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Draft 2014: NFC Draft Grades

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Evan Silva highlights Khiry Robinson as he breaks down every fantasy option in every Week 4 game.

The 2014 NFL draft concluded Saturday evening. Rotoworld blurbed every single selection, picks one (Jadeveon Clowney) through 256 (Lonnie Ballentine). You can use our search engine in the top right-hand corner of this page to access our in-depth rookie writeups.

After a grueling three days of “work,” we'll put the finishing touches on our intensive draft coverage with post-draft grades.

But let's be clear: We don't believe in assessing draft hauls immediately after the three-day event. This is strictly for your pleasure. If you're reading this intro, you're interested. And we want to appeal to you. Don't take these grades too seriously. We'll know a lot more about this draft around 2017.

Here are the NFC Draft Grades:

Arizona Cardinals

27. Deone Bucannon, safety, Washington State.
52. Troy Niklas, tight end, Notre Dame.
84. Kareem Martin, defensive end, North Carolina.
91. John Brown, receiver/returner, Pittsburgh State.
120. Logan Thomas, quarterback, Virginia Tech.
160. Ed Stinson, defensive end, Alabama.
196. Walter Powell, wide receiver, Murray State.

Overview: Cards GM Steve Keim's second-ever draft took a nuts-and-bolts approach, adding a hulking in-line tight end in Niklas, ballhawking striker safety in Bucannon, two quality defensive line prospects in Martin and Stinson, and a big-armed, big-bodied developmental signal caller in Thomas. At 5-foot-10 and sub-180 pounds, Brown projects as primarily an NFL return specialist. I would be surprised if Powell made Arizona's 53. While I didn't have a problem with any of the Cardinals' picks in terms of draft slot or team fit, I was surprised Keim didn't more aggressively attack his needs at outside-edge rusher and on the right side of the offensive line. Arizona is putting a ton of faith in 36-year-old John Abraham, RT Bobby Massie, and RG Earl Watford at their respective positions. I don't think this was a bad draft, but I was underwhelmed.

Grade: C

Atlanta Falcons

6. Jake Matthews, tackle, Texas A&M.
37. Ra'Shede Hageman, defensive lineman, Minnesota.
68. Dezmen Southward, safety, Wisconsin.
103. Devonta Freeman, running back, Florida State.
139. Prince Shembo, outside linebacker, Notre Dame.
147. Ricardo Allen, cornerback, Purdue.
168. Marquis Spruill, linebacker, Syracuse.
253. Yawin Smallwood, linebacker, Connecticut.
255. Tyler Starr, outside linebacker, South Dakota.

Overview: Based on free agency and draft moves, it's pretty clear the Falcons will play base 3-4 defense under Mike Nolan in 2014. Rush 'backers Shembo and Starr fit the new-ish scheme, as do five-techniques Hageman and Tyson Jackson, and free-agent addition Paul Soliai. My favorite picks were plug-and-play tackle Matthews and fourth-rounder Freeman, a pass-game maven who fits perfectly into coordinator Dirk Koetter's pass-first attack. Southward is another intriguing pick with borderline-freak measurables and some potential to start at free safety right away, replacing Thomas DeCoud. Allen is a physical slot corner capable of pushing Robert McClain. Because Atlanta was exposed as one of football's most depth-deficient teams in 2013, I appreciated GM Thomas Dimitroff resisting the temptation to trade up for Jadeveon Clowney. I thought he brought in a solid class, but this team is still noticeably short on outside pass rush. The Falcons are also losing a major wrinkle from their offense as heavy-footed in-line blocker Levine Toilolo “replaces” Tony Gonzalez at tight end.

Grade: C+

Carolina Panthers

28. Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver, Florida State.
60. Kony Ealy, defensive lineman, Missouri.
92. Trai Turner, guard, LSU.
128. Tre Boston, defensive back, North Carolina.
148. Bene Benwikere, cornerback, San Jose State.
204. Tyler Gaffney, running back, Stanford.

Overview: Dave Gettleman's second draft as Panthers GM began with groans over Benjamin, whom many seem to have already decided is a bust. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound jump-ball specialist will get every opportunity to shine as Cam Newton's "X" receiver. Regardless of how you feel about his first-rounder, Gettleman did an excellent job of matching need with value for the rest of his draft. A Michael Bennett-type player, Ealy replaces Frank Alexander as the Panthers' No. 3 end, and can rush from the interior on passing downs. A powerful, high-ceiling drive blocker, Turner could be Carolina's Week 1 starting right guard. Boston and Benwikere may have fallen in the draft over "tweener" concerns, but both offer pro-ready traits and add much-needed talent to a weak secondary. I wasn't a fan of Gaffney's tape, but he can pass protect and get what's blocked. I still expect 2014 regression from the Panthers -- and the offensive line remains a pretty glaring concern, particularly at left tackle -- but I'm guessing I liked Gettleman's class a little more than most.


