Well folks, the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft is in the books. There was less action than I expected here in the first round, with only five trades ringing off, and three of them by the Cleveland Browns alone, but more on them later. There were many surprise picks and inevitable slides for players this year as there is every year, but this draft has left a bad taste in my mouth so far. Alright lets get to it, my first Love/Hate for the 2014 NFL Draft.
The Buffalo Bills trade up to select WR Sammy Watkins
LOVE LOVE LOVE
The only big trade we saw in the top ten, the Bills gave up the ninth overall selection as well as their 2015 first and fourth round picks to Cleveland to move up 9 spots for the Clemson University product. Not exactly what fans had in mind, particularly with a very deep class of receivers but when is the last time Buffalo had a star on the outside? Go ahead and think back to Andre Reed it’s okay, you would be right. Buffalo hasn’t had any kind of top flight pass catcher in over a decade, and this move gives them just that. Now it will depend on their quarterback E.J Manuel and coach Doug Marrone to put him to proper use but it is very hard to miss when you select this kid.
Jacksonville Jaguars select QB Blake Bortles 3rd Overall
Many fans, critics, pundits, professionals, and pretty much everyone in the football world questioned the Jaguars selection, passing up players like Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, Sammy Watkins and other studs. Personally, I would have loved to see Khalil Mack land in Jacksonville with coach Gus Bradley. The Jags were smart though. They stayed true to their guy, and took him with confidence which should give Blake confidence. I love this pick because they have a smart head coach. Gus will not rush him into September. This team should know that they cant blow it on this guy, so I expect them to play it smart and safe with him. Bortles gives you a prototypical NFL quarterback with great size and poise in the pocket. People are freaking out that he isn’t ready to play and needs to sit and they don’t want to hear that. Let me remind you of guys like Aaron Rodgers, Phillip Rivers and Nick Foles , all quarterbacks who rode the bench for a bit, and all three are pretty darn good quarterbacks the last I checked. Be patient Jacksonville fans, you very well may have actually found your guy.
Cleveland makes two trades in the top 10, lands CB Justin Gilbert
I wasn’t sold when this pick happened last night. After the Browns moved down to 9 in the trade to Buffalo, they jumped back ahead of the Minnesota Vikings by swapping picks and offering up their fifth round pick as well. I love Justin Gilbert don’t get me wrong, I think he has all the tools to be a great Patrick Peterson style corner, I just didn’t see this as a pressing need in a division that doesn’t have loads of receiving talent in it. They could have just sat at the nine spot and if he was gone, trade back for a safety or another top flight corner option out of the many available this year. Cleveland could have traded much farther back, stockpiling pick after pick and still land a great corner prospect and could have even landed an additional first rounder had they played their cards right. I think it was a reach for Gilbert but he likely would have gone somewhere in the following three picks. I just didn’t identify this as a pressing need worth trading up for in Cleveland but hey, teams are following the Seattle Seahawk success plan.
Cleveland trades up to 22nd overall for QB Johnny Manziel
This time the Browns got it right. They could have and should have traded the 9 pick out dropped somewhere between 9 and 26 and taken Johnny then and had three first rounders, but that didn’t happen. The Browns gave the Philadelphia Eagles the 26th overall selection as well as their third round selection(83rd overall) to move up for their guy, Johnny Manziel. For good reason, this enigma is the most hit or miss flashy prospect you could land this season. Cleveland has already reportedly sold 1,500 new season ticket passes since he was drafted. Cleveland needed this, a guy to be excited for a guy to come watch play. Something they really haven’t had since Jim Brown. Manziel also lands with Kyle Shannahan who has a past history of working with mobile style quarterbacks. I know what you’re all thinking, he just imploded Washington and Robert Griffin with his dad Mike. This is a different situation, a different offense, and oh yeah, pops did not follow Kyle so put those worries away folks. Johnny has all the right tools and mind set to be a franchise quarterback and a franchise cornerstone for Cleveland. Let us also delay any talk of him being the third quarterback selected at 22 for Cleveland since 2007 (Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden) and how that could be a bad omen. He is nothing like Quinn or Weeden, and has so much more potential. Be happy Cleveland fans, you will have some exciting football next year.
The Dallas Cowboys select OL Zack Martin with 16th overall
The Cowboys are a team that you can never feel safe predicting especially around draft time with Jerry Jones at the helm. This year speculation was everywhere from a corner, to a pass rusher, offensive line, receiver, everything including one Johnny Manziel, but that was clearly a smoke screen as we saw them pass him up. The Boys went with the smartest, safest pick they could have taken, and arguably one of their best since Dez Bryant in terms of value. Martin is a top offensive lineman who can line up at all five spots and will likely slide into left guard for the Cowboys to pave lanes and protect the interior. As an Eagles fan of course I hate the pick since it was so smart for a team that decided to not go flashy or foolish in round one and addressed a need with the best player available. Bravo Jerry, bravo.
The Detroit Lions select TE Eric Ebron 10th overall
I love Ebron as a prospect. I love Ebron as a fit even with Detroit. I hate that Detroit again focused purely on the passing game while they clearly have defensive needs. I also hate that they bring him on to serve in a two tight end set after resigning Brandon Pettigrew to a four year, sixteen million dollar deal. So with a top ten pick you select a tight end that will likely come off the bench in games and be a formation special to start. Don’t get me wrong, Ebron has endless talent and potential but Detroit could have addressed much more pressing needs especially in the secondary. We all saw how quick the selection came in as well, they had no intentions of trading down to take a position of better need and value. Detroit is reminding me of Cincinnati’s recent offensive run of picks which has landed them first round outs in the playoffs two years in a row. This is why such an already talented roster is still picking in the top ten, lavish picks that are too luxury and not enough to build depth at weakened areas. We will see what Detroit can do next year in the NFC North.
Nine defensive backs taken in the 1st round
I like a lot of the secondary prospects in this years draft especially at corner back. However, I did not expect to see four safeties come off the board in the first round. Ha-Ha Clinton Dix who I love, and Calvin Pryor were the only two I knew would come off the board, and I did have a suspicion Jimmie Ward would sneak in there. But I did not expect Deone Buchannon to go 27th to Arizona. In my opinion both Ward and Buchannon were 2nd round projections. I think many teams are attempting to mimic the “new” championship formula made by Seattle of an incredibly deep and dominant secondary. I like it, but the value just was not there for me on some of these picks. We will see how the defensive backs fall in round two.
Minnesota Vikings trade up for QB Teddy Bridgewater
The Vikings made a big play at the end of the first round for Teddy Bridgewater. They didn’t give up much and grabbed one of the best quarterback prospects in the draft. He can come in and sit and learn for a year while the incumbents battle it out or come in and immediately compete for the starting job. Either way he needs some polishing before September, but this kid can be a stud in my opinion. He has all the right tools and with an excellent veteran quarterback specialist like Norv Turner on his staff he should excel quickly. Minnesota got great value for what could be their franchise quarterback and maybe the best one in the draft.
There were many other things that I loved and hated about round one, such as the Eagles selection as well as Kansas City’s Dee Ford and Arizona’s Deone Buchannon . Not that these players are bad fits, I just felt that all these players were just a little over drafted and could have been gotten at a better value for each team. I also loved picks such as Ryan Shazier for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kyle Fuller for the Chicago Bears, and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix to the Green Bay Packers, three big time defenders on historic franchises needing a defensive boost. I love the Shazier pick arguably the most in the first round just because he seems like the perfect Steeler linebacker. Day two is going to bring a lot more action, especially with a number of great players on the board. Look out for my Love/Hate of draft day number two soon!