the late 20 because he does not have ideal size and strength for a linebacker. Shazier will be a competent starter because he has a consistent motor, great speed, and agility. Shazier will provide pressure with his speed, but occasionally is overwhelmed by tackles who are able to counteract his speed. CJ Mosley would have been a better selection because he has good size for a linebacker and the instincts to thrive under Dick LeBeau.


16. Dallas Cowboys – Zach Martin

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Grade: A-

Although many wanted the Cowboys to draft Johnny Manziel and “break” the internet, they made the smart decision and drafted Zach Martin. Although Dallas can use more help on defense, Martin is a very good offensive line that can play any position on the line. Martin could play guard this season, but switch over to tackle next year if the team decides to part ways with right tackle Doug Free. Over the past few years, the Boys have been selecting linemen high in the draft and should have one of the best in the league next year. Martin may be the most NFL ready offensive lineman because he played so many games for the Irish under Brian Kelly.


17. Baltimore Ravens – CJ Mosley

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Grade: A-

The Ravens are undergoing a major transition and they need a new leader in the middle of the defense. Although nobody will be like Ray Lewis, Mosley has the leadership and talent to become a successful player for the next 10 years. Although Mosley does not have the pass rushing ability, he has great instincts and is a tackling machine in the middle of the defense. Mosley has been taught by the best defensive coach in college football and has great fundamentals and rarely misses the easy plays. Another major question mark is Mosley’s health issue. Mosley plays with great tenacity, but it leads him to constant injuries.


18. New York Jets – Calvin Pryor

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Grade: A-

The Jets desperately needed help at wide receiver and in the secondary. Although corner was a more urgent, the addition of Pryor will significantly improve the Jets secondary because Pryor has great physicality and talent to cover wide receivers and tight ends. Pryor plays with great intensity and should be a great player for Rex Ryan and his defense. The Jets would have received an A if they drafted Dennard because Dennard has the ability to be a number one corner due to his good size and physicality.


19. Miami Dolphins – Ja’Wuan James

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Grade: C+

The Dolphins’ pick was the right position, but the wrong player with their first pick. Although the Dolphins desperately needed a offensive lineman because they allowed the most sacks and pressure this season, James was at most a second round pick. The Dolphins should have selected Cyrus Kouandijo or Morgan Moses because they both have more talent and future in the NFL. Although James will help the Dolphins’ offensive line, the Dolphins could have selected better players.


20. New Orleans Saints – Brandin Cooks

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Grade: A-

The Saints lost Darren Sproles this offseason and needed a new player with great speed and versatility. Although Cooks will not run the ball like Sproles, he was one of the fastest wide receivers in the draft and exploded for the Oregon State Beavers this season. Cooks will be great for the Saints because he can separate from corners on the Superdome’s turf. Cooks will make the Saints’ offense even more explosive because he can turn a 10 yard pass into a 80 yard gain. Along with being a wide receiver, Cooks can become a game changer as a punt returner and kick returner.


21. Green Bay Packers – Ha Ha Clinton Dix

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Grade: A

The Packers received great value with the 21st overall pick when they drafted Clinton Dix. Clinton Dix should be a great player for the next decade in Green Bay because he has good feet and quickness. Although Clinton Dix occasionally misses tackles, he plays an aggressive style of defense that allows him to make plays and become a game changer. Dix has very good size, 6-1, which allows him to guard the taller and more physical wide receivers and tight ends, while his speed enables him to cover slot receivers.


22. Cleveland Browns – Johnny Manziel

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Grade: A-

Outside of Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel is the most polarizing NFL player in the last decade. Due to Manziel’s unique style of play, many experts have conflicting beliefs about his success at the next level. Although Manziel was good value as the 22nd selection, he will not have a chance to meet expectations without adequate weapons around him. Without Josh Gordon, the Browns do not have a wide receiver that can spread the field or win the one-one matchups on the outside. Also, Manziel must learn that he cannot continue to play with the same reckless abandon as his days in college. Although the pick is risky, the Browns did not have another option as they hope to leave the NFL’s cellar.


23. Kansas City Chiefs – Dee Ford

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Grade: C+

The Chiefs possessed one of the most feared defenses in the league before the loss of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. However, they both are expected to return, which makes the addition of Dee Ford a question mark. Although the team had major question marks at corner and wide receiver, they decided to take a player to add to their best unit. The Chiefs had numerous options at corner and wide receiver. Besides Bowe, who was a no show last season, Alex Smith does not have any weapons on the outside. Marqise Lee or Allan Robinson would have been great fits in Kansas City. Although Ford is a good player, he was a reach at 23 and it is unlikely that he will see the field very often because he has the same skill set as Hali and Houston.