Grade: B-

Chicago Bears

14. Kyle Fuller, cornerback, Virginia Tech.
51. Ego Ferguson, defensive tackle, LSU.
82. Will Sutton, defensive tackle, Arizona State.
117. Ka'Deem Carey, running back, Arizona.
131. Brock Vereen, safety, Minnesota.
183. David Fales, quarterback, San Jose State.
191. Pat O'Donnell, punter, Miami (FL).
246. Charles Leno, guard/tackle, Boise State.

Overview: The Bears return virtually every key piece from an offense that finished 2013 No. 2 in points scored, so GM Phil Emery went to work on his patchwork defense in this draft. He got a Week 1 starter in Fuller, and likely year-one contributors in run-stopper Ferguson and three-technique penetrator Sutton. A versatile corner-safety hybrid and value pick where he went, Vereen is a sleeper to play meaningful snaps as a rookie. Noted measurables drafter Emery set aside the spreadsheet and trusted the tape for his Carey, Fales, and Sutton picks. Leno was a value addition so late in the seventh and could push LG Matt Slauson sooner rather than later. Chicago has emerged from an active free agency period and the draft with few remaining needs. I thought this draft attacked holes, added depth where necessary, and procured plenty of upside.

Grade: B

Dallas Cowboys

16. Zack Martin, guard/tackle, Notre Dame.
34. Demarcus Lawrence, defensive end, Boise State.
119. Anthony Hitchens, linebacker, Iowa.
146. Devin Street, wide receiver, Pittsburgh.
231. Ben Gardner, defensive end, Stanford.
238. Will Smith, linebacker, Texas Tech.
248. Ahmad Dixon, safety, Baylor.
251. Ken Bishop, defensive tackle, Northern Illinois.
254. Terrance Mitchell, cornerback, Oregon.

Overview: The Martin pick put the finishing touches on one of the best offensive lines in football. I'm also a big fan of Lawrence's potential and scheme fit under new DC Rod Marinelli. After signing Henry Melton in free agency and drafting the ultra-productive Boise pass rusher, Dallas finally has some D-Line credibility. I was disappointed in middle-rounders Hitchens and Street, the former of whom I expect to max out as an NFL special teamer, and the latter of whom I think will be exposed as a good college player who lacked necessary traits to become a productive pro. Round-seven stabs on Gardner, Dixon, Bishop, and particularly Mitchell all offered value and were very much worthwhile. My opinion on the 2014 Cowboys hasn't suddenly changed -- I still expect them to play top-five offense and struggle on defense -- but I think this was a fine draft.

Grade: B-

Detroit Lions

10. Eric Ebron, tight end, North Carolina.
40. Kyle Van Noy, linebacker, BYU.
76. Travis Swanson, center, Arkansas.
133. Nevin Lawson, cornerback, Utah State.
136. Larry Webster, defensive end, Bloomsburg.
158. Caraun Reid, defensive tackle, Princeton.
189. T.J. Jones, wide receiver, Notre Dame.
229. Nate Freese, kicker, Boston College.

Overview: I read somewhere that GM Martin Mayhew is catching heat from fans for not focusing enough on defense. Well, Detroit should already have a good defense because they are loaded in the front seven, which if coached properly can mask back-end deficiencies. (See the Panthers.) My bet is Mayhew is counting on improved coaching from new coordinator Teryl Austin to improve the Lions' pass defense. Mayhew did bolster the "D" with swiss-army-knife Van Noy, interior pocket pusher Reid, and Lardarius Webb clone Lawson. He also supplied Matthew Stafford with much-needed weapons in future star Ebron and sure-handed Jones, who may contribute in the slot right away. The Swanson pick was a head scratcher because I see him topping out as an interior "swing" reserve who would struggle if pushed into the starting lineup. But I thought this was a pretty good draft, got value, and did not ignore needs. The offense is going to be great, and the back four will look much, much better if Austin can get the max from his up-front personnel.

Grade: C+

Green Bay Packers

21. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, safety, Alabama.
53. Davante Adams, wide receiver, Fresno State.
85. Khyri Thornton, defensive tackle, Southern Miss.
98. Richard Rodgers, tight end, California.
121. Carl Bradford, outside linebacker, Arizona State.
161. Corey Linsley, center, Ohio State.
176. Jared Abbrederis, wide receiver, Wisconsin.
197. Demetri Goodson, cornerback, Baylor.
236. Jeff Janis, wide receiver, Saginaw Valley State.

