2014 NFL Draft Recap: Winners, Losers, Steals & Reaches
After three days and 256 selections, NFL teams stocked their rosters with talented college football players via the 2014 NFL Draft.
From first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney (above) to “Mr. Irrelevant,” Lonnie Ballentine, here’s our recap of which teams and players fared well — and those who didn’t.
Best Draft: St. Louis Rams
From choosing Auburn guard Greg Robinson with the second overall pick to taking his college teammate — and Heisman Trophy finalist — RB Tre Mason in round 3 to scooping up Missouri defensive end Michael Sam — the first openly gay player ever selected — with pick 249, the Rams came away with several players who’ll add talent, depth and character to their team.
To compete in a division which includes the reigning Super Bowl champion Seahawks and the perennially successful 49ers, St. Louis had to add impact players this off-season, and they accomplished that this weekend.
Also joining Jeff Fisher’s squad via the 2014 NFL Draft: defensive tackle Aaron Donald from Pitt, safety Lamarcus Joyner of Florida State and Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines, all of whom were part of an 11-player haul. Count on other NFL teams to squat on the Rams’ waiver wire throughout training camp.
Other teams who did well: 49ers, Browns, Texans, Raiders
Worst Draft: Indianapolis Colts
Thanks to their trade for running back Trent Richardson early last season, the Colts were without a first round pick in one of the deepest NFL drafts in memory. With only five total picks, general manager Ryan Grigson was at a disadvantage, and he did little to save the team’s haul.
Only wide receiver Donte Moncrief out of Ole Miss is likely to be an impact player for Indianapolis in 2014. Second rounder Jack Mewhort is a skilled offensive lineman out of Ohio State, but he may need seasoning before he can help keep the pass rush off QB Andrew Luck.
Other teams who fared poorly: Redskins, Dolphins, Bills, Bengals
Biggest Steal: Kony Ealy, Carolina
Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy was considered a potential first-rounder, but he fell all the way down to the end of the third. The first-team all-SEC lineman had 43 tackles and 9.5 sacks in his final campaign at Mizzou. His quickness and length will allow him to become an asset to the Panthers already formidable young defense which includes Luke Kuechly and Star Lotulelei.
Biggest Reach: Marcus Smith, Philadelphia
Projected as a third round talent — or lower — by many analysts, Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith went 26th overall to the Eagles. While Philadelphia needed a pass-rush specialist, Smith wasn’t close to the best player available at that stage of the draft.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly salvaged his team’s draft haul with skilled WR Jordan Matthews and underrated DB Jaylen Watkins, but allowing other NFC teams like the Saints and Packers to take Brandin Cooks and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix respectively ahead of them left Philly reaching down to fill the void.
Player Whose Stock Rose: Brandin Cooks, New Orleans
Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks rocketed into the middle of the first round like he blew past Pac-12 defensive backs in 2013. The pass-happy Saints dealt a third-round pick to trade up to nab Cooks, who figures to become a favorite target of Drew Brees — and the bane of NFC secondaries.
With Darren Sproles and Devery Henderson gone from New Orleans, head coach Sean Payton needed a playmaker to keep his offense dangerous, and Cooks was his guy.
Players Whose Stock Fell: Johnny Manziel, Cleveland / Louis Nix, Houston
Cameras were going to be trained on “Johnny Football” even if the exciting Texas A&M quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner didn’t start free falling nearly out of the first round. Questions about Manziel’s height (5’11 and 3/4″) and his sometimes silly off-field antics caused the Jaguars, Browns, Raiders, Cardinals and Vikings — all teams in need of a QB — to pass over the dynamic former Aggie. Cleveland eventually traded into the 22nd overall spot to select the charismatic passer, and energize one of the longest-suffering fan bases in professional sports.
Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix was considered a first-round talent, but the bulky defender had to wait until midway through the third round before he was chosen by the Houston Texans at No. 83 overall. With J.J. Watt and 2014 first-overall pick Jadeveon Clowney on either side of him on the Houston D-line, Nix could become one of the best value picks of the 2014 NFL Draft.