2014 NFL Draft Recap: AFC East and AFC North
The NFL Draft never goes as draftniks predict and 2014 was no different. Here is my assessment of how each team fared.
As stated in my Mock Draft, nobody knows what to expect when it comes to the Patriots draft strategy. Their first round pick left many scratching their heads with the choice of undersized and often injured Florida DT Dominique Easley. While at Florida, Easley tore both ACLs and whether or not he can regain his speed will be a big question as he rehabs. He doesn’t fit as a Vince Wilfork type DT so he may be used as an interior rusher on 3rd downs or eventually move to DE.
The Patriots then selected their possible future QB, small school star Jimmy Garoppolo. Backup Ryan Mallet was already certain to leave after this season as a free agent if he isn’t traded before then. Choosing a QB to groom makes sense and the Patriots are essentially admitting the Tom Brady era window is coming to a close, but neither of their first 2 picks did anything to help Brady win now.
The Patriots needed some help on the O Line/D Line and 3rd round pick C Bryan Stork seems to be the only member of this draft class with potential to make an immediate impact. Additionally, what is their contingency plan at TE as Gronk returns from yet another injury?
The Bills focused on offense and were busy wheeling and dealing as they traded away some future picks including their 2015 1st rd pick to select Clemson WR Sammy Watkins. They then acquired RB Bryce Brown from the Eagles and traded WR Stevie Johnson to the 49ers. Watkins, Brown, and CJ Spiller will give the Bills a lot of speed on offense.
The Bills also selected 3 OLs in Cyrus Kouandjio, Cyril Richardson and Seantrel Henderson. Despite the fact that both Kuoandjio and Henderson have first round talent they fell in the draft due to injury (Kuoandjio) and off field incidents (Henderson). Bills fans should be happy with this draft but the Bills should still address the TE and FS positions.
After last season’s Dolphins O Line played out like a sequel to “Mean Girls” they needed to focus on rebuilding the unit. Miami addressed the need by selecting Tennessee OT Ja’Waun James (whom they must have felt was the best OT available as he was taken a little ahead of pre-draft projections). Its also interesting to note that Miami selected five players from lower division schools. Coastal Carolina WR Matt Hazel has potential to be a 3rd day steal.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Jets draft. They addressed team needs at S (Calvin Pryor) TE (Jace Amaro) and CB (Dexter McDougle). They could definitely use an upgrade at WR opposite Eric Decker but I’m not sure the 3 WRs the Jets drafted to compete with Stephen Hill for playing time will be much of an upgrade. The selection of Clemson QB Tajh Boyd was interesting considering the Jets drafted QB Gino Smith last season and have since signed FA Michael Vick .
The Bengals were lucky that arguably the best CB in the draft, Darqueze Dennard from Michigan St, fell to them at pick 24 . CB was a need for them as their current unit has dealt with both injuries and aging over the past few seasons. The Bengals raised some eyebrows by selecting RB Jeremy Hill to complement Giovanni Bernard while top RB Carlos Hyde was still available. Andy Dalton is in the last year of his contract and will have some competition after the Bengals stopped the draft fall of former Alabama QB A.J. McCarron. Some teams deemed McCarron too cocky but when you win 3 National Championships and have a smoking hot girlfriend who gets more TV time than you do, you’re going to have some confidence and swagger.
The Browns started off by picking up a 2015 1st rd pick from the Bills who traded up for Sammy Watkins. Regardless of how you feel about the Browns pick of Johnny Manziel they had a pretty successful draft. Cleveland got CB Justin Gilbert, filling a major need for someone to play opposite Joe Haden . Then the Browns traded up from pick 26 to 22 to take Manziel. Allegedly, the Browns paid 100k for a study that identified Teddy Bridgewater as the best QB for them to select. Why did they take Manziel when Teddy was available? Seems like an owner pick to me. He’ll sell some jerseys and put some butts in the seats, but will he win any games?
I like the pick of OL Joel Bitonio who can play OG or OT. The Browns have strong depth at RB after signing FA Ben Tate, drafting Towson RB/Bulldozer Terrence West and signing high risk/reward UDFA Isaiah Crowell who was SEC Freshmen of the Year before being dismissed from Georgia for off field issues.
The Ravens focused on rebuilding a defense that looks quite different than the one that won the Super Bowl 2 seasons ago (they have Joe Flacco’s contract to blame for that). Alabama star LB C.J. Mosley fits the team’s need for a leader in the middle. Undersized Florida St. DT Timmy Jernigan was too good to pass up up in the 2nd and his college teammate FS Terrence Brooks filled another big need on defense that will allow last year’s 1st rd pick Matt Elam to move to his stronger position of SS. The Ravens added a TE, WR, and RB, none of which should make immediate impacts.
The Steelers passed on some good CBs which was their #1 need, but Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier is a fast, athletic player who moved up draft boards in the weeks leading up to the draft. Raiders owner Mark Davis must have blown a gasket when the Steelers selected the fastest player in the draft, Kent State RB Dri Archer. He is fast but is diminutive size may prevent him from touching the ball more than a few times per game. I like their 4th rd pick, Clemson WR Martavis Bryant (6’2-211), who was overshadowed by teammate Sammy Watkins. Bryant has better size and is faster than Watkins but is considered more of a raw talent.
Photo by Parker Anderson on Flickr.