Very rarely does a draft fall into place exactly how the experts predicted, and the first round of the 2014 NFL draft is yet another example of that. There weren’t any huge shockers, but there were still many players, such as Johnny Manziel, who fell much farther than they were projected to. As can be expected, this allowed for some teams to have fantastic rounds and others to fall flat on their face. Let’s take a look at who were the winners and losers of round 1 of the draft.
One of the biggest winners in the first round was the Green Bay Packers. They were able to snag Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 21st pick. I know I’m not the only one who was shocked by his availability at that point, especially considering he was the top ranked safety in the draft.1 In a year where plenty of teams needed help in the secondary, it’s almost baffling that Clinton-Dix fell out of the top-20. It seems that either Chicago or Dallas would have been wise to snatch him up in the teens. That was certainly a steal for Green Bay.
It helps when you have two top-15 first-round picks to work with, but the St. Louis Rams sure did use the most of them. With the second overall pick, the Rams were able to grab Auburn offensive tackle, Greg Robinson. Not much of a surprise here, as Robinson was projected to be a top-5 pick by most experts. The pick that impressed me the most was getting Pittsburgh defensive tackle, Aaron Donald, with the 13th pick. Chicago fans were crossing their fingers that Donald would still be available for their 14th pick, but unfortunately, they didn’t have much luck. The Rams defensive line is shaping up to be absolutely dominant, adding a 4th first-round pick to go alongside Robert Quinn, Chris Long, and Michael Brockers. Donald was the top ranked defensive tackle coming into the draft and it’s almost a certainty that he’s going to make an immediate impact on the Rams defense.
It’s no question that Cam Newton will need some help on the receiving end for next year. The Carolina Panthers did exactly what they needed to do to make sure they build up a successful passing game. With the 28th overall pick, the Panthers selected Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver from Florida State. I love the size that Benjamin brings to Carolina. Being 6’5″, 240 lbs., Newton will finally have a big target to throw to. Benjamin was predicted to be selected toward the end of the first round, so it’s no surprise that he was still on the board, but it was smart of Carolina to take him before someone else did.
They had the opportunity to take Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and they let him slip through their fingers. The Chicago Bears used their 14th pick on Virginia Tech cornerback, Kyle Fuller. Yes, Fuller is versatile, with the ability to play cornerback or safety, but it doesn’t make much sense to me that Chicago would pass up some of the players they did. They could have picked Clinton-Dix, like I mentioned earlier, and it would have been a steal. If they were really set on drafting a cornerback, they should have went with Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State. This pick is one that really doesn’t make much sense to me.
When the second, third, fourth and fifth defensive tackles are still on the board, it doesn’t make much sense to take the sixth defensive tackle, but that’s exactly what the Patriots did. With the 29th overall pick, they selected the kid out of Florida, Dominique Easley. I’m not sure what the Patriots see in Easley that they don’t see in Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt from Notre Dame, Timmy Jernigan from Florida State, or RaShede Hageman from Minnesota. On top of that, Easley has had two ACL tears, and while he is said to be fully recovered now, that’s going to have to be something that the Patriots watch out for. This just seems like too risky of a pick in my eyes.
There’s nothing that makes me more frustrated than when a team takes a player earlier in the draft than when they should have. It’s understandable that they wanna snatch the player before someone else does, but by picking a player far before he should go off the board, they lose out on a top pick. The Eagles, without a doubt, used their first round pick on a player they could have gotten in the second round. With the 26th pick, the Eagles selected defensive end Marcus Smith from Louisville. It’s not that Smith is a bad player, it’s just that he would have probably still been around in the second round for the Eagles. With DeSean Jackson gone, the Eagles could have used that first round pick on Marquise Lee, wide receiver for USC. Taking Smith this early just wasn’t a smart move on the part of Philadelphia.