Overview: GM Ted Thompson's first three picks were outstanding. He shored up a glaring weakness at free safety by stopping Clinton-Dix's slide at No. 21, and Thornton adds physicality to a defensive line that needs it. Don't be surprised if Thornton quickly pushes underachieving B.J. Raji for nose-tackle snaps. A Hakeem Nicks clone who will unseat Jarrett Boykin sooner rather than later, Adams is going to be a really good addition to Green Bay's three- and four-wide offense. I also liked the Bradford and Linsley picks. Tight end was one of this draft's thinnest positions, so I would have liked for Thompson to address that weakness earlier. I don't think much of Rodgers as a long-term prospect. Abbrederis and Goodson should be core special teamers. Janis is a high-ceiling measurables freak who may head to the practice squad in year one. All in all, I thought this was a sturdy draft with plenty of potential for major year-one impact.

Grade: B+

Minnesota Vikings

9. Anthony Barr, linebacker/end, UCLA.
32. Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback, Louisville.
72. Scott Crichton, defensive end, Oregon State.
96. Jerick McKinnon, running back, Georgia Southern.
145. David Yankey, guard, Stanford.
182. Antone Exum, defensive back, Virginia Tech.
184. Kendall James, cornerback, Maine.
220. Shamar Stephen, defensive tackle, Connecticut.
223. Brandon Watts, linebacker, Georgia Tech.
225. Jabari Price, cornerback, North Carolina.

Overview: After landing speedy outside rusher Barr, GM Rick Spielman traded back into round one for Bridgewater, sending Seattle the Nos. 40 and 108 picks. If Bridgewater becomes the long-term solution so many seem to believe he will, that trade will go down as one of the best in franchise history. I'm more skeptical due to Teddy's size and arm strength limitations. I liked the Crichton, Exum, and Stephen picks for value. Yankey has a big name but little game, and I don't see him panning out in the pros. Blessed with explosive physical tools, McKinnon is a intriguing project running back who may prove to be 29-year-old Adrian Peterson's successor. Price, Watts, and James are likely special teamers. Spielman annually drafts well-known names and gets positive "draft grades," but the Vikings haven't been very good during his tenure. That said, I'm optimistic about this group. Ultimately, it will be defined by Bridgewater's success or lack thereof.

Grade: B


New Orleans Saints

20. Brandin Cooks, wide receiver, Oregon State.
58. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, cornerback, Nebraska.
126. Khairi Fortt, linebacker, California.
167. Vinnie Sunseri, safety, Alabama.
169. Ronald Powell, outside linebacker, Florida.
202. Tavon Rooks, tackle, Kansas State.

Overview: GM Mickey Loomis opened his draft by aggressively targeting Cooks, sending Arizona the Nos. 27 and 91 picks to land Oregon State's 4.33 speedster. Loomis likely believed the Eagles wanted Cooks at No. 22. I think Cooks will quickly take on a high-volume role in Sean Payton's offense, pushing for 70 catches and 90 all-purpose touches in 2014. I thought Jean-Baptiste had a chance to sneak into the late first round, and consider him a value pick by Loomis. Fortt needs to shake the injury bug, but when healthy could prove an athletic upgrade on ILB David Hawthorne. Sunseri is another likely year-one special teamer with long-range starting potential. Powell has a chance to be a useful sub-package pass rusher. Rooks is a practice squad candidate. The Saints didn't have a ton of picks, but they still came away with 4-5 good prospects. My guess is they will sign Jonathan Goodwin to compete with Tim Lelito at center before camp.

Grade: C+

New York Giants

12. Odell Beckham, wide receiver, LSU.
43. Weston Richburg, center, Colorado State.
74. Jay Bromley, defensive tackle, Syracuse.
113. Andre Williams, running back, Boston College.

152. Nat Berhe, safety, San Diego State.
174. Devon Kennard, linebacker, USC.
187. Bennett Jackson, cornerback, Notre Dame.

Overview: GM Jerry Reese's recent drafts have received effusive praise, but on-field results have disappointed. My guess is this draft won't earn a ton of national praise. So perhaps that's a good thing. Beckham is a great fit for new OC Ben McAdoo's offense. McAdoo hails from Green Bay and may envision Beckham as his version of Greg Jennings. The Packers run lots of zone blocking, a schematic fit for likely Week 1 center Richburg. Bromley generated little pre-draft buzz, but is a quality three-technique prospect. Williams has hands of stone and can't move laterally. I still think Tom Coughlin could see Williams as a Michael Turner-type back. Berhe is a immediate core special teamer with more potential to contribute on defense than his slow forty time suggests. Kennard can get after the passer situationally. Jackson will be a gunner. This is an interesting draft on paper. Reese hit on needs, though not in the order people anticipated. I thought he came away with a lot of good football players and at least two instant-impact starters.

