Those of you that follow us regularly know that Mike White gazes into his crystal ball to bring us his game predictions each NFL week, he also dusts off the glass orb to give us a great Mock Draft. Well now he looks back and gives us an opinion as to who were the big winners and losers coming out of this years draft.
Now all the fanfare, speculation and bewilderment of the 2014 NFL Draft is finally over and done with for another year, and now we all recognise how bad our mocks were, it’s time to be ruthless and assess which teams deserve some praise and call out those who got it badly wrong on the nights.
San Francisco 49ers
You find out who the well run organisations are at this time of year, and no-one can debate that the Niners are one of the NFL’s best. They used their large haul of picks to mingle together players who can make instant impacts in positions of need, such as Jimmie Ward in the secondary, and players who will sit and learn for now, and be prepared to take over from veterans when their time is up. Running back Carlos Hyde is a great fit for this franchise with his power running, and with Frank Gore probably hitting a decline phase very soon, he could be one of the best picks of the draft. Linebacker Chris Borland is a classic Niners player, hard-nosed and relentless, while the offensive line has been stocked with talents again, all ready to contribute when needed.
Normally, I wouldn’t judge a good haul by a top ten team as particularly worthy of mention, after all, that’s the whole point of the Drafting system. However, Houston’s 2014 draft was a bit of a work of art. Taking Clowney at one was a given, and he could well be one of the biggest talents of his generation: pairing him with JJ Watt when rushing the passer could be every QB’s nightmare. But with the additions of Xavier Su’a-Filo in round two and Louis Nix in round three, the Texans majorly strengthened the centre of both lines too. Nix could be the biggest steal of the draft at pick 83, a huge space eating nose tackle to suck attention from the edges. Adding CJ Fiedorowicz at TE with the first pick in round three should give the Texans a big bodied target and with Tom Savage drafted in round four, the Texans can develop their QB of the future: Savage has all the mechanics and guts to be a star.
Of all the sets of picks this year, I would be most excited to be a Steelers fan right now. The defense was the early focus, and by adding linebacker Ryan Shazier and defensive end/tackle Stephon Tuitt in rounds one and two, Pittsburgh have added a tackling machine and a pressure creating defensive linemen; both could well be ready to step in and start making a big difference in week one. The next two rounds focussed on the offensive side of the ball, and in RB/WR hybrid Dri Acher, Big Ben may have gotten himself a Darren Sproles type threat to play with. He also has 4th round pick Martavis Bryant to throw to. The Clemson WR has the highest ceiling possible if he can keep his head on football and work hard; his height/weight/speed combination is frightening: 6’4, 211lbs, 4.42 40. This guy could be the Randy Moss prototype. The Steelers also added a big corner from Arizona in the fifth round: Shaquille Richardson, who, if made more consistent, could be in the nickel rotation right away.
What? But they got Sammy Watkins!? Yes they did, and he will be productive, but when you look at the cost of a productive receiver (albeit with an unproven QB) you have to be worried for the Bills. I really hate what they did. To give away next year’s 1st round pick and compromise the rest of your draft and rebuilding process when you have no idea whether you can trust your QB is madness. Cyrus Kouandjo is a bust waiting to happen, an average RT at best, Preston Brown is a plugger in the middle of the field, but didn’t they just get Brandon Spikes for that? Russ Cockrell at CB isn’t an awful pick, but Cyril Richardson could so easily just get fat again and be the slowest, laziest guard in the NFL. And if you thought that wasn’t enough of an issue to bring into the locker room, you then go and take Seantrel Henderson in the 7th round at OT. Suspect commitment, maturity and easily lead astray. Good luck with this lot Buffalo, because if they don’t work out, you can’t fix it next year: this class is way too much risk for a team that is ‘rebuilding’. Oh and by the way, it’s come out that the Bills were willing to trade up to #1 for Watkins. How much would that have cost? Is someone trying to destroy this franchise?
Honestly, I’m not sure exactly what happened in the Miami war room on Draft night. Ja’Wuan James is one of the more crazy 1st rounders I’ve seen in a while. Personally I had a round 2/3 grade on him, and even if Miami loved him, they still could have traded back 20 spots and landed him plus another pick or two. In WR Landry, OT Turner and CB Aikens, the Dolphins landed prospects that fill needs and have potential but need work: none should start this year. Then they blow a 5th rounder on a blocking TE. Facepalm. Their draft was full of reaching, panic, desperation and (still to be proved) poor scouting.
Without a first round pick, it would take a lot for the Skins to make their way into this kind of list on the wrong side, but somehow it seems they’ve managed it. Trent Murphy, their first pick in round two is a massive reach, and seems to be an obvious panic insurance pick in case Brian Orakpo leaves at the end of this year, and while Morgan Moses and Spencer long may upgrade the offensive line, that’s not saying much for them. If you’re trying to make the case that Moses is the Skins’ best value pick, then you can’t say that they had a great draft overall. The Skins didn’t address their defensive line needs and the 5th round pick from Tulane, Ryan Grant, could be no better than a no.3 receiver for Robert Griffin.