24. Cincinnati Bengals – Darqueze Dennard

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Grade: A

In terms of value, the Bengals may have received the most for their selection. The Bengals were able to draft the best player on the board and fill a desperate need at the same time. Many experts felt that Dennard was the best corner in the draft and had the attributes to become a shut down corner and a leader for a defense, although he was the third corner selected. Dennard has great coverage skills, which allows him to play on an island like Revis. Dennard does not have great speed and has not played much zone defense, which could hurt his transition into the NFL.


25. San Diego Chargers – Jason Verrett

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Grade: A-

Like the Bengals, the Chargers were able to fill a need while drafting one of the best players available on the board. Since they are in a division with Peyton Manning, the Chargers need as many quality cornerbacks as possible. Jason Verrett should be a quality corner in the future because he has great speed and instincts to play the slot receiver. Unlike the other corners, Verrett may have to solely cover slot or smaller receivers because of his size, 5-9. Although he excels at staying with receivers and finding the football in the air, he will be unable to win the 50-50 balls against the likes of Bowe or Thomas.


26. Philadelphia Eagles – Marcus Smith

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Grade: C+

Although Marcus Smith was projected as a second round pick by many, he slid into the first round because of his ability to rush the passer. Although he may be too big to be an outside linebacker, but too small to be an end, he was able to produce solid numbers at USC. However, the Eagles could have made better use of their pick if they selected a corner like Bradley Roby. The Eagles had one of the worst passing defenses in the league last season because their corners did not have the talent to match up against opposing wide receivers. Although Robey has off the field issues, he is an extraordinary talent that could have helped the Eagles win the division for a second straight season.


27. Arizona Cardinals – Deone Bucannon

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Grade: B

Although Bucannon was a reach in the first round and the Cardinals could have used an offensive lineman like Morgan Moses, Bucannon is a quality player. Like Pryor, Bucannon plays extremely physical which occasionally works against him due to the new NFL rules. Bucannon has good size, 6-1,  210 pounds, and speed, which allows him to hit opposing receivers and running backs with a lot of force. Bucannon should prove to be a good cover safety as he compiled 6 picks last season.


28. Carolina Panthers – Kelvin Benjamin

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Grade: B+

Kelvin Benjamin will likely be a boom or bust player for the Panthers. Benjamin has a great physique, 6-5, 240 which allows to him to catch jump balls. Along with his size, Benjamin has very good speed, which enables him to get behind corners. Without a number one receiver in Carolina, Benjamin should assume the position fairly quickly and become an instant favorite of Cam Newton. Although Benjamin has all the talent and physical attributes to become a star, he needs more consistency and manage his errors. If Kelvin can master the small nuances of playing wide receiver, he will be a steal at 28.


29. New England Patriots – Dominique Easley

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Grade: B-

Although Easley started the season as a top 15 talent, constant injuries and inconsistent performances made him a projected 3rd round pick. During the 2012-2013 season at Florida, Easley showed flashes of greatness because he has great upper body strength and speed up the middle. Due to the Patriots depth at defensive tackle, Easley will be able to sit most of the season and recover from his torn ACL, which he suffered this season. Easley was a questioning pick for the Patriots because they are a win now team, but he is unlikely to make an impact until 2015.


30. San Francisco 49ers – Jimmie Ward

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Grade: A-

The San Francisco 49ers are attempting to mimic their rivals from the Northwest by compiling as many talented secondary players as possible. For the second straight season, the 49ers drafted a safety in the first round. Although he does not have the same skill, he will be a valuable asset because of his ability to play all over the football field. In today’s NFL with gargantuan wide receivers and tight ends, Ward will be needed to cover these monsters over the middle of the field.


31. Denver Broncos – Bradley Roby

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Grade: A-

Before the season started, many experts believed that Roby was going to be the first corner off of the board and a top ten pick. In terms of talent and physical gifts, Roby may be the best corner in the draft. He has good height, 5-11, long arms, great timing, and extraordinary speed. However, Roby frequently allowed his opponent to catch underneath passes. Bradley should learn to play bump and run coverage so he can maximize his speed and skill. If Roby can improve his agility and become a more engaged player, the Broncos should have a shut down corner along with Talib.


32. Minnesota Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater

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Grade: A

If it had not been for his poor pro day and the delayed draft, Bridgewater would have likely fell inside the top ten. Although Bridgewater does not have the ceiling like Manziel or Bortles, he is least likely to become a bust. During his days at Louisville, he showed off his great accuracy and adequate arm strength. Like other top quarterbacks, Bridgewater has a quick release and has the ability to recognize defenses and audible at the line of scrimmage. Although Bridgewater will never become a top 7 quarterback in the league, he should be an above average starter for a playoff caliber team, if he can receive weapons to go along with Adrian Peterson.


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