Grade: B-

Philadelphia Eagles

26. Marcus Smith, linebacker, Louisville.
42. Jordan Matthews, wide receiver, Vanderbilt.
86. Josh Huff, wide receiver, Oregon.
101. Jaylen Watkins, defensive back, Florida.
141. Taylor Hart, defensive end, Oregon.
162. Ed Reynolds, safety, Stanford.
224. Beau Allen, nose tackle, Wisconsin.

Overview: It should be noted Philly acquired Darren Sproles from the Saints for a fifth-round pick, supplementing this haul. GM Howie Roseman's first move of the draft was to trade down after New Orleans leapfrogged him for Brandin Cooks. Roseman secured the Nos. 26 and 83 picks from Cleveland, which turned into Smith and Huff. Although Smith did not commonly appear in first-round mock drafts, he was a highly productive pass rusher at Louisville and possesses plus measurables. Matthews could prove to be one of the draft's biggest steals, and an eventual upgrade on Riley Cooper. Also keep in mind Jeremy Maclin only has a one-year deal. Hart, Allen, Reynolds, and Watkins all have a chance to be useful role players, with Hart offering the most potential to become a legit starter. Huff was the one pick I didn't like. I don't think he's skilled enough to be a consistent contributor at wide receiver, and I'm guessing Chip Kelly made that pick primarily because he is fond of Huff from Oregon. I expected Huff to be a late-rounder.

Grade: C+

San Francisco 49ers

30. Jimmie Ward, defensive back, Northern Illinois.
57. Carlos Hyde, running back, Ohio State.
70. Marcus Martin, center/guard, USC.
77. Chris Borland, inside linebacker, Wisconsin.
100. Brandon Thomas, tackle/guard, Clemson.
106. Bruce Ellington, receiver/returner, South Carolina.
129. Dontae Johnson, defensive back, North Carolina State.
150. Aaron Lynch, defensive end/linebacker, South Florida.
170. Keith Reaser, cornerback, Florida Atlantic.
180. Kenneth Acker, cornerback, SMU.
243. Kaleb Ramsey, defensive end, Boston College.
245. Trey Millard, fullback, Oklahoma.

Overview: The 49ers also traded a conditional 2015 fourth-round pick to Buffalo for Stevie Johnson, though GM Trent Baalke recouped the 2015 fourth-rounder in a day-two trade with Miami. It's almost inevitable that a team with so many selections will warrant high "grades" after the draft. The 49ers had a lot of picks, and turned them into a lot of good prospects. Each of the first six players San Francisco selected were at one point or another projected as possible late first-round picks during the pre-draft phase. Borland, Thomas, Lynch, Reaser, and Millard are all year-one "redshirt" candidates. Ward, Hyde, Martin, Ellington, and Johnson all offer potential to make rookie-season contributions. Baalke collected talent as he attempts to track down division-rival Seattle. The 49ers are getting closer. They were one of only two NFC teams I assigned an "A".

Grade: A

Seattle Seahawks

45. Paul Richardson, wide receiver, Colorado.
64. Justin Britt, tackle, Missouri.
108. Cassius Marsh, defensive end, UCLA.
123. Kevin Norwood, wide receiver, Alabama.
132. Kevin Pierre-Louis, linebacker, Boston College.
172. Jimmy Staten, defensive tackle, Middle Tennessee.
199. Garrett Scott, guard, Marshall.
208. Eric Pinkins, safety, San Diego State.
227. Kiero Small, fullback, Arkansas.

Overview: The Seahawks reportedly wanted Florida DT Dominique Easley at No. 32 and bailed when New England surprisingly took him 29th overall, sending the 32nd pick to Minnesota for Nos. 40 and 108. GM John Schneider then traded down again, turning Nos. 40 and 106 into Nos. 45, 111, and 227. Schneider's roster is so loaded that I think it's conceivable only 4-5 members of this nine-man class will make the final 53. Richardson will be a role-playing lid lifter. Britt has a chance to start quickly, pushing incumbent RT Michael Bowie. Marsh is a classic Seattle-type, hair-on-fire defensive lineman. The Norwood pick got a lot of attention on ESPN's broadcast, but I was underwhelmed. He was a 24-year-old senior who didn't dominate against 19- and 20-year-old college defensive backs. Pierre-Louis is Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith's heir apparent. Staten, Scott, Pinkins, and Small are long shots to enter the regular season with the club. The Seahawks have a great football team. I did not think this was a particularly great draft.

