We've done our best to dissect the results of the 2014 NFL draft in as many ways as possible without drowining you, but here's an angle that sometimes gets overlooked — how the divisions fared.
Consider three short years ago. The NFC West was roundly considered a joke of a division. Now, of course, it's the best. One big draft by the teams that year in that division helped spur a sea change.
The Seahawks drafted Richard Sherman, Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, K.J. Wright and James Carpenter. They culled Doug Baldwin from the undrafted ranks.
The 49ers drafted Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Chris Culiver (like him as a human being or not) and Bruce Miller.
The Rams landed Robert Quinn ... and little else, but still.
Ditto with the Cardinals and Patrick Peterson.
That's five stars, a handful of quality complementary parts and the seeds of what is now a fierce division. So we've tallied our final draft grades, which were in letter form, and assigned them the following number grades (I assigned nothing less than a D+ — not that cruel — and no A+ grades):
|Cleveland Browns||AFC North||95|
|Cincinnati Bengals||AFC North||88|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||AFC North||85|
|Baltimore Ravens||AFC North||85||353|
|Carolina Panthers||NFC South||92|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||NFC South||85|
|New Orleans Saints||NFC South||82|
|Atlanta Falcons||NFC South||82||341|
|San Francisco 49ers||NFC West||95|
|St. Louis Rams||NFC West||95|
|Seattle Seahawks||NFC West||75|
|Arizona Cardinals||NFC West||75||340|
|Houston Texans||AFC South||95|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||AFC South||92|
|Tennessee Titans||AFC South||85|
|Indianapolis Colts||AFC South||68||340|
|Green Bay Packers||NFC North||92|
|Minnesota Vikings||NFC North||92|
|Chicago Bears||NFC North||78|
|Detroit Lions||NFC North||75||337|
|Oakland Raiders||AFC West||95|
|San Diego Chargers||AFC West||82|
|Denver Broncos||AFC West||78|
|Kansas City Chiefs||AFC West||72||327|
|New York Giants||NFC East||85|
|Dallas Cowboys||NFC East||78|
|Washington Redskins||NFC East||72|
|Philadelphia Eagles||NFC East||72||307|
|New York Jets||AFC East||82|
|New England Patriots||AFC East||78|
|Miami Dolphins||AFC East||72|
|Buffalo Bills||AFC East||72||304|
Although both the NFC West and AFC South were tied with a total of 340 points, we broke the tiebreaker with the West on top because they had the two best grades given out with the Rams' and 49ers' A's.
So perhaps does this mean that the AFC North will be the toughest division in football in a few years? We're not going that far. After all, Andy Dalton's contract currently expires after the coming season and Ben Roethlisberger is set right now to be a free agent after the 2015 season — too many unknowns.
But the Browns' terrific haul (which will get better next year, with additional first-, fourth- and sixth-round picks), the Bengals' nice value picks, and the Steelers' and Ravens' solid efforts likely will make the division a more forceful one in both the short and long terms.
On the flip side, the Patriots' lower grade is reflected in the fact that they have drafted few obvious 2014 contributors. The Dolphins mostly played it safe throughout. The Jets had some odd picks, although they were sandwiched by a few decent ones early and late. And the Bills might have landed Sammy Watkins and a potential gem in Cyrus Kouandjio, but their level of risk (trading those two picks to the Browns, plus gambling on potential bust players later) was quite high.
Hence why the AFC East graded so low relatively. Will the Patriots win the division yet again? I have yet to see a good argument against that, barring disaster and maybe even not in that case.
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