Fantasy Football 2014:

Draft 2014: AFC Draft Grades

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Nick Mensio wraps up the weekend, checking in on Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, the Browns' QB …

Bang it here for my 2014 NFC Draft Grades.

Baltimore Ravens

17. C.J. Mosley, inside linebacker, Alabama.
48. Timmy Jernigan, defensive tackle, Florida State.
79. Terrence Brooks, safety, Florida State.
99. Crockett Gillmore, tight end, Colorado State.
134. Brent Urban, defensive end, Virginia.
138. Lorenzo Taliaferro, running back, Coastal Carolina.
175. John Urschel, guard, Penn State.
194. Keith Wenning, quarterback, Ball State.
218. Michael Campanaro, wide receiver, Wake Forest.

Overview: GM Ozzie Newsome is a by-the-board drafter, and appeared to take the same approach in 2014. He didn't sweat Arthur Brown and Daryl Smith's roster presence when picking off Mosley at 17. Jernigan isn't the pass rusher some billed him to be early in the pre-draft phase, but fits in Baltimore as a one-gap nose. Newsome nabbed a third possible year-one starter in rangy Brooks, who will push Darian Stewart opposite SS Matt Elam as soon as camp opens. New OC Gary Kubiak utilizes frequent multi-tight end sets, explaining the Gillmore pick. A pro-ready blocker, Gillmore will battle Owen Daniels alongside Dennis Pitta. Urban is a five-technique end, and Taliaferro an interesting addition to Kubiak's zone-scheme run game. Wenning probably isn't long for the pros, but Urschel and Campanaro were late value picks. The only real quibble with this draft was its lack of a right tackle. Perhaps the Ravens have more faith in Rick Wagner than we know. I thought the value was good throughout, and Baltimore added several impact players.

Grade: B-

Buffalo Bills

4. Sammy Watkins, wide receiver, Clemson.
44. Cyrus Kouandjio, tackle, Alabama.
73. Preston Brown, inside linebacker, Louisville.
109. Ross Cockrell, cornerback, Duke.
153. Cyril Richardson, guard, Baylor.
221. Randell Johnson, linebacker, Florida Atlantic.
237. Seantrel Henderson, tackle, Miami (FL).

Overview: To get from No. 9 to No. 4 for Watkins, GM Doug Whaley surrendered a 2015 first-round pick and 2015 fourth-round pick. Last year's E.J. Manuel selection combined with the Watkins trade will define Whaley's Buffalo term. Whaley pulled off two more deals on day three, sending a conditional future third- or fourth-round pick to Philly for Bryce Brown, and adding a 2015 fifth-rounder in a trade with Tampa. The players Buffalo came away with are impressive. The cost at which they came is debatable. I thought Kouandjio and Cockrell were the best value picks. Brown is Brandon Spikes' heir apparent inside. Johnson is strictly a special teamer. Henderson offers huge upside if he "buys in," though the NFL obviously sees that as a long shot considering how far he fell. Ultimately, the success of this draft and Whaley as Bills GM has everything to do with Manuel's development. If the addition of Watkins helps turn E.J. into a successful NFL passer, the 2015 first-round pick will have been worth surrendering. If not, the entire front office could be replaced. My guess is Whaley's bold move will not work out, hence this low draft grade.

Grade: C-

Cincinnati Bengals

24. Darqueze Dennard, cornerback, Michigan State.
55. Jeremy Hill, running back, LSU.
88. Will Clarke, defensive end, West Virginia.
111. Russell Bodine, center, North Carolina.
164. A.J. McCarron, quarterback, Alabama.
212. Marquis Flowers, linebacker, Arizona.
239. James Wright, wide receiver, LSU.
252. Lavelle Westbrooks, cornerback, Georgia Southern.