Grade: C-

St. Louis Rams

2. Greg Robinson, guard/tackle, Auburn.
13. Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Pittsburgh.
41. Lamarcus Joyner, safety, Florida State.
75. Tre Mason, running back, Auburn.
110. Maurice Alexander, safety, Utah State.
188. E.J. Gaines, cornerback, Missouri.
214. Garrett Gilbert, quarterback, SMU.
226. Mitchell Van Dyk, tackle, Portland State.
241. Christian Bryant, defensive back, Ohio State.
249. Michael Sam, defensive end, Missouri.
250. Demetrius Rhaney, center, Tennessee State.

Overview: The Rams smokescreened pre-draft interest in Johnny Manziel, stood pat, and stuck to their board. They emerged with arguably two top-five prospects in Robinson and Donald in round one, and traded up to select Tyrann Mathieu clone Joyner toward the top of round two. Robinson and Joyner addressed St. Louis' biggest on-paper needs. Donald and Mason were sheer value picks. Alexander, Bryant, and Sam project as core special teamers. Van Dyk and Rhaney are likely headed to the Rams' practice squad. Gilbert was a throwaway pick. The Rams likely won't overcome the NFC West behemoths until they get more reliable and effective quarterback play, but this was a stellar draft. St. Louis is going to run the football with volume and play incredibly tough defense in 2014. They should be competitive on a week-in, week-out basis.

Grade: A-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

7. Mike Evans, wide receiver, Texas A&M.
38. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, tight end, Washington.
69. Charles Sims, running back, West Virginia.
143. Kadeem Edwards, guard, Tennessee State.
149. Kevin Pamphile, tackle/guard, Purdue.
185. Robert Herron, wide receiver, Wyoming.

Overview: New coach Lovie Smith is widely considered offense-inept. With the aide of rookie GM Jason Licht, this draft suggests otherwise. Tampa will play stout defense for Lovie, and basketball on offense with Evans (6-foot-5), Seferian-Jenkins (6-foot-6), and Vincent Jackson (6-foot-5) in Josh McCown's pass-catching corps. Sims may seem like a third-round "luxury," but is an upgrade on Mike James behind Doug Martin. Guard was arguably the Bucs' biggest pre-draft need. Instead of using a high pick at the position, Licht took two middle-round stabs, each on quality prospects. Herron was a value selection late in the draft. I expect Herron to quickly earn playing time at slot receiver between "Twin Towers" V-Jax and Evans. Tampa has undertaken a highly intriguing team formula. Their defense is a lock to be good, and they have touchdown scorers at the skill positions who will prop up their journeyman quarterback. Don't be surprised if the 2014 Buccaneers bypass the Panthers and Falcons to become the NFC South's No. 2 team.

Grade: B+

Washington Redskins

47. Trent Murphy, outside linebacker, Stanford.
66. Morgan Moses, tackle, Virginia.
78. Spencer Long, guard, Nebraska.
102. Bashaud Breeland, defensive back, Clemson.
142. Ryan Grant, wide receiver, Tulane.
186. Lache Seastrunk, running back, Baylor.
217. Ted Bolser, tight end, Indiana.
228. Zach Hocker, kicker, Arkansas.

Overview: The Redskins entered the draft without a first-round pick stemming from the 2012 Robert Griffin III trade. GM Bruce Allen improved his hand by sending the No. 34 pick to Dallas in exchange for picks 47 and 78. Unfortunately, Washington didn't come away with much. Murphy was a good college player who lacks NFL-caliber pass-rush traits and may eventually have to move inside to pan out in the pros. Moses and Breeland appear to be good value picks on the surface, but the former is an atrocious run blocker and misfit at right tackle, where he's penciled in for the Skins. The latter has all kinds of off-field concerns and is speed deficient without a clear NFL position. Long was probably my favorite pick. He's a heavy-handed mauler with starting right guard potential. Grant, Bolser, and Hocker are throwaways. Seastrunk was a dynamic college back who can't catch or pass block. Jay Gruden will have to get very creative to make Seastrunk work. Based on their head-scratching free agency and draft moves, I wonder who is making the personnel decisions in Washington these days. Allen is a cap guy. I wouldn't be surprised if it were senior executive A.J. Smith, he of "Lord of No Rings" infamy in San Diego.

Grade: D

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