Overview: The Bengals already have a top-eight roster and not many "needs." So the fact that they didn't have an overly impressive 2014 draft doesn't mean they suddenly suck. But I think they could've done better with their picks. I like Dennard a lot as a player and expect him to be a quality starter from day one. Hill is best suited as a complementary two-down banger back and will handle that role in Cincinnati, upgrading on BenJarvus Green-Ellis. I thought the draft took a turn for the worse quickly thereafter. Clarke is an intriguing physical specimen and long-term project, but probably won't contribute much in 2014. The Bengals needed immediate pass-rush help. Bodine is another plus-measurables project who's not yet ready to play in the league. McCarron is just an NFL backup. Flowers, Wright, and Westbrooks are strictly special teamers. Even if I had liked the Bengals' third- through seventh-round picks more, I'm not sure I would have projected them to suddenly rise atop the NFL mountain. The Bengals need better quarterback play, or to figure out a way to become a dominant football team that minimizes their quarterback's impact.

Grade: C-

Cleveland Browns

8. Justin Gilbert, cornerback, Oklahoma State.
22. Johnny Manziel, quarterback, Texas A&M.
35. Joel Bitonio, guard/tackle, Nevada.
71. Christian Kirksey, inside linebacker, Iowa.
94. Terrance West, running back, Towson.
127. Pierre Desir, cornerback, Lindenwood.

Overview: Rookie GM Ray Farmer opened his first-ever draft with a bang, robbing the Bills of 2015 first- and fourth-round picks in just a five-spot first-round drop. Farmer pulled off two trades back up the board, securing Gilbert and Manziel at positions of glaring need. He added a 2015 sixth-rounder in a day-three trade with Baltimore. Throughout this draft, Farmer consistently matched value with needs. Gilbert's elite ball skills will come in handy opposite lock-down LCB Joe Haden. The Browns' quarterback hole was obvious. Bitonio is Cleveland's likely day-one starter at left guard, solidifying an impressive O-Line. Kirksey upgrades on Craig Robertson next to Karlos Dansby. West is a 225-pound workhorse with Alfred Morris-like open-field jump cuts. Gilbert has some boom or bust to him, so the Browns found fourth-round insurance in Desir, an intriguing press-corner prospect. The lack of wide receivers concerns me less because OC Kyle Shanahan will orchestrate a heavily run-based offense as he eases in Johnny Football. All in all, the Browns not only came away with six impressive players; they stockpiled 2015 picks as well.

Grade: A-

Denver Broncos

31. Bradley Roby, cornerback, Ohio State.
56. Cody Latimer, wide receiver, Indiana.
95. Michael Schofield, tackle, Michigan.
156. Lamin Barrow, linebacker, LSU.
207. Matt Paradis, center, Boise State.
242. Corey Nelson, linebacker, Oklahoma.

Overview: It's worth noting GM John Elway added a 2015 fifth-round pick in a day-three deal with the Bears. My lone quibble with this draft was the lack of an impact middle linebacker, but I preferred Latimer as a pure prospect over Wisconsin ILB Chris Borland, and applaud that pick. Roby filled a need and was great value so late in round one. Latimer is essentially a suped-up Eric Decker. He'll likely enter the starting lineup in 2015, when Wes Welker almost certainly departs. Schofield is an old-school, drive-blocking right tackle who can push Chris Clark for snaps right away. Barrow is a rangy weak-side 'backer who could be an eventual option to start if the Broncos kick Danny Trevathan inside, plugging the aforementioned Mike linebacker hole. Paradis and Nelson are long shots. This was a short, sweet draft that brought to Denver 2-4 eventual starters. Combine it with Elway's free agency dealings, and I think Elway deserves an offseason "A" grade.

Grade: B-

Houston Texans

1. Jadeveon Clowney, linebacker/end, South Carolina.
33. Xavier Su'a-Filo, guard/tackle, UCLA.
65. C.J. Fiedorowicz, tight end, Iowa.
83. Louis Nix, nose tackle, Notre Dame.
135. Tom Savage, quarterback, Pittsburgh.
177. Jeoffrey Pagan, defensive end, Alabama.
181. Alfred Blue, running back, LSU.
211. Jay Prosch, fullback, Auburn.
216. Dre Hal, cornerback, Vanderbilt.
256. Lonnie Ballentine, safety, Memphis.

Overview: I realize it was just a sixth-round blip on the radar, but the Texans' selection of Auburn lead-blocker Prosch is a strong indication of how this team plans to play until rookie coach Bill O'Brien finds a legitimate quarterback: Houston is going to run the ball with volume and play stout defense. Almost every pick here suits that philosophy. A freakazoid outside pass rusher in Clowney. A two-down toilet clogger in Nix. A hammerhead, lane-clearing fullback in Prosch. A pro-ready blocking tight end in Fiedorowicz. A high-ceiling left guard in Su'a-Filo. Running back depth with Blue. Even Mr. Irrelevant Ballantine is a toolsy safety with starting-caliber measurables. I appreciate teams that pick a defined way to play and make moves in coherent fashion, designing their roster with a purposeful goal in mind. When O'Brien finally finds his signal caller -- and I wouldn't completely rule out big-armed Savage becoming that guy -- this team will ascend quickly.

Grade: A

Indianapolis Colts

59. Jack Mewhort, offensive lineman, Ohio State.
90. Donte Moncrief, wide receiver, Ole Miss.
166. Jonathan Newsome, outside linebacker, Ball State.
203. Andrew Jackson, inside linebacker, Western Kentucky.
232. Ulrick John, tackle, Georgia State.

Overview: The Colts sent their 2014 first-round pick to Cleveland in September of last year, so GM Ryan Grigson was handcuffed from the start. I did think he plucked value with Mewhort late in the second round and Moncrief in the third, though I don't expect the latter to make any year-one noise. Due to Reggie Wayne's age and Hakeem Nicks' contract, however, Moncrief is a candidate to start opposite T.Y. Hilton by 2015. Mewhort is a good bet to push for playing time right away, at guard or even center. Newsome was a productive pass rusher in the MAC, but lacks an NFL skill set and would do well to earn a job on Indianapolis' kick and punt coverage teams. Jackson will open camp buried on the inside linebacker depth chart, vying for a roster spot on special teams. John is a practice squad candidate. The Colts entered this draft with several needs, and only Mewhort stands out as a player capable of immediately satisfying a weak spot. We also have to build the so-far-failed Trent Richardson trade into Grigson's 2014 draft grade.

Grade: D

Jacksonville Jaguars

3. Blake Bortles, quarterback, Central Florida.
39. Marqise Lee, wide receiver, USC.
61. Allen Robinson, wide receiver, Penn State.
93. Brandon Linder, offensive lineman, Miami (FL).
114. Aaron Colvin, cornerback, Oklahoma.
144. Telvin Smith, linebacker, Florida State.
149. Chris Smith, defensive end, Arkansas.
205. Luke Bowanko, center, Virginia.
222. Storm Johnson, running back, Central Florida.

Overview: Many observers skewered the Bortles pick, yet showered the Vikings in praise for Teddy Bridgewater. It always fascinates me when folks believe they know the NFL future of quarterbacks ahead of time, considering it is by far the most difficult position to evaluate and project in pro sports. A lot of people were balls-to-the-wall confident Cam Newton would bust in 2011. Many believed Geno Smith should have been a 2013 top-five pick. Bortles' success or lack thereof will surely define the success or lack thereof of GM Dave Caldwell's second draft, but the rest of it was quite impressive. Robinson is a prospect with legit NFL No. 1-receiver traits. If Lee's balky knee holds up, he will be a steal. Linder was underrated throughout the pre-draft process. I suspect he'll start at right guard in year one. The Smiths are likely rookie contributors. Colvin will redshirt and push to start in 2015. I don't think Johnson will pose much 2014 threat to Toby Gerhart, but he's a good fit for Jacksonville's one-cut run scheme. Caldwell had a productive first draft, and I think he's got another one here. I continue to believe the Jags are a team in ascent.

Grade: B+


Kansas City Chiefs

23. Dee Ford, outside linebacker, Auburn.
87. Phillip Gaines, cornerback, Rice.
124. De'Anthony Thomas, offensive weapon, Oregon.
163. Aaron Murray, quarterback, Georgia.
193. Zach Fulton, guard, Tennessee.
200. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, McGill (Canada).

Overview: The Chiefs entered the draft without a second-round pick after the 2013 Alex Smith trade. That deal has so far gone well for Kansas City, and is factored into the team's grade. Observers who don't really know how the NFL works panned the Ford pick because "they already have Tamba Hali and Justin Houston," failing to recall that DC Bob Sutton's defense tanked when Hali and Houston got hurt last year. The NFL season is a battle of attrition, and the Chiefs were painfully thin on edge rushers. Hali also may be in his final year with the club. Gaines offers a No. 1-corner ceiling in round three. I also think Fulton has a future at right guard, where Kansas City lost Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah in free agency. Duvernay-Tardif is an intriguing prospect from a measurables standpoint. I'm not a fan of Murray or Thomas, though I realize they are big-name players. Thomas reminds of a softer, poor man's Dexter McCluster. Murray has been deemed "the next Drew Brees" by some. If Murray's career follows the path of all the QBs deemed "the next Drew Brees" in recent drafts, he isn't going to do much of anything in the NFL.

Grade: C+

Miami Dolphins

19. Ja'Wuan James, tackle, Tennessee.
63. Jarvis Landry, wide receiver, LSU.
67. Billy Turner, tackle/guard, North Dakota State.
125. Walt Aikens, cornerback, Liberty.
155. Arthur Lynch, tight end, Georgia.
171. Jordan Tripp, linebacker, Montana.
190. Matt Hazel, wide receiver, Coastal Carolina.
234. Terrence Fede, defensive end, Marist.

Overview: The James pick is perceived as a reach because most pre-draft mocks didn't have James in the top 32, but the Dolphins had a first-round grade on him. So I can't kill the pick. Their evaluators liked what they saw. It isn't like they took a guy they gave a day-two grade at 19. James needs to improve as a run blocker, but will solidify Ryan Tannehill's strong-side protection. Pass pro was a huge problem for last year's Fins. Landry is a stick-moving Hines Ward clone. A mauling college run blocker, Turner has every tool necessary to become a quality pass protector. My guess is Miami will start James at right tackle and Turner at right guard. Pairing rookie offensive linemen side by side worked out well for the 2013 Bears, who ranked No. 2 in the NFL in scoring. Aikens is a big, long press cornerback who could push for playing time quickly. The Lynch and Hazel picks I didn't like as much. The former doesn't do anything particularly well and the latter is a low-ceiling slot prospect. Tripp will immediately help on special teams and could develop into a starting weak-side linebacker down the road. Small-schooler Fede was worth the seventh-round stab. Rookie GM Dennis Hickey plugged holes and plucked value, for the most part. There wasn't a lot of flash and pizzazz, but I think the Dolphins got at least four good players.

Grade: B

New England Patriots

29. Dominique Easley, defensive tackle, Florida.
62. Jimmy Garoppolo, quarterback, Eastern Illinois.
105. Bryan Stork, center, Florida State.
130. James White, running back, Wisconsin.
140. Cameron Fleming, tackle, Stanford.
179. Jon Halapio, guard, Florida.
198. Zach Moore, defensive end, Concordia.
206. Jemea Thomas, defensive back, Georgia Tech.
244. Jeremy Gallon, wide receiver, Michigan.

Overview: I didn't like this draft. Easley is a cat-quick penetrator with major medical red flags. He's a boom-or-bust prospect after suffering two college ACL tears. I don't think Garoppolo has the pocket presence to succeed as an NFL starter. His arm strength and small hands are also concerns. Stork, Fleming, and Halapio were good college players, but are painfully short on athleticism. I realize the Patriots are becoming a power football team, but offensive linemen still need to be able to move. White is a low-ceiling tailback pick who does some things well (pass protect, ball security). He projects strictly as a role player. D-2 product Moore has down-the-road potential, but may not contribute until after Tom Brady's "window" closes. I thought versatile Thomas brought good late-round value, but Gallon will prove a throwaway pick. The tide of this draft could turn if Easley stays off the trainer's table, and one or two of the O-Linemen becomes an exceptional run blocker. I'm just not optimistic. I was also disappointed the Patriots did not use an early-round selection on a tight end. Perhaps they'll sign Jermichael Finley or Dustin Keller.

Grade: C-

New York Jets

18. Calvin Pryor, safety, Louisville.
49. Jace Amaro, tight end, Texas Tech.
80. Dexter McDougle, cornerback, Maryland.
104. Jalen Saunders, return specialist, Oklahoma.
115. Shaq Evans, wide receiver, UCLA.
137. Dakota Dozier, guard, Furman.
154. Jeremiah George, linebacker, Iowa State.
195. Brandon Dixon, cornerback, NW Missouri State.
209. Quincy Enunwa, wide receiver, Nebraska.
210. IK Enemkpali, outside linebacker, Louisiana Tech.
213. Tajh Boyd, quarterback, Clemson.
233. Trevor Reilly, outside linebacker, Utah.

Overview: GM John Idzik's second-ever draft was a true meat-and-potatoes effort. Top pick Pryor is an extremely physical, energetic presence and a rich man's T.J. Ward. Fans wanted Idzik to draft a small, speedy wideout, but Amaro is a superior team fit as a movement tight end with a huge catch radius (34-inch arms). 6-foot-3 Eric Decker and 6-foot-5 Amaro will be Geno Smith's (or Michael Vick's) go-to guys. McDougle runs 4.47 and would've been a higher pick if not for a senior-year injury. Evans and Enunwa are big, physical possession receivers with red-zone chops. Dozier profiles as a future starting guard. George is an intriguing nickel 'backer prospect and will contribute early on special teams. The picks I disliked were Saunders, whom I don't expect will help beyond punt returns, and Reilly, a 26-year-old who beat up on 19-year-old Pac 12 offensive linemen for his production. Boyd's stock dropped dramatically as a senior, but he has enough athleticism and arm strength to warrant the late-round flier. I don't think the Jets will be competing for Super Bowls until they establish a quarterback solution, but I expect them to continue to be competitive every week. And I think their roster got much stronger with this draft.

Grade: B+

Oakland Raiders

5. Khalil Mack, linebacker/end, Buffalo.
36. Derek Carr, quarterback, Fresno State.
81. Gabe Jackson, guard, Mississippi State.
107. Justin Ellis, defensive tackle, Louisiana Tech.
116. Keith McGill, cornerback, Utah.
219. Travis Carrie, cornerback, Ohio.
235. Shelby Harris, defensive tackle, Illinois State.
247. Jonathan Dowling, safety, Western Kentucky.

Overview: I've been down on GM Reggie McKenzie ever since he traded for Matt Flynn, but it is a haul like this one that can change opinions. Oakland entered this draft lacking both a franchise quarterback and franchise pass rusher. McKenzie obtained the latter by staying true to his board at the fifth pick. Mack is a relentless, violent outside-edge rusher offensive coordinators will have to scheme specifically to stop. Carr's struggles in muddied pockets are a big concern -- and the reason he wasn't a first-round pick -- but his arm strength and athleticism were every bit worth grabbing toward the top of round two. I expect Jackson to start at left guard as a rookie, upgrading on Khalif Barnes. Fourth-rounder Ellis is a 334-pound space eater with plus movement. McGill and Carrie are classic press-corner prospects, at least one of whom I would bet becomes an NFL starter. I thought McKenzie knocked it out of the park right down to the seventh round, where Dowling is a rangy, long-armed, 6-foot-3 and 190-pound safety with 4.52 wheels. He could prove to be Charles Woodson's heir apparent. I'm giving this draft a B+ only because my view of Carr is pessimistic. If Carr does reach his ceiling, McKenzie will have plucked an A+ draft.


Grade: B+

Pittsburgh Steelers

15. Ryan Shazier, linebacker, Ohio State.
46. Stephon Tuitt, defensive end, Notre Dame.
97. Dri Archer, offensive weapon, Kent State.
118. Martavis Bryant, wide receiver, Clemson.
157. Shaquille Richardson, cornerback, Arizona.
174. Wesley Johnson, guard/center, Vanderbilt.
192. Jordan Zumwalt, linebacker, UCLA.
215. Daniel McCullers, defensive lineman, Tennessee.
230. Rob Blanchflower, tight end, Massachusetts.

Overview: Kevin Colbert has generally been an underwhelming drafter since taking over the Steelers' football operations. I thought he did pretty well here, despite pleas from his fanbase to select a cornerback in round one. In the early to middle rounds, at least, Colbert placed an emphasis on athleticism, a trait Pittsburgh has sorely lacked in recent years, particularly on defense. The only pick I didn't like was Archer, a severely undersized scatback type who, despite impressive straight-line speed, faces long odds of becoming an impact offensive player. Shazier and Tuitt add youth and upside to Dick LeBeau's unit. Richardson fell due to some off-field concerns, but is physically gifted enough to become Ike Taylor's replacement if nurtured properly. Bryant was a one-trick-pony deep threat at Clemson, but his size is needed in Pittsburgh's red-zone offense, and he can lift the lid off NFL defenses. Johnson may not play before 2015, but is a fit for OC Todd Haley's zone scheme. Zumwalt is a relentless overachiever. McCullers is probably just a big body, but worth the late stab. Colbert injected energy into his roster with this draft.

Grade: B

San Diego Chargers

25. Jason Verrett, cornerback, TCU.
50. Jeremiah Attaochu, linebacker/end, Georgia Tech.
89. Chris Watt, guard, Notre Dame.
165. Ryan Carrethers, nose tackle, Arkansas State.
201. Marion Grice, running back, Arizona State.
240. Tevin Reese, wide receiver, Baylor.

Overview: Tom Telesco's second draft as Chargers GM began by addressing (easily) his top need with Verrett, a physical slot corner who plays the ball well enough in the air to be functional outside. I loved the Attaochu pick. A high-upside 21-year-old who left Georgia Tech as the Yellow Jackets' all-time leader in sacks and tackles for loss, Attaochu will replace Dwight Freeney opposite Melvin Ingram no later than 2015. Watt is a limited athlete, but Telesco hit a home run with a "limited athlete" lineman last April, landing mauler RT D.J. Fluker. Fluker is going to be a long-term NFL star, and Watt could soon join him in the starting lineup with RG Jeromey Clary's contract expiring after 2014. Carrethers is a fire-hydrant space eater. Grice was a sixth-round luxury pick who will be hard pressed to make the roster barring a training-camp injury to Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, or Donald Brown. Reese is explosive, but weighs 163 pounds. He'll have to learn to play special teams quickly to make the 53. Odds are, Telesco secured four contributing players. It's hard to be blown away by any six-person draft, but Telesco did a nice job.


Grade: C+

Tennessee Titans

11. Taylor Lewan, tackle, Michigan.
54. Bishop Sankey, running back, Washington.
112. DaQuan Jones, nose tackle, Penn State.
122. Marqueston Huff, defensive back, Wyoming.
151. Avery Williamson, inside linebacker, Kentucky.
178. Zach Mettenberger, quarterback, LSU.

Overview: The most perplexing draft in the league began on day one, where the fallout from GM Ruston Webster's first-round pick will likely either involve moving on from Tennessee's best offensive player (incumbent LT Michael Roos), or relegating its top free agent signing (RT Michael Oher) into a reserve role, where Oher would become the highest paid "swing" tackle in NFL history. Sankey's measurables look good on a spreadsheet and he'll have a boatload of fantasy football opportunity in Nashville, but his tape is Vick Ballard-like, and not indicative of a second-round pick. The best value picks were Jones, a lane-clogging nose who fills a glaring need in Ray Horton's 3-4, and Mettenberger, a cement-footed but big-armed passer with more negatives than positives. It's conceivable that half of Tennessee's six-man draft will wash out of the league before their rookie deals expire. The Titans have struggled to identify talent throughout Webster's tenure. I fully expect them to bring up the rear in the NFL's weakest division this year.

Grade